Ask a Storytime Ninja: Storytime for 5th and 6th Graders

Welcome to the first Ask a Storytime Ninja of 2014 (which, in case you haven’t heard is the Year of the Ninja)!

The question:

I work primarily with fifth and sixth graders, and I want to offer regular storytime-style programs for them. What sorts of modified storytime plans and activities do you use with these older elementary children?

The answers (don’t forget to add your own answers in the comments):

Amy (@amyeileenk) says:

When I provide storytime-style programs for older children, I tend to focus on folktales and oral storytelling. So many older folktales are a bit too long, or too gruesome, or too scary for young children, but fourth through sixth graders are the perfect audience. My favorites are “Mr. Fox” and “Toads and Diamonds.” These longer stories mean we just do one or two stories in our “storytimes,” and I like to round out the experience with some mood-setting music, a short video that ties in with the theme, and readers’ theatre, where the children themselves engage in a retelling. I’m hoping to experiment with video or audio-recording these child-led retellings, too, to make the whole experience even more meaningful and focused on multiple literacies.

Kim (@LibrarianMarian) says:

I’ve done read alouds of Non-fiction for older kids. Usually I chose interesting subjects like Vlad the Impaler or The Great and Only PT Barnum. This came from a workshop I attended by Michael Sullivan some time ago ( who said that non-fiction read-alouds might reach out to your young male patrons better. I’ve also done poetry and had them attempt the style afterwards.

Learn about Ask a Storytime Ninja and ways to participate here.


About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on January 7, 2014, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I was out of town and missed the deadline for this Ask a Ninja, so I’m going to chime in with a comment. I haven’t done a storytime type program for this age group, but I’m going to recommend a book that made a huge impression on my entire 5th grade class when our school librarian read it to us. One of my friends loved it so much that she chose to memorize it in 8th grade and perform the entire book for us for an English class assignment (we all had to memorize a poem of at least 10 lines written by ourselves or someone else). It is The Creation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. Amazon link:

  2. We do programs like this fairly often for a Montessori school (that goes up to 6th grade) here in town and we’ve also started a “older kids” storytime along the lines of Amy’s amazing Book Bunch Picnic Lunch ( it’s been lower attendance during the school year, but I’m sure it will pick up in summer. Sometimes we get up to 6th at that since, in our community, middle school starts in 7th grade.

    So – I’ve found that this is a great chance to do books with more wordplay. They loved CRANKEE DOODLE and laughed so hard at some parts we had to wait a second or two to start again. But they also love silly humor. CRANKENSTEIN and COUNT THE MONKEYS have been hits, even though they are ostensibly “younger” books. And ditto to Amy’s folklore – we read PANCAKES FOR SUPPER and they were chanting the refrain at the end. Yes, 5th and 6th graders.

    I’d also recommend this as the perfect time to think in other genres! For instance: great picture book non-fiction. The week Nelson Mandela died, we read THE HERD BOY and WHEN GOGO WENT TO VOTE and talked about the larger issues at hand. I did an older storytime/creation session where we read ACTION JACKSON and then listened to jazz and did Pollack-like painting. We read MY NAME IS CELIA and then listened to some Celia Cruz music. (Biographies are especially ripe for this area of combination. You could even do some STEM programming using biographies of scientists! [one of my plans for this summer…])

    You might even think outside of picture books: I selected several passages and pictures from MOONBIRD and then we learned some best Internet searching practices/explored library databases to find out more about Moonbird, shorebirds, and conservation.

    I love working with this age group and I love the idea that we can still have storytime for them. STORYTIME FOREVER! 😀

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