Monday, April 20, 2015

Collage Workshop + BONUS Happy News!

Last week I missed out on yet another program that I was really looking forward to. This one is super easy and also super Earth-friendly. Plus it's even a crowd pleaser! I bring you Collage Workshop.

I did this program once last summer and I was really excited about bringing it back. It's genuinely as easy as this:

Old magazines + scissors + glue + blank paper.

There's not a lot to say-- that's the whole program, but it's great! You get to go green by reusing your old magazines after you weed 'em! It's a win-win and requires almost no preparation. Give me one good reason NOT to do this program.

As far as my progress... BIG NEWS. I am going back to work one week from today! I'm actually kind of nervous. My first program will be Friday, May 1 and I'll be diving right in with Musical Kids. Maybe I'll even blog about the middle group, like I kept meaning to do!

Either way, the next post on this blog will be from a back-to-work, full-time children's librarian (me)!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (complete with cupcake bar)

From the (not very) mixed-up files of LibraryLaura... If You Give a Cat a Cupcake!

First, I think Laura Numeroff's whole "If You Give a..." series is cute, funny, and great for subtly teaching kids about sequence. However, they're not my favorite for storytime groups. For whatever reason, I find that I tend to get lost in them, losing the whole "If this, than that" concept. Yet, when I saw this Decorate Your Own Cupcake worksheet from Harper Collins not only was I sold, but I decided to up the ante. Here is my cupcake bar:

From left to right: Cupcake Holders (these are made from different kinds of interesting and colorful fabrics, pre-cut to look like cupcake tin liners), Cupcakes (pre-cut felt in different colors [flavors?]), Frosting (pre-cut white cardstock), Decorations (self-adhesive jewels similar to these), Cherries (pink and red pom-poms). Back row: Tacky glue, stamping markers, and these self-adhesive magnet coins from S&S).

This is another program from my days at the Brentwood Library. It probably doesn't need to be said that I began this program by reading the book, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff. I had convinced my department head that this If You Give a Cat a Cupcake Puppet and Props set from Kaplan Toys (also seen to the left) was crucial in making the storytime portion of this program just as good as the craft portion. This probably stemmed from my personal hang ups and squirminess with reading this book to a group. At the time, I really though this props set would help alleviate my discomfort and also help the kids keep track of the events going on in the story. But looking back, it didn't. In fact, I think if anything, it was distracting for both the kids and for me-- especially the part where you dress the puppet up in a karate suit. However, I do think it was successful overall anyway. And actually, it seemed like the kids had no trouble following the sequence of events in the book. (Just me, I guess? Hm.) In fact, at the end of the book, when I asked, "And all that happened because the cat asked for what?" the whole group very matter-of-factly answered, "A cupcake!" So I'd say yep, they got it.

Here are some of the colorful cupcake magnets and their creative designers:

I also thought I'd put out a bunch of the Decorate Your Own Cupcake worksheets as a second, quick craft. I really didn't expect them to be just as enthusiastic about this as they were about my cool cupcake bar, but they were! They wound up getting really creative-- sticking jewels and pom-pom "cherries" to those also. Here are a few examples:

I guess that's proof that you just never know what will and won't work! And speaking of working and not working...

What worked best: They loved the style of just having a bunch of cupcake related things to be creative with. If I was lazier, probably could have saved myself a lot of time and just put out the printed worksheets, the adhesive jewels, and the pom-poms, but I definitely think it was nice having a variety of different things out for them to work with. This particular group was great too, just really enthusiastic and appreciative of the whole program.

What worked least: I don't know if I'd go as far as to say anything didn't work here, but I definitely think using a book that I wasn't 100% comfortable reading to a group was a challenge for me. And it probably came through, subconsciously, as I read. Also the puppet and props set, while cute, didn't really aid in my telling of the story.

Hoping I am in the final stretch of my time out on disability now. Until next time...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Jolly Postman

As I'm still home, it's time for me to write about another program of the past. Today I bring you The Jolly Postman...

