Thursday, October 9, 2014

School Age Storytime: Apples &Pumpkins

A storytime for K-4th grade celebrating the season emphasizing empathy & compassion, with a great (un-common core) non-fiction component showing the many de-composers (animals, insects, molds and slimes) that make up the life cycle of a pumpkin.

Participatory Storytelling/Props:  The Little Red House with No Doors & No Windows, a Chimney On Top & a Star in the Middle (Tip: instantly turn flannel pieces into hanging signs for kids to wear using plastic paper protector sleeves with stiff paper inserts & yarn ribbon to hang around each child's neck, prop: real apple & knife to slice horizontally.)

Book: One Green Apple by Eve Bunting --This beautiful (and beautifully illustrated) story emphasizes understanding and compassion as Farah, a new student from an unnamed country, goes with her class on a field trip to an apple orchard and finds that though she is different and doesn’t know the language, she can be accepted and will find friends here.

Participatory Storytelling/Props: Big Pumpkin – from the book by Erica Silverman -- In this variant on the folktale, “The Great Big Enormous Turnip,” the witch, ghost, skeleton, and vampire are unable to pull up the pumpkin until a tiny bat ignores their derisive laughter and suggests they all work together.  I sing/chant this to a tune from an old Scholastic recording – feel free to contact me if you want to learn the tune.

Non-Fiction Book: Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices* – 577.16 SCHWARTZ – “UnCommon Core” at its best!  -- Told in the first person by the pumpkin, mouse, squirrel, slug, fly, black rot, bread mold, sow bug, Penicillium, earthworm, yeast cell, slime mold, soil, and seed, this is science “on the hoof.”  Wonderful writing & delightfully yucky photographs complete this unforgettable tour through the life cycle of a pumpkin that kids will find completely enGROSSing!
(Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell and Pumpkin Circle 635.32 LEVENSON offer less-detailed versions for a younger crowd. Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller makes a great fictional companion story.)

Participatory Storytelling/Props: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything based on the story by Linda Williams

Book: Pumpkins: A Story for a Field by Mary Lyn Ray – A splendid modern environmental myth in which a man, saddened by the thought that the field across from his house is about to be sold, sells everything he has, buys seeds, grows pumpkins, and then sends them all around the world (by planes, trucks, ships, and even flying carpets) to get enough money to buy the field and save it.  (10.14 – omitted in kindergarten, did action song “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate” instead.)

Other possibilities – no time in a 40 minute program:
  • Bear’s Bargain – Frank Asch (Bear figures out how he can help Bird feel big & Bird helps Bear figure out how to fly In this tale emphasizing creative problem solving)
  • Sophie’s Squash – Pat Zietlow Miller (girl adopts squash as her doll, then sees it start to change until it is reborn the following year – twin squash!)
  • The Perfect Pumpkin Pie – Denys Cazet (a not-too-scary ghost story with a great refrain – good to make the refrain into a poster and chant it together!)
  • Pumpkin Heads – Wendall Minor (quick book celebrating creative pumpkin carving – great lead-in to a craft)
See also the songs & stories in:

*Other great resources for Rotten Pumpkin:
Rotten Pumpkin Curriculum Guide
Rotten Pumpkin Activities
Rotten Pumpkin Play
Ingram review of Rotten Pumpkin
Interview with the creators of Rotten Pumpkin

Friday, October 3, 2014

Jazzing Up the Traditional Book-Flannel-Song/Fingerplay Rhythm of Storytime -- Youth Services Forum 2014

Carol Simon Levin's notes for Storytime Shake-Up – NJ Youth Services Forum Oct. 1 2014

Here are some suggestions I shared, please click on each of the links for more information.

Using sign language songs ("dancing with our hands"), – great resource Pick Me Up - Fun Songs for Learning Signs has catchy tunes and drawings for each of the signs described. Any song with lots of repetition is also a good candidate, e.g. Tom Chapin's Walk the World Now Children (easy to find signs online, just Google what you are looking for e.g. "American sign language water")

Creating piggyback songs to reinforce activity sequencing, pre-reading skill, kinesthetic learning (e.g."This is the way" for the steps in baking after we read The Little Red Hen)

Participatory storytelling/theater (e.g. showing how we act out The Three Little Pigs in my Houses & Homes storytime, Green Eggs & Ham for Eggs or Dr. Seuss Day, The Frog Hopi Rainstick story for our Rain storytime)

Fall Favorites:
The Little Red House with No Doors & No Windows, a Chimney On Top & a Star in the Middle (tip: instantly turn flannel pieces into hanging signs for kids to wear using plastic paper protector sleeves with stiff paper inserts & yarn ribbon to hang around each child's neck)

It's Monster Day song with flannel pieces quickly cut using pinking sheers & google eyes.

