10 March 2016


Talk about bang for your buck-- I spent $13 (only because I was out of bubble solution) and 15 minutes at the dollar store, 30 minutes getting ready (because every single bubble container had to have the foil peeled off. Oy!), and 40 or so kids and caregivers had smiles on their faces. Bubbles never seem to lose their magic no matter how old you get.

Here's what I bought:
3-pack Bubbles with wands (4)
32 oz. bottle Bubble Fun Bubbles (1)
Bubble sword (1)
Bubble Fun Bubble Blowers (2)
Touchable Bubbles (2)
Grab-a-Bubble Bubble Storm (2)
Bubble Wand Set- came with 10 different wands (1)

I had 4 different stations set up:

1. Bubble Painting
2. Make Your Own Bubble Wand (using wire I had on hand)
3. Bubble Wands (I just set out a bunch of bottles of bubbles and all the wands I could find)
4. Special Bubble Tools (the bubble sword, blowers, bubble storms, and touchable bubbles)

By far, simply letting the kids blow as many bubbles as they wanted was the most fun. The Touchable Bubbles were also a big hit. You wait a few seconds after you blow them, and then you can catch them in your hands!

I started to have a panic attack when I looked around and saw little white blobs all over the carpet, but they actually wiped up fine with a disinfecting wipe, and I think they would have even just sucked up with the vacuum, but once I started wiping them up I just kept going. I had hoped it would be warm enough to be outside, since Minnesota is having an early spring this year, but it was a little too cool yet this morning. But knowing that they don't stick permanently to the carpet, I would totally use them indoors again. Though I would bring a Swiffer from home to save the knees of my pants next time.

It hardly gets easier than this! Enjoy!

23 February 2016

Flannel Friday Roundup

Great minds think alike-- we had multiple fish ideas this week!
Five Little Fish on Flannelboard Fun (my storytime kids would lose their minds when that clown fish came out!)
Bubble Bubble Pop! on Literacious (this set is so versatile!)
Five Rubber Ducks on One Little Librarian (okay, so these aren't fish, but how cute are these?)

Karlyn's Librarian Life has many ideas for a bedtime/pajama themed storytime, including this version of The Pajama Party! 

Three new animal themed ideas:
Five Little Monkeys Teasing Mr. Crocodile finger puppets from The Buckeye Librarian (my preschool kids would be on the floor laughing when they saw the mouth on that crocodile!)
Oh no! Someone Left the Barn Door Open at Fun with Friends at Storytime  (this would be fun for a peekaboo storytime with babies/tots, but you could also give clues and use it to work on prediction with older kids!)
Three Little Penguins Sliding on the Ice on Flannelboard Fun (this would be fun for a baby or toddler storytime-- my littles can't make it through five sometimes!)

Speaking of versatile sets...check out This is a Square on Flannelboard Fun. The possibilities are endless! :) 

Thanks to everyone who shared; see you next week at What Happens in Storytime... for a birthday extravaganza! 

As always, check the Flannel Friday websiteFacebook, and Pinterest accounts for more information and past Flannel Friday creations. Are you on the Flannel Friday map? Add yourself via this survey.

17 December 2015

Putting our Thinking on Display

I'm reading through a book called Teaching With Intention by Debbie Miller, recommended again by the fabulous Scott at Brick by Brick.

Teaching with intention : defining beliefs, aligning practice, taking action, K-5In her section on creating classroom culture, she makes the point that, "when we want to cultivate dispositions for thinking in our students, we want to show them what good thinking sounds like, why it's important, and where it can lead us. Yes, we can tell them the importance of being curious or reflective, or even explicitly teach lessons focusing on attributes like these, but unless we also share our literate lives with children and think aloud to make our dispositions for thinking visible in authentic ways across the day and over time, it's unlikely to make a real difference." (pg 51).

I've been consciously using phrases like "good thinking!" or "I never thought of this in that way, that's an interesting choice!" when interacting with kids making projects or answering my questions in storytimes, but I'm reflecting now on how to take that a step further.

In the mixed-ages environment that we often see in storytimes, is is possible to incorporate authentic moments of transparent thinking without losing the group?

