What to do with the youngest students in the elementary library?
This question is asked by many, and with good reason: the needs of the youngest learners are drastically different than those of children just a few years older.
Rhymes are perfectly suited to the PreK/K/1 crowd. This explains how to begin Rhyme Time and includes a video demo.
For lower grades – PreK in particular – using themes to guide library lessons is one way to go. Similar to how public library storytimes are structured, a theme is woven through the entire lesson (story/stories, songs, activity, etc). With no curriculum standards for the 4 year olds and a long, 40 minute library class, this gives plenty of activity and some structure. I haven’t done theme storytimes for years, but expect to have the same them for 3 weeks.
For K & 1st grade, though, standards exist (stay tuned for updates from AASL in November). How to teach them in a meaningful way that meets the developmental needs of the 5 and 6 year old learners? Some use the state book award nominees to guide lessons, which may work for you. Years ago, though, I tried something different: author studies.
An author study is exactly that: a chance to study an author (or illustrator) for a period of time, usually 3-4 weeks. It gives a chance to make connections between books and characters while giving a sense of predictability to a library class: students know that when they come in, they’ll either be continuing an author unit from a previous week or starting a new unit.
There are many authors and illustrators that work well for the K/1 crowd. In my experience, choosing those who represent a diverse background and whose books I find appealing work best. Jon Klassen, Candace Fleming, Keiko Kasza, Mac Barnett, Lauren Castillo, Christian Robinson, Arthur Howard, Audrey Wood, Peter Brown, Brian Won, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Ezra Jack Keats, Deborah Freedman, and Anna Kang are some of my favorites.
Perhaps notably missing on that list is Mo Willems. As many students are familiar with his famous characters, having a “The Mo You DON’T Know” unit (with titles like Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster) can been successful.
As technologies have changed, so are the opportunities to connect with real, live authors over Skype and Google Hangouts. The virtual sessions are perfect for the shorter attention-spans of the K crowd and those with limited budgets: many authors are willing to Skype for free if the time is 10-20min. As a goal, find one author who is willing to Skype during your year.
How to build in research is one question that often crops up. One possible answer: choose the final book in the study to springboard into research. Perhaps, after reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, the students research tigers or another wild animal. Or after reading Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold, the K’s research how to stay healthy.
There are other K units of study that aren’t author studies, notably Folktales Around the World (a 6 week study) and Out of this World Research with Kindergarteners (a 3-4 week unit connected to classroom science). The important part: they’re all units. Almost every library lesson is part of a unit. When there is a flow, students know what to expect when they come into the library and are better prepared for a successful experience. This is why the daily schedule is always posted, regardless of the grade level.
Cheers, y’all! –arika