Tag Archives: School Age

Kids Passive Program: Book Tournament

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

Read about some of my other passive programs at the links below:

One of my favorite passives is our Book Tournament voting bracket. I select 16 titles that have appeal to ages 6-12 (generally our most popularly requested titles), and match them against one another.

Visitors of all ages can vote about once a week for their favorite titles. Over a month, our titles are whittled down to our final match-up, which has now twice resulted in Harry Potter vs. Dog Man (but a different outcome each time).

Voting sheets and a voting box are displayed at the youth desk and beside our large bracket poster.

For 2020, our first round match-ups included (winners in bold):

  • Dog Man vs. Magic Tree House
  • Land of Stories vs. Amulet
  • I Survived vs. Wimpy Kid
  • Big Nate vs. Smile
  • Harry Potter vs. Last Kids
  • Bad Guys vs. Captain Underpants (by one vote!)
  • Who Would Win vs. Percy Jackson
  • Wings of Fire vs. Baby Sitter’s Club

Our rounds continued until we were eventually whittled down to the same match-up as 2018: Dog Man vs. Harry Potter. In 2018, Harry Potter won by a landslide. In 2020, however, Dog Man took the trophy by a single-vote victory.

Many patrons came in each week to check on–and sometimes attempt to contest–who had won the previous week. I’m excited to bring this back again next year and to see if we have a different outcome. 

Innovation Academy: Coding 101

The Innovation Academy series began as monthly tech programs for kids ages 8-11. Since then, it has evolved into a series that lets school-age students explore different skills, art forms, technology, and more.

One of my favorite program themes is Coding 101. In just an hour, with kids with a wide range of coding skills, we covered the basics of block-based coding and how computers work

The PowerPoint I used during this program is below:

Inside of a Computer

We started by talking about how computers work. I have an old computer tower and some extra parts from our computer services department. We discussed what each piece did. The kids loved getting their hands on all of the small parts and looking at them up close.

Eventually, our conversation shifted from hardware to software, which led us to coding.

Group Coding Practice – Jelly Sandwich

After talking through some coding vocabulary, we discovered key coding concepts by completing a group activity. I was the “robot” and the kids told me, step by step, how to make a jelly sandwich.

Things quickly got quite ridiculous. The kids always seem to start this activity by telling me to “get some bread” or “open the bread” which leads to me promptly tearing open a bag of bread in a way that causes bread slices to fly everywhere.

Afterwards, we discussed how this activity connects to the coding practice they will be doing later. The kids catch on quickly to coding skills such as having to be very specific and learning that they will spend time making and correcting mistakes–and that is okay.

Activity 1: Drawing with Dash

I have been presenting fewer technology programs lately. I’m burnt out on them, and I think a lot of my growing disinterest is doing the same activities over and over again. My regular kids get bored, and so do I. We can only do so many obstacle courses. There are only so many challenges that the kids find fun that also work well for a mixture of kids with differing abilities. Every program, I have those few kids who have attended every one of my technology programs, mixed in with those kids who have never heard of the word “coding.”

This month, I pulled out an activity I have done before, but with a bit of a twist. We used Dash robot LEGO connectors and rubber bands to build a marker attachment for Dash. This takes a majority of the activity time, though there is always that one group that eventually realizes that two rubber bands will work just as well to hold a marker in a standing position as the most elaborate LEGO arm.

After attaching their marker, kids then pulled a variety of drawing challenges out of a jar. They used the Blockly coding app to try to create everything from letters to simple shapes to more elaborate and ridiculous creations (like a sloth or a banana–which end up with some interesting pictures).

Activity 2: Sphero Bocee Ball

This was a first-time activity for me and a smash hit with attendees. Kids worked in pairs to play an abbreviated version of bocee ball. The goal: get your SPRK+ robot as close as possible to the center of the target as possible.

All teams started in the same place. Once the game started, no one could stand in the playing field or physically touch any robots. Robots can hit other robots, (hopefully) pushing them away from the target. Robots can only be moved via code through the Sphero EDU app.

Each round was timed carefully to keep things moving.

Pairs had two minutes to practice their strategy and familiarize themselves with block-based coding via the Sphero EDU app. Giving the kids practice time was vital to let them realize exactly how far the robot could go in a short amount of time at a high speed.

The competing pairs played a round of rock, paper, scissors. The winning team decided whether they wanted to go first or second.

The team going first had one minute to finalize their code. After Team One’s turn, the second team then had another minute to work on their code.

We repeated this for three rounds.

Kids got very competitive trying to see who could get their robot closest to the center of the target (preferably knocking other robots out of the way in the process).

Kids Passive Program: Scavenger Hunts

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

There is nothing quite as appealing to kids of all ages as a scavenger hunt. These are particularly great passives, as the intended audience of school age children complete them, but younger siblings can too and therefore don’t feel left out.

