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    Go Big or Go Home Part 2: More Giant Fun

    Go Big or Go Home is easily the most popular post I’ve ever done, and I’m happy to say that I was able to round up a couple more ideas for giant activities for special library events. I’ve even found one or two for the younger set.

    Giant Version of LCR from DIY Showoff. You could also use red plastic plates for discs and save yourself a lot of work.



    The Apex HS Art Department has a full PDF explanation of how to create an amazing post-it note mural



    If you have some easily cleaned space try some spirograph-like  Pendulum Painting from Martha Stewart:



    How about something big for the little ones?  Studio DIY has a giant matching game.   



    Or maybe a giant game of Tic Tac Toe Toss like this one from Multi-Testing Mommy?

    Giant Tic Tac Toss

    There are many different ways to make large dice for all your gaming needs. I’ve had good luck with inflatable dice in the past, but I really like these fabric dice from Craftbits especially for younger kids.





    Teen Programs

    Ice Breakers for Teen Program Success

    Teens love to express their opinions, but most of us have had a TAB, book group, or other program where teens are just not talking. Like everyone else most teens are more willing to express themselves when they are comfortable with the people around them. If your group is made up of teens who don’ know each other or who know each other from school but don’t otherwise socialize you might try some ice breakers to warm them up.

    There are lots of icebreakers online and in books, but in my experience good icebreakers for programs:

    • Need little introduction
    • Require few materials
    • Do not require too much personal information
    • Do not involve touching more than hand to hand
    • Do not have a single winner, or preferably a winner at all

    Once a group is comfortable with each other you might move on to more complex team-building activities that sometimes go beyond these rules, but that’s a different post for a different time.

    Running icebreakers successfully

    • Know your audience. For example, if you have a lot of teens from conservative and/or homeschool families you might pass on games that require pop culture knowledge.
    • Be flexible. Yes, this is the number one key to youth services in general but it goes twice for activities with no import like icebreakers. If it’s not working well cut it off and try something else.
    • Participate! You want them to be comfortable with you as well as each other. If it’s something you don’t want to do chances are they don’t either.
    • Start slow. If you have a really quiet or shy group don’t jump into the high activity list right away.
    • Unless you know and trust the group “I Never” is a very, very bad idea.

    great group games

     This book is in my own personal resource collection and it has a lot of ideas from simple ice breakers to more complex team building games. Each activity lists the time it takes, supplies, set-up, and how to play. They also include questions if you are looking for deeper lessons in the activities. There is now a kid’s edition that looks like a good choice as well.

    A few favorites:

    Song Battle

    Split the group in two and pick a word that appears in a lot of songs like love, happy, or baby. The teams take turns singing a song with the chosen word in it until one team can’t think of a song that hasn’t been used.  Alternatively you can do this Pitch Perfect style where each team has to sing a song with a word taken from the song sung before it.

    Birthday Line-Up

    Without talking the group has to line up from youngest to oldest.

    Three Questions

    Have each person in the group write down three questions for everyone to answer.  Things like their favorite book, farthest they’ve traveled, favorite meal etc.   If needed warn the group that you are reading the questions and you’ll skip any that aren’t appropriate. Put all the questions in a bowl and draw them out giving everyone in the group a chance to answer.

    The Wind Blows

    Place the chairs in a circle. There is one less chair than persons. The person without a chair stands in the middle and says “The wind blows everyone who…” and finishes with something simple and not too personal.  “Is wearing blue”, “Had cereal this morning”, “Is in 9th grade” etc.  Anyone who fits the description has to get up and find  a new chair. The person left without a chair is now in the middle and has to come up with something.  I’ve never had it happen but it is possible the question could go somewhere unfortunate, a simple “try again” should get the point across.


    Pass around M&Ms and tell each teen to take a few. Once everyone has their candy tell them they need to share one thing about themselves for each candy they have. This is extra fun because being greedy totally backfires.


    The group sits in a circle and everyone says their name. One person is in the middle with a pool noodle or pillow. A name is called and the person in the middle has to whomp the person whose name was called on the leg before that person can say their name and someone else’s. If the middle person manages to whomp the person they switch places, if the person says two names first the person in the middle stays and the person whose name was said second calls out the next name.

    If you don’t have time to search for more on your own you can buy 21 mixers/icebreakers complete with graphics from Youth Leader Stash.

    Programs Teen Programs Uncategorized

    Jump Start Your Book Club: A Change Will Do You Good

    Welcome to a new occasional feature: Jump Start Your Book Club. Over the next couple months I’ll be sharing ideas for making book club an engaging and meaningful experience for youth.

    This month I want to talk about ways to have a book club outside of the two most common formats:

    1. One book is selected per month. Patrons read the book on their own time and then show up to a discussion where they answer questions about the book.  Read, Rinse, Repeat.

    2. Patrons come to book club and talk about whatever they are reading. The librarian shows off some new titles and takes suggestions.

    There is nothing wrong with either of these formats. I’ve been successful with both of them at different times and in the future I’ll be sharing some ideas for making them even better. But what if they aren’t working for you and your patrons? What if you just need a change?

    Here are five ideas to spice things up:

    Book Club without the Book

    You can accomplish many of the same goals with a “bookless” book club. Instead of reading a book, simply read something else. Copy several poems, a short story, or a news article of specific interest to teens and pass them out. Teens can read them on the spot and then discuss them. They are still reading, analyzing, expressing themselves, and building social skills with no specific preparation required. Talk about lowering the barriers to participation. This can also be a great way to introduce readers to poetry or short story collections they would otherwise overlook.

