Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Science Seekers: Lego Bridges

Last week, the K-6 group learned about bridges, Legos, and Lego bridges. I'm not an engineer, so I took a peek at How Stuff Works to figure out how bridges work. The site will tell you everything you want to know about bridges and science!

After we talked a bit about what bridges are and the importance of bridges, we talked about Legos. Most of the kids had played with Legos before, so I didn't have much explaining to do. They excitedly told me about constructing buildings, animals, houses.

Next I had the kids partner up to design a bridge. I gave each pair a large sheet of paper and access to picture books and nonfiction books about bridges. They then planned their bridges before they even cracked open the Legos. I wanted them to have a plan before they had Legos strewn everywhere!

Teamwork! Planning! Yes!

I was honestly surprised that the kids were excited to draw up "blueprints." I had only one young man say "I don't need no stinking instructions!" He drew it up anyway after I asked him nicely.

A very intricate and detailed explanation is happening here.

After the plans were drawn, it was time for the specs portion of the program. I told them that their bridges had to be at least as long as a cardboard tube (a toilet paper tube), and that the tube had to fit underneath the bridge. I gave each pair a tube so they could work around it. I showed them a huge book I found in the reference section that their bridges would have to hold. I think some of the kids may have had a heart palpitation or two just then.

Ready for action!

There were all shapes and sizes of bridges. Amazingly all of them held up under the strength of the book...simply because I placed it horizontal across the bridge, rather than vertically in the middle of the bridge. Oh well...I'll crush someone's dreams next time we do the program.

After the program, many of the kids took bridge-themed books home with them. I was impressed with myself that I made engineering and physics fun. High five!

 Tomorrow: Bears, Hibernation, and Baby Dance Party!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Getting My Kicks with K-6

I recently took over programming for school-aged kids. On top of the early literacy programs. Yup, I'm crazy.

Our library does a TON of outreach for the schools and daycare centers in the area. My new boss-lady, Miss Casey, will be doing all of the book talks, story times, and general hobnobbing outside of the building. Which is fine, because I don't really like hobnobbing...whatever that means.

Anyway, what I'm saying is: I'm going to blog about these new-to-me programs here as well. I thought about making a second blog, but then after some coaching by Casey, I figured that one blog for kids' programming is quite enough. I'll be tagging these K-6 posts with, let the radness commence!

Last week, I did a homeschool group program on abstract art. So I started talking about the definition of abstract art, art that doesn't depict realistic stuff, and giving examples. I held up some examples and asked them to tell me if the painting was realistic or abstract. They seemed to understand the concept, so I went on to the first project, which was: listen to this song, and draw how it makes you feel.

I imagine that Ms. Frizzle from "The Magic School Bus" got the same looks as I do when she first got to know her students. "Who in the heck is this lady and what the heck is she talking about?" We got through that project without any major roadblocks...other than one girl said "Fairies aren't real, so I can draw lots of fairies." I tried to explain the concept again...but evidently she was in a fairy-drawing mood.

We did a second project in which I asked the kids to give me an example of an emotion. I picked "surprise" because I didn't want a bunch of scary "anger" drawings freaking out the 6 year olds. I asked them to draw "surprise" and they seemed to like the task. There were many swirls, spirals, and color.

Psychedelic, man.

The third project was my favorite...but I'm just happy no one cried. I asked the group to start an abstract art piece, and then they had to pass it to the person on their left. That person would then add to the piece. There were a couple young ladies almost lost their minds when their papers came back, but all in all, it was a good time.

Take one down, pass it around...

Tomorrow: Let's Talk Legos!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's the plan, man?

It's time to plan another semester of story times. I love my job, but I think planning programs is one of the most challenging things I have to do. I'm kind of feeling like this right now:

Scary, huh?

I like working at MPL, because I have a large amount of freedom when it comes to the content of my programs. This is a blessing, but also a burden, because let's face it: there are trillions of books, stories, songs, dances, crafts, and felt boards out here. I have narrowed my themes down, so at least I have a starting point. However, my theme for ages 0-3: nursery rhymes. Holy cow-jumping-over-the-moon there's a lot of stuff I can do with that.

Perhaps I'm just feeling overwhelmed? A bit?

So, here's to taking it one day at a time. Today I finished up my example crafts for the month of December. Hopefully I can make it through the holiday story times well enough to be ready to bust out some nursery rhymes and fairy tales in January. (See above picture for my vision of December.)