Here's where the librarian in me started jumping up and down while reading this chapter. When learning about comprehension strategies of proficient readers, Ms. Miller had an "ah!" moment. As she reports, Pearson, Roehler, Dole, and Duffy (1992) learned that active, thoughtful readers use just a handful of comprehension strategies, like:
  • activating their prior knowledge and making connections between what they know and new information they encounter in the texts they read
  • drawing inferences from the texts they read to form conclusions, make critical judgements, and create unique interpretations
  • asking questions of themselves, the authors they encounter, and the texts they read
  • determining the most important ideas and themes in texts they read
  • summerizing and synthesizing information within and across texts
  • monitoring the adequacy of their understanding
  • creating visual and other sensory images during and after reading (pgs 52-53)
Sound familiar to anyone? Librarians who are familiar with Every Child Ready to Read and Every Child Ready to Read 2 skills and activities are likely already incorporating practices in their storytimes building skills that address these strategies, albeit in a developmentally appropriate way.

But have we transferred those skills into our other programming? STEAM programs are easy to put your thinking on display, since those types of programs are naturally curious, questioning,  and problem solving based. But a Ninjago program? Star Wars Reads Day? Gingerbread houses? I'm challenging myself to work at engaging the learners in my programs by putting my thinking on display. We're a WiFi library; why not take a moment in a program to say, "you know what, I don't know what a fox sounds like, but I would like to. I wonder if it sounds like a dog or more like a wolf? I bet I could find a video of a fox on YouTube. Let me get an iPad and we can look it up and listen together." How would that change the culture of the program, or the relationship I have with the kids in the program?

Do you put your thinking on display? What challenges do you find in finding places for authentic thinking with multi-aged groups? Why do you keep doing it?

17 November 2015

Science Experiment Books for Preschoolers

This fall, I've been fielding an unprecedented amount of reader's advisory requests for science experiment books for young children. I have many families who are just starting their homeschool journey, so I think between that and the ever-increasing awareness of STEAM skills in the general public, more caregivers and parents are desiring to try some science exploration in the home.

Problem is, in my library at least, the bulk of the books in the science experiments area were geared towards upper elementary, science fair type projects. Not only are many of the concepts going to be beyond 3-6 year olds, but the skills required to design, implement, and analyze the results are beyond the scope of developmentally appropriate practice for most in that age range.

So I set out on a mission to request as many books as I could that seemed, from their catalog records at least, to be appropriate for a 3-7 year old audience.

For librarians, these 9 books/series I'd recommend as general purchases for your library or system.

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House by Liz Heinecke
Written by a Minnesota mom and author of the popular Kitchen Pantry Scientist site, this book emerged from her experience searching for experiments that would be safe enough for her youngest, engaging enough for her oldest, and completed with items already found around the house. That's a tall order! Heinecke's suggestion of a science journal will integrate easily into homeschool study, and the color photographs and clear writing make following the experiments easy.

The Curious Kid's Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8 by Asia Citro
"[Science is] about asking your own questions and making your own investigations--two things young children are very good at!" says Citro. She goes on to say, "Babies and toddlers learn about their world by forming questions and experimenting to find the answers...Young children are curious, observant, and determined problem solvers." Therefore, this book doesn't offer prescribed, step-by-step experiments. This book will engage children (and their adults) in critical thinking skills at every step of the scientific process. Because of the format, this book will offer science experiences that provide rich, flexible, and easily differentiated learning. I see a natural progression from Kitchen Science Lab for Kids to The Curious Kid's Science Book for homeschooling families or families with serious STEAMy interests.

The Kid's Book of Simple Everyday Science by Kelly Doudna
40 simple experiments covering physics, chemistry, and biology are presented in easy to follow directions with colorful photographs. Pictographs indicate which experiments require safety glasses, adult help, heat, or sharp objects. A great collection for general home use.

More Super Simple Science series, ABDO publishing
Experiments are presented with simple instructions and large color photos, along with a differentiated version of the scientific method suitable for young children. Titles in the series include: Light, Food, Gravity & Motion, Liquid, Magnets, and Sight & Sound.

First Science Library series, Armadillo (Anness Publishing)
Each titles includes many simple experiments that require mostly household items and very little time. Pages at the back offer "hints for helpers," with more detailed information about what is happening in each experiment. Books are published in the UK, so some conversions will need to be made. Titles in the series include: Water Play, Magnets & Sparks, Light & Dark, Sound Magic, On the Move, Animals & Plants, and Up in the Air

Janice VanCleave's Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects by Janice VanCleave
Inspired by questions asked by real kids, the book offers science activities that involve playful, hands-on experiences designed for use for 4-7 year olds. The book includes section summaries, a glossary, and a teacher's guide to preparing and presenting the lessons, A good supplement for development science process skills, curiosity about scientific concepts, and exploration, but not a good fit for families wanting step-by-step experiments following the scientific method.

