Recently, I realized that I needed to do something different with my story times. We had songs and action rhymes and, of course, books, but I still felt like something was missing. So, I decided to try my hand at flannel stories. My library has a very extensive collection of flannel boards (that I am currently in the process of organizing and inventorying to see what we have), but after seeing some of the great designs out there (and featured with Flannel Friday), I wanted to try my hand at making some of my own.
True confession: I actually enlist the help of a great volunteer who does a lot of the creation for me. I supply templates, ideas, and materials, and she actually does the creation.
Currently, I plan for all three story times (baby, toddler, and preschool) at my library, but I only present for the babies and preschoolers. This summer, though, I will be taking on the toddlers as well. So far, I haven’t added any flannel stories to my baby story times, but I have included them for the toddlers and the preschool groups. My current story time setup includes an easel that is a felt board on one side, which I’ve found is actually great for sharing the flannel stories with the group. Putting the stories on the easel frees me up to move the pieces and interact with the kids without holding a board, and it also makes it easier for everyone in the group to see. I’ve been doing flannel stories for a couple of weeks now, and they seem to be pretty popular with my groups.
March is Texas History Month, and my library director wanted us to offer a Texas-themed story time as part of the month-long focus on Texas in our library. Planning a story time on Texas was actually much harder than I thought it would be. I managed to come up with a theme and craft, but I still wanted something more interactive. With the theme in mind, I set out to find a flannel story. I came across a great Dress the Cowboy rhyme from this Go Texan Day outline. The poem is recommended as a flannel story, so I wanted to create a cowboy that we could actually dress. Let me tell you, finding a cowboy template is harder than you would think! I finally found this adorable outline from Made by Joel that I was able to work with. I printed several copies of the cowboy so that we could make modifications to the body as needed. I created a cowboy body template, and then created separate pieces for our clothing.
Our cowboy starts out with no clothes. I told the kids that I needed some help to get him dressed correctly, and asked for volunteers to help me dress the cowboy. In Wednesday’s group, I had more kids than I had pieces, but I was able to partner up siblings to help each other with no complaints. Thursday’s group had less kids who wanted to participate, so everyone who wanted to got a piece to put on the cowboy. One of our other librarians recommended that I do the rhyme twice if I had a larger group in the future, which I will definitely do if it happens again to give everyone the chance to participate.
Once we put our cowboy up on the board, I recited the rhyme and paused after each article of clothing to find the child who had it and give him or her the chance to bring it up to the board to dress the cowboy. We clapped and cheered for everyone who brought up their pieces and put them on the cowboy. Here’s an idea of how it looks in progress:
A cowboy dresses himself with care. He starts with long, red underwear.
Out in the desert, you don’t want to get hurt, so the cowboy wears a strong wool shirt.
Deserts and prairies are the cowboy’s scenes. To protect his legs, he wears sturdy blue jeans.
The cowboy bent, and ran, and knelt. To keep his pants up, he wore a leather belt.
The coyote howls, the old owl hoots. On his feet, he wears leather boots.
It isn’t yellow, so it’s not a banana. Around his neck, he wears a soft bandanna.
At this point, I stopped and asked the kids if our cowboy was complete. I wasn’t sure whether they would need prompting to remember his hat, but both groups responded immediately with a resounding, “NO! He doesn’t have a hat!” So, I asked if anyone had a hat for our cowboy and we finished the rhyme.
A cowboy is a cowboy, and that is that! On top of his head, he wore a ten-gallon hat. He’s all dressed now from head to feet, and now our cowboy can’t be beat!
I ad-libbed the poem in a few places to make it work with our groups and so I didn’t have to constantly refer to my notes. Overall, the kids really enjoyed helping dress the cowboy. We left him up for the rest of story time (and he made a great transition into our last book), and after story time, several of the kids came back through for another look at the cowboy. I also had parents both days taking video of the kids dressing the cowboy. While I was a little surprised (and nervous), I think it means that our cowboy was a hit!
Hopefully this will be the first of many flannel successes that I get to share. While I do plan on utilizing the great flannel stories that we have purchased for the library, I also want to keep creating new stories of my own.
Many thanks to Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime for being the Flannel Friday host this week. Flannel Friday has been an amazing resource for me as a children’s librarian, and I hope it helps you, too! For more information, visit the Flannel Friday website here. Thanks to all the other children’s librarians who have been sharing their great ideas!