This week, we're talking about bears and hibernation. Maybe nap time should be part of the plan. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bringing Literacy to the Table

We have all heard the benefits of eating dinner together as a family. From eating healthier food, to becoming more involved in their family's lives, dining with parents is an important part of a kid's day.

"Hold on, Miss Michelle....where are you going with all this? I thought this was a reading blog!"


Not to fret, my pet! I'm here to tell you that sitting at the table with your kids need not be terrible, boring, or stuffy. Oh no...dinnertime is the perfect time to do fun activities with your kids. They won't even know that they're learning. Promise.

One fun thing to do: Talk about your day! Not just the how-was-your-day-oh-it-was-fine banter...really talk about what you did or saw. This helps kids visualize and use their imaginations. Instead of saying, "After work, I came home" you can say "After work, I drove my red car home. On the way, I saw brown cows. Do you know what cows say? Yes, that's right...MOOOOO. What things are brown at the table? Yes, the gravy on these wonderful mashed potatoes is brown."

See the difference? Using descriptive language and questions aids in imaginative thinking! Wahoo!

Another fun thing for dinner table fun: reading aloud. One of my heroes, Jim Trelease, the read-aloud guru, advocates reading aloud at dinner time. You may think that it's odd, but reading aloud before or after dinner can become a fun family tradition. You don't have to corral everyone around a 600 page can just read a magazine article, or maybe something in a newspaper. This makes print more apparent in your home, and can easily become part of your routine. Reading at dinner will spark lively conversation as well, and if you have been paying attention, you'll know that lively conversation was point number one!

Playing games. At dinner. Yes, I said it. Playing fun games like trivia or twenty questions can help your kids think creatively and engage them while the casserole is in the oven. Ever been to a pizza place that has Trivial Pursuit cards at the table? The pizza seems to be at your table a lot quicker, right? Kids can read the cards, or just play along. Even if you don't have trivia cards, you can play 'I Spy,' or 'Name all the Things.'

I think I just made up a game, you guys! Sweet!

'Name all the Things' is when you say: "Name all the things that start with 'R'" or "Name all the things that are orange." Kids can then name all the things that they can think of that fit the description. I think I might go play right now...sounds fun to me!

Place mats are another cool dinnertime prop for kids. My five year old has several alphabet, map, color, and shape place mats that I bought at Walmart for about $2 each. Not too shabby for a multitasking item! Place mats are super easy to make as well. You can use Con*tact paper to "laminate" the design you want. Maybe this is a new Crafty Gal project!

Do you have other ideas to add? I want to hear them! Please leave me a comment if you have something awesome to do at dinnertime that promotes learning!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Talking Turkey Part Two!

This week in story time, we are discussing what "being thankful" means. Most of the 2's and 3's were shy about what they are thankful for, but I have heard some good responses:

"I'm thankful for ponytail holders!"

"I'm thankful for my cats, Tipper and Copper. Do you have cats Miss Michelle? They are grey and orange."

"I'm thankful for my mom."

"I'm thankful for macaroni and cheese!" (To which I replied, "Me too!")

I read Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes to all the story times. The book is cute and tells about things that most kids are thankful for: dancing, cats, school, parents. The illustrations are pretty amazing. The 2's and 3's classes were a bit antsy-pantsy after our rousing interpretive dance rendition of "The Turkey Wobble," so not everyone was excited to listen. I did my best to ask get the kids listening and relating to what the kids in the book are thankful for...but I was just thankful to get through the book by that point. It happens...and we go on!

Super cute book!

All of the classes did a fabulous craft of designing their own pot holders. I purchased them from Oriental Trading and the kids' reactions were lukewarm...I framed the idea with the notion that you're thankful for the people who cook for you, and that this is a gift to them. Maybe it was because it was an "open ended" sort of creative endeavor, or that it was a pot holder...but I think the caregivers liked it more than the kids. Moms and Grandmas LOVED it. I was asked at least a dozen times where I purchased the pot holders.

I did get designs ranging from "stained glass" to "abstract dot art" to "hand print turkey" to "Batman." Here's my take on the project:

Not too shabby for a done-in-ten-minutes example, right?

In the 4's and 5's classes, I read This is the Turkey by Abby Levine. It's a story modeled on the style of The House that Jack Built. The climax of the story is when mom trips and the turkey lands in the fish tank. Whoops. Good one, Ma. I really enjoy this book for all the creative activities it brings to mind...

Pre-accident Turkey

I think I came across this idea in The Mailbox, a magazine for teacher types: I have a little stuffed turkey that we used as a beanbag to throw in a "fish tank" for gross motor skill practice. The kids enjoyed the jack-o-lantern beanbag toss so much, that I figured they would enjoy this as well. They thought it was hilarious and had a good time. Score one for Miss Michelle!