Science Play! by Jill Frankel Hauser
Subtitled "Beginning Discoveries for 2- to 6-year olds," this boo has been the recipient of the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, Early Childhood News Directors' Award, and the Parents' Choice Approved Award. The book's introductory material stressed the role of scientist for the child and lab assistant for the caregiver, a scientific methods for little learners, as well as a shopping list for common items used in the discoveries featured in the book. Best suited for informal learning than fulfilling specific standards or objectives.

Whiz Kid Science series, Raintree (Capstone Publishing)
Rather than separating the background and explanatory science information from the experiments as I observed in many of the other books, all the relevant info for each experiment is presented together. A bonus "Troubleshooter!" tip box offers suggestions on how to adjust or change the expeirement of environment in order to achieve success. In terms of preschool appropriate, step-by-step experiments, this series offered the presentation I preferred the most. Titles in the series include: Make it Boom!, Make it Zoom!, Make it Glow!, Make it Change!, Make it Grow!, and Make it Splash!

BONUS: Science Around Us series, The Child's World
The titles in this series would pair well with experiments illustrating the concepts presented in the books. Using illustrations and photography, the books simplify concepts to a more understandable level for young learners. Back matter provides suggestions to parents and caregivers of more resources to consult for those looking for more in-depth study. Titles in the series include: Air, Dirt, Electricity, Energy, Magnets, Shadows, Sound, and Water.

Additional books and series:
For librarians looking to expand their collections, I'd consider these supplementary purchases for this age group.
Junior Scientists series, Cherry Lake Publishing
Lightning Bolt Books: Plant Experiments series, Lerner Publishing Group
The Giant Science Encyclopedia of Science Activities for Children 3-6 edited by Kathy Charner
150 Amazing Science Experiments by Chis Oxlade
Everyday Science Experiments series, Windmill Books (Rosen Publishing)
First Facts Fun Science series, Capstone Publishing
I'm a Scientist: In the Kitchen by Lisa Burke
Science Explorer Junior series, Cherry Lake Publishing
Six-Minute Nature Experiments by Faith Hickman Brynie
Six-Minute Science Experiments by Faith Hickman Brynie
Show-Me-How: I Can Experiment by Steve and Jane Parker

Future Releases to Watch for:
I can't guarantee these will be suitable for preschool aged science experimentation. But they've caught my eye so far, and I'll look for reviews closer to their publication dates.
A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature by Asia Citro
My First Book of Science Experiments by Thomas Canavan
Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park by Liz Heinecke
Whatever the Weather: Science Activities and Art Activities that Explore the Wonders of Weather by Annie Riechmann
Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science: a Family Guide to Fun Experiments in the Kitchen by Andrew Schloss
Show Me How I Can Do Science by Steve and Jane Parker
FUN-damental Experiments series, Bearport Publishing (new titles: Heat, Plants, and Weather)
One-Stop Science series, Smart Apple Media

13 November 2015

What if Everybody Understood Child Development?

Um... developmentally appropriate practice would be the norm? Policies and standards would be written and evaluated by experts in the field, instead of legislators and stakeholders with little knowledge on the subject? Librarians would be included in the pool of experts?

I'm not sure exactly what would happen if everybody understood child development, but I'm glad people like Rae Pica, and the guests she interacts with through the BAM! Radio Network are asking big questions and engaging in discussion.

What if everybody understood child development? : straight talk about bettering education and children's lives If you haven't heard of the book, What if Everybody Understood Child Development, put it on your to-read list. It's a slim book, weighing in at just 137 pages, divided into 29 short essays on a variety of topics-- from standardized testing, teaching handwriting, to so called "gun play." Each essay includes a list of resources, and some ideas of how to implement change right away.

This book will keep me thinking for a long time, and I keep asking myself new questions. I've purposely archived Scott's thoughts on Brick by Brick from his book study to read now that I've finished the book. And the Early Childhood department at DCTC is in the middle of a book study of this, too.

One of the things I remember learning/hearing/saying a lot when I was in graduate school and first practicing was public librarians saying, "I'm not a teacher," which, in one sense is true of many of us. Many of us have not had the educational coursework that would prepare us to take the teacher licensing tests for whichever area we live. Funnily enough, at the same time I was hearing that message, I was also hearing the same pool of professionals urging us to remind parents that they are their child's first teachers. Now, surely, some parents are trained teachers, but we weren't just speaking to them. We were speaking to each parent in the room, because we understood, from the research that culminated in Every Child Ready to Read, that how parents interacted with their children mattered to their child's readiness for formal learning.

