Friday, September 30, 2011

D is for... DINOSAURS and DOCTORS!

     Sorry for the delay in this post!  Although we did the letter Dd a week ago, Sammy had some vacation hours he needed/wanted to use.  I guess we will excuse him just this once.  It just didn’t feel right doing my video without the little guy, thus, without further ado… the letter Dd!
     For the letter Dd, I went with a favorite among many of the kids in my classes, DINOSAURS!  What two through six year do you know that is not obsessed with dinosaurs?  I always start off my classes by asking the kids what the letter of the day is going to be.  This is great for helping them remember what letter they did last week and which letter comes after it in the alphabet.  I have some pretty smart cookies (if I do say so myself) and they continually amaze me with how much they already know.  Thus, without missing a beat, almost every kid in my class knew it was Dd and knew we were doing dinosaurs.  I wish I could have captured their excitement!
     The flashcard craft this week was pretty simple.  For those of you who don’t know, I try to draw my flashcards for the kids.  I am by no means an artist, but I think it adds a little something special.  So, with just one mess-up that ended in the recycling bin, the flashcard looked like this.

Materials: Dinosaur "D" drawn on an index card, crayons, and 4-5 foam triangle stickers, and a googly eye

Back side of the flash card

 1) Color your dinosaur.  Place triangles along the back of the dinosaur.  Place google eye on the head.

2) Trace the uppercase and lowercase "Dd" on the back of the card.  If your child cannot trace, hold their hand and guide them.

3) Add your card to the letters Aa, Bb, and Cc.

     I added some triangles to this flashcards in order to talk about shapes with the kids.  I asked the kids to put the triangles on the backs of their dinosaurs; however, if they did not like that, then they could put them anywhere.  In what I like to refer to as a “light bulb” moment, one kid responded, “So you want us to make a stegosaurus?”  Tell me that isn’t a smart cookie?
     Now I know that last week I said the clothesline craft was a favorite of mine, however, that was before I came across this amazing doctor bag craft (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it).  I saw it and immediately knew I had to do it. That is one of the best parts about crafting during story times, it’s not only educational but fun too!
     Books this week were interesting.  There are thousands, and I mean THOUSANDS, of dinosaur books to choose from when you are looking for a great read-aloud.  The hardest part of dinosaur books is often the pronunciation of the dinosaur names!  My best suggestion, PRACTICE before you read it aloud.  I ended up going with Dinosaurrumpus by Tony Mitton.  This book has a lot of great dinosaurs that your kids will recognize.  There is also a chorus that repeats almost every page.  My kids had a great time chanting the chorus with me.  

     For my doctor book I decided to stray from the norm.  There are doctor books by all the classic children’s authors including Mercy Mayer, Jonathon London, and Stan and Jan Berenstain, however, I went with a little known book, Miss Polly has a Dolly by Pamela Duncan Edwards.  This book is actually a converted jump rope rhyme.  There are a lot of repeating words within the book that the kids enjoyed reciting with me.  Another great aspect of this book was that it was filled with Dd words. 

     Other than books and crafts, my next favorite thing to jazz up my programs is the music!  You CANNOT have a great program if you do not have music.  For my dinosaur theme I went with a well-known oldie but goodie “Walk the Dinosaur.”  For those of you who don’t know, the remix by Queen Latifah is fantastic and most kids recognize the song from the movie Ice Age.  It’s upbeat, bouncy, and all out fun! Just what I like.  Another great dinosaur song, “Fossil Rock” by Jane Murphy, is fantastic for teaching kids about fossils and how dinosaurs became fossils.  Once again, upbeat, fun, and bubbly!  Mark it down as another win!
     That seems to be all for this week’s post!  I hope you enjoyed the letter Dd.  As usual, if you ever have any questions, leave a comment!  I love getting replies!  Next week is the letter Ee.  What fun things can you think of?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


     What?  Two posts in the same day?  Well, I am still playing catch-up, however, this week finally marks us as "on track."  This week at the Mooresville Public Library we focused on the letter Cc.  It’s amazing how many words kids can come up with when you ask them “What starts with the letter Cc?”  I do this with my 4 to 6 year olds every week and I am always blown away.  A few answers this week included cat, cake, cookie, corn, and my personal favorite… CEILING!  That’s right, ceiling!  This one word response made me realize that although I am working hard on introducing each letter of the alphabet as well as the sound it makes, a five year old always has the opportunity to outsmart me!  This little girl helped me to remember that I need to focus not only on the obvious sound a letter might make, but all possible sounds.
     When doing a flashcard search this week I came across an adorable caterpillar in the shape of a Cc.  You can find it here.  I was so thankful to find a letter that worked and that I didn’t have to draw.  I am definitely not an artist, but have been putting my artistic skills to the test each week when I draw the flash card.   As I have mentioned, I always like to add a little something to the card so that the kids can not only work on their coloring skills, but other fine motor skills as well.  With our caterpillar, I decided to add little foam circle stickers to make it a bit more festive.  The 2 and 3 year olds had a little trouble getting the back off the sticker, but the 4 to 6 year old had no problem.  I am always amazed what a year can do for fine motor skills.  This is what the flash card looked like this week.

