Saturday, September 15, 2012

Story Time Featuring: Mem Fox

Our story times for this school year are each centered around a favorite author. For our first week, we chose the well-loved and prolific Mem Fox.
When planning for a story time, I love finding out an author has a web site, because not only can I sometimes 'steal' activity ideas, kids and their parents have something extra to go to at home, to continue the fun if they choose. What a treasure trove I found at! A blog I could spend hours reading, the stories behind the stories, recipes, recordings, activities...what a fantastic resource!
As this was our first story time, we started (as we will for the next few weeks, and periodically throughout the year) with a quick overview for parents as to what they can expect from story times, and what I expect in terms of behavior - from both the parents and the kiddos! In a nutshell, preschool story time is where we start learning good listening skills, so I don't expect motionless bodies and waiting-to-be-called-on. All I ask is that, if a child is at the point of distracting everyone else, his caregiver take him out of the room (or to the back, if that works), for a little bit. I never want them to leave completely - if nothing else, they can make all the noise they want during craft time! The same goes for adults - I teasingly remind the kids to make sure their parents wait until craft time to socialize, which gets the point across.
We also started with an old stand-by hand rhyme:
Open them, shut them,
give a little clap,
Open them, shut them,
put them in your lap.
Creep them, creep them,
up to your chin,
Open your mouth...
but don't put them in!
Open them, shut them,
give a little clap,
Open them, shut them,
put them in your lap.
(A word of warning: there are many slightly different versions of this out in library land, and discussions about the correct version can get as heated as the perennial, "Itsy Bitsy" vs. "Eensy Weensy" Spider. This is the one we use. And, it's "Itsy-Bitsy.")
Finally, on to showing a picture of the author, and a very VERY brief biography - how old she is, how many books she has written, where she is from (this being a military town, there is sometimes slightly more understanding of different countries than among typical preschoolers).
We started off with Boo to a Goose, which I introduced by asked kids if they had ever been shy, and explaining the expression. As I read it aloud, I expressed my reactions to some of the crazy things the narartor says she would do, letting them know their own reactions were welcome and encouraged.
From there, we went to:
Where Is the Green Sheep?
which took, as I told them, almost two years to write! Some of our older preschoolers are into dictating or even writing their own stories, and I know I have a few perfectionists in the group, so this was a small way of letting them know things don't have to be exactly right the first time. I wasn't teaching that lesson, just offering a subtle reinforcement to what I know some of my parents are trying to teach.
We read the title together, then looked all over the cover for the green sheep, naming the other colors as we went. After the second or third time of repeating the line, "But where is the green sheep?", I encouraged the kids to chime in - this is one of those wonderful books where any listener can pick up on the rhythm and know when to chime in.
Finally, I showed the group a tin box I have had since I was very small, in which I keep some things that represent old memories - the collar from my first puppy, for example. We talked about how these items were special to me because of the memories that went with them, and how they might have things like that at home - if any had wanted to talk about such items, we would have done that, but no one offered, and I didn't press, since this was our forst story time. Regardless, this gave us a lead-in to:
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
A little bit long for a story time, but it's one of the sweetest books ever written, and I couldn't resist. In this, Wilfrid's friend at the nursing home next door has lost her memory, so he sets out to help her find it. And the pictures! Happy sigh. I did sort of lose the younger ones towards the end, but brought them back with another audience participation book:
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes lap board book
Another incredibly sweet book, and one the mommies really seemed to enjoy. I started by having the kids take their shoes and socks off, which drew attention back from wherever it was starting to wander. We counted our fingers and toes, and marveled over the fact that we all had the same number (although I was prepared to marvel over anyone with a different number of digits, just in case!) I told them to keep their shoes off while we read the story, and "you will see why when we're done!" This celebration of specialness and aDORable babies makes me want to run out and buy it as a gift for someone every time I read it. The children quickly caught on to the refrain again, and when the narrator gives her own baby three little kisses on his nose at the end, I didn't have to give the mommies the slightest nudge to do the same.
Now, we were ready for our craft. I had flower stems painted on pieces of large white paper, and Mommies could choose to use either paint or markers to make flowers and leaves with their little ones' hands and feet. They surprised me, and every brave Mommy opted for the paint. At least one flower became a gift later that day, for a favorite aunt's birthday, and they all turned out very cute!
Stay tuned for another post featuring some newly-acquired Mem Fox books - we may have to give her a whole 'nother week!

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