Guerrilla Storytime @ #alaac14: The Friday Recap

On Friday, June 27 in Las Vegas, the Storytime Underground put on the first of four Guerrilla Storytimes in the Uncommons at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. We’re going to be recapping one Guerrilla Storytime per day here, plus adding in some final details and videos as we sort through them. There’s lots of peer-sharing to learn from here!


Here’s what Friday’s 30 attendees enjoyed.


Opening song: “Open, Shut Them”


Challenge: How do you approach a storytime with multilingual audiences?

  • Songs and fingerplays in English and Spanish, like “Abra los Cielos
  • Share books in both languages, like Go Away, Big Green Monster
  • Do activities that require less talking or explanation on your part and instead focus on activities that kids and care givers can follow along
  • Talk lots! With plenty of emphasis on vocab
  • Rosemary Wells’s “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” app
  • Get parents involved and ask them if they have things they can teach the group, like songs and rhymes

Guerrilla Query: How do you do holidays and multicultural holidays in storytime?

  • I don’t, in order to avoid accidental discomfort
  • I don’t, there are plenty of excellent themes to choose as alternatives
  • Share elements of multiple holidays in a single season in one storytime

Challenge: One kid is over zealously answering every question you ask. How do you respond?

  • Pointedly ask the group, “Who else knows?”
  • Use a talking stick to take turns–whoever has the stick is able to talk
  • Tell the chatty child to “Whisper the answer/story into their hand and put it in their pocket to save and talk about later.”
  • Name a specific child to answer a question, identifying them by name, clothes, etc.

Challenge: What’s your favorite “Five Little” rhyme?

  • Five Little Monkeys with ASL, learned from Marge Loch-Wouters
  • Alternatively, over exaggerate the last monkey’s teasing of the alligator
  • Five Little Cookies – “Five little cookies in the bakery shop / Five little cookies with sugar on top / Along came a man with a penny in his hand / He grabbed one cookie and away he ran.”
  • Five Fat Sausages – “Five fat sausages sizzling in a pan / All of a sudden, one went BAM!”
  • Ten Little (nouns) – Pick a thing that goes with a story or theme, then ask kids to pick the adjectives to describe them. Example : “One little, two little, three little monsters / Four little, five little, six little monsters. / Seven little, eight little, nine little monsters. / Ten little monsters. Hear them ROAR!”
  • Five Little Candles – “Five little candles on the birthday cake / If we blow one out [pretend to blow it out], how many does that make?”; bonus: pair with Huff & Puff

Challenge: What’s your favorite use of props?

  • Egg shaker songs
  • Start a storytime with iPads, then use egg shakers to ease the transition to other program activities
  • Use a song to transition between prop activities: “Goodbye shakers. Goodbye shakers. Goodbye shakers, it’s time to say goodbye.”
  • A memory box, filled with items where all but one share a common theme
  • Have four different color boxes with objects in them and sing (tune: “Mulberry Bush”) “What’s in huge blue box, the blue box, the blue box? What’s in the blue box? I don’t know.”
  • Puppets, used with kids to give kids a way to interact with an adult not part of the family (which helps with school readiness)
  • A doll baby for baby storytimes, to model for caregivers what they can be doing with their children during activities
  • Shape game with a key object hidden behind the last shape
  • Adding a puppet to a flannel story
  • Flannel stories!
  • Puppets with this song: “Row, row, row your boat / Row it all around. / If you see a [puppet] / Make a [puppet] sound.”

Guerrilla Query: What should I do if I, or someone on my staff, have never used puppets before?

  • Use Beyond the Book Storytimes blog
  • Use the same puppets at every storytime to build familiarity
  • Use a puppet in outreach storytime to add another personality beside yourself
  • Have a puppet sing your welcome song
  • Have animal puppets eating things
  • If you don’t like puppets, don’t use them!

Guerrilla Query: How do I go about using a ukulele in storytime?

  • Just strum! You don’t need to do anything too hard
  • Figure out just a few songs for HUGE value added to storytime
  • Use the ukulele as hold for not confident singers

Guerrilla Query: How do you talk to parents?

  • Use a script at the beginning of storytime
  • Turn moments of messy up into something funny
  • Turn mistakes into learning moments
  • Talk to parents as you do your name song–when you ask each child’s name and focus on that child, model how to have a conversation with a baby/toddler
  • Have a smaller crowd that will allow for smaller discussions about developmental milestones
  • Give the early literacy reasons why you’re doing something in storytime

Guerrilla Query: What do you do when caregivers don’t engage or pay attention in storytime?

  • Tell parents bringing phones into the program to ” Set their phones to stun.”
  • Do a very active storytime
  • Give non-participants “the look”
  • Start storytime with a techy activity, then have everyone put everything away
  • Keep eye contact
  • Give parents props to participate
  • Own the space and set expectations
  • Say, “Grownups, I can’t do this without you.”
  • Ask yourself if the behavior is really worth calling out if it isn’t disruptive
  • Find out if caregivers using technology in storytime are doing so to document the activities for at home. Make storytime resources available to caregivers after storytime so they CAN participate in the program
  • Say, “Your child will like doing this activity with me, but they will LOVE doing it with you.”

Challenge: How do you ensure that storytime is accessible to all levels of physical engagement?

  • Encourage taking a short break if a child cannot deal
  • Have quiet “busy” objects for kids to fidget with in nondisruptive ways
  • Offer muffling headphones or a designated less noisy space for kids who are sensitive to noise

Guerrilla Query: What about accessibility for kids who may not have all their fingers, or two hands, etc.?

  • Modify! Turn a finger song like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” into a whole body song “The Great Big Spider”
  • Un elefante se balanceaba
  • Check in with kids and caregivers to see what might upset a kid, or what modifications may make a child feel more comfortable/included
  • Be flexible about ways of doing something; for example, some babies may be okay with rhymes being done on the heir hands, others may not and so parents should do rhymes on their own hands
  • Ask parents what works for their kids

Challenge: Share your goodbye song.

  • Wave High, Wave Low
  • Tickle the Clouds – “Tickle the clouds, tickle your toes. / Turn around and tickle your nose. / Reach down low, reach up high. / Storytime is over so wave goodbye!”
  • With Our Little Hands
  • “If You’re Sleepy and You Know It Give a Yawn”
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