Scarecrow Fun and Friendship: Kindergarten Story Time

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 It’s always helpful to repeat books, songs, and rhymes, with students — especially younger learners. It makes concepts more “sticky,” and the kids enjoy participating in activities that they’re comfortable with. So in this session we revisited the topic of scarecrows, mixing some old resources with some new ones.

 The students briefly saw a scarecrow at the end of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, so for this lesson I wanted to choose a book in which a scarecrow had a more prominent role. I decided on Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long so that we could “plant the seed” of becoming a more compassionate friend as well. When the farmer places a scarecrow in the field, the other residents of the farm are put off by his scowl and decide to leave him alone. Only Otis looks past the surface, and his response is a gentle lesson in empathy.

After sitting still for a story and a discussion, it’s time to get up and move. I wrote a simple poem made up of rhyming couplets which included the body parts of a scarecrow and taught it to the students along with some simple motions. We stood up and repeated it a couple of times until everyone was reasonably good at performing it.

The scarecrow pieces on the chart match the scarecrow pieces the students were given. Click to enlarge.

Then I gave each student a sheet of blank construction paper and a set of colored cut-outs of each of the scarecrow parts from Free Kids Crafts. (There’s also a black-and-white version available that kids can color themselves.) The children used the pieces to put together a picture of a scarecrow as we repeated the poem.

We ended with a repeat of the Scarecrow Song by the Learning Station on YouTube. The students always enjoy an opportunity to get up and dance!

Our lining up activity was to have each child name and point to a body part that a scarecrow has. Some of the things I do may sound very easy, but the majority of kids at my school are at-risk students so I usually start simple and then build up to more complex concepts. I’ve found it’s a good way to allow all of the students to experience some success. I also try to include lots of hands-on manipulatives and I bring in real items for them to handle, like the scarecrows you see at the top of this post which came from my local craft store.

I’d love to hear what scarecrow activities you use with your students. Please leave a comment and share!

 

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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves: Kindergarten Story Time

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Our most recent story sessions have focused on trees and orchards, so our next logical step was to talk about leaves and the seasonal changes they are starting to go through.

 I began with a callback to a read-aloud I used earlier this year: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms TabackWe re-read that book and used the old lady interactive puppet to re-enact the story, then segued into a different “old lady” book: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro. To make sure the students were actively listening, I instructed them to say “ah-choo” every time they heard the word “sneeze.”

 Not only did we see leaves on every page of the book, but at the end of the story (spoiler alert!) the old lady sneezes out a scarecrow, which provides another seasonal icon to work with! We had an interesting discussion about the purpose of a scarecrow. A few children knew it was for scaring birds away, while others insisted it was a Halloween decoration. We finally agreed that both uses were important.

After the story it was time to move around, so we learned the Scarecrow Dance using the video for the Scarecrow Song by the Learning Station on YouTube. I almost used the video/song Dance Like a Scarecrow but in the end I preferred the way the “Scarecrow Song” kept repeating and got a little faster each time. That gave the kids a chance to practice the dance, and they really like it when things speed up the longer you do them.

 Then we worked on small motor skills with a simple scarecrow coloring page. Some students surprised me with how well they were already coloring, but others were mere scribblers. All were proud of what they created though, as evidenced by their enthusiasm for “show and tell” time when we came back to the carpet to share the pictures.

Do you have some good scarecrow resources that you use in your story time sessions?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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Orchards and Trees: Kindergarten Story Time

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I’m “branching out” from apple trees in this week’s kindergarten story time to fruit trees in general. (See what I did there?)

As a callback to our last story time we began our session with the song Way Up High in an Apple Tree by The Learning Station.

 Then I shared the nonfiction book At the Orchard by Bruce Esseltine which depicts a variety of fruit trees and provides a nice opportunity for students to identify different types of fruit.