We have made a ton of scavenger hunts at my library, and a few of my favorites are available to download below. Most scavenger hunts involve a sticker, 1″ button, or bookmark as the prize, typically made by department staff.

Dinovember Scavenger Hunt

I couldn’t help but use Land Before Time characters for the November 2019 Dinovember scavenger hunt.

Mother Bruce Scavenger Hunt

This was made for a Mother Bruce program, but I have used it a few times since. Little ones practice their counting skills by finding all 10 numbered geese.

Pokemon Scavenger Hunt

This scavenger hunt design is adapted from the amazing Ontarian Librarian blog. It makes an appearance in the week before my annual summer Pokemon Party.

Pooh Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

The Winnie the Pooh Count the Bees scavenger hunt has a different concept behind it–instead of finding six specific pictures, participants count how many bees they could find around the room. I believe I hid around 30, and anyone who gave an answer over 28 received the prize. 

Superhero Scavenger Hunt

My very first Imagination Station was superhero themed, and I created a superhero logo hunt around the youth department.

Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt

Definitely a fan favorite at our library, patrons loved this real-life Where’s Waldo game. 

Frozen Sing Along & Celebration

Whether you personally have children or not, it is impossible to work as a youth librarian and not be aware of the Frozen phenomenon. I am a Disney fan, and I have been waiting for the release of Frozen II since I started this job three years ago. I’m not kidding–I had the date for this program reserved in our meeting room scheduler for well over two years before the program finally occurred.

My library had hosted Frozen movie watching parties in the past, but I wanted to try something a little different. At the time this program was planned, I was still reeling from the Paw Patrol Program of 2019, when we had 300 people lined up outside of the building and around the corner to enter our Friday morning Paw Patrol event. Our meeting rooms, with stations set up inside, can not accommodate that many people. With those numbers in the back of my mind, I was definitely nervous about what a Frozen program would bring on a Saturday afternoon a week before the release of Frozen II.

To prepare for crowds, I structured this event much differently than other fandom based programs that I regularly run. The afternoon ran as follows:

  • 1-5 pm: Frozen Activity Stations in Youth Dept.
  • 2-2:40 pm: Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration Option 1
  • 3:30-4:15 pm: Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration Option 2

Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration

The star event was my performance–and yes, this was as close as I have gotten to a “performance” in a program–retelling the Frozen story in about 30 minutes with jokes and songs scattered throughout. The same show was presented twice during the day, to audiences of about 120 people each.

Technology

I relied heavily on technology to make this program work (which, as expected, worked flawlessly for the first program and exploded in fire like Kristoff’s sled for the second).

Two laptops were connected to our meeting room’s overhead projector. One was set to my powerpoint (included below) and the other had the Frozen Sing Along DVD set up. Under bonus features, the Sing Along DVD lets you jump right to the start of each song and takes you back to the song selection menu when finished.

Our projector remote allowed me to toggle between the two laptops with the press of one button. Essentially, when it was time to move into a song, I would continue spieling as I approached the laptops, would select the song on the second laptop, and would then press the button to change inputs on the remote. By the time the projector caught up, the DVD had as well, and the song was beginning. When I was ready for a song to end, even if I wanted to cut it off early (like after the part where the parents die in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”), I changed the input back to the other laptop. My powerpoint appeared on the screen again, while the song played on without sound on the other laptop, invisible to patrons, and returned to the menu screen by the time I was ready for the next song. This structure worked well throughout both performances until my HDMI cable decided that it didn’t want to play sound anymore.

I imagine that explanation isn’t entirely clear–please reach out or comment below if you want to talk through this more.

Presentation

The “show” involved me bumbling through a retelling of Frozen, sometimes getting things very wrong–such as forgetting that Kristoff exists or the entire ending to the story–and sometimes cracking jokes made for parents (such as the trolls making the excellent decision to terrify a 6-year-old Elsa by telling her that her powers are extremely dangerous, but not offering her any help with them when they obviously can do magic themselves).

I used the PowerPoint below to move through the storyline, breaking for most Frozen songs as they occur.

I’m not going to upload by script here, as I didn’t entirely stick to it, and I think it makes things more confusing, but if you would like to talk through what I did, please comment below.

Frozen Activity Stations

Meanwhile, before, during, and after my presentations, the youth department was covered with snowflakes and Elsas and included a collection of Frozen activity stations.

These were intentionally kept as low-key as possible, in an effort to not completely overwhelm our two youth librarians working in the department. Teen volunteers helped throughout the afternoon as well.

Frozen Scavenger Hunt

Visitors completed a scavenger hunt to track down a collection of Frozen characters. Scavenger hunt sheets and characters can be downloaded below. They received a sticker at the youth desk upon completion.

