Tag Archives: kindergarten library

Library ideas for little learners

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

Rhyme Time: a how-to

A dozen or so years ago, faced with teaching Kindergarten for the first time ever, I was at a complete loss.  What to do with 5 year olds in a school library for 40 minutes?  What would benefit their development as readers?  What would be developmentally appropriate?

Thinking and brainstorming about how to structure the class led me to two ideas.  One: use author studies to structure our reading time.  Two: use nursery rhymes to build pre-reading skills.

Best. Ideas. Ever.

Nursery rhymes are well-known as one way to build reading readiness.  Chanting rhymes as a group, discovering words that sound the same, brainstorming other words that have the same sounds is a powerful tool toward building readers.  By displaying the printed rhyme and modeling the left-to-right, top-to-bottom patterns of reading, children get pre-reading skills without a formal “lesson”.  And this can be included as part of the elementary library program.

With the beginning of the year as a time to teach expectations and basic behaviors (where to sit, how to check out, where to sit after checking out, etc), Rhyme Time is usually begun in week 4/5/6 of the school year.  By this point of the year, children (mostly) know how to come into the library, sit down, and be ready for the lesson.

Back in my public librarian days, I created a flip chart with handwritten nursery rhymes, including both well-known and more esoteric offerings, as part of infant Lapsit and Toddler Time.  It’s this same chart that I’ve used ever since. To begin, I model “rhyme time fingers” (like spirit fingers).  These wiggling fingers serve two purposes: they let kids move, and they show which children are ready.  Counting aloud, patting the beat on my legs, I model chanting the rhyme by myself.  On a second run-through, students join in.

The first time we do Rhyme Time, 2 nursery rhymes are introduced.  At least one is a rhyme they should know (like Humpty Dumpty) and one they may not know (like To Market To Market). The goal is to work up to 3 rhymes each week, which are repeated for 6-8 weeks before retiring them for new rhymes.

There are variations and extensions to Rhyme Time that can be included, should the group be ready.  Some weeks, brainstorm more words that rhyme (like in Humpty Dumpty, we notice that WALL and FALL rhyme…but ask if they know any other words that rhyme with those two – like BALL, ALL, CALL, etc). Some weeks, kids will create body movements that match the rhyme.  Sometimes, have a student lead the rhymes.  It’s formally flexible instruction. 🙂

Curious as to how it looks in action?  This is week 1 of Rhyme Time a few years ago.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

New year? New ideas! Kindergarten

After teaching elementary school library for over a decade, one would think there is a set lesson or format I use to map out each school year. It’s often assumed that I do the same thing, year in and year out. After all, why recreate the wheel?


Well, I do. New classes mean new personalities. What worked with one group of children may not work with another. Our annual school learning goals need to be taken into account, as well as curricular, technological, and logistical changes. In short: I never do the same thing exactly the same way each year.WP_20141002_006

Our K’s traditionally take part in unit studies, but the books, activities, and technologies used change a bit each year. With so many new titles, apps, and websites, there will always be new ways to foster learning.  The questions used in lessons change, too, since I work to get better at incorporating critical-thinking, claim-evidence-reasoning questions. Adding strategies and ideas from the Maker movement into our lessons (when reasonable) is also a goal.      


Protecting their garden from invading bunnies. Inspired by Candy Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

The first six weeks tend to follow a pretty set format regarding skills introduced and overall expectations. Most of my first six weeks is explained here.  Note: for the lessons listed, students visit library 1x week for 40 minutes.

  • Week 1: Play I-Spy in the Library game, learn where to sit (assigned spot) and how to sit (hands/feet to self), get to know one another with the Squishy Ball, listen to one story (first author study), show where to sit at the end of the lesson (the line near the door…no chairs/table spots), learning goal: what does an author do?
  • Week 2: Review where/how to sit, play make-believe games with Mr. Tiger (large stuffed animal mascot who I “talk” to), listen to story, barcodes & passes, self check-out (books on top of shelves only), learn whose responsibility it is to bring back book (students, not moms!)
    • Before week 3 – remind students to bring back books. No tears is the goal…
  • Week 3: review where/how to sit, play make-believe with a stuffed animal Tiger (he holds our stories…I model kindness by asking to borrow it politely, then giving it back at the end), listen to one story, begin questioning, learn E=Everybody, review what happens if you forgot your book (browsing basket), review self check-out
  • Week 4: continue week 3. No new additions.
  • Week 5: Add Rhyme Time. Continue with previous skills/expectations.
  • Week 6: Introduce book care. Continue with previous skills/expectations.