Would the world stop turning if public librarians learned to first characterize themselves as educators, and secondly, include themselves in educator community?

07 October 2015

Do You Ever Wonder?

Last week, The Atlantic published an article about what kindergarten is like in Finland. I was prepared for the usual "kids in Finland actually have time to play-- inside and outside!" and "nary a worksheet to be seen!" comments.

But what has stuck with me for several days are the words of a counselor from the Finnish National Board of Education the author interviewed for the article:
 "There's an old Finnish saying,” Holappa said. “Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily.”
The rest of the article focuses on literacy, and in particular how the Common Core State Standards expect kindergartners to be reading basic texts by the end of the school year. Again, this is not news to people who've been paying attention to the education world.

The author says:
Researchers at the University of Virginia, led by the education-policy researcher Daphna Bassok, analyzed survey responses from American kindergarten teachers between 1998 and 2010. “Almost every dimension that we examined,” noted Bassok, “had major shifts over this period towards a heightened focus on academics, and particularly a heightened focus on literacy, and within literacy, a focus on more advanced skills than what had been taught before.”
Reading that, I couldn't help but make the connection that the time period of that research coincides with when the Public Library Association's Early Literacy Project (what birthed ECRR in 2004 and the revised ECRR2 in 2010) was released into the wild, shall we say.

I sat at my desk wondering, "Am I part of the problem?" What I meant was, being someone who recognized the importance of the research findings related to literacy and pre-literacy skills, geeked out learning about early brain and childhood development, and found it easy to incorporate all I learned into how I chose to interact with and present material in library programs, in doing that, was I (and my profession) part of the culture that has created unrealistic expectations for learners?

I know that disadvantaged kids and their caregivers NEED to be exposed to techniques like dialogic reading because it encourages them to question, predict, and express comprehension of texts, which all provides opportunities to talk together and decrease the 30 million word gap. Library and library outreach programs services are great vehicles for this exposure because of the fact that we offer free, unbiased (theoretically) services and support to anyone in our community. But are we really reaching those children and caregivers who benefit the most or are we oversaturating (is that even a thing?) kids who are already well on their way to school readiness?

I have long used the phrase "choose joy today," as a sort of personal motto. I know it isn't possible to create a joyful learning moment for each child and caregiver I interact with, but I know I will be reflecting on how I might provide more opportunities for them to find or choose joy at the library. After all, what is the benefit in a perfect demonstration of phonological awareness through a singing activity accompanied with the best caregiver aside if everyone forgets it as soon as the moment passes because it brought them no joy?

06 July 2015

This station is taking a break!

So there I was, wondering how to get the enthusiastic group of boys that was, unintentionally, intimidating others at the 6-12 year old program from visiting the shuriken target practice station, to step away for a moment to redirect their energies. 

clock by javierkiopoAnd then it hit me. "Take a break." I don't know if this particular classroom management technique has a name, but it basically works like a time-out. So I announced, "this particular station is taking a break for the next 4 minutes. These activities A, B, and C have no waiting!" Then I removed the items from the table, and set a timer on my phone, which I placed in the center of the table. The group dutifully disbanded with limited "but whys?!" and quickly started working on other projects. When the timer was close to expiring, I walked over and quietly told some of the kids who hadn't had a chance to try that activity yet that it would soon be open again. Then I calmly placed the items back on the table.A few of the boisterous boys were immediately drawn back, but the majority of the group continued working on other activities, allowing new kids to try out that activity.

I'm not sure why this idea never occurred to me, but I know I'll be using it again in the future. In terms of group dynamics, putting the station "on a break" was a way to calm the room down, remind everyone there were several activities to work on, and not make anyone feel like they were "in trouble." The group was using the station as I intended, but their excitement over the activity was overriding their manners, so they weren't listening to each other, taking turns, or working together as a group any longer. Not to mention, the frenetic activity around that area was off-putting to some of the calmer, quieter kids. By not ending that game altogether, it didn't punish kids for not wanting to wade into the fray, or those who took a long time perfecting their shurikens.

So the next time you feel a program getting out of control, try putting an activity, station, toy, etc. "on a break," and see if it works for you!