 That led us into the rhyme A Tree Starts to Grow which I got from Miss Nina’s Weekly Video Show on YouTube. I did not use her video with the students; instead I made a chart of the words and taught it to the children myself. (Click the image to enlarge it.) I always try to alternate sitting still for a story with some singing and moving so the kids don’t get too restless.

 Then I used the Epic! ebook website to share A Tree Grows Up by Marfe Delano, which is a colorful look at the life cycle of a tree. I love the close-up of acorns on the title page, and the fact that the book mentions that acorns are food for different animals as well as seeds for trees.

 I brought in a couple dozen brown and green acorns from my yard, and the last few minutes of our time were spent examining the acorns and describing how they feel. Our “lining up activity” was for each student to place his/her acorn in the correct cup (brown acorns in the brown cup, green acorns in the green cup) on their way to the door. I sent the acorns back to the classroom to be used in the math center for counting and sorting.

Do you have some additional resources to recommend? Please leave a comment!

 

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3rd Grade Novel Unit: The Homework Machine

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  And the winner is….The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman!


In my last post I mentioned that I’m providing some ELA enrichment for a small group of third graders, and I was trying to decide which of the novel sets that our school has purchased I should use with the group. My reasons for choosing The Homework Machine include:

  • The story is told from multiple viewpoints. The reader gets to hear not only from the four protagonists but also from their parents, their teacher, the police chief, and some of their classmates.
  • The story is told in the first person. As students are working on character analysis, they can use the individual’s own words as well as what the other characters say about him or her.
  • While the overall tone of the book is humorous, it explores some pretty serious issues, such as military deployment, not fitting in with peers at school, parental pressure to make good grades, and the viral nature of the internet.
  • It’s a great opportunity to discuss the Science Fiction genre with students. In my experience, not many students choose Science Fiction as a favorite type of book, but this is a perfect example of how it’s not just aliens and space travel. We can also discuss the elements of Realistic Fiction in the book vs the elements of Science Fiction.

  And as I mentioned before, Dan Gutman is a prolific author, as well as a diverse one. Not only is there a sequel to this book (The Return of the Homework Machine) but he’s written the My Weird School series, the Baseball Card Adventures series, the Genius Files series, and the Flashback Four series, among others. Once kids connect with one of his books, there are dozens of others to enjoy.

Have you used The Homework Machine as a read aloud or in a book club? Please leave a comment and share your experience!

**The photo of Dan Gutman is from his Amazon author page.
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Three Billy Goats Gruff: Kindergarten Story Time

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This week during story time I transitioned from farm animals to folk tales by sharing a folk tale about a farm animal. Most young children just can’t resist the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, and the group at my school was no exception.

Why is this story so popular?  Maybe it’s because the younger, smaller goats must rely on a bigger and older protector (much as young, small children must do); or because the bullying troll is punished at the end of the story, which doesn’t always happen in real life but is so appreciated when it does; or because the repetitive rhythm of the “trip-trap trip-trap” and the delicious sense of fear when the troll threatens to gobble the goats up is impossible to resist.  Whatever the reason, my audience was literally ROFL when the flannel billy goat butted the flannel troll off the flannel bridge and then stomped on him at the end of the story.

  Yes, this tale has a rather violent ending but I’ve never yet shared it with a group who was upset or frightened by the ultimate demise of the troll.  I like using the text of the OLD version (original copyright date 1957) of The Three Billy Goats Gruff written by P.C. Asbjornsen and illustrated by Marcia Brown.  The language really flows well as a read aloud, and the Big Billy Goat Gruff is a worthy hero and defender.

  I also used the audio version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff from the EPIC! website. (If you haven’t signed up for a free educators account yet, you should do so immediately.) Playing the audio version while using the flannel board set allows me to focus on what I’m doing or what the students are doing with the figures as we act out the story.

