Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flannel Board Fun For All

I've been a part of several discussions lately regarding the use of flannel boards in the classroom. One of the recurring themes is that teachers don't seem to use them very often.  There seems to be a wide variety of reasons for this ranging from the inconvenience of the board itself to lack of variety of pieces available.

It's a shame, because they are such a great tool in the classroom. They promote literacy and math skills and are an excellent way to promote retelling of stories by the children.  I have a few that I use for different purposes. One on an easel is used for our large group teaching. During large group time, I use the pieces and during subsequent re-tellings, allow the children to help place the pieces at appropriate moments in the story. Even the most hesitant to participate will usually agree to help with flannel board stories.  Another feltboard is available for the children to use independently. I love to sit back and listen as the children manipulate the pieces and tell the story or make up one of their own!

Felt or flannel boards  can be purchased in a variety of sizes or you can make your own. This is the back of my portable whiteboard easel that is just covered in felt. This is the one I usually use when I teach.

 I also have one of the standard black felt boards that run about $40 to $70 at the educational supply stores/sites. (There are pictures of it further down with the dinosaur felt story.) I keep this one in my literacy center with several story sets for the children to play with independently.

My friend made this one for an ECE class she was taking. I'm thrilled that she's donated it to my classroom. It's simply felt glued to cardboard with a ribbon border. I love that is is so bright and cheerful!

Felt boards don't have to be big, or permanent. I have a couple of pieces of felt that can be rolled out and played with on a table.  Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool notes:
"I have little trays that I glued felt in to make felt trays. I make extra sets of all my flannel boards and lay them out with the trays at one of the centers for the children to play with."
 I have also seen miniature felt stories in pizza boxes lined with felt. These are really cute and the perfect size for little hands to manipulate. I really do hope to make some soon.

Flannel board pieces can be purchased or made a variety of ways. Most teachers have a few pre-made sets. Glitterful Felt Stories has some nice ones that aren't too pricey and correspond with many of the stories and fingerplays that we teachers already know. 

Teacher supply companies like Lakeshore Learning sell pre-made felt stories.  This is a dinosaur set I inherited when my aunt retired.

Teacher Tom wrote about his own homemade flannelboard and this little flannel story, Five Balloons Way Up High,  that he uses in his class to work on numbers and counting. I think this will be an easy one to make and definitely on my "to do" list!

It's fun to get creative and find new ways to make a set of pieces. The key is to select a few of the story elements to help illustrate. Often, too many pieces make it hard to keep track of during the story.
This bunny story with 5 carrots is one of the simplest I've made. I just cut a few little pieces of felt out and glued them together.

The pieces I made for the story "How Mr. Fox Got His Red Coat" were a little more involved.

 One of my favorite homemade stories is a flannelboard story about hibernation. For this one, each color is a separate piece so I can add elements throughout the story.

Felt stories don't have to be made from felt. There are lots of great sites that you can download and print story pieces from. I usually laminate and add felt or velcro to the back. I have even found that applying a couple of coats of Rubber Cement (be sure to allow to to dry well) on the back of laminate will provide just enough "sticky" to work well on a felt board.

A few dots of Velcro work well
or simply glue some felt on the back.

 Patterns or printables for felt stories can be found everywhere on the internet. Jean Warren's Preschool Express has lots of patterns and songs/stories available for free. Webbing Into Literacy has some great stories and rhymes included in their lessons that are easily converted into felt stories~ two favorites in my classroom are "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Some of the teacher resource books often include clipart that can be used. Here's a pre-colored version of the 3 Little Pigs I got from a Mailbox magazine.

 This story for the Napping House was made from a blackline master worksheet from a teacher book that featured literature tie in activities. Many of us are no longer using worksheets or coloring sheets in our classrooms. This is a great way to use some of those things in a new way!

Sometimes, I use coloring pages to find images that will fit my stories. These are coloring pages I printed out to make a Thanksgiving story that we wrote as a class one year that is fashioned after "Brown Bear, Brown Bear".

Even mismatched pieces can be fine. I'm sure my students don't even realize that this set for the apple cutting story, "Little Bear's Star" are a bunch of pictures I gathered together when I lost most of the pieces to the first set and needed to put something together on the fly.

The 5 Little Pumpkins pieces are simple die cuts from back in the day when I had regular access to an Ellison machine. Boy, I sure miss that Ellison! *sigh*.

This was a stick puppet page that I made into a Christopher Columbus story.

Last year, my mom went to the Pacific Northwest and picked up these postcards for me. I do a lot of storytelling about the Native Alaskans when I teach my polar unit. These will be a great addition to our flannel board!

One my most innovative sets was made from a set of window clings. I already had a story about a small little pumpkin who is worried about not being picked from the pumpkin patch for Halloween. I later saw this set of window clings in the dollar store. Each one of the characters in the story matched the window clings perfectly!

I glued some felt on the back and voila!~an instant flannel board set! I can definitely say that over the years, this is a big favorite out of all the sets we use.

One last note: I use the terms "felt board" and "flannel board" interchangeably. I have always called it a "flannelboard", but have heard others use the term "felt board". I honestly don't know if there is any actual distinction.
If you use flannel boards (or felt boards :) in your classroom, I'd love to hear about your favorite flannel board story or props!


  1. These are so great! Thank you so much for including us in your post!

  2. It must be that time, I just posted about our new flannel board! We hinged ours to a bookshelf! I love all of your sets! I know we will be making them pretty regularly, The children LOVE the larger size we have now!

  3. What a great post, Ayn! Thanks for putting so much of your knowledge (and time!) into creating this. I know I'll be bookmarking it and coming back again and again. =)

  4. @Deborah~thanks!

    @Shelby~ so glad I was able to include your site. You've got some really great felt stories available!

    @Amy~ Thanks for sharing your post~ I enjoyed reading about it~

    @Tom~ I love that you are "pro-feltboard"! I hope to make your "5 Balloons" story this week!

  5. One of our favorite things to do on the flannel board is this....after we tell a story, we have the children close their eyes and then we take off one of the characters and say "What's missing?" The children never tire of this game and work so hard to be the first to figure it out!
    Deborah in SC


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