Hanging out in the "fish tank"

I also printed a coloring sheet for them to go along with the idea that you don't need a turkey to have a great Thanksgiving. (All you need are roasted Brussels sprouts, I say.)

Don't believe me? You've never tasted mine!

Tomorrow: Ideas for bringing literacy to the table!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crafty Gal's Latest Endeavor

If you don't read Cauli's blog, well, you should. Cauli Le Chat is our roving feline reporter here at MPL. She has the inside scoop on all behind the scenes stuff here at the library. She even gives the staff nicknames--how fun is that?

Well, I'm going to out myself: Cauli has nicknamed me "Crafty Gal" because I'm into creating fun stuff. Today is no exception, because I made a fabulous wind chime out of an old xylophone. It's pretty rad.

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

One of my patrons donated a cute kid xylophone. I really wanted to keep it for play...however the screws holding the bars on stuck out so far that I was afraid it would become more of a bludgeoning tool than an instrument. I found the original idea on, via Pinterest, but it looks like the link is broken. Boo.

First I took off the bars using the nail remover side of a hammer. Then I gathered my materials, which consisted of me raiding the craft closets for metallic string to hang the bars, an embroidery hoop, yarn to cover the hoop, and some of that plastic string stuff to hang it.

This xylophone will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Next, I attached the bars to the hoop with the metallic string, and trimmed the ends. I wrapped yarn around the hoop to secure the bars a bit better, but mostly to make it look a bit nicer.

Looks like a hot mess, Crafty Gal.

After I wrapped the yarn, which seemed like it took forever, I tied the plastic string into a big knot to make the mobile level.

Crafty Gal and the Technicolor Wind Chime
You're welcome, Minnie.

It was difficult finding a place to hang it with a high-ceiling room, but I think I did a fairly good job. Minnie looks happy anyway.

I like making cool stuff out of items that are laying around. What have you made lately?

Monday: Thanksgiving Story Times: Part Two!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Spokescritters!

Here at MPL, we love our spokescritters! We are always excited when new personalities come along to get the word out about our fabulous library. The first video is of two new faces at MPL: Miss Casey, the new Director of Children's Services, and Queenie the (Diva) Cow.

This is my puppeteer debut. I think I did a pretty good job, but I'm sure I'll become more polished as time goes on. High five!

Here is Casey's debut as Aggie McPooch, the new Early Literacy Spokescritter. She did a great job! We talk about the things we did in story time this week.

By the way, the final verdict of Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson: two thumbs up from the story time kids!

Tomorrow: Crafty Project from Crafty Gal!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Deep Thoughts with Miss Michelle

My title here at MPL is "Early Literacy Associate." Wikipedia says: Literacy refers to the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word.

Early literacy refers to pre-reading skills. In short, my job is to help kids 0-6 be ready to read. The programs that I lead help kids develop the skills that they will use to read and write. Pretty exciting stuff! The American Library Association (ALA) have identified 5 areas of early literacy skills: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.

My goal for story times is to integrate all these activities into a fun-filled 45 minute class. In my programs, I use simple activities that parents can do at home with their kids to help them gain early literacy skills. By doing simple tasks, like singing and doing crafts, I hope to show parents that it's easy to bring story time home with them.

Hopefully not like this...
Let's back up for a minute. I LOVE TO READ. Reading is one of the most important things in life. Think about it: you have to read to fill out a job application; you have to read to get a driver's license; you have to read to order off a menu that has items priced at over a dollar. Reading is critical to life as we know it! It is my personal mission to spread my joy and love of reading to others...ESPECIALLY kids!

Kids love story times. They tell me thank you, give me high fives, and even give me hugs at the end. I'm glad that they like what I do, but honestly, I do the story times for the parents. Yes, you read that right! My hope is that the parents and caregivers take my ideas and the skills that we use during story time and use them at home. Learning doesn't stop at the library entrance. Children need their caregivers to continue talking, singing, writing, playing, and reading with them outside of library activities. Even reading for 20 minutes a day, singing a song in the car, and playing with blocks will go a long way into helping your child with reading and being ready for school.

One of the moms that comes to story time on a weekly basis told me that I have "inspired" her to do crafts at home with her two adorable little girls. It made me feel AMAZING! I'm so happy that patrons are taking what I do and using it to become closer to their kids.

Tomorrow: The Verdict of "Bear Says Thanks" and a SPECIAL SNEAK PEEK of some new MPL puppets!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Talking Turkey!