By this point, routines are usually down pat. If they’re not…it’s reteach, reteach, reteach. It’s impossible to add in how to find books if children can’t remember where to sit so that they have their own safe space.

Most of our lessons will have a focus question and includes stories and rhymes. I’ll often include movement games and make-believe to maintain interest and focus. Technology (in the form of beginning database research and project creations) is usually added in the second half of the year. Some tech I like: PebbleGo (for outer space/animal research), Flipgrid (for video responses to any literature), iPads (is perfect for K to extend learning, Daisy the Dinosaur & Lightbot Jr are great for coding). Major units outside of Author Studies may include the Geisel Award, a Wool/Fabric science collaboration, and Folklore Around the World (which includes map skills). However…

I’ve been known to extend units into first grade. To leave units out. To add new learning. Because life happens: there are subs, no school days, new classroom units.  Because each group of children is different…so my teaching should embrace and reflect their differences. And while there are certain authors I read year in and year out (Ezra Jack Keats), each group has stories shared and questions asked that best meet their needs.

Curious as to which author/illustrator units were kid-friendly AND whose stories had great questioning / conversation potential from the past few years? See below! And please note: the K’s will usually study 5-7 per year at a minimum of 3 weeks per individual.

  • Ezra Jack Keats ♥♥
  • the Mo you don’t know (lesser-known Mo Willems titles)
  • Kieko Kasza
  • Jon Klassen
  • Mac Barnett
  • Candace Fleming
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Jon Agee
  • Sergio Ruzzier
  • Deborah Freedman
  • Cynthia Rylant (usually with Arthur Howard)
  • Christian Robinson

Happy reading & teaching, y’all! ~arika

Out of this world research with Kindergarteners

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Mc stopped by the library for a casual chat. Five minutes later, a plan was hatched, fusing library research, databases, and technology to in-class curriculum.

I love chatting. And I’m a big fan of Mrs. Mc. 🙂

See, during our impromptu chat, she mentioned an upcoming literacy unit on outer space. Tentatively, I threw out an idea: could we team up and research about planets using PebbleGo, then make learning videos with ChatterPix Kids to share new knowledge with others? She was on board (!!), and this is what’s happened so far.

(NOTE: Our school is on a fixed specialist schedule, and the K’s come to library 1x/week for 40 minutes. Our library has 18 desktops and 10 iPads.)

Week 1:  After we settled down with Rhyme Time, I explained the next 3-4 weeks would be devoted to a library/classroom unit on outer space. Prior to class, I’d printed out photos of the eight planets and our sun…and Pluto. Arranging them on the floor as an intro, a handful of students knew that Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore but didn’t know why…the perfect lead-in to the story Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger.

After reading, students were asked to think about which planet they would most like to learn about while watching a BrainPop Jr video on the planets. Post-viewing, each student selected a planet.  It was awesome seeing their authentic energy and excitement. Some asked if they could research TWO planets!

Between week 1 and 2:  Planning time -creating a note-template for the K’s, checking to be sure it’s accessible and K-appropriate for all the students, emailing parents to request help for the research lesson, preparing clipboards with pencils and personalized note-templates (student name/planet filled in). One thing I should’ve included on the note template: a space for citing PebbleGo. Argh!

During open library periods in weeks 1 and 2: visiting the K classrooms during Friday Fun to share/show/teach the ChatterPix Kids app. Knowing that we have 10 iPads and 24 students who have never used the app, giving them more hands-on playtime is important.

Week 2:  A quick review of the planets to start our lesson, followed by a refresher in accessing/using PebbleGo. Students had experience with it earlier in the year, having completed an in-class animal project. Now, they’d use a new area of the database: SCIENCE. My sample was Pluto, as it was not a planet they would research. After modeling how to navigate/read/listen to the information about Pluto, I showed them how to write what was learned in your own words (not PebbleGo’s words). Paraphrasing was a goal, but not a requirement.

Students then received clipboards with their personalized planet note-template and a pencil and went to work at desktops/iPads. Two parents were on hand to assist with PebbleGo navigation and note-taking (a VERY good thing, as there is no aide or para help).  At the end of our lesson, each student had written down (either by themselves or with the help of an adult) at least one fact about their planet. Including check out and the whole-group lesson, it was 40 fast minutes!

