Category: building vocabulary

Make-a-Jedi Flannel

Make-a-Jedi Flannel

I don’t get a lot of traffic on this blog.  It’s a vehicle to keep track of my storytimes, and I use this blog to share the amazing flannels that come out of the department where I’ve worked since January 1997.  Some of these flannels are mine, most of them aren’t.

This flannel is not mine.  It’s made by Miss Suzanne, a part-time librarian.  Someone on staff was getting ready for Star Wars Read Day (we made it a whole weekend) and wanted to have a flannel board for her storytime.  Suzanne made a “Make a Jedi.”  You’ve probably seen the Make a Pig on this blog.  It’s the number one post on my blog (other than round-ups).  This is the premise: get kids to help you build a thing.  “What comes next?” or “What else does a pig/snowman/gingerbread man/pirate need?”  It works for just about everything, and increases their expressive vocabulary. Also, it’s a hoot.  It’s also a good time waster.  Really, it’s the trifecta of flanneling: works for most things, it’s fun, and a time stretcher.

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Early Literacy Elephant Ears

Early Literacy Elephant Ears

Early Storytime
attendance: 18

Letter of the Day: E
Miss Mouse: was hiding behind Ears. She was behind Mickey Mouse Ears
What is hiding in the sock? an Elephant
fingerplay: Hickory Dickory Dock
Book 1: I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems.  I really do think this is the best Elephant and  Piggie  book out there. At least it’s my favorite. 
Fingerplay: An Elephant goes Like This and Like That
Flannel: An Elephant never Forgets
Book 2: Moo by David LaRochelle.  If you haven’t seen this book yet, Run, don’t walk to your library’s catalog.  It’s great!!

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Cows and the Letter C: Our First Early Literacy Storytime

Cows and the Letter C: Our First Early Literacy Storytime

Early Literacy Storytime
attendance: 23 (12 kids + 11 adults)

Letter of the Day: C
Miss Mouse: was hiding behind Cows
What is hiding in the sock? A car (we have objects we’re hiding in a sock.  Before story time starts, we have kids feel the object without telling us what they think it is.  This is the time we talk about the different things in the sock.  Everyone pretty much knew it was the car.)
fingerplay: Clap, clap your lap.
Book 1:  The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy There’s a lot of goodness in this book.  First, it’s silly, which is paramount.  There are delicious phrases in it too: pleased as punch and other goodness.  Also, great for predicting and asking questions.
Fingerplay: Roll Roll Sugar Babies… also, we moo moo moo-moo-moo’d our way through it!
Book: A Birthday for Cow by Jan Thomas
Song : Drivin in My Car by Ralph Covert.
Book:  Wow, It’s a Cow! by Trudy Harris
Lucy Maud’s Favorite Word: Caterpillar. (We placed the word on the flannel board) Then she asked the kids what their favorite C word was.  The consensus: cupcake
The Alpha Boogie: You put your C up, you put your C down, you put your C in the middle and you shake it all around ….
Craft: We made a simple paper cow

My evaluation:

I’d give us a C+(pun intended).   I think it was a good first effort.  There are a few things I’d like to coordinate better.  But as a first attempt, it was pretty good.

Meet Lucy Maud, The Word Cheerleader

Meet Lucy Maud, The Word Cheerleader

Last winter I purchased my own Whatnot.  A Whatnot is a Muppet Workshop creation  from FAOSchwartz.  Traci, our new librarian, went to NYC for the day before starting at our library and came back with a Whatnot Muppet.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted one!  I wouldn’t stop creating them until I found the exact Whatnot for me.  It was really fun.

I hemmed and hawed and hemmed some more,  then I just bought it.   When I opened the box, I was so excited — my own Whatnot.  But then I looked.  Oh no, I hated it.  They did something wrong and she wasn’t what I pictured.  A few phone calls to customer service, a bit of drama … and I ended up with Lucy Maud in a cheerleading costume. Ugh.

I’m Lucy Maud! Who are you?

At first I didn’t know what to do with Lucy Maud.  She literally sat in her cardboard box until August.  I rued the day I purchased her.

Our library doesn’t have an official early literacy storytime.  We focus on the joy of the literature and bringing books, songs, and silliness to the kids in our community. But with a new director comes new things. I volunteered to help create an early literacy storytime, using many of the techniques and ideas I’ve learned from Flannel Friday.