Elsa Crown Craft

Girls and boys decorated gorgeous Frozen crowns. I printed the crown outline on blue glitter cardstock from Amazon, and pre-cut the crowns. Adults and teen volunteers measured ribbon to tie to both sides of the crown to fit to their child’s head.

Sven Reindeer Antlers

Kids also had the option to make Sven Antlers, which were loved by many attendees (there were also some interesting crown/antler mashups).

Pin the Nose on Olaf

Finally, we had a Pin the Nose on Olaf activity that resulted in getting a Frozen bookmark. Due to some teen volunteer mishaps, this activity did not run according to plan, but we did end up with extra Frozen bookmarks to distribute for days afterward to many happy children.

Book Talk – 5th Grade Reads

My library has a fantastic relationship with our local school district. We regularly partner with teachers, principals, and entire school buildings in variety of ways, from daily public library delivery and end of year summer reading assemblies to quarterly book talk and storytime visits.

I love book talking in classrooms–it gives me an opportunity to talk to a captive room of kids about the library, but it also provides me with a chance to talk to students about what they want to see their library offer and about the kind of books they really like. It also gives me a chance to show that yes I have read the newest Dog Man, and I can discuss the evolution of Petey’s character throughout the series. No, librarians don’t just say shush and only read the “classics” you are forced to read in school, thank you very much random Westerville third grader.

Our book talks vary from school to school and classroom to classroom, but on average we talk to 50-100 kids at a time, typically all of the students in one grade at that school, for about 30 minutes. I bring along a PowerPoint that includes visuals to help students see the books that I am holding up (especially in those rooms with 100+ kids). We all bring bookmarks for each student with the cover of the books we are highlighting as well as information about library services and upcoming programs.

Selecting Books

My powerpoint for this week’s fifth grade presentation is displayed above. A lot of these books overlap books I would recommend to fourth graders, as we are still at the beginning of the school year.

I am very particular about how I curate the collection of books I select for a particular book talk. Our marketing team recently revamped the bookmarks we distribute at these visits, so we have to present either 6 or 9 books. My ideal 30 minute book talk is 7-8 books, but I am settling into book talking 9 titles each time I visit.

Each of my book talk collections must include:

  • Fiction and nonfiction (typically 5 fiction and 4 nonfiction)
  • At least 2 graphic novels, preferably at least 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction
  • At least 1 book with a male main character
  • At least 1 book with a female main character
  • At least 2 books with diverse main characters (preferably more)
  • At least 1 school story/realistic fiction title
  • At least 1 fantasy/science-fiction title
  • I have to have read every title.

I also like to include at least one creepy book, one book with cute things (often animals), and, for grades 2-3, one book about poop or farts. These requirements are more personal preference than standards I hold myself to.

Some books can overlap many of these categories–for example, The New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of my favorite book talkers, and that book has a diverse male main character, is a graphic novel, and is a school story.

I focus on selecting books that are good but that are also books kids will like. The Gamer Squad series is definitely not going to win any awards, but Pokemon Go is still quite popular where I live, and the kids respond positively to that series. I want to see kids reading, and I want to connect them with a book that actually sounds appealing to them. In my experience, kids pick up fun, new books with situations they can relate to than books that are beating the reader over the head with “important topics” or books that I remember from my childhood (which are often outdated and sometimes filled with problematic plots–Maniac Magee, anyone?).

5th Grade Reads

This particular book talk was designed for 85 5th Graders during their first quarter in school. After talking about library services and upcoming programs, I book talked the following nine titles:

I’m not going to type my book talk blurb for all of these (because this post is already pretty long), but my spiel for my favorite is below. This is also a great book to promote in October in general.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

If there was ever a perfect book talk title, this is it. It is the perfect combination of horror and mystery, with an excellent cliffhanger to leave students wanting more.

Ollie is riding her bike home from school, when she finds a strange woman yelling by a river. The woman is holding a book and threatening to throw it into the river. Ollie likes books and manages to distract the woman long enough to rescue the book and ride away. When she gets home, she discovers the book is a little strange–it is called “Small Spaces” and appears to be a diary about two brothers from a long time ago who loved the same woman. One of the brothers dies, and the other brother makes a deal with a smiling man to bring him back to life.

Ollie shrugs the creepy story and goes to school the next day. Her class is going on a field trip to a local farm. Things start to get strange. Ollie discovers that the woman who runs the farm is the same woman she saw by the river. While wandering on the property, Ollie discovers three hidden gravestones, with the same names as the two brothers and the woman from the book she rescued. Even stranger yet, their substitute bus driver is very odd–he just keeps repeating “avoid large spaces, stick to small.” Over and over and over again.

