Storytelling Training Tips
Orem Public Library Children’s Services
Thank you so much for wonderful Laptime and Storytime programs in October. What a rewarding part of our day to see the kids and families sparking to the stories, songs and activities you provide for them.
As rewarding as storytimes can be, there are challenges. This month I’d like to share a few tips about dealing with disruptive behavior. These ideas come from the book Crash Course in Storytime Fundamentals by Penny Peck (OPL Link). You all handle disruptions very well already, so we hope this newsletter will be a nice review of things you already understand.
• SET EXPECTATIONS BEFORE THE PROGRAM BEGINS
o As library staff we know one of our roles during storytime is to set and maintain expectations for appropriate storytime behavior. We know that disruptions of various kinds are inevitable and hard to predict. But we hope that positively stating clear expectations at the beginning of the programs helps to prevent some of the typical disruptions that happen at storytime. We try to state some simple rules before each program begins, saying something like the following:
We know your children are at a very active age and are still learning how to sit and listen. We understand if there are some disruptions throughout the program. That’s okay. We are glad you are here. Here are some simple rules you can follow to help the program be a success today:
• Do not leave you child unattended.
• No cell phones.
• Put away food and toys.
• Sit and participate with your child.
• If your child is crying, take a break outside the storytelling area and then come back when you are ready.
• After the program is over we hope you will stay to talk with each other and find great books and read some more. Also at that time the children are welcome to come up and talk more with the storyteller and librarians and to play with the props.
• DEALING WITH DISRUPTIONS DURING THE PROGRAM
o If you have done your best to prepare an appropriate program for the intended audience, then don’t worry or let it bother you if babies or toddlers don’t seem to be paying attention. They are still absorbing a lot and will build on that experience each time they come.
o Intermittent disruptions are inevitable at storytime. However you do not have to put up with unceasingly noisy kids or talking parents. Although there isn’t one best way to address disruptions, here are some possible ways to handle things:
Both parents and children can cause disruptions. When dealing with these disruptions, phrase expectations for behavior in positive ways that don’t embarrass the parent and that show you understand child behavior and really want the kids and parents to be there. You can use phrases like the following:
• [Just before you start, gather the group in close and say:] “Your children may be able to focus better if you are sitting and participating with them.”
• [When a parent is talking on a cell phone or to another parent:] “I don’t think everyone can hear. Will you all help me out by singing along?.”
• [When a child is standing up in front of everyone:] “I am glad you like the story; let’s all sit flat on the ground so everyone can see.” OR “Could the parent help me with this child? I am not sure everyone can see (or hear).” OR “I could use a parent’s help with this child so she can find a seat.”
• [When snacks or toys are disruptive:] “The children’s hands need to be free for the songs and fingerplays so please put away any toys or snacks and save them for later.”
Positive phrases communicating behavioral expectations should be especially helpful to parents who aren’t sure if they should intervene when their child is disruptive, perhaps wondering if the storyteller or librarian would rather handle things. Using these kinds of phrases, we can invite parents to partner with us in modeling and teaching appropriate behavior.
As library staff we will try to monitor parent and child behavior throughout the program to help things go smoothly. If a parent does not take cues that are given during the program about disruptive behavior, we will try to talk with them afterward, gently letting them know what behavior is expected and encouraging them to participate in appropriate ways.
At one time or another each of us has been the parent or caregiver with the disruptive child or the adult who gets caught in conversation in the middle of the program. We understand how easily and naturally it happens, so we can be understanding towards the audience even as we (1) communicate expectations for behavior and (2) continue to enjoy what we are doing in spite of disruptions.
Please feel free to respond to this email with other ideas that have worked for you in dealing with disruptive behavior. We learn so much from each other’s expertise and experience! Thank you!
OPL Children’s Staff
October 2011 Newsletter
Storytelling Training Tips
Orem Public Library Children’s Services
Fall is here! And with it come the large crowds at Laptime and Storytime. Some of you have already experienced the huge Laptime audiences of over one hundred people. We have really admired how you have been willing to take on such crowds with skill and enthusiasm.
I recently heard one mom who is new to our library say that she really enjoyed our Laptime and Storytime programs. It was a good reminder to me that we have new families joining us all the time, and we are so pleased that we can offer old and new friends alike programs where they can enjoy seeing and participating in practicing early literacy skills and parenting strategies.
Because our programs are attended by several ages other than the intended audience, they can be tricky to prepare for.