One day it came to me: we’re working on building vocabulary to the preschoolers in our community.  New words and new experiences help children become better readers (as I understand it).  So, in our experimental new early literacy story time, Lucy Maud will come out at the end of story time and discuss the letter of the day.  Then, she will think very hard and declare her favorite word that starts with that letter.  I think she’ll use it in a sentence.  Then, if there is time, Lucy Maud can ask other boys and girls their favorite words that start with the Letter of the Day.

This is a new experience for me. I normally don’t have a puppet talk to me (Miss Mouse only whispers in my ear).  I have to develop a voice for Lucy Maud.    But, I’m pretty comfortable with her and the concept of being a Word Cheerleader.

Now?  Now I think she’s kind of cute. And I’m glad I bought her.

Any other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Introducing … Miss Mouse

Introducing … Miss Mouse

Miss Mouse, Miss Mouse
Come Out, Come Out, Come Out!

The original Miss Mouse from circa 1980ish

That cheer is heard weekly at the library where I work. Miss Mouse (MM), our story time mascot, has been attending story time for more than 25 years. (When I started they said more than 20 years — and that was in 1997. Like any girl, Miss Mouse doesn’t reveal her true age.) Actually, that isn’t true, Miss Mouse has her own written biography: she is five years old, silly,and a little bit shy. She lives in a wicker basket with her friend Whiskers and loves cheese: cheese crackers, cheese cake, cheese balls. And… she has a better wardrobe than I do.

Let’s get back to that cheer. Miss Mouse attends every preschool story time in our library (and lately even they play Where is Miss Mouse Hiding? in the Early Walker story time).

Each story time is opened by a visit with Miss Mouse. After our opening song, Miss Mouse comes out and tells a joke or somehow introduces our loosely based themes. Unfortunately, almost every story time, Miss Mouse isn’t in her basket. Rather, she is hiding behind some felt pieces (flowers, farm animals, whatever relates to the stories for that week). Before we look for her, I review the elements on the flannel board (we limit it to 8 pieces)… Then I ask for advice on where we should look, hoping they do not get the right guess the first time. It helps if everyone is yelling a different answer… as the story teller, pick the one you like. We say the cheer quoted above, then I’ll ask, “Miss Mouse, are you hiding behind the _____?” She isn’t. From this point on, I give them choices avoiding the one item she is hiding behind (would you like the green flower or the blue flower?). Depending on the crowd, I might check two items at once.

Once the flannel Miss Mouse is found, it’s time to take her out of her basket. With her back to the audience, I adjust her outfit and ask everyone count to three. We all say, “Hello Miss Mouse.” She turns around does her “thing” and then it’s time for her to go. She blows lots of kisses and goes back to her basket. (For more on what Miss Mouse might do during her time with us, see my specific story time posts plans throughout this blog. You can search story time plans as a category.)

There are days when I think I know what Miss Mouse is going to say. I plan it out, especially if she is telling a joke. Then there are days when I have no idea and just sort of wing it. Miss Mouse never actually speaks to the audience, she is entirely too shy for that… instead she speaks to the story teller’s ear and we relay it. Also, another Miss Mouse rule: she must always, always, always be fully clothed. If she has a robe or raincoat on: something has to be on underneath it. Something happened once years ago, we never speak of it, but she must be fully clothed. (I think she was just out of the bath and in a robe and a child pointed out Miss Mouse was naked — the details are foggy.) Occasionally, someone a little older and new to Miss Mouse will say, “she’s a puppet.” We cover Miss Mouse’s ears and whisper, “shh, she doesn’t know that.”

One more thing, the children of our community have grown up thinking that famous nursery rhyme is said:

Hickory Dickory Dock, Miss Mouse ran up the clock
the clock struck one, Miss Mouse ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock

Initially, I was very intimidated by the Mouse. It felt like a lot of responsibility, but I’m happy to say she has always been very easy to work with. We train each story teller with the in’s and out’s of MM. Training includes reading her biography, knowing the rules (never, ever let a child open her basket), and practicing on Miss Mouse’s friends (several puppets were made there is Pink Bunny, Raspberry Mouse (she isn’t blue, she’s Raspberry), and others).


