Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whose Storytime Is It Anyway?: Improvising

We've all been there. We have a perfectly planned storytime script all planned out. We've carefully and diligently chosen our books/songs/fingerplays/flannels/etc. and now we're ready to start the show.


...It seems as if our storytime attendees have other plans. No matter how much you shake your sillies out, open and shut them, or criss-cross applesauce, nothing seems to keep them focused. So really there's only one option left - improvise!

Now, I was born a perfectionist and one of the things that I've had to learn in my 4 years of doing storytimes is to not take it personally if a book/song/rhyme doesn't work out. I shouldn't be afraid to stop what I'm currently doing and switch gears. For instance, it's perfectly fine to skip to the end of a picture book or stop reading entirely and move on. I sometimes feel like my storytime toddlers have a hive mind. Some days they are all really engaged in my storytime and other days I wonder if there's a full moon out or something!

That said, I've also learned some ways to prepare myself to improvise in storytime should the need arise. Here are my tips for success:

1. Have a CD of favorite storytime songs on hand. Choose some crowd-pleasing favorite songs and burn them to a CD, such as "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi or "Tooty-Ta" by Dr. Jean. If your storytime kiddos are getting the wiggles, just pop the CD in and dance them out!

2. Try to have more books on hand than you need. I especially do this for storytimes where I know I'll have kids of various ages. That way, I can read the crowd and if it seems like they are more focused I can choose a longer book. By the same token, if I'm losing the group I can choose a shorter book to read instead.

3. Have some good focusing rhymes/games in your back pocket. I discovered a great book by Jean Feldman called Transition Tips and Tricks for Teachers. Though it's geared toward teachers, I found it to be very useful for a public children's librarian as well. She has some great ideas on how to grab the attention back to you, such as Freddie Flea. A song cube can also work wonders. And I always have my Magic Listening Dust Box on hand just in case.


4. Don't be afraid to break out some props. It's amazing what something as simple as using bean bags/shakers/scarves in storytime can accomplish. If your little ones still have lots of sillies in them, pass out some props, throw on a good song, and dance away! This sort of activity is not only fun, but it teaches kids all about movement and rhythm which is great for improving those motor skills.

What do you do to improvise in your storytime?

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