  And I actually began the lesson with a nonfiction book about goats from the EPIC! site so that we could review what we remembered about farm animals and then transition into the fictional story. The book I used was titled Goats and is part of the Blast Off Readers series. I like it because it touches on the facts about goats (young goats are called kids, male goats are called billy goats, goats eat grass, etc) that are relevant to the folktale.

I ended the session by having the students line up on one side of our story carpet so they could trip trap across the “bridge” to the library door. The students practiced the littlest goat’s response to the troll’s announcement that he was going to gobble him up: DON’T EAT ME! I’M TOO LITTLE!  Then the troll (aka me) knelt down midway across the carpet and waited for each kid to walk by. (See what I did there?) Some of the students were a little shy about replying to my threat, but most of them loudly told me off before scampering off to “eat their grass.”

Do you have a favorite Billy Goats Gruff story, and/or a creative way to use it during story time?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share!

 

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Old MacDonald and His Animals on the Farm: Kindergarten Story Time

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After spending two years at a school that housed 4th and 5th grade only, I’m thoroughly enjoying leading story time for younger students again!

  For the last couple of library visits I’ve been focusing on farm animals.  The first time I used several nonfiction books, along with a spirited rendition of the song Old MacDonald Had a Farm complete with flannel board pieces.

For the second visit I shared three fiction stories:

  Click Clack Moo Cows That Type (by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin) This classic book is a crowd-pleaser for children and adults alike which shows how the farm animals work together to negotiate with the farmer for what they want. I’ll probably use some of the sequels during future visits.

  Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry) A rhyming delight AND an opportunity for students to chime in with both animal and vehicle noises AND a sweet message of friendship, all in one book. (There are more books about the Little Blue Truck too.) And it segues perfectly to the next book….

  Old MacDonald Had a Truck (by Steven Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban) Instead of focusing on the animals on the farm, this book celebrates the heavy machinery (dump truck, bulldozer, etc) being used for an unusual project on the farm. Most boys will be delighted by the sights and sounds on each page, and girls will probably be pleased to see Mrs. MacDonald partnering with her husband in their exciting endeavor. (It turns out that Old MacDonald also has a boat, if you’re interested in the sequel to this story.)

Do you have a favorite Old MacDonald story time resource?  Please share it in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

 

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New Year, New Reading Projects

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  I’ve been thinking about the all the upcoming opportunities to share books with kids this year.  I’m excited about the opportunity to partner with teachers to provide a variety of positive reading experiences with students.

We all know that kids are social, so one of my goals is to make reading more social too.  Certainly books can be enjoyed independently, as a private and silent conversation between the reader and the author.  But books can also be read aloud and discussed and debated and reviewed and recommended in a way that builds a shared excitement for reading.

One of the ways I can foster these types of interactions is by collaborating with teachers on some social reading events.  So far I have the following on my list:

  •  International Dot Day (Sept 15-ish) – a celebration of creativity, inspired by the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds.
  •  National Comic Book Day (Sept 25) – an event that I like to celebrate with a Comic Book Read-In in the library featuring an assortment of graphic novels for students to enjoy.
  •   The Global Read Aloud (Oct 1 – Nov 9) – founded by Pernille Ripp to connect and unite students around the world through a common reading experience, and dependent on teachers following a universal read aloud schedule. There are different books selected for different grade levels. (Pictured: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed)
  •   Jumpstart’s Read for the Record (Oct 25) – an initiative developed to highlight the importance of early literacy, which this year features the book Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.
  •   Picture Book Month (the entire month of November) – an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book and provides a themed literacy calendar and blog posts from picture book authors and illustrators sharing their thoughts on why picture books are important.
  •   The South Carolina Children’s Book Award program (going on now) – a children’s choice award sponsored each year by the S.C. Association of School Librarians. Students read books from a list of 20 nominated titles from one of four age-based categories, and then vote on their favorite.  The format makes it the perfect foundation for a student (or teacher!) book club.  (If you don’t live in South Carolina, your state probably offers a similar program.)

What reading events are you looking forward to this year?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune and share!

 

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