Monday, August 24, 2015

Introducing the Library to Kindergarten

At my school, we don’t have kindergarten teachers, we have kindergarten whisperers. Seriously. You should see them! I continually marvel at the magical transformation they make in the lives of our students from August to May. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have told a kindergarten whisperer: “I wish I had a five-year-old right now so they could be in your class.”

On the flipside – I need to make a true confession: I’m a bit intimidated by kindergarteners. My first year as a librarian, the “Green Giant” stature I possess caused many tears. Being unfamiliar with talking to twenty kindergarteners at once was another hurdle in my path. The world of elementary school is so new to them, brimming with possibilities, and I want to make sure that my impression on them leads to a love of our library. Knowledge of intermediate students represents both my classroom experience days and my strength, so meeting the needs of the “kindy friends” has been an important focus for growth throughout my librarianship. I hope you’ll enjoy a few ideas I’ve discovered along the way.

K – Know your audience and plan accordingly. They always wiggle – a lot! Many often refer to the art of kindergarten teaching as herding cats. At first, I always tried to cram too much into our first kindergarten visit. Now, we keep the first story time short. And we don’t check out books that day. We say hello and make important connections. (I’m sure you’ve found out, many kindergarteners LOVE to talk.) We read a story about an endearing character visiting the library for the first time. Then we move a bit: a short tour, a time to look INSIDE the book return (this really wins at my school), and a peek into the fish tank. We end with a silly story so everyone can laugh a little before they leave.

I – Improvise because the plan won’t go how you planned. Each of our 5 different kindy classes has its own personality. Sometimes a few pieces of my well-oiled machine completely flop. Our school is learning more and more about Responsive Classroom –teaching the “whole child.” Kids need times to just stand up and shake the wiggles out. And let’s be honest, I’ve got the wiggles sometimes, too.

N – Never underestimate the opponent students. When you give them the chance to chat more than you do – that’s when the magic happens. Just last week, we introduced ourselves and expressed favorite things to read. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my kindergarteners were more aware of genre than I would’ve expected. Plus it usually gives me something fun to remind me why I love my job. My favorite moment last week: “My name is Mark. I like everything awesome, and I like mysteries!”

D – Dare to think outside the box. Some of my favorite kindy experiences have stemmed from leaving the library for a while that day and pushing into the classrooms. The last two years, I’ve held a standing appointment as an August “reading center” for a couple of days in each kindy classroom. In that role, I walk the students in small groups to the library. Open check out routines are modeled and practiced. Though tedious, those precious moments of time shared with those students empowers them to be self-sufficient library patrons. This also opened the door for other experiments in my collaboration with that team as well as other teams. What new thing are you hoping to try?

Y – Be Yourself! Find what works for you. Our youngest library friends respond the best to adults who are genuine. Just as we teach students times when they might choose to abandon a book they’re reading, remember it’s ok to re-evaluate and find your next best plan for a lesson. I have not achieved kindergarten whisperer status, but I’m growing a little each year!

Any readers who have ideas to share, I definitely welcome them – covet them even. Please, oh, please send some my way! Best wishes and happy reading!

S. Parnell
MNPS Librarian@smlibrarygirl

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