Between weeks 2-3: reading and deciphering the K notes, emailing parents to request help for the iPad recordings, testing ChatterPix on the iPads (does the camera/mic work?). By rewriting the student notes, it’ll help a nearby adult prompt them if needed. No changes are being made…just legible handwriting on sticky notes.

Weeks 3-4:  The current plan is to create – then share – our learning using ChatterPix Kids to make videos. Here are samples made using my Pluto notes:

How this’ll all get pulled off is still TBD. Given that it’s right before/after Spring Break, many students will be absent.  With only 10 iPads and 24 students, there is no fair sharing (which is a BIG concern for 5/6 year olds).  And what about when they’re not making their video…what will they do then?  Ack!  Food for thought…

Once the mini-movies are made, I’m not sure what application to use to gather them into one large video…iMovie, Sway, or something else…but there is still time to figure that out.  Updates to come!

Moral of this post: all it takes is one conversation at the right time with the right teacher. Take a minute. Get up. Chat. Connect. Because what you learn may lead to some great teaching and learning for you…and your students.

Fall 2015 Update: Teaching, Leading, Inspiring

With the first trimester completed, it’s a great time to recap what has been taught and accomplished in the school library. (Full disclosure: reflecting, while often done mentally, is MUCH harder to do in writing.) Here’s (most) of what happened in the first 14 weeks of my 2015-2016 school year:



  • Completed three author/illustrator studies, reading a wide selection of titles from Audrey Wood, Mo Willems, and Arthur Howard.
  • Learned about the jobs of authors and illustrators and how authors are represented on a book’s spine label.
  • Explored the E/Everybody and I Can Read sections of the library, locating titles by authors shared in class.
  • Understood the importance of caring for books when examining ruined, discarded titles.
  • Discovered books about wild animals in the 500 section of nonfiction and pets in the 600’s, which related to their classroom-based animal projects
  • Incorporated purposeful movement, as it is important that these students move every week. Recited rhymes to start each lesson – we call it Rhyme Time.  Used hands to act out where to find wild animal and pet books in the non-fiction section (5 = wild animal paw swipe; 6 = 3 pet whiskers on each side of the cheeks).
  • Modeled and introduced questioning strategies, beginning with “I Wonder” questions. Students are frequently asked to explain their thinking, using both the text and life experiences as references.  One example of this: when reading Mr Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, Mr Putter is at a loss when faced with the naughty dog Zeke. Students are asked to give advice to Mr. Putter, based on what they know about dogs or what they think Zeke will respond to based on the story.

2nd Grade:

  • Celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day, reading pirate stories and researching real-life pirates using WorldBook Kids database.
  • Discovered how students and schools across the world are similar/differentRead fiction stories Rain School and Waiting for the Biblioburro, then researched true facts using CultureGrams and YouTube (videos of news clips).
  • Explored OTTER Award nominees, including placing informal holds on any title of interest. The nominees were The Hit of the fall! With up to nine copies of each book, students are reading like crazy. The hold list is still long, but we’re making headway!
  • Began reading WCCPBA nominees. A nice compare/contrast was made between Mogie and Gaston – how are the dogs the same and how are they different? Using the text to find ways aside from their looks was key.
  • A special October 30th storytime featured Mac Barnett’s charming Leo: a ghost story. Listening the final version of a story they’d heard last year when Mac visited our school was a treat..as was seeing the NYTimes-honored illustrations of Christian Robinson!

4th Grade:

  • Connected Michael Hall’s Red to our school expectations…which were connected to expected behaviors in the library.
  • Reviewed and retaught how to use Destiny to make recommendations, write reviews, place holds, and make friends. A Code of Conduct was reviewed and signed by each student, expressing the integrity they’re expected to maintain when using school technology. Students practiced each skill, writing reviews for Red, making ME a friend, and logging on/off appropriately.
  • Explored Sasquatch nominees, and set reading goals. In reflecting on this, I’ve noticed many students choosing to not read the nominated titles. What to do, what to do…
  • Researched a self-selected topic related to NW Coastal Peoples (the fall SS unit). All students practiced taking notes, rewriting them into original paragraphs, citing their source, then sharing their research in unique Flipgrid videos.  This project took FIVE WEEKS…but the process was important. The videos will be peer-reviewed in the next two weeks!
  • Read and discovered traits of myths – NW myths in particular. Sharing Coyote in Love for this lesson allows for students to practice predicting and inferring.
  • Similar to the 2nd graders…a special October 30th storytime featuring Mac Barnett’s charming Leo: a ghost story. Listening the final version of a story they’d heard last year when Mac visited our school was a treat..as was seeing the NYTimes-honored illustrations of Christian Robinson! This served as a TREAT for all students who had completed the note-taking portion of the NW Coastal Peoples research.

