Today I’m sharing a flannel set that I did not make for an idea I did not come up with! But it’s a good one, plus I wanted to tell you how our team has used it for a staff training activity, for which it is PERFECT.
First, the set!
Just make a picnic basket and as many different kinds of food as you like. Ideally you will have one piece for each child in storytime.
Then hand out the pieces, and put the basket on the board. Now you’re ready to sing Raffi’s song “Going on a Picnic“!
Going on a picnic, leaving right away
If it doesn’t rain we’ll stay all day
Then Raffi follows up by singing: “Did you bring the apple?” and the kids echo back, “Yes, I brought the apple.” You do that a few times with different foods then sing the chorus again.
The kids bring their piece up to the board when you sing it. It’s always fun for the kids to add pieces to the board and you can do this as many times as you like depending on the size of your group. You could also add funny things like alligators or spaceships if you wanted.
That’s it! Easy peasy. This fits in food storytimes, of course, but also summer, holidays, going places, and colors. You could also tie it in to almost any food book by making an extra felt piece to match. So you could add it to a cookie storytime by creating a cookie piece, or to a pizza storytime, or whatever you wanted. You could add it to a toys storytime by including a ball, or to a clothes storytime by including a sun hat or ballcap.
Now, for the staff training activity!
A few years ago we had the opportunity to provide a storytime training to all site supervisors. It was designed to give them a crash course in prepping and delivering our literacy-based storytimes, so that they would be better equipped to effectively observe their direct reports in storytime.
We wanted the supervisors to see that even though we are only delivering one literacy message to the adults each storytime, EVERYTHING we do in storytime supports early literacy skills. We demonstrated this concept with this Picnic song and activity, and it was so effective that we adapted it for our new storytime providers’ training, too.
This is what we do:
We spend some time in the training class talking about Every Child Ready to Read, and the six early literacy skills and the five practices. Then we give them a worksheet that just lists the names of the 6 skills and the 5 practices with a little room to write some notes by each item, and tell them they are going to play “I Spy” for early literacy!
Next one of the trainers sets up to do the Going on a Picnic activity, handing out a couple of shapes to the trainees but keeping most of them in her hand. (We want the trainees to have at least one opportunity to engage in the activity themselves, but not have to participate so much that they don’t have time to write and think.) What we do is just run through the activity, repeating the song and the call-and-response over and over. The staff are asked to listen and watch and participate, and make notes on their worksheet every time they “spy” a practice or a skill in action. That’s why we run through it so many times…we want them to be able to consider what they are seeing from the perspective of each of the skills and practices. Some of the connections staff make right away, but sometimes they have to stop and think and watch a few rounds of the activity before they see how a skill fits in.
After a few minutes, when we’ve noticed that most of the staff have notes for most of the worksheet, we stop and have a discussion about what they’ve seen, and reinforce what they’ve learned about the skills and practices.
And yes, all the skills and practices are in this activity! Here’s some of the things we say as we’re presenting to highlight some of the different skills & practices.
Hey, we’re going on a picnic today! Do you know what a picnic is? Yes, it’s when you take your food along with you on a little trip and you eat it outside, at a park or on a hike. How do you get ready for a picnic? Great! Yes, we have to first find a picnic basket, and then choose our food, and then pack it. Then we can get in the car or on our bikes and go to our picnic spot! Finally we can eat all this good food. Yum! (talking, narrative skills)
Did you bring the apple? Yes, I brought the apple. This apple is red! What other colors could an apple be? Yes, green, or yellow. Definitely. (vocabulary)
Did you bring the cheese? Yes, I brought the cheese. Oooh, looks like this is Swiss cheese! There’s lots of kinds of cheese and they look and taste differently. You can tell this is Swiss cheese because it has holes. (background knowledge)
Did you bring the jam? Yes, I brought the jam. Hey, look, this jar has a label that says, “Jam.” [point to the word] J-aaaaaa-mmmmm, jam. Did you bring the jelly? Yes, I brought the jelly. There’s a label here, too! J-eh-llllll-eeeee. Do you know what I notice? I notice that the jam and the jelly both start with the same letter. They both start with J, right here, and here. (reading, letter knowledge)
Wow, look, some of our food has labels and some of it doesn’t. The apple doesn’t have a label, or the cheese. But the peanut butter does, and the jam and jelly. What other foods have labels with words on them? What other foods don’t have labels or words? (print awareness)
Here are some of the other skills and practices that we pull out in general:
Singing–singing the song
Playing, Print Motivation–involving children in an enjoyable activity related to reading
Writing–holding and manipulating small felt pieces is fine motor practice
So there you go! We’ve found that demonstrating this flannelboard immediately after we’ve introduced the skills and practices really helps make those concepts snap into place for new staff. What do you do with your staff when you are introducing early literacy and Every Child Ready to Read?