    Limited Run Book Club

    I’ve often invited patrons to book club only to have them say “I’m not a member”.  Easily cleared up of course, but how many kids just assume they aren’t “in the club” or simply are not outgoing enough to join a group of people that has already been meeting for some time? A limited run book club might solve this problem.  Not only that, but a wise librarian can schedule it when they know there aren’t other huge events going on in their community.

    Another layer to this format is to pick a theme or author for the three meetings and discuss the books within the larger context as well as individually. This is a great time to mix in some non-fiction titles as well.

    A few ideas:

    Girls and Guys
    The Environment
    Books into Movies
    Zombie Zone
    Jane Austen
    John Green

    Quarterly Book Club

    Teens in some communities are over scheduled. Reading a specific book outside of school might be hard to fit into their lives. What if they had three months to do it?  What if book club was something fun that happened on school breaks instead of feeling like another lesson or obligation. Would that work in you library?

    The longer time frame could also support picking longer books that might be tough to finish in a month  otherwise (The Diviners, for example or a Harry Potter title for younger readers). It could also open the door to more complex titles for high school students like something from the Outstanding Books for the College Bound List. You might attract a completely different group of readers.

    As a bonus this also reduces the number of copies the library needs to keep on the shelves since patrons have multiple checkout periods to read the book.

    Genre Book Club

    In my first professional job I was lucky that the local middle school had a wonderful media specialist. She hosted a very well attended monthly book club for her students based around genre. Every month they would pick a different genre and the students could read any book they liked that fit the genre. Suggestions were provided but there were no real restrictions.  Sometimes it was interesting to hear middle schoolers try to explain why their book “counted” as a particular genre.

    I think this works particularly well with third to eighth graders as they are more willing to keep an open mind when picking books that aren’t their usual cup of tea.  While I didn’t originally mean all those ages together it does strike me that this would be a great solution for a multi-age group as each level could pick appropriate books while the elements of the genre remain the same for discussion.

    Guest Speaker Book Club

    While this is easily the most work to arrange it could also have a great pay off.  Invite a guest speaker from your community to participate in book club. Work with them to pick a book relevant to their expertise and let them share a unique perspective with the kids.

    A local detective could bring a mystery to life, or a math teacher could help dive in to An Abundance of Katherines. There are lots of titles that would work with veterans, or pair a book like Breathing Underwater or Dreamland with a visit from a dating violence prevention speaker.  For younger readers a visit from a veterinarian  or even the school principal might add another layer to a chosen title.


    Programs Teen Programs

    Sneaky Literacy: The Great Debate


    Teens love to argue. Just suggest they might have broken a rule and watch them go. Why not harness that for good and get them thinking at the same time by hosting a great debate? Pick a  book related controversy and challenge them to find evidence in the text to support their opinion. You can even invite a coach or student from a local debate club to give a mini-lesson on building arguments and using evidence before you let them loose.

    What kind of things can they argue about?

    • Team Gale vs. Team Peeta vs. Team Katniss
    • Should Draco Malfoy be in Azkaban?
    • Sirius Black: Doting Godfather or Insane Hypocrite?
    • Superman vs. Batman vs. Spiderman
    • What is John Green’s (or any author with multiple popular books) best work?
    • Are there girl books and boy books?
    • Can you judge a book by it’s cover?


    Programs Teen Programs

    Sneaky Literacy: “Best Of” Lists Program Brainstorm


    Original photo credit: Shorts and Longs

    If you read my post on Restaurant Wars you know I love programs that sneak writing, reading, research, and critical thinking in the back door. Another program that accomplishes this is running some kind of “Best Of” list program where teens create a top 10 or top 25 list. This can also give your teens a bit of a voice when their tastes are reflected by more mainstream lists.

    Top List Topic Suggestions:

    • Best Books Ever
    • Best Books of the Last Year
    • Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands) Songs of the Year
    • Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands)Songs Ever
    • Best Reality Show/Worst Reality Show
    • Best Movies/Worst Movies
    • Best Literary Characters

    Your options here are pretty unlimited. I think that this would work best as a passive program with a regular program to announce the final results. You might consider a kick-off program as well as the finale. If you have the  ability to take nominations via a Google Form and create an online poll for the voting all the better. You could certainly do it via paper nomination forms and ballots as well. I’m also including ideas for doing this as a single program if that fits your library better.

    Nomination Phase

    This is where all those good skills come in. I would create a handout with library resources related to the topic. For example if you were doing music take this opportunity to highlight music criticism resources and databases with music magazine articles. Patrons can then nominate a candidate for the list via whatever form you provide.

    Your form should ask “Why” and let nominators know they should be as persuasive as possible with their answer and not just write “because they’re awesome”. This is where they want to find evidence from those resources and clearly write out their case. Set a deadline for nominations and display them all once the deadline has past. Keep the nominator’s name a secret to avoid any drama on the popularity front.

    Voting Phase

    Set a deadline for everyone to vote on the nominations,encouraging them to read the nominations carefully. A week should do it, this isn’t ALA after all. Once all the votes are in take the ten highest vote-getters as your Top Ten or if you have a lot of entries you can expand the list to Best -Blank-.

    Finale Program

    If you want to keep it passive you can do a bulletin board or display to announce your winners, but it would be more fun to do a red carpet announcement of the winners. Serve popcorn and punch in fancy plastic glasses. Create a stage and build up the reveal. Start with the bottom of the list and work your way to the top. “The #3 movie of all-time, as voted on by you is ________ nominated by Nominator’s Name.”

    One Program Variation

    Sometimes we know that kind of extended program won’t work in our library. No problem. Bring some resources and some patrons into the room and let them verbally duke it out finishing the session with a vote. They can practice social and argumentation skills by having a (hopefully) civilized discussion while making a case for their favorites. Think of it like a mini-selection committee session.

    What would change or add about this program idea?