Monday, June 10, 2013

In which I'm reminded of the value of flexibility and simplicity

I've learned that a key word for summer story times is "flexibility." Attention span, energy level, tolerance for stories--I've found that all these things can be completely up in the air when the sun is bright and the weather hot. So I pack my story time bag with options in mind.

During a daycare visit last week, I was reminded of the importance of simplicity, too. You see, while I had packed a specific story time plan with a variety of books and some other accoutrements, I immediately picked up on the vibe of my audience. These kids were feeling restless, easily distracted. It was time to just respond to them.

In terms of books, that meant sharing straightforward, interactive favorites. Think Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Go Away, Big Green Monster, and Can You Make a Scary Face? All three are great stories that allow kiddos to get involved in the action and response. Simplicity.

Being flexible also meant that, when a train could be heard approaching, we paused our story. These kids can see the train tracks from their story time room, and they immediately ran to the window when they heard that train whistle. So we talked about trains for a few minutes until the train was gone and the kids were ready to sit back down. Flexibility.

I had brought my orangutan puppet in my story time bag. In lieu of a more formal rhyme, I made one up on the spot that would allow us to do fun and silly primate actions: I'm an orangutan, hairy and brown / Let's *action here* and monkey around! The kids had fun suggesting actions--some realistic to orangutans, some not--and we chanted many verses of the short rhyme. Simplicity.

For the musical portions of our story time, I had my ukulele. We sang one of the kids' favorites, "I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas." Then, instead of moving on to another story, they asked me to play more songs. They suggested songs ("Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Twinkle, Twinkle," and the like), I played them, and we all sang and danced. Flexibility.

That's how we passed our 30 minutes of story time: simply and with flexibility of program content. I could have forced my formal story time plan, of course--and been met with whining, distracted hitting, and overall mayhem. Instead, we collaborated on an enjoyable, early literacy-positive story time adventure. Flexible and simple. And valuable.

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