Materials: Caterpillar "C" drawn on an index card, crayons, and 6-8 small foam circle stickers

Back side of the flash card.

1) Color the caterpillar.  Add the foam circle stickers. 

2) Trace the capital and lowercase C.

3) Add it to the ring with Aa and Bb.

     The other craft we made this week in Story Time might be one of my personal favorites.  From the title I am sure you have already guessed that we made a clothesline!  I really liked this idea because it gave each child the chance of being really creative.  I gave each child a blank “t-shirt” and allowed them to choose one glitter sticker.  Now I am not normally stingy with my craft supplies, but if given the opportunity, I have some kids who would have put 100 stickers on their shirts.  I wanted this craft to be more about being creative with crayons than with stickers.  After decorating their shirt, I gave each child 2 miniature clothespins and had them “hang” their shirt on the line.  This is what the craft looked like from start to finish.

Materials: One white "t-shirt" printed on cardstock, crayons, glitter sticker (I forgot clothes pins in this picture)

1) Have each child decorate their t-shirt in whatever way they want.  Try not to give them any ideas.  I notice that whenever I mention something like "rainbows," I always get 10 pictures of rainbows. The below shirt is the one I made! :)

 2) Have each child hang their shirt on a "clothesline" made of yarn  This is great for fine motor skills.  Your end product might look something like this!

     As for books this week, I went with the obvious classic, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This book never fails to keep my kids interested and entertained no matter how many times they have heard it.  I loved the excitement the kids generate when they are able to yell out exactly how many of each item the caterpillar is eating.  And of course it is hard not to giggle when the caterpillar gets so “fat.”

     To go along with my clothesline, I found a really great book about washing and hanging clothes, among other things.  Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks is a great book to talk about rhyming words.  I had my 4 to 6 year olds guess what the next rhyming word might be.  Although the picture was there for them to guess what the word might be, it was funny to hear some of the things they thought Mrs. McNosh might hang on the line next.

     This was the first week that I didn’t find any songs that truly went with my theme.  It is really easy to do a quick iTunes search for whatever you might be looking for, but I didn’t have the time or money to actually buy any songs.  So we played with the parachute to the same song as last week.  No big deal, they still had fun making the caterpillar fly!
     I guess that’s all for this week!  Next week we begin the letter Dd.  I have a couple of kids who I know are going to love what Dd is!  I hope you log on next week to find out just what these kids will love!



     Welcome back readers!   Hope you enjoyed this week's video with Sammy the Toucan.  As I promised last time, this week’s entry is going to be short, sweet, and to the point.
     This week at the Mooresville Public Library we covered the letter Bb.  After doing a quick Google search for craft ideas, I decided upon bumblebees and butterflies.  Turning the letter Bb into a bumblebee didn’t seem to look too difficult and I knew our library had a good selection of read-aloud books on this topic.  I also found the absolute CUTEST Butterfly Band-Aid craft on a website I frequent quite often, No Time for Flash Cards.  I knew without a doubt my Story Time children would love this craft.  What kid doesn’t LOVE  Band-Aids?

This weeks "Bb" Flash Card
Materials: Bumblebee "B" drawn on an index card, crayons, and small pipecleaner

Back of the flash card

1) Color the letter "B" to look like a bumblebee.  Glue the pipecleaner to the top to give the bumblebee antenna. (Or as one of my 4 year olds called it, antlers.)

2) Turn the card over and trace both the capital B and the lowercase b.

3) Add your letter to last week's Alligator Flashcard.

     After figuring out my crafts for the week, I pulled a few books on bumblebees and butterflies.  Although I only read one book in my 2s and 3s class, I always like to have two or three pulled, just in case.  This week I went with the book Splash, Splash by Jeff Sheppard.  I chose this book for a few reasons.  Although the bumblebee isn’t the only insect/animal creature in the book, I liked that he was the first and last character in the book, really reiterating my theme.  I also really enjoyed this book because it gives an opportunity for the kids to call out the animal names and make the appropriate animal sound.  I am not a huge stickler on raising hands and waiting to be called on for this class, thus my program room really sounded like it was full of animals!  My kids thoroughly enjoyed being active participants in the telling of this story and they had NO IDEA they were actually getting something educational while doing it.