For Laptime, we suggest preparing your material primarily for the babies.
Older kids in the audience will enjoy it even if it is geared toward the youngest patrons.
For Storytime, we often get a mixed crowd with lots of younger siblings attending.
Programs geared towards toddlers seem to work for all ages, so for Storytime we suggest preparing your elements for the preschool crowd in such a way that they can be adapted for toddlers. Usually this means making the story visual or participatory in some way. The key is to be able to adapt to the audience and hold their attention. This doesn’t mean the program has to flow without any interruptions or moments of distracted chaos. But there are things you can do that will continually draw the audience back to you.
Here are a few tips:
o Make sure the audience can see and hear.
o Hold the books so the children can see the pictures.
o Move the books from one side of the audience to the other.
o Choose big books for larger crowds.
o Move quickly and smoothly from one element of your program to the next.
o Plan a program that has elements that can flow easily from one thing to the next.
o Try showing your audience what you are going to do next before telling them what you are going to do next. After they have done it with you a few times you might be able to fit in a brief word of commentary like: “This is a fun game to play right before bedtime.”
o Practice your transitions so that you do not have to look at your notes between elements.
o Make eye contact.
o Know your songs and fingerplays so that you can look at the audience while you do them together.
o Read your book enough times that you know some of the text by heart and can look at the audience while you read. They will be taking cues from your facial expressions and your tone of voice to make meaning of the story. You can also try looking at them while you are pausing to show the illustrations. You may take that moment to say a few words about the pictures or to restate the part you just read in your storyteller voice. Again, this should be a quick thing and should not interrupt the flow of the story too much.
o Learn names.
o This isn’t always practical; however, if one of your story elements includes using names of children, go for it!
o Stick to your time and don’t be afraid to end early.
o Laptime can be just 15 minutes. Storytime can be 25.
o Ending early and on a good note can be much more satisfying than asking the parents in your audience to try to help their children be attentive through one last story.
o Choose age-appropriate materials.
o Choosing age-appropriate materials can be tricky for our mixed crowds. Keep in mind that books that are good for toddlers usually work for all ages. Songs always help—they are a signal to our brains that it is time focus. We have noticed many of you have focusing songs or activities that you do a few times during your program, whenever you need to draw your audience back to attention.
o Sometimes an overall program length is just right but a particular story is too long. Don’t be shy about shortening a book and only doing parts of it. If you really want to do a long story, think of ways you can make it participatory. Many books invite audience participation. Ask a librarian for ideas of some good ones.
o It is okay to do new things and share new ideas that will increase your audience’s knowledge or stretch their attention span a bit. Be sure to present this new information in age-appropriate ways.
o For more ideas and lists of books to use for different ages, see Crash Course in Storytime Fundamentals by Penny Peck (2009). OPL Link
If you’re like me, when you read through this list of best practices, you nod your head in agreement because it makes sense. But if you’re like me, you will also wonder if you can really incorporate all these skills into your programs. Don’t worry. Sometimes we are the most critical of our own efforts and have a hard time feeling satisfied with what we have done. As a Children’s Staff we can say that you do wonderful work! We know you have busy lives and many important commitments and responsibilities. Thank you for making volunteer service to the library a priority. How kind of you, and how fortunate for us and our community!
Amanda and the OPL Children’s Staff
August 2011 Newsletter
It is a pleasure to work with you. We think that you do what you do very well. We hope that receiving ongoing training from us will be a way to build on the good things you already do and will become a satisfying part of your volunteer experience.
For this first training newsletter, we have pursued the questions:
What is Laptime?
What makes Laptime different from Storytime?
These are questions I’m sure most of us have grappled with as we’ve tried to plan our Laptime programs.
Many libraries find it best practice to offer a lapsit program for babies who are not yet walking and a separate program for the more mobile toddlers. Perhaps one day the OPL will have the resources to offer that service. But for now, our Laptime audience combines both babies and toddlers. On top of that, we often have older preschoolers join the crowd. This can make it a tricky group to plan a program for. Despite these challenges, our aim is to gear Laptime towards the younger participants in the audience, knowing that older kids attending won’t mind joining in the fun.
So what are the elements that make up a Laptime program? Laptime programs at the OPL should include elements that are good for both babies and toddlers. Below is an outline of key ingredients for each of those age groups, taken from Crash Course in Storytime Fundamentals by Penny Peck (2009):
Story Times for Babies:
*Rhymes, including Mother Goose nursery rhymes, that invite tickling, bouncing, or other rhythmic movement; pointing to and naming of body parts; can be repeated.
