Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Plan a Perfect Story time

So you have to plan a story time and fast? Here are some simple tips to get this story time on the road in no time!

Decide what age group you are trying to gear your story time to. If children are very young, such as preschoolers, you have to read books with simple messages, large, bright pictures, and make sure they are not overly lengthy. With older children such as kindergartners, first, and second graders you will be able to choose books with a more involved storyline and longer length, due to their increased attention span. Always dictate your reading style and length of books to your audience. If you notice the children's attention span is waning, you can always talk about the pictures in the book, shorten the book by quickly describing the ending, or have the children act out certain events in the book such as clapping or jumping.

Choose the location of the program. Children become frazzled in very messy or disorganized environments. Make sure your area is clean, neat and orderly in order to keep misbehavior at bay. If you are trying to lull the children to sleep, the shades should be drawn, lights dimmed and your voice should be calm and soft. For a more boisterous and fun story time, try to alter your voice and its pitch to invoke different voices for your characters. You can give children bells or shakers if there is a scene in the book which calls for a party or a noisy din, and most of all understand that children need to participate in the story time.

Pick out a theme.The easiest way to pick a theme is to work around special days or the time of the year, such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or Fall. Think of popular themes or weather events for the particular time of year or month. If it's spring, topics such as flowers, rain showers, and birds may come to mind.

Pick out developmentally-appropriate books for the children. Even though a book's pictures may seem bright and lively, the content of the book's subject matter may be too mature for the age group you are trying to entertain. Try to avoid overly dark or scary- looking pictures for preschoolers. Try to avoid books with double meanings or catch phrases for the very young. While these books may be appropriate for a second-grader, a preschooler does not have the judgment to differentiate reality from fantasy and may believe the event could actually happen. If you are uncertain about the content of the book, take a quick scan of the pictures, words, and general summary of the story. Is the plot overly complex?, Are the pictures small and nondescript?, Does the author use an overabundance of words on the pages? If you notice any of these occurrences, steer clear of the book. While this book may be great to read to children over a period of days, it is not appropriate to read within most half- hour story time programs.

Choose songs, fingerplays, poems, rhymes, flannel boards  and at least one to two movement activities. Songs should be short, simple and have an easily recognized tune in order to spark a child's interest. Songs that go to familiar early childhood songs or Christmas carols are always big hits. Fingerplays allow the storyteller to use their hands and fingers to act out the actions of the rhyme. An example of a fingerplay is the Eensy, Weensy Spider. Silly rhymes delight young children, especially preschoolers, because they are beginning to grasp the use of language. Action/movement activities provide a quick way for children to regroup or start your program. A great movement activity is one that uses gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include jumping and hopping. Shake Your Sillies Out by Raffi and If You're Happy and You Know It are two wonderful examples of movement activities. Websites such as and offer a wonderful variety of songs, fingerplays and movement activities. Flannel boards are a great way to tell a story by using pieces of felt that are cut into various shapes and characters. They can either be produced at home or bought from a supplier. Popular flannel board stories for preschoolers and kindergartners include popular rhymes such as The Three Little Pigs and There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

Use Props such as puppets, stuffed animals, egg shakers, scarves, bells or streamers to add "life" to your story time.  Why not have your stuffed frog introduce the children to the book you are going to be reading about frogs? or have your rabbit puppet sing that silly song about rabbits. Create egg shakers by filling plastic Easter eggs with rice or buttons (keep the eggs closed by placing duct tape on the egg seam) or dance to your favorite Disney song with scarves or streamers. Bells add a bit of cheer to a movement activity or story. 

Decide what type of craft you would like to create. The considerations that need to be made for planning children's crafts activities  are the difficulty level, the ages of the children, the time you have available to complete the craft and the availability of craft supplies. Very young children need at least 10-15 minutes in order to put together most crafts. Understand preschoolers are just beginning to retain the use of their fine motor skills and will need a little extra help and attention in order to accomplish even a simple craft. Glue sticks are the easiest and least messy way to glue construction paper shapes or other crafts together. Kindergartners through second graders will have an easier time with more advanced crafts which ask for multiple steps. For the most part most, story time crafts for all ages are kept quite simple. The craft is meant as an activity to create a concrete element to the story time. It acts as a memento for the child to remember the events and theme that were expressed during the session. The most available craft supplies are glue, construction paper, glitter, crayons, markers, stickers, paint and craft foam. Simple crafts that utilize cut out shapes to create objects such as flowers and collages work well with the very young. Understand that young children's artwork will often times not resemble the sample you created. Young children are more concerned with the process of the art, not that the project is perfect or looks beautiful. 

End Your Story time with a Good-bye song in order to get children into a routine. Routines are extremely important for children. It alerts them that there is a time and place for everything, since they do not understand the concept of time. When we sing the good-bye song, they know that story time is ending and it is time to go home. Blowing bubbles while singing the song adds excitement and some extra fun.

The number one thing to remember when planning a story time is to relax and take a breather. Often times, we can get so wrapped up in the process we forget to have fun and roll with the punches. Story time is a great way to release your energy and act like a big kid! If you put a smile on your face and believe in your abilities all will go over smoothly. 

Also, remember we all make mistakes and story time is a learning process. Once you have gotten the hand of it, it becomes second nature. Children are more interested in the idea that someone is taking the time to read them a book and sing some fun songs.