This is my favorite picture of Miss Mouse.
Here are the elements for Miss Mouse (MM) Hides Behind Cats
Where the cheese is... Miss Mouse can't be too far behind (and... when we find MM before the cheese, I'll have everyone sing "The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, hi ho a derry-o the cheese stands alone" until it's found.


Here is the flannel Miss Mouse hiding behind flowers. Someone who used to work at this library used MM at her new library... this was so popular, they turned her into an online game. We aren't letting it go to her head.
This is a list of all the MM Hides Behind flannels we currently have. A few are more than 14 years old.
Miss Mouse welcomes preschoolers through their very own Mouse Hole.
Preschoolers and their caregivers are welcomed to the Mouse House our own little shrine to The Mouse.
Super Mouse: Able to detect cheese a mile away!

(all pictures of Miss Mouse are © Downers Grove Public Library. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.)

Project Fashion Mouse
In 2008, with the purchase of my sewing machine, I thought it was time for some new clothes for Miss Mouse. This would help me learn to sew (!!!) while getting some new clothes for MM. She is pretty small (the width of your hand) and does not fit most doll clothes. We’ve made our own in the past, but the person who used to do that retired in 2005. Luckily, a co-worker knows how to look at a dress and create a pattern from it. After several attempts, I successfully made her a dress. We thought about it and decided it would be fun to create a contest to get more clothes for Miss Mouse.
Project Fashion Mouse was born.
We invited patrons of all ages and skill levels to pick up a pattern and create an outfit (accessories welcome) for Miss Mouse. At the end of the six weeks, we put together a Look Book where patrons could vote for their favorite designs. We had three winners: patron winner, staff winner (we opened it up to our talented staff members), and librarian’s choice (our favorite outfit). The winners all received a gift certificate to the local quilt shop (more fabric). It was a wonderful success, and we have about 20 new outfits!
Project Fashion Mouse

The Magic Envelope

The Magic Envelope

This is my first Flannel Friday post.  I wanted to keep the “illusion alive” and made people send me their email address for the how-to.  That got old, so I had it hidden away for about a year and am bringing it back with the explanation.  Hope you enjoy! ~~Sharon 3.15.2013

Several years ago, I observed one of my colleagues put several pictures into an envelope, say some magic words, and prest- o change-o before I could say “shazam” out of the envelope came just one picture. It has intimidated me ever since.

Here is the concept: Taking the parts of a thing to make a whole — using descriptive words to describe a larger concept.

Preparation: name characteristics of a thing (in this instance: School): books, students, teachers, desks, chalk, computers. Now using clip art: find pictures that represent those things. Also, get a picture of the Thing (school in this case).

For story time:I tell kids that I have my magic envelope and we’re going to make a School. I ask them to give me words that describe school. Most times I have those pictures, and sometimes I don’t. That’s okay, I’ll ask for more words or help them come up with the ones I have in mind. Each time someone names a thing, I take that picture, and place it inside the envelope.

When all the pictures are in the envelope, I ask for a magic word. Every time I’ve done the Magic Envelope someone in the audience will come up with the perfect magic word.(We did “build a cake” this week and someone suggested “pat-a-cake” (genius).) I think for school a good magic word might be the alphabet song, or Mary Had a Little Lamb, or just abracadabra…

Together we say the magic word and viola, magic happens. Open up the envelope and presto-change-o, the describing pictures changed to just one: a picture of a school.

We have many different Magic Envelopes: Hanukkah and other holidays, Seasons, school, cake, princes… the list can go on and on.

Here are some pictures to help you understand what I am talking about:

  1. the things that make up a Princess and as quick as you can say, Bibbity, bobbity, Boo:
  2. the Princess escapes her envelope, whole!
  3. The things that make a cake.
  4. Presto-change-o, the cake is made

How do I do it? Well, I want to try and keep the illusion of the Magic Envelope a trade secret. I didn’t create this idea, but respect it and the people who come to our programs enough to keep the illusion alive. So, between friends:  Take two identical envelopes and secure them back to back.  One has the complete picture tucked away and when you say the magic words, simply flip the flap open and viola. It’s takes practice, and it is worth it.

A confession: I have been terrified of the magic envelope for 13 years. What if the magic doesn’t happen? Well, I’m here to say, it is worth it and fun. Try it and let me know how it went!