Offline Professional Development: Top 40 List Evaluation

Thanks for waiting for me to get back to these posts! (Imagine, things being unpredictable right now, smh)

By now you’ve put together a Top 40 List and looked closely at what was on it and now I’m going to give you a task that will take awhile, if you let it, because now it’s time to look at everything on your list one by one, and think about each thing in terms of your overall goals for storytime.

My own hope is that as we look at our storytime practice carefully & thoughtfully, that we slowly add to our repertoire more and more of those activities that fit both categories: things we LOVE to do, and things that really deeply help us meet as many of our storytime goals as possible.


    Doing things we love to do helps us lead storytimes that feel warm and genuine and enjoyable. (I don’t know most of the musical guests on the Tonight Show, but I can’t help but smile at Jimmy Fallon’s utter glee when he does those clips where he gets to play kids’ instruments alongside them.)

    Sharing mostly those activities that closely align with our goals allows us to make the most of the limited minutes of storytime we have each week with our families.

    And having a long list of quality, sure-fire activity choices helps us to be as efficient as possible with our planning. I love browsing storytime plans, cute song ideas, and flannelboards online, but it’s SO EASY to go down the rabbit hole and let time get away from me!

What do you do from here?

Take one thing on your list, and think about your storytime mission statement. Jot down a little list of how that activity helps you meet some or all of those goals. Are there ways you can tweak that activity to better align with your goals?

That’s it! Do that for all 40 things on your list.

This isn’t a fancy exercise, but it’s good practice in looking closely at individual parts of your storytime to see how they contribute to your goals overall. (Just like we did with looking closely at your messaging during storytime.)

You may find that some of the activities on your list are even more powerful than you thought! The very first thing I put on my own Top 40 List is “When They Woke Up” or “Sleeping Sleeping.” Kids LOVE to play pretend so this is always a big hit. But when I thought about in terms of our goals (welcoming, engaging, literacy-based) I realized how much it fits all of them. It can be adjusted for all ages and different abilities. It fosters participation from the big kids and the babies love to watch everyone “sleep” and “wake up.” It supports vocabulary, dialog, phonological awareness. It builds executive function skills.

Now that I’ve realized how well it fits for our storytimes, I repeat it more regularly. I also look for ways I can incorporate some of its features (asking questions, imaginative play, practicing waiting, chanting) into other activities.

Or you may find that some of the activities you most love maybe aren’t as aligned with your goals as you thought. This doesn’t mean that you never get to do them anymore! But it does give you a chance to think about what DOES align with your goals.

For instance, the folk song Rattlin’ Bog is on my Top 40 list. I *love* this song. I love the tune, I love putting up piece after piece on the flannelboard as I sing, it makes me super happy. BUT “engagement” is one of our goals for storytime, and this…doesn’t score as high on that factor as it could. Kids sit and listen and watch me do the flannel pieces, but the way I typically shared this didn’t leave extra room for more participation than that.

So I still do it every once in awhile, but more often now I’ve shifted to doing Green Grass Grew All Around. It’s a similar cumulative song, and the “green grass grew all around” phrase is extremely fun for me to sing up and down the scale, but instead of a flannelboard, I’ve worked out full body motions (that even cross the midline!). Now kids who don’t want to or can’t sing along with me can be following along with their bodies instead of just sitting and watching.

Work through your list and think about each of your activities and build a power list of the best of the best. Again, not so you stop doing the other things, but so you have a mental template of what your top storytime material looks like. You’ll feel more confident in repeating these activities more often, and when you DO go down that storytime planning rabbit hole, you’ll have a clear idea of the types of material that will work best for YOUR storytimes.

Bonus: as always, I’d love to hear what you discover through this exercise! Any surprises?

Keep Going: Choose an activity that did NOT make it on to your Top 40 List and see if it meets your goals. Is there a similar activity that you like better that you can add to your repertoire?

Apply your learning: Make a storytime plan using only items from your Top 40 List that also closely align with your storytime goals. How many different storytimes plans can you make using this top tier list of material?

Shout out: to everyone who has read through all of these posts and is still coming back to see what I have to say <3 Thanks for taking storytime so seriously and being willing to explore what you do and why you do it so your families can benefit even more from your expertise and compassion.

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