Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

1.4.2: Organization of the Environment Domain

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \(\newcommand{\avec}{\mathbf a}\) \(\newcommand{\bvec}{\mathbf b}\) \(\newcommand{\cvec}{\mathbf c}\) \(\newcommand{\dvec}{\mathbf d}\) \(\newcommand{\dtil}{\widetilde{\mathbf d}}\) \(\newcommand{\evec}{\mathbf e}\) \(\newcommand{\fvec}{\mathbf f}\) \(\newcommand{\nvec}{\mathbf n}\) \(\newcommand{\pvec}{\mathbf p}\) \(\newcommand{\qvec}{\mathbf q}\) \(\newcommand{\svec}{\mathbf s}\) \(\newcommand{\tvec}{\mathbf t}\) \(\newcommand{\uvec}{\mathbf u}\) \(\newcommand{\vvec}{\mathbf v}\) \(\newcommand{\wvec}{\mathbf w}\) \(\newcommand{\xvec}{\mathbf x}\) \(\newcommand{\yvec}{\mathbf y}\) \(\newcommand{\zvec}{\mathbf z}\) \(\newcommand{\rvec}{\mathbf r}\) \(\newcommand{\mvec}{\mathbf m}\) \(\newcommand{\zerovec}{\mathbf 0}\) \(\newcommand{\onevec}{\mathbf 1}\) \(\newcommand{\real}{\mathbb R}\) \(\newcommand{\twovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\ctwovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\threevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cthreevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\mattwo}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{rr}#1 \amp #2 \\ #3 \amp #4 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\laspan}[1]{\text{Span}\{#1\}}\) \(\newcommand{\bcal}{\cal B}\) \(\newcommand{\ccal}{\cal C}\) \(\newcommand{\scal}{\cal S}\) \(\newcommand{\wcal}{\cal W}\) \(\newcommand{\ecal}{\cal E}\) \(\newcommand{\coords}[2]{\left\{#1\right\}_{#2}}\) \(\newcommand{\gray}[1]{\color{gray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\lgray}[1]{\color{lightgray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\rank}{\operatorname{rank}}\) \(\newcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\col}{\text{Col}}\) \(\renewcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\nul}{\text{Nul}}\) \(\newcommand{\var}{\text{Var}}\) \(\newcommand{\corr}{\text{corr}}\) \(\newcommand{\len}[1]{\left|#1\right|}\) \(\newcommand{\bbar}{\overline{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bhat}{\widehat{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bperp}{\bvec^\perp}\) \(\newcommand{\xhat}{\widehat{\xvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\vhat}{\widehat{\vvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\uhat}{\widehat{\uvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\what}{\widehat{\wvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\Sighat}{\widehat{\Sigma}}\) \(\newcommand{\lt}{<}\) \(\newcommand{\gt}{>}\) \(\newcommand{\amp}{&}\) \(\definecolor{fillinmathshade}{gray}{0.9}\)

    Organization of the Environment refers to the extent to which the setting and interactions support appropriate behaviors, child engagement, and efficacious use of time. Acknowledging that storytime environments are different from classroom environments, here are some ways to adapt strategies in this domain to the storytime context. This domain includes behavior management, productivity, and instructional learning formats (Pianta et al., 2008).

    Behavior Management

    When you hear “behavior management,” it might call to mind classrooms and discipline, but behavior management definitely applies to storytime! Behavior management is an especially important element of organization because it decreases distractions while increasing the amount of time you, children, and caregivers can spend engaging in planned storytime activities and fun conversations. What’s more, behavior management in storytime is not just for the children but the caregiver participants, too, because purposefully engaging caregivers can help minimize disruptions such as cell phone conversation.

    The primary strategy for positive, effective behavior management is to clearly state behavior expectations at the beginning of the program, directing your comments to the caregivers. Librarians Carrie Rogers-Whitehead and Jennifer Fay (2010) posit that caregivers should be primarily responsible for managing children’s behavior but will benefit from your guidance in how to do this. Explain to caregivers how they can participate with the children to increase the children’s engagement. As an example and possible starting point for creating a list of expectations, Ghoting and Pugh (2020) recommend librarian Elizabeth Moreau Nicolai’s "Guidelines (Rules) for Storytime" post on her Born Librarian blog.

    Another way to facilitate appropriate behavior is by having caregivers sit with their children. Try maximizing engagement with a cluster seating arrangement (see the figure below). When children sit close to the reader or presenter, and when caregivers sit with their children, children engage more actively in shared reading and other storytime activities (Campana et al., 2020, Paciga et al., 2015). If you don’t already have adults sitting with children, try taking time as attendees arrive to directly encourage caregivers to sit with and participate with the children. Have some chairs or accessible seating available for anyone with an accessibility need. Seating can be a small change that makes an important difference in children’s engaged behavior!

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Cluster Seating Arrangement Example (Copyright; This Work)

    Other ways to facilitate appropriate behavior involve being proactive. Some strategies:

