Offline Professional Development: Top 40 List Assessment

Another exercise for those who need some offline work. Check in here to get started, and don’t forget to take your own time with these projects.

This exercise starts with the Top 40 List, so if you haven’t made yours yet, do that first.

Now that you have your list, spend as much time as you need really looking at it and assessing what’s there. Seriously, this could take awhile!

Why? Because the more we know about our own storytime practice and habits, the easier it will be to see where we want to grow, and what are some really solid starting points. I talk just a little bit about getting beyond “I like this” to “Why I like this” in this post.

What to do: Sort your Top 40 list in different ways, for sure by type of activity (songs, fingerplays, action rhymes, flannelboards, prop activities, etc) and by age group (babies, toddlers, prek, school age). What other ways can you sort everything? By theme? By literacy skill? By literacy practice? By what you have memorized and what you need notes for?

Next: ask yourself questions about all these categories. This is going to be a little less directed/specific than some of the other exercises, because it’s so individual. Your questions/discoveries are going to depend both what’s on your own list, and also on your storytime goals. I’ll give you some examples of me thinking about my list, but my questions here are not meant to be exhaustive.

A. Noticing What’s On the List

What type of activity do you have the most of for each of these categories (type, age, literacy support, etc.)? Why do you think things sort out this way for you?

I have a LOT of songs on my list. Why? Is it because after having my dad sing to me as a kid, and being in Girl Scouts and church groups and raising 2 kids and being a children’s librarian, that I just know a million songs? Is it because I memorize and remember lyrics fairly easily? Because I’m pretty confident singing a capella? Because it’s rewarding to me when my families sing along? Because knowing so many songs makes easy to make content connections with other storytime components? These are some of the questions that occur to me as I’m writing this up right now! You’ll have different questions & different answers.

It looks like I a lot of support for phonological awareness, background knowledge, talking, and singing on my list. (I’ve had my list for over a year and this is the first time I looked at it in terms of literacy support!)

B. Noticing What’s Not On the List

Where are your gaps?

I do NOT have a lot of prop activities (shaker egg, scarves) on my own list, for example. Why not? Is it because for the last few years I’ve been mostly subbing, and it’s easier to do these types of activities when you know your kids well and how they respond to having things to pass out/hold/manipulate? Is it because I just don’t want the fuss of making sure I know where those props are at each branch? Is it because I’d rather not deal with handing things out and that’s a barrier for me? Again, I’m just modeling some questions off the top of my head. Your questions will vary.

Hmmm, I don’t yet have a lot of favorite activities for writing support, though this is something we’re working on getting better at. See Jessica’s blog for her WRITE posts to see the type of things I mean!

C. Comparing What’s On the List

What do you the things on your list have in common? Another very open-ended question. I’m really not trying to lead you anywhere in particular with this, at least not yet–pretty much anything you notice can be of interest!

I noticed that I have both Row Row Row Your Boat and Itsy Bitsy Spider on my list, specifically the “do it lots of ways” versions (fast and slow for Row Row, humongous and extremely tiny for Spider). I have a couple of cumulative songs on my list. The flannelboards on my list tend to be conversational rather than scripted to a song or a rhyme.

That’s it for now!

I’ll do one more Top 40 List exercise to prompt what to do with all this noticing and how to use your goals to engage with both what things are on your list and what things aren’t 🙂

Bonus: Any surprises? Tell us!

Keep Going: You could do a Top 40 (or 10 or 20) List & Assessment for your favorite program/craft activities. (I used to love to make cardboard stencils and do crayon rubbings for just about every program I was in charge of.)

Apply your learning: This will be tomorrow’s post!

Shout Out: To everyone who taught me an activity that wound up on my own Top 40 List <3

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