     As for Story Time, as mentioned previously, I do the same thing as 2s and 3s then add a second craft and book based on the same letter.  I had already decided that I was going to make the butterfly Band-Aid craft, so now I needed to find a book about butterflies.  I came across a great book last year and just knew I had to use it again.  Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horacek is a fantastic book not only about butterflies, but colors as well.  The kids in my group really enjoyed the die-cut images.  With each page turn we were able to talk about the different bugs, the different colors, and what they thought the die-cut image would become on the next page.  The kicker for this book is the surprise 3-D butterfly that pops out on the last page.  It never fails to surprise the kids and I always have to do it once or twice more.

     Songs for this week were pretty simple.  For 2s and 3s I used “Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee” and “Flight of the Bumblebee.”  I always think it is fun to introduce small children to classical music.   I have had parents tell me numerous times that they appreciate the mix of children’s music with classical music and even contemporary or pop music.  As for the butterfly song, I went a little different here as well.  I chose a song from the Putumayo World Music CD called “La Mariopsa (The Butterfly).”  Like I said, I like to do things a little bit different when I get the chance.  You never know whose life you might be changing by introducing different kinds of music.
    That's all for this week.  Stop back by next week to see what fun things we do with the letter Cc. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


WARNING:  This post is a bit long, but hang in there with me until the end and you will for sure be rewarded!

     Welcome back to this week's installment of "Explore to Learn: Early Literacy Fun."  If you have watched the video attached, then you know that this week is all about the letter A.  If you have not watched the video, YOU SHOULD!  My trusty sidekick Sam the Toucan would have his heartbroken if he knew you hadn't watched his interview.
     Anyways, back to the letter A.  The Mooresville Public Library is putting a new spin our traditional Story Times.  Instead of having month long themes, like we used to do, we are going to place more of a focus on a particular letter of the alphabet.  The thought behind this decision came from the new standards for children entering Kindergarten in the state of Indiana.  For those of you who don't know the new standards, or for those of you who don't have time to eat, sleep, or breathe, let alone read 35+ pages of information written in "teacher talk," I will do a brief synopsis.  Kindergarten children used to have the ENTIRE YEAR to learn the alphabet, upper case and lower case.  They were expected not only to be able to identify the letter in both forms, but write it as well.  So what changed?  Well, what use to take a whole year, is now expected to be taught and learned by the end of the first semester!  That's a HUGE change if you ask me.  So, I decided to ease the fears of some of my Story Time parents, as well as the load of our Kindergarten teachers, and focus each week on one particular letter.  So, without further ado, the LETTER Aa!
     When you think of the letter Aa you may think of angels, apples, ants, aliens, or axes.  However, I went with a different route- Alligators and Airplanes!  Our library has a ton of great read-aloud books about alligators.  Airplanes, well, that’s a different story.  But before I get started on what I found, I should probably explain a bit about how I use the materials I find. 
     The Mooresville Public Library offers three types of classes, Baby Time, 2’s and 3s Time, and Story Time.  Baby Time at our library is very basic.  I continued with the traditional Baby Time we used to offer.  Babies who come to the library do an action song about body awareness, a song with puppets, a song with instruments, they read a board book with their parent, as well as do an alphabet song and a number song, all based around a central theme.  The last five to ten minutes is always used for play.  This class is geared more toward helping parents learn the types of songs, rhymes, and actions they should be doing with their child at home in order to develop necessary early literacy skills.  You would be amazed how many people have forgotten basic nursery rhymes, but I digress. 
     2s and 3s Time is exactly what it sounds like, a class for two and three year olds.  I often refer to this as the crazy part of my day.  No matter how much I prepare, I ALWAYS have to change the plan and go with the flow.  This class shares many qualities with Baby Time; however it is with this class that I have decided to focus on the Letter of the Week.  This class meets for forty-five minutes and involves songs for the alphabets, numbers, and body awareness.  I always read aloud one full picture book to this class; at least I try to anyway.  Some days, the kids just ARE NOT INTERSETED.  And you know what… that’s ok.  Get through as much as you can, and move on!  You know that?  That should totally be my motto!  After my story, we always do a theme-related craft.  And that, my friends is where the Letter of the Week makes it appearance.  (I will get into Story Time in a bit!)
     I always try to find books and songs that have something to do with my craft.  This week the craft was A is for Alligator!  I found the most amazing book!  Ever heard of a gem called Snip! Snap! What’s That? by Mara Berman?  It is a fantastic book about an alligator trying to break into an apartment to get the children.  The best part of this book… it is intense!  I always try to do my very best to interpret the book the way I would want it read to me. With this book, you can without a doubt build the suspense and startle the children in your group. 