    • Alert children prior to transitioning from one activity to the next and remind both children and caregivers of expectations.
    • Praise a child who is doing the expected behavior instead of correcting a child who is not. Behavior “problems” often occur because a child is not aware of the behavioral expectations or wants attention, so giving your attention to positive behavior both reinforces expectations and encourages attention-seekers to follow expectations.
    • Phrase corrections positively, focusing on the behavior you would like to see (Ghoting & Pugh, 2020). For example, instead of saying, “Don’t stand up,” you can say, “Please sit on your bottom or stand in the back." Thank a child for following a correction.
    • When a child is repeatedly doing an unwanted behavior, give the child a choice between two good behaviors to do instead. You can also include why the wanted behavior is good. For example, if a child wants to stand up during the book reading, you might say, “When you stand up, the other children can’t see. So, you can stand to the side here [point to place] or you can stand in the back. That way everyone can see.”
    • Librarians Rogers-Whitehead and Fay (2010) explain that giving praise, using positive phrases, and giving good behavior choices are important strategies because caregivers may be offended if you “discipline” their child or, as they may see it, single their child out for negative attention. Rogers-Whitehead and Fay (2010) suggest asking a caregiver to address behavior, such as asking the child to sit in their lap or, if needed, taking the child out of the area.
    • It’s okay to ignore a harmless behavior, such as a child wandering around the room, if it is not distracting or disrupting (Ghoting & Pugh, 2020). Rogers-Whitehead and Fay (2010) advise that, especially for large storytimes with 30 or more attendees, “It is futile to expect everyone to be quiet; instead expect everyone to be engaged” (p. 9).
    • If a child is especially disruptive or is not following expectations week after week, try to talk to the child’s caregiver immediately after the program.
      • Be as positive as you can while clearly explaining your behavior expectations and asking the caregiver to join you in making a plan for how to help the child choose more appropriate behavior next time. Emphasize that you want the child to be engaged in storytime.
      • You could also ask what accommodations you may be able to make so that the child can enjoy the program without disrupting. Asking the caregiver the best way to modify the environment to support their child will show that you want to include their child (Prendergast, 2015). Many children with special needs are labeled disruptive and asked to leave programs. This is a chance for the caregiver to share strategies and work to support their child’s inclusion in the group.
    • Provide reusable name tags that caregivers can fill out for the children and themselves (Ghoting & Pugh, 2020; Rogers-Whitehead & Fay, 2010). Bonus: this will also help with building relationships and establishing a positive climate. If you notice a child becoming distracted, use their name before a comment or question to draw their attention back to the reading or activity. Children may be more engaged and less likely to choose inappropriate behavior if they know you are paying attention to them (Rogers-Whitehead & Fay, 2010).
    • Use a call and response phrase to regain children’s attention (Rogers-Whitehead & Fay, 2010). When you say the first word, the children say the second word (e.g. I say, “story,” you say, “time!” “Story” ”time,” “story” ”time,” “story” ”time!”).
    • Make whatever you’re reading into an interactive book. For example, have children put a hand on top of their head whenever you read a certain word; listening for this word can be an extra incentive for attention, especially in large groups where children may be more easily distracted (Rogers-Whitehead & Fay, 2010).
    • Decide some routines you will repeat and teach to caregivers and children (Ghoting & Pugh, 2020). Using the same opening song and closing song can be helpful. Additionally, you might provide a signal before you read each book such as a quiet rhyme or a hand puppet that introduces the book (Ghoting & Pugh, 2020).
    • Plan your agenda with children’s attention spans in mind. Rogers-Whitehead & Fay (2010) suggest these guidelines for the order of activities:

    Start with your longest book and move toward the easiest or most fun book, with some kind of fingerplay or song in between each title. Ending with a pop-up book, a flannel-board story, a story with large props, or one told with puppets is a great way to capture the last dregs of their attention spans. (10)

    For more ideas for effective agendas, read the next section on Productivity.

    • Flexibility can be just as important as a well-planned agenda. In response to children’s moods, interests or energy levels, it’s okay to skip pages or stop reading a book (Rogers-Whitehead & Fay, 2010). See the section on Regard for Children’s Perspectives in the Emotional Support Domain for more ideas about flexibility.
    • Before responding to misbehavior, consider whether your involvement will help or only exacerbate the issue.


    Productivity refers to the ways in which you prepare for and manage time, routines, and transitions. Even though productivity per se isn’t a goal of storytime (you and the children aren’t trying to “produce” or create a “product”), strategies for encouraging productivity help ensure that time is spent wisely and are therefore beneficial to children’s enjoyment and engagement.

    Consider how you handle transitions from one activity to the next. It may be helpful to add a song or rhyme to signal to children what activity is coming next and what behavior is expected during that activity. Visual cues, such as posters or a visual schedule, are another helpful strategy for transitions that may be especially beneficial for children with developmental delays or sensory differences.

    It may be helpful to create a schedule or agenda for activities so that while the content of the activities may vary every session, the order of activities remains the same. Here is an example schedule from a family storytime at Vancouver Public Library (de Freitas & Prendergast, 2015):

    Another key aspect of productivity involves preparing the physical environment and needed materials. Before the storytime session, set up the room or designated area so that you have easy, quick access to whatever materials or technology you will use in every activity. Taking time to “set the stage” allows for smooth transitions and maximum engagement with children and caregivers.

    Instructional Learning Formats

    Don’t let the lengthy label turn you off. This is an area where many librarians already excel! It simply means giving children a variety of opportunities to be involved in activities, facilitating and expanding engagement, and anticipating and responding to children’s interests. You likely already do this by including not just book reading but also discussions, singing, action rhymes, dancing, and maybe even flannel board activities, play time, or craft-making in your storytimes.

    Another aspect of this dimension involves clarity of learning objectives which simply means making the purpose of an activity clear. Explicitly connect each activity or component of storytime with what participants will be able to know and do during or after engaging in the activity. For each storytime component, explain the “what” and “why” before beginning the activity and then summarize after the activity is finished. Consider adding objectives to your visual schedule of planned activities to remind yourself to talk about the objectives as you transition into and out of each activity. In addition to the Office of Head Start’s Early Learning Outcomes Framework (summarized in the 4.4.3: Caregiver Goal- School Readiness section of Path 4), two resources for choosing learning objectives and connecting them to storytime activities are:

    1.4.2: Organization of the Environment Domain is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.