So You Want to Plan a Preschool Storytime?

This is just one bandwagon I couldn't resist jumping on. Seeing how different people approach the same task has been so interesting to read. Links to all the other good stuff: Anne's post, Lisa's post, Katie's post, Anna's post.

I started out my career working in a library that had a staff of 7. They had lots of storytimes each week, so one staff member would plan a storytime several presenters would use.  Often a plan would have 6-8 books, 4-5 songs, and several extension ideas, and a craft (not always done at every storytime). Clearly way too much to do in one 30 minute storytime! The idea was that to allow each presenter flexibility to do things in her own way, one person would assemble a variety of good quality items and each presenter would choose what she wanted to fill the 30 minutes.

Even though I don't share storytime plans with anyone in my current position, I still use the same style to plan. I don't plan a specific order (Book, Flannel, Song, Rhyme, Book, etc) but leave it open to suit the energy, age, and attention of the kids who are in front of me on a given day. I usually pick between 3-5 books, at least one of which is more of a "toddler" book. I try to incorporate nonfiction whenever appropriate.

In terms of where I source my plans, it's a combination of things I have done in the past, what I know is in my flannelboard stash (I have a Google drive spreadsheet with all that info), what I find in the blogosphere (see my storytime blog roll for places I frequently check), and books I find in our catalog.

I typically get books for 3-4 weeks of storytime at once, since I may have to request them from other libraries in our system, and fill in the details 1 week before.

I tried to be more intentional with incorporating specific activities to address ECRR2 this past year, so I added a section for those activities with the practice in parentheses.

Extensions are where I put rhymes, flannelboards, etc. I have started hyperlinking things in my plans since I started blogging so that I can give due credit without having to rack my brain for the source. If I know the rhyme or script is included with the flannel board pieces, I don't bother putting the words on the plan. Same for familiar things like Scat the Cat that I just freestyle.

I have an opening and closing song that I use for an entire year (Sept-May), and then choose one or two additional songs. Sometimes they fit the theme, sometimes they don't. I include descriptions of the actions to remind myself of how the song goes, or instructions about the props I want to use. I was able to put iTunes on my work computer, and use playlists on my iPad. Before that, I used to make playlists for ~3-4 months and burn a cd to use, so I would just have to bounce tracks, not exchange discs.

If I'm doing a craft after storytime, I include a picture of the finished project, a list of the materials I'll need-- including everyday things like glue and scissors, and brief instructions on how to make the project.

So a finished plan looks something like this:

To be honest, I think it takes me longer to plan a preschool storytime than is really necessary, but only because I like to try to find new things. I don't think there's anything wrong with reusing plans verbatim, and I do repeat things from year to year and even within a year, but personally, I stay more engaged as a presenter if I'm learning something new. The only exception I have really is baby storytime. For the lapsit-style program I have been using, I have a 2 year set of plans I just rotate through, changing the book used if it has been discarded.

I also had a friend help me set up Evernote, so I hope to migrate information into that system eventually. I like the idea of having a keyword-searchable database of stuff I can assemble like legos-- one piece (or brick) at a time! 

A typical storytime set up looks like this (minus the tables. I'm not doing storytimes this summer so I set up a demo on the fly today):

Yes, having the books on the floor means they sometimes get knocked over or picked up by happy little fingers. But I like having them set up. I often will ask the kids what they think our storytime will be about today based on what the books look like. I hope to incorporate a "no fly zone" like Mel does to help caregivers and the kids with expectations.

Nothing fancy about my setup, but it works for me. I store lots of stuff on the shelf in the easel that I want to be a surprise, don't want to get ruined (aka didn't have time to laminate), or would be too distracting if it were out. I also use the books to obscure the view of things like the egg shakers bin when the kids are sitting. (This easel is a popular model among Flannel Fridayers-- worth asking for if you don't already have something similar).

What about you? What's your process and/or setup like?



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