Inspiring…in the library:

  • By popular demand, began and sustained a weekly Lunch & Listen storytime with 5th graders. Missing even one week – even due to a power outage – is no excuse for the story-starved students.
  • Selected 30 students (of the 60+ applicants) to participate in Global Reading Challenge, a reading event sponsored by the King County Library. The 4th and 5th graders are in teams of 6 and aim to read/remember as much as possible about six different books. At our meetings, students eat lunch, swap books, and answer teacher- and student-created questions about the titles. Along with a 5th grade teacher, we host the weekly meetings during lunch/recess in the library. I read and wrote questions about one title, and students are asked to do the same. We remember what we write 🙂
  • Volunteers! Met with the PTA library chairs – planned and hosted two hour-long parent volunteer training sessions, planned and organized the fall book fair. Student volunteers come in daily – they cover magazines, check in / out books during open recesses, and manage kindergarten library books and passes.
  • Book fair!! Hosted a 3 day fair (due to a power outage). Ordered all materials and restocks from Scholastic, distributed flyers to all students (with hours printed on address labels!), booktalked dozens of titles, hosted a hugely popular Family Night…and made over $4,000 for the library. YAY!
  • Utilized our new iPads. The 4th grade uses them when filming Flipgrid videos and accessing Destiny.

Leading – PD and goals:

  • Attended the SLJ Leadership Summit in Seattle. Best takeaway: http://www.bezosfamilyfoundation.org/students-rebuild
  • Attended and presented at the 2015 WLMA Conference in Yakima, WA. My session was Operation: Motivation! A year of enthusiasm in the elementary library. As nervous as I was that no one would stick around for the last session on the last day, colleagues from across the state stayed to listen. Truly honored. Best takeaway: http://www.slideshare.net/Donalynm/the-best-books-of-2015-so-far
  • Attended and presented at the 2015 AASL Conference in Columbus, OH. My session was Easy as 1,2,3:designing an essential library program for young students. Another huge honor. Reflecting on the experience, I know what to do to improve as both a presenter and a K/1 expert.  Learning what to spend more time on – and what to leave out – was a good growth experience. Best takeaway: http://national.aasl.org/58543aasl-1.2740177/t019-1.2740640/fri011-1.2740647/a042-1.2740654
    • Of note: gave similar presentation to district librarians in October.
  • Attended SLJ webinar on littlebits, a very cool Makerspace / coding platform. Super-cool that our art department already has a set ready for use.
  • Submitted proposal to WLMA to establish a new state book award – the OTTER Award – designed for transitioning readers. No word yet on what will happen, but I’m very optimistic!

SO! The first trimester has been busy. A bit of reflection and random thinking:

  • Read and teach traits of myths BEFORE Thanksgiving for 4th grade to better connect to classroom learning (ultimately, myths are part of their assessment).
  • Find more stories about students in school around the world for 2nd grade – only read and mapped stories from 2 continents in our mini-unit.
  • Make Halloween week a dividing line – have mini-units or studies finished at that time so that classes can enjoy a reading week.
  • GRC – email home families as soon as teams are formed (email is my least favorite). Give students questions to prep during Winter Break.
  • Virtual library training? Have a video they can watch at home?  Shelving tips?  Hmm…
  • HUGE success running a 3 day fair (versus a 5 day fair). Had more sales – especially books. Only 1 day with the Fun Zone was amazing.
    • Schedule K/1 classes in 2-20m chunks – browse/buy times.
  • Dot Day – to celebrate or not? Maybe alternate with Talk Like a Pirate Day?
  • Continue to have students responsible for checking in K books and pre-sorting library passes into YES/NO piles before check-out (yes = can check out/ no = can’t check out…much easier)
  • Lunch & Listen is the Best Thing Ever. Keeping it 5th grade has worked well.
  • Need more K-3 students in at recess. Reach out to teachers to let them know students can come in.
    • Maker days?