Big Pumpkin, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, One Dark Night, Old McDonald Had a Haunted House and other Halloween-themed stories & Songs.

Turkey Towel-Folding Story and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie Prop for Thanksgiving

Stone Soup  (using our Halloween plastic cauldron plus puppets, & 3D veggies (sewn from felt) and  Snowball fight made from plastic bags for winter storytimes

These and many more ideas are posted on my blog: Family storytelling and historical impersonations programs are at:

Carol Simon Levin, Youth Services Librarian, Somerset County Library Bridgewater, 908 526-4016 x126. Please feel free to contact me at

School Age Storytime: On this Spot: New York City & The Empire State Building–A Trip Through Time

On this Spot: NYC & The Empire State Building–
A Trip Through Time with a Dash of Math & Fantasy Too

These titles are perfect examples of the “Uncommon Core”
Complementary fiction & non-fiction titles which explore history, geography,
mathematics & science in an eye-opening, mind-expanding, and fun fashion!
Top Job – Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (After other students in the class brag about their parents’ professions, narrator explains about her father’s job – changing the lightbulb on the top of the Empire State Building! --  Lots of math problem possibilities – fun to work out how tall the building is.   Trivia: Please Touch Museum image of  Statue of Liberty Torch made from toys!)

Sky Boys – Deborah Hopkinson (Going back in time 80+ years to see the amazing story of how the “Sky Boys” built the Empire State Building – lots more math here (e.g. translating tons into pounds yields an enormous number!)  Can also talk about the Depression, mention bread line sculpture at Grounds for Sculpture & Roosevelt Memorial, Liberty Science Center “skyscrapers” exhibit and competition for highest building – the secret nighttime raising of the antenna)

Sector 7 – David Wiesner (author/illustrator local boy, grew up in Bridgewater NJ, Caldecott Medal winner, fun wordless fantasy of a boy who goes on an adventure with a cloud and makes quite a stir at the cloud factory.  Did you know there really is a cloud machine? Here’s a video.)

On this Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time J574.71 Goodman (Non-Fiction – uncommon core!) --  A brilliant tour-de-force tracing NYC from the present back in time 540 million years…lots of mathematical comparisons (e.g.if all the 8 million people in NYC today were laid end to end would reach to California and back, 350 years ago New Amsterdam had 1500 people = about the population of 3 schools today), fascinating historical trivia (e.g. pigs and chickens roamed NYC streets 175 years ago, the Lenape path to winter grounds is now today’s Broadway) and scientific information (the rise and fall of mammoths, ice age glaciers*, dinosaurs, lakes, mountains, and seas).   Text is long but can be paraphrased for younger classes.)  *mentioned our gorgeous local Buck Garden was carved by a mile high glacier.

Ding Dong Ding Dong – Margie Palatini (clever re-imagining of King Kong, who is just a simple Gorilla representative for Ape-On cosmetics trying to get ahead in the business world…full of puns and other wordplay! -- only had time to read in some classes but this one is great fun!)

Trying to infuse some more math into your daily routine? – check out which offers a new math challenge (with three or four levels of difficulty) every day – also available as an app.  Here’s a problem related to the Empire State Building:

Other NYC titles:
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers -- Mordecai Gerstein
A Picnic in October – Eve Bunting
Old Penn Station – 974.71 LOW
Fireboat -- Kalman
Liberty’s Journey – Dipucchio
Under New York – Linda Oatman High
Building Manhattan – 074.71 Vila
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of NYC – 598.944 SCHULMAN
The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story – Jeanette Winter
City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male – Meghan McCarthy
Twenty One Elephants & Still Standing – April Jones Prince
Twenty One Elephants – Phil Bildner
Sector 7 -- David Wiesner
Bedm 5/08, 10/14

Reading Rainbow: Sea to Shining Sea -- shows restoration of Statue of Liberty

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