     The songs I chose to use for the letter Aa included “Alligator Stomp” by Anna Moo and “There’s an Alligator in the Elevator” by Peter Pan Kids.  I tend to use my songs to play with instruments and the parachute.  The kids ALWAYS think its fun to put a doll or stuffed animal in the middle of the parachute and fling it into the air.  If your doll matches your theme, EVEN BETTER!
     The last thing I like to finish with before we play with toys is a craft.  I used to make crafts that went with a theme, but like I mentioned before, we are going different route this year.  Instead of making a craft that the child will take home and hang on their wall for a week or two then throw away, this year we are focusing on making a flash card with the letter in the shape of an animal or object.  On the backside of the card, we write the capital and lowercase letter in dash marks. I also always like to add a little something special so that the children just aren’t coloring a picture every week.  This week it may be googly eyes while next week it could be pipe cleaner antenna or sticker polka dots.  The thought behind these cards is that not only is this a craft for the child, but parents can use these cards each and every week to work on letters of the alphabet. So for the letter Aa, it looked like this.

Materials: Alligator "A" drawn on an index card, crayons, googly eyes, and a binder ring

Back of the flash card

1) Color the letter "A" to look like an alligator.

2) Add googly eyes and teeth.

3) Have child trace the capital and lower case "Aa" on the back.

     The last thing I have the parents do is attach the flash card to the provided binder ring.  Each week they come back they will attach the next flash card.  I will have a picture for this next week when we add the letter Bb.

     As for Story Time, well I said I would get into that later and the time has come.  Story Time at the Mooresville Public Library is for 4 to 6 year olds.  Just like 2s and 3s Time, I switched things up a bit for this class.  This year, we will be doing similar things as 2s and 3s, however, I am going to add a second craft and story based on a different word that starts with the same letter.  For example, for the letter Aa I chose AIRPLANE!  Thus, not only did the 4 to 6 year olds get to make the Alligator flash card this week, I also had each child make a paper airplane.
     Warning: folding paper for 4 to 6 year olds can be hard!  I thought my kids would have no problem with this, boy was I wrong.  I definitely should have written down instruction and not relied solely on the "show them how" method.  Ultimately, each kid made a paper airplane that could fly.  After folding the airplane, I read the kids A Plane Goes Ka-Zoom! by Jonathon London.  This is a great book not only about airplanes but about opposites and colors as well.

     After reading this book, I took all the kids outside, lined them up, and let them throw their airplanes!  It was so much fun to see all those colors flying through the air!  Some flew greats, others, well, not so much, but it didn't even matter.  Each kid had a great time making their card and airplane.  4 to 6 years old really is a great age to mix fun with educational.
     Well, that's it for the letter Aa.  Sorry it was long and drawn out.  I promise next week to be short, quick, and to the point!  Just like last time, if you ever have any questions, just let me know!  Stay tuned next week for the letter Bb.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Introduction to "Explore to Learn"

     Welcome everyone to our VERY new "Explore to Learn" early literacy blog.  As a brand new blogger, I am excited about this opportunity and would appreciate ANY and ALL feedback you can provide.
     First, a little background information.  The Mooresville Public Library is located in Mooresville, Indiana, which according to the 2000 Census, has a population of around 9200 people.  Although located in Morgan County, the Mooresville Public Library is a township library and has no affiliation with the Morgan County Public Library system.  The Mooresville Public Library is a part of Evergreen Indiana, a state-wide consortium that allows for book borrowing across the state.
     As the Early Literacy Specialist, it is my job to plan and implement all programs for children ages newborn to six years old.  At this time, I offer between seven and nine programs a week for this age group.  I have been at the library for a little over two years and absolutely love it.  Each day brings something new and exciting.  To say that these kids keep me on my toes is an understatement.  Recently, the library underwent a strategic plan implementation in order to create more focused and future-driven goals.  From that plan came the idea for this blog!
     So what are you going to find on this blog?  Each week I will post the books, songs, crafts, and anything else we may have done that week at Story Time.  I will also post a small thirty to forty-five second video clip to provide a visual representation of the ideas that worked and even those that did not.  While not an expert, I have over two years experience in the field and am continually learning new things each and every day!  My goal for this blog is to create an educational space for parents, caregivers, and perhaps other librarians who are looking for that next great idea!
     I hope you log-on for my next post about all things concerning the letter A!