Ollie is relieved to leave the farm with her class, but as they drive away, their bus starts to slow down and eventually breaks down. It is getting darker, and no one’s cell phones have a signal. Their teacher decides to walk back to the farm to get help. It keeps getting darker and foggier, and the bus driver just keeps saying “avoid large spaces, stick to small.”

Ollie is very nervous now. She glances down at her digital watch. This watch is very important to her–her mom was wearing it when she died a year ago, and Ollie has been wearing it ever since. The kids on the bus are being loud–their teacher is gone after all–and no else seems to notice that it is much too dark and much too foggy for early evening. Ollie looks down at the cracked screen of her digital watch, and instead of numbers, it shows one word: RUN.

So she does.

(Insert gasps from the entire classroom here, followed by groans as I tell them to pick up the book.)

Book talking is a great way to help alert students and teachers to awesome new titles they might be interested in (I’ve had two teachers use Small Spaces as a classroom read after my book talk). It is also a fun way to show kids that libraries are more than books and librarians don’t just read the stuffy books kids associate with classroom assignments–we read the fun stuff too, and we enjoy them (I am the first hold on every new Dog Man release). It is extremely rewarding for everyone when a kid stops by the library specifically to ask for books a librarian brought to their classroom, and then sees that same librarian while they are visiting. They can chat about all kinds of awesome books and programs and topics–and, hopefully, that kid leaves thinking of the library as a welcoming place filled with interesting books and people.

Dog Man to the Rescue!

This summer, we celebrated our library’s most popular book character–Dog Man! Reflecting the passion for this book series and our busy summers, 110 patrons ages 6-10 (and their parents and younger siblings) attended this 1.5 hour event.

Over the last year, all of my unregistered fan-event programs have followed a similar template: two group activities at specific times and a variety of stations that attendees can visit at their leisure. The Dog Man program was no different.


Group Activities

Trivia

Dog Man trivia allowed those kids who have read every Dog Man book ten times a chance to show off their knowledge. About fifteen minutes into the program, trivia began. Kids wrote down their guesses for all 20 questions before self-grading their trivia sheets on the honor system. Everyone who participated got a bookmark, and the top three participants got to pick, in order of highest to lowest scores, from our trivia prizes: a stuffed Dog Man, a Dog Man lunchbox, and a copy of the first Dog Man book.

All questions and answers are available in the PowerPoint below (in addition to my opening program slides). Visit my slideshare page to download the full slideshow.

BINGO

While trivia is for the Dog Man experts, BINGO is for everyone. We play BINGO until everyone has earned a BINGO, with a few rounds so that new folks have a chance to jump in. Winners reached into a brown lunch bag to pull out a random Dog Man 1″ button.

To help kids who do not know every Dog Man book and character, all images have a number beside them. I call out the number in addition to the name of the image when I pull each picture out of the jar. All images are on all boards.

Download all 51 BINGO boards here, and the BINGO jar pieces here.


Stations

Police Academy Obstacle Course

Attendees trained like Dog Man and Dog Man’s police officer friends, making sure they have the physical agility to be prepared to save the day when needed. Today’s obstacle course included:

After completing the obstacle course, attendees received a Dog Man hat.

Petey’s Invention Lab: Robot Craft

You can’t have a Dog man program without some reference to the sometimes nefarious, sometimes good, Petey the Cat. Attendees built a simple robot craft from a cardboard tube and a variety of everyday craft supplies, including construction paper, pony beads, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, and more. Tubes were spray-painted silver before the program.

Make Your Own Comic

Dog Man books are comics (made by the George and Harold of Captain Underpants fame), so kids got a chance to make their own Dog Man comic strips. The blank comic sheets I used are available as free downloads from the picklebums website.

3Doodlers: Dog Man Edition

Dog Man 3Doodler Station

We bought 3Doodler Start pens as part of a technology grant a few years ago, and I use these magic pens whenever I can. They are very simple to use–turn the pen on, wait for the green light, then push the big orange button to make plastic come out of the tip. The plastic is warm, but never so hot that it risks burning anyone. Patrons leave programs with a physical, 3D-version of whatever they drew.

I provided Dog Man outlines for patrons to use, but I don’t think too many folks had much success with those. Mostly kids made what they wanted.

Button Making

Similar to the 3Doodler pens, our department 2.25″ button maker gets a lot of use, especially at public programs. Attendees selected a 2.25″ button image, cut it into a circle, and brought it and the needed button pieces to a teen volunteer who helped them make the button.

Download the 2.25″ button images here.

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Attendees had one last Dog Man activity to complete–a simple game of Pin the Head on Dog Man (because pinning hats or badges would be too simple). My awesome marketing department printed a large Dog Man body and three heads on our banner printer.

Participants got a sticker for completing the activity. These print on Avery 2.5″ round label sheets. Download here.