I was in first grade the first time my teacher read The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg to my class. I can still remember it really well-- not just sitting on the red storytime rug, totally entranced by the collection of pretend letters my teacher displayed and read to us, but going home that day, sitting down with my mom's scrap paper and making my own Jolly Postman-inspired book of fake mail. Fake mail between fake people, I just loved it.

As an adult, I guess I hoped other kids would feel the way I felt-- enamored with the book and inspired to make their own. I wanted to design a program that allowed them to do it more easily and more cohesively than my stapled-together-scrap-paper. Putting this program together was a lot of work, but I wound up running it three times in three different libraries, so I guess I achieved whatever the work-load equivalent is of getting my money's worth. Plus, it's been at least 5-years since I did it at Huntington, so I could probably run it again in a few months.

Anyway, of course, we started off by reading The Jolly Postman. Even so many years later, I think the kids really enjoyed this book. Then we moved on to the activity: Personalized Jolly Postman books (made by me).

Binding the book was the biggest challenge. At Huntington, we had one of those long-reach staplers and that worked pretty well. In another library, I closed the book and put staples down the outside, close to the spine, then covered the staples with duct tape for safety. That's the one shown above. In the third library, we had a print shop. Those looked the nicest because someone else did them, but they appeared to have been done with a stronger, better quality long-reach stapler.

Other book-making supplies: plain envelopes, different kinds of stationary (I made my own in Publisher), stamp stickers (I also made these in Publisher: I found images of old stamps online, shrunk them down so I could fit 2 on a label template, printed the labels, then cut each in half--viola!) + markers, pencils, and glue sticks.

I also put out a list of people that the kids might want to write letters to, to help inspire them. The list included things like mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, favorite book character, favorite toy, best friend, pet, favorite teacher, and of course, librarian. (No takers on this one. Hm.)

Then the kids got to work! They filled in their books with letters and drawings of the people who received the letters.

The groups were all in grades 1-5 and (after the story) had about 45 minutes to work on their books. As usual, this probably wasn't enough time for most of them to really do a great job, but for a few, it was more time than necessary. I think this is just the case for all programs all the time when you're working with kids. 

Do you know how sometimes you get one child in a program who, for whatever reason, you just find yourself helping and chatting with the most? The third time I ran this, it was a girl named Alanis, who, at the end of the session (when everyone else had finished and she was the only one left in the room) asked me to help her write as she dictated and also to help her draw a picture of a family. She'd always been a kid I really liked but if she hadn't been, her adorably sweet letter would have won me over. I wanted to share:

The Jolly Postman, ladies and gentlemen, helping children thank their parents since 1986!

Anyway, as the children finished writing each letter, it was slipped into an envelope. Then that envelope was glued, open, onto the page. It ultimately looks like this:

Apologies for this terrible drawing of my parents.

Overall this was a fun program! I don't know if these Jolly Postman books ever became the treasured keepsake I had originally envisioned them becoming, but I absolutely think every child who made one had fun doing so. And I also think it was a nice opportunity for them to be creative, practice writing, practice drawing, and hear one of my favorite childhood books.

What worked best: The reading of the book was definitely a hit. Also, I think the kids enjoyed the idea of writing letters to people and then drawing whoever the letter was for. However...

What worked least: I think the way the whole book worked was kind of lost on some of the kids. Several had trouble understanding how to follow it along-- filling in where there were blanks, what to do with their letters, or where to draw which picture. Many at the younger side of the age group also had thad trouble writing.

A possible solution: In one of the libraries where I did this, many of the parents joined their children for the program. (A side note: Most of my programs for this age group are designed for the children to attend without their parents but, personally, I have always been pretty flexible about this. While every librarian is different and some libraries are more strict than others, if I have the option to, I will always say "Sure, it's up to you" if parents ask if they can come in.) Anyway, I think in this case, the kids who had their parents with them were at an advantage because the adults were able to help the children follow along through the pages of the book. The kids were still able to do the actual writing and drawing, but I think having the one-on-one help allowed them get more out of the activity. So perhaps, for next time, this would be better marketed as a "Family Program" or "Grades 1+ with family" instead of just "Grades 1-5."

I'm counting down the weeks until I return to work, but I should have a few more programs of the past to write about before then. Stay tuned!