And…that is all. For now. 🙂

Tips and tricks for teaching Kindergarteners in Library


After years of talking with colleagues, there are some universal truths I’ve discovered as a school librarian.  One of them relates to kindergarten students: too many librarians loathe teaching their youngest patrons.  I’ve heard it all: K’s are too squirrely, their attention span is too short, they don’t know “the rules”, they require constant redirection,  they’re exhausting, they’re just too little…

It always boggles my mind, because I think teaching the K’s is a true joy.  Their openness, their willingness to try something new,  their imagination and their fearlessness make teaching them an exciting adventure.

And while my K’s are just as wiggly as yours, here are some tools and tricks I use when teaching my youngest patrons.  Note: my K lessons last 40 minutes, including check-out.

Goal: To introduce the K’s to the library space.

TIP: Play I-Spy.  


K’s love games.  What better game to play on the first day of library than I-Spy?  As soon as we walk in, I stop the line and ask students to point to their eyes when they spy what I see: books, tables, chairs, computers, a mural, large tigers (they decorate our library), stairs.  I always include something they CANNOT see – something that can only be seen when they sit down for the story.  Our story stairs are hidden behind a wall, which makes for a great ending to the game.

Goal: Keep students from blurting out.

TIP: Have a plan!


Keeping a class full of K’s from talking at the same time is a lesson in patience.  The Squishy Ball (above, purple), is my lifesaver.  Only the student holding the ball may speak.  Since I’m still learning names, we use it during Week 1 for introductions (so everyone can catch it), and students learn that keeping eye contact determines who gets the ball (which keeps more eyes on me!). I phase out use of the Squishy Ball by the end of 1st grade, but many 4th and 5th graders fondly remember it and ask if they can have one/make one.

Goal: To avoid a chorus of “I know that book!”

TIP: Establish a secret signal.  

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Frustrating to no end: hearing “I KNOW THAT BOOK!”, “I have that book at home!”, “I already read that book!”, and the like.  I nip this in the bud Week 1, explaining that I’m going to read them a story some of them already know (The Napping House), and if they do to show me they know it with the Secret Signal – tapping a finger to their head.  This means “I know it!”.  And if students already know the story, that’s great!  They just can’t spoil the surprise for others by telling what it’s about…because no one likes a story ruined.  🙂

Goal: To get the K’s to follow in a line.  

TIP: Use pointers.  


Picking up students from recess/lunch?  Walking inside the library from the hall?  Use those pointers from Scholastic Book Fairs!  Bring a set with you and have students copy your pointer movements with their hands.  Little eyes stay frontwards, bodies keep moving, and the whole group makes it inside.  Pointers are also great for gentle high-fives!

Goal: To build listening stamina.

TIP: Read short, interactive books.  

There’s a reason I always start the year with K’s with an Audrey Wood author study.  Her stories are classics, and the illustrations offer opportunities for predicting and inferencing – two key literacy skills.  When we read Piggies, students move their hands along with the characters’ actions.  During The Deep Blue Sea, we make “waves” with our hands and arms (and bodies!).  King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, Silly Sally, and The Napping House offer opportunities for choral reading.  With all the learning we’re doing, I’m happy to read 1 – maybe 2 – short books during the first few weeks.

Goal: To keep students engaged for the entire lesson.

TIP: Activate the imagination.  

It may be a puppet, it may be a stuffed animal, it may be something else…but K’s love when you PLAY PRETEND.  I have a large stuffed tiger that I keep near the story stairs.  Among other things, Tiger “reads” books, holds our materials, plays games with toys, dresses up in odd hats, and keeps our Squishy Ball safe.  Periodically during the lesson, I may turn and interact with Tiger.  Modeling kind words, I’ll ask politely if I may borrow the ball or if he would like a page turned in his story.  Bonus: students learn to sit down quickly and look to see how Tiger is different from week to week!

Goal: To reenergize an energy-deprived group during the lesson.

TIP:  Get them moving!     

From doing the Wave to making it Snow or Rain inside to playing Simon Says, we do it all.  It depends on the class and the time of day, but I will not hesitate to cut into my teaching time at the end of a story to have a quick movement activity for a minute.  It’s also great to retrain eyes on you when transitioning from one area to another.

Goal: To teach proper care of materials.  

TIP: Share old, damaged books.



What better way to reinforce caring for book than by showing students books that haven’t been cared for properly?  I call mine the Unkind Package, as students are to be kind to one another, adults, and books in the library AND at home.  Scaring students about opening a book is not the goal – accidents do happen, and that is okay.  But teaching them how to put books in a safe place, turn pages peacefully, and keep books away from pets is an important lesson.