You know what I’m talking about! Scarecrows, jellybeans, pandas, roses…How many sets of five do you think you have counted in your storytime career? “Five little owls by the old barn door/One flew away, and then there were four.”
These are great standbys, and they fit every storytime, but sometimes I just kind of hit the wall. I can’t always get excited about “Four little thingummies playing happily” or “One little whosis having so much fun.” So I’m trying to branch out a little.
But the “Five Little” rhymes are so good at filling up little nooks and crannies of a storytime plan! What am I doing to help fill the gaps?
One thing I’m doing is ditching the rhyming piece. Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of rhymes in my storytimes, because they are lots of fun and great for building preschoolers’ phonological awareness skills.
But I’m not worried about making every single thing I do on the flannel board be a rhyme. Talking with kids about pictures and ideas, and asking them open-ended questions, and giving them time to answer, are also excellent ways to build children’s language skills. This type of dialog also lets you model to the caregivers how they can talk with their kids, too.
Here’s an example: I went into Microsoft Word clip art and found 5 photo images of familiar tools.
Instead of using them to recite “5 Little Tools,” I just put them all on the board. Sometimes I’ll say, “Wow, look, our workbench is a little messy! We better clean up our tools. Let’s start by cleaning up the tool that you use to hit nails. Which tool is that?” I give the kids time to answer, or tell me about the time THEY used a hammer, or to tell us that Uncle Andy has a hammer…you know how it goes! Then I say, “Right! You use a hammer to hit nails! This is the hammer.”
Or instead of establishing a clean-up scenario, I might just say, “Our last book was about building a house. Here’s some tools you might use to build a house! Which tool is the level? Do you know?”
Another way to start is to pick up a tool and say, “This tool is a saw. What do you know about saws? Right! Saws are very sharp and cut wood.”
Either way, there’s no rhyme to memorize, and the kids get a chance to really engage with you about something related to your storytime theme. Easy-peasy. Other things you could “clean up” might be toys, or clothes, or tableware. What else?
I might say, “If you were in outer space, you’d have to wear some special clothes! What do you think you’d have to wear?” Then one by one, we’d talk about the helmet, boots, and gloves, and finally I would put out the astronaut, all suited up. (I’ve done this with the babies, even, by emphasizing body parts: “This is a helmet! You wear a helmet on your head. Where is your head?”)
What other sets of clothes and equipment could you do? I have a cowboy set! What about a king or queen, with a robe, crown, and scepter? This is great for vocabulary building!
A final non-rhyme flannel board I’ve used is the Guessing Game. I have a few of these now!
In one type, I laminate clip art images, or color copies from a book’s illustrations, or make lift the flap houses. I put them all on the board, with a small image tucked behind one of the pieces. For the houses, I put a picture under one of the door flaps.
Then I say, “Blue Bird, are you in the red tree? Which tree has red leaves?” Or, “Puppy Dog, are you in the green house?” We just keep looking until we find them!
For another type of guessing game, I used clip art to make several sets of one big animal and one small animal in matching pairs. I’ll put the big animals all on the flannel board, then show the kids one of the small animals. “Little bear, can you find your Mommy? Is this the mommy bear? No! This is the big blue whale! Here is the mommy bear! She is brown just like her baby.”
I’ll never stop using the “Five Little Whatsits” rhymes completely, but by not using them as often, I’m keeping them fresher for my storytime kids–and for me.
(Ed. 11/11: I am no longer sharing my clip art files due to copyright concerns, so I’ve taken down the link to the files. However, if you search in Microsoft Word clip art you may find the original imeages I started with.)