This week, we're starting our two part Thanksgiving series! Wahoo! I love Thanksgiving!

Not Miss Michelle.

We have all new songs, stories, and crafts. Generally we keep the same songs and board books to share throughout the month. We have exclusive stuff for the next two weeks, which I'm sure keeps parents happy...instead of singing the same song (Animal Alphabet, ahem) over and over. You're welcome!

Anyway, for the 2s and 3s class this week we're reading I'm a Turkey by Jim Arnosky. It's a pretty cool book that captures the lives of turkeys in a sing-song fashion. I think the kids liked the book since it portrayed turkeys how they really are in the wild, and not just a goofy looking handprint-turkey-craft type of turkey.

Yes, yes you are.

The kids were pretty rambunctious today, so they were pleased with all the active songs I had on the itinerary. The kids and I busted out our dance moves to a song called "The Turkey Wobble." I think they were impressed with my skills.
Also not Miss Michelle.

We sang "Turkey in the Straw" with some cute popsicle stick turkey puppets. We also sang a song called "Please and Thank You" doing American Sign Language for "please" and "thank you." THEN we did more dancing with instruments to another Thanksgiving song. Whew, no wonder I'm tired.

Tomorrow, I'll be reading Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson with the 4s and 5s. It's a cute book with Bear and his friends celebrating Thanksgiving. I'll keep you posted on how the kiddos enjoy it.

You're welcome, Bear.

For all classes, we are making cute ears of corn from construction paper, popsicle sticks, and either foam or actual popcorn. I think I'm going to reserve the popcorn version for the 4s and 5s class, as the 2-3 year olds may try to eat it. I found the idea on Kaboose via Pinterest.

Tomorrow: My Philosophy on Early Literacy (It's more exciting than it sounds!)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Public Display of (Thanksgiving) Affection

I am so excited November is here. I love Thanksgiving! I love turkeys! I love making new monthly displays! I also love that I found some great books for the Thanksgiving unit I'm about to start!

Here is our fabulous display of Thanksgiving titles. Stop by and grab a few before they're gone!

Grab them before they wobble away.

Play to win!
I have placed a fun guessing game on the display as well. Kids can guess the amount of candy corn in the jar, put their guess in the box, and win a book if they guess the closest to the actual amount.

For the next two weeks, I will be leading Thanksgiving-themed story times. I found some awesome books in our collection and came up with awesome crafts to go along with them. I love it when a plan comes together...

And, as always, the MPL children's staff are always thankful that you are here to share our love of the library! Stop by and see our turkey friend on the dry erase board.

Gobble! (Translation: Have a good weekend!)
Next week: The Books and the Crafts: Thanksgiving Edition.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Story Time = Any Time!

It's November. Eek! I know, right? The year is almost over! Holy cow!

Lately I have reminded the caregivers in story times that the holidays are upon us, and that donating their kids' gently used toys would be a lovely learning opportunity for the children. Being thankful for what you have and helping others is something best to show and not just tell!

A few of my wonderful patrons have brought in donations this week. I sifted through the bags and came across these cute beaded animal toys. There are only three of them, so I can't quite use them for a class of fifteen. However, they're too adorable not to put to good use.

Too cute to toss!

I asked a teen patron (who frequents my desk on a daily basis) what he would do with one of these beaded doo-dads if he was a little kid. He said he would probably hit someone with it. I told him that violence is not the answer, and I put on my thinking cap.

Aha! Let's use them as story inspiration at the puzzle station! We have a lovely area here in the MPL children's department where kids can work puzzles and throw blocks at each other play with blocks.

I made tags to attach to the strings with questions like: "Are the animals friends?" "Where do they live?" and that kind of thing. This is really more for the parents than for the kids. Kids will make up stuff and tell whoever is around to listen. I think adults feel petrified when asked to tell a story.

Many people I know claim not to be creative: "Miss Michelle, you are SO creative! How do you come up with this stuff?! I could NEVER do that." No, you really can. I promise. The trick is to not be afraid of not doing things the "right way." There is no right or wrong when it comes to arts, crafts, stories, or creative stuff as a whole. Go with the flow and create your own story.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it.

On the back, I put a blurb explaining that telling stories with kids is a great way to develop literacy skills and that it's totally fun as well. I attached the tags, and they turned out pretty darn spiffy.

The finished product!

You can find these fabulous animal story starters in a basket at the puzzle station. I hope to hear some good stories happening over there!

Tomorrow: Being Thankful for Thanksgiving Books!