*Songs that are repeated, including lullabies to help soothe children and prepare them to hear a story; many nursery rhymes can be sung.
*Very short books with bright, bold illustrations
Sample Baby Program:
1- Welcome Song
2- Rhyme (repeat, vary pace)
3- Very Short Book (bright bold illustrations)
4- Song (repeat, vary pace, sing loud and soft)
5- Rhyme (repeat, vary pace)
6- Very Short Book (bright bold illustrations)
7- Closing Song
Story Times for Toddlers:
1- Rhymes, including Mother Goose nursery rhymes, that invite tickling, bouncing, or other rhythmic movement; pointing to and naming of body parts; can be repeated.
2- Songs that are repeated, including movement songs coupled with other more soothing songs to help prepare the children to hear a story; many nursery rhymes can be sung.
3- Very short books with bright bold illustrations. Big Books work better for large crowds. Board Books may work for a smaller group, but do not work very well for large crowds. Use books that invite participation from the audience, including:
4- Cumulative Stories—have recurring phrases that are added on
5- Circular Stories—the story ends up where it started
6- Participation Stories—the listener calls out a repeated phrase
7- Concept Books—alphabet, counting, shapes, opposites, numbers; some of the best of these books have a plot
8- Creative Dramatics—story can be acted out
9- Sign Language.
Keep in mind:
Quick and smooth transitions from one element to the next.
Eye Contact, even when you are reading a book, during the few seconds you are moving the book from side to side, showing the illustrations.
Learning and using the names of the children in your audience.
Sample Toddler Program:
1- Opening/Welcoming Song
2- Introduction and Statement of Theme, if any (theme can be very broad, like “animals”)
3- Movement Song or Rhyme
4- Listening Song or Rhyme (may include a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book)
5- Book or Story (may include books that invite audience participation, may include a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book)
6- Movement Song or Rhyme
7- Listening Song or Rhyme (may include a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book)
8- Book or Story (may include books that invite audience participation, may include a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book)
9- Closing Song
Now, let’s combine the elements of the Baby and Toddler programs and see what we come up with for a sample
Sample Laptime Program for Babies and Toddlers
1- Welcome/Opening Song
2- Introduction and Statement of Theme, if any (Theme can be very broad, like “animals.”)
3- Movement Song or Rhyme (Include tickling, bouncing, or other rhythmic movement, pointing to and naming body parts, and sign language; repeat and vary pace.)
4- Listening Song or Rhyme (Choose soothing songs, including lullabies; sing with a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book.)
5- Very Short Book or Story (Choose books that contain bright, bold illustrations and/or invite audience participation. Try using a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book.)
6- Movement Song or Rhyme (Include tickling, bouncing, or other rhythmic movement, pointing to and naming body parts, and sign language; repeat and vary pace.)
7- Listening Song or Rhyme (Choose soothing songs, including lullabies; sing with a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book.)
8- Very Short Book or Story (Choose books that contain bright, bold illustrations and/or invite audience participation. Try using a prop like a puppet, flannel board, or big book.)
9- Closing Song (Invite children to come up afterward to visit your props and mingle.)
Keep in mind:
Remember, quick and smooth transitions, eye contact, and learning and using names are key elements to success.
This hybrid program contains at least double the amount of songs and rhymes as it does stories. That is a good mix for our youngest participants and will help distinguish Laptime from Storytime.
Need more ideas for your programs?
Try the following web sites:
Kate McDowell’s Website http://katemcdowell.com/laptime/
Perry Public Library http://www.perrypubliclibrary.org/Kids/BabytimeRhymes.htm
Creative With Kids http://www.gibbons.ca/creative/Songs/Fingerplay_songs.htm
Mother Goose On the Loose http://www.mgol.org/
Preschool Express Toddler Station http://www.prescholexpress.com/toddler_station.shtml
As Children’s Staff at the Orem Public Library, we appreciate the chance to review these ideas. As we do, we think of how well each of you incorporate these elements into your programs. You may not realize that you are already doing what experts say is best. We want to affirm that the service you are giving matters, one song, rhyme, and story at a time. Thank you!
Please feel free to respond to this post with any follow-up thoughts or questions. Some of this training material along with follow-up questions and a chance to respond will appear later here on the Laptime and Storytime blog, created by OPL Children’s Staff member, Amy White.
Thank you all,