Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Letter of the Day

I love being a mentor.  I have been an ALSC mentor for the past several years.  Last spring I was privileged with the opportunity to mentor two UW interns as they gained children's librarianship experience at my library.  What I love most about being a mentor is learning from my mentees.  Working at a stand alone library means that I get few chances to just talk about professional matters with others in my profession.  The mentoring I do, gives me these chances with people from different backgrounds who are new to the profession.  Sometimes I am stuck in a rut, and I need somebody to show me another way to do things.  Sometimes I become complacent with my experience, and I need somebody outside my organization to ask me why I do things the way I do.  Sometimes I get wonderful ideas.  At some point or another, all of my mentees have made me think and learn something new.  It is wonderful!

It was one of my mentees who got me thinking about a new feature to my weekly storytimes.  The "letter of the day" idea is not new.  I have seen it used at other storytimes, including at storytimes where I took my sons.  But it is new to my storytimes.

After observing one of my storytimes, a mentee asked how I bring alphabetic knowledge and writing concepts to my storytime.  He had not seen any at this particular storytime.  (See Nigel, I was listening!)  After admitting this was a weakness on my part, I got to thinking.  Why don't I have these elements in my storytimes?  I know from research and webinars that these are important.  How can I introduce these concepts into my already full storytime plan in a way that is appropriate for my toddler (ages 1-3 years old) crowd?

I considered these questions for several months.  Finally I tried out the "letter of the day" idea.  (Watching Sesame Street with my youngest son might have been a huge inspiration.)

For each storytime I print out one letter to focus on.  I tape this letter to the table I put my materials on so that my audience can see it throughout the storytime.  At some point in my storytime I stop and grab the letter.  I name the letter.  I say what word from our storytime theme starts with the letter.  I then point out the shapes that make up the letter (straight line, curved line, half circle, circle, etc.).  Next, I show the children how to make the letter in the air and then we all do it together.

In all it takes about 1.5 minutes to do this.  After some experimenting, I found doing it between my flannelboard and second book acts as a nice transition.  I am now talking about different letters of the alphabet in my storytimes while introducing the idea that we all can write these letters.

I am happy with my new storytime addition.  The other morning before storytime started I overheard a mom pointing out the letter of the day to her son.  She quietly talked with her son about other words that start with that particular letter.

I am glad this old dog learned a new trick.  I am also thankful to my mentee for inspiring me to think beyond my comfort place.

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