Q&A: Music and Movement vs. Storytime

Courtney asks: "I'm a first time visitor from Flannel Friday. I was wondering how your movement and music is different from storytime? It sounds like something I would do with 2s and 3s, but I know my storytimes are very different from colleagues (mine are a little wilder, LOL). Is it just the way you advertise? TIA."

I've thought about this subject a lot since October, when I offered my first sessions. So, Courtney, you're probably in for more of an answer than you bargained for!

For some librarians, Music and Movement programming would probably look a lot like their storytimes. For others, it would be drastically different.  I began offering these classes after failing to generate any interest in a Toddler Storytime. 

The short answer is, yes, I think a lot of families in the area are looking for music and movement classes, which typically run around $100 for 4-6 sessions in our area from my research. I'm free. I do start each session with the disclaimer that I do not have a music education background but have been singing and playing music since I was a kid. Advertising the classes as "music and movement" makes it sound different than a "boring old storytime," and stand out from other programs.

But I find a couple differences between storytimes and Music and Movement from my perspective.

The  Long Answer:

Child/Caregiver Ratios
In my case, the majority of my storytime participants come with daycare providers. So I choose things that don't need a lot of caregiver/child interaction to be successful, because I just don't have the ratios I need. I also tend to try to keep a pretty low-key feel to the program because when it gets out of control, it gets there fast and furious. Without one-on-one or one-to-two rations, I have no chance of bringing the group back if I lose them to crazy-town.  (And yes, I learned that the hard way).

In Music and Movement, I generally have one or two children for each caregiver.  So we get a little silly. I do more free-dance, because if they get too wild [ie, running around and screaming], the caregiver is right there to gently correct the behavior. It also means I can't target my audience to be just 3s-4s like I tend to with storytime. In storytime, I know if I do a rhyme, I don't have to think about what the babies will be doing because I know they'll all be chilling in their strollers. M&M, I have to bring something for each age group to the table.

In my first job, we had lots of storytimes and multiple presenters. So the way I learned to plan a storytime was to grab several books (theme-based), one or two for a toddler audience, one or two for older-preschool, maybe a nonfiction or poetry selection. Then we selected a rhyme or activity or flannelboard (or two or three). We generally used the same opening and closing songs all year, and then chose one or two theme-related ones. The idea was, all these materials would be kept together and made available to each presenter to choose what worked best for their style and the audience. Even though I'm the only one at my library who will get within 100 yards of a storytime plan, I still plan that way. It takes me maybe 15 or 20 minutes to gather these things if I am focused on the task. I also tend to start with the books.

In the Toddler program I had tried to get going, I would choose one book, four or five songs, and occasionally some sort of additional activity-- not theme related in the least. Materials were selected for their appropriateness for a toddler audience. The less directions and explaining needed, the better. It was modeled after extremely popular programs offered by someone who is known in her state as a "toddler expert." It was a shorter program, only 20 minutes, lots of fun and flowed nicely. 

With M&M, I start with a theme, then think about what songs might work, what activities, movement activities, etc., and often choose the books last. In storytimes I read 3 or 4 books, but I purposely limit M&M to one or maybe two.  Because I don't rely on books to be the bulk of the program, it takes me a lot longer to pull together a plan. I'm getting faster, but I find myself spending more time Googling than I ever do for storytimes. I also plan an order. With storytime, I know how much material I can cover in 30 minutes-- or how much dialogic reading I should incorporate to help me get to 30 minutes. Without the books to rely on, I have a harder time timing the sessions, so I overplanned a lot in the beginning.

I feel very comfortable with the early literacy skills from ECRR1, and am working to integrate that knowledge with the practices in ECRR2 as parent asides, but generally, I can find multiple points highlighting early literacy development in my storytime plans without breaking a mental sweat.

We can look to child development for cues about motor development, which means there can be guides for choosing appropriate movement activities. (See Mel's post).

This year, I taught my groups the words legato and staccato (introduced as smooth and choppy). We learned about dynamic markings. I include a lot of classical music, so we talk about the composers or instruments. And yes, I know that a lot of this information is for the caregiver's benefit, but there are literacy skills too. Dynamics are marked with p's and f's (piano and forte) and m (mezzo, for medium). We get vocabulary, letter knowledge, background knowledge, etc.  

The Future
But reading Mel's post made me really question the music portion. I had been feeling like there must be a piece that I'm missing that curriculum for commercial program addresses, as there was little flow between the classes and I wanted there to be. Unlike storytime, which I see as one-off events, M&M felt like something which should start somewhere and grow.

I am hoping to embark on a research project investigating how child development and music learning are related (or even just if they are). I know from early literacy training that we can start teaching letter knowledge to babies because letters are made up of shapes. So we teach babies shapes, then we start teaching toddlers how the shapes make letters (a circle and line make b,d,p,q), and so on. Is the same true for music? Should you focus on rhythm before you introduce dynamics before you get into tempo? When should a child be able to sing on pitch? When should they be able to engage in call and response (I sing something, you sing it back)? Some music and movement classes for kids don't incorporate instruments because they feel they're not developmentally appropriate... others use multiple kinds each session. What is the skinny on early childhood and instrumental readiness? The goal of all this is to be able to develop a progression and continuity throughout the sessions. 

So that's where I'm at right now. What about the rest of you? Anyone else doing music and movement programming separate from a storytime? What do you see as differences?



  1. Just found this post in doing planning for my Music and Movement storytime, which has consistently good attendance. Are you still doing these?? Very interesting and informative. Thank you!

    1. I am still doing these. Just extremely behind in posting. I've changed my format a bit as my groups this year have been skewing younger and younger. I do plan to post those sometime soon.

  2. Did you ever end up doing the research you wrote about? I'm trying to find research supporting the use of music in storytime and not having much luck.


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