Sunday, September 20, 2015

Classroom Library Redo! Part 2: Organizing, Leveling,

This is part two of a two post series.  
You can catch Part 1: Purging & Restocking Your Classroom Library by clicking HERE.
Sorry for the delay on this post.  I have been trying to do a Periscope tour of my library, which I wanted to embed in this post.  It hasn't quite worked out, so I'm just (finally!) going ahead.

Welcome to part two of our classroom library redo!  Now that we have our libraries purged of MUSTIES and have new(ish?) books ready to add, it's time to look at how your library is organized.
There are so many different thoughts on this.  I'm going to start with my library.  It is organized by both level and genre. Here are a few pictures to give you an overview. It begins with a small sign (that is really overexposed for some reason) which explains the baskets and a few other pics taken on different days.  Take a look!

All these blue, red, green, and yellow baskets are from the Dollar Tree many years ago  I am still surprised at how they have held up so well, especially since they are collapsible.  In the pic above, you can see a bunch folded up extras at the bottom of the cubbies. 
The red baskets are my leveled books, mixed fiction and nonfiction. If you are required to have a leveled library, I think it is important to also have a genre based section.  I want my kids to not feel tethered to a book basket because it is "their" level.  I want their reading selection to also be more interest based.  Knowing it is a book they actually are interested in will make them want to read it more than knowing it is their level.

The yellow baskets are all nonfiction.  Of course, I don't have every category, but there is a nice mix of topics I know are of interest to my students and projects we work on.

The blue and green baskets are all fiction.  Some baskets are labeled by genre, but there are a bunch of baskets labeled as Assorted Fiction which just have a mix of fiction books. I like having those assorted baskets because some children will never venture from what they know they like.  If they like graphic novels, they will always go to that basket.  If I tell them there are other graphic novels mixed in the assorted fiction baskets, they then end up browsing through an assortment of genres.  You never know what might catch their eye!

These large baskets below rest on the floor and hold picture books and larger, over-sized books that don't fit on the shelves.  These baskets are really large and hold a ton of books.

I found it really important to have some clear labels on every basket so my friends can easily find books and correctly return them.  On my library sign out sheet, there is a column to put in the basket label.  This way when they sign the book in, there's no guessing where they got it from and I don't end up with books randomly shoved in just any basket. I made all these labels and I love them, but oh my!  Totally did not think about having to cut out all those loops!  
I keep some favorite series books on a wooden shelf and new books are put on these display stands that I got at Dollar Tree.  These are perfect book stands! For just a buck, I was able to pick up a bunch of them. Dollar Tree tends to have them in stock all year, so you can still pick some up.
             Braided Metal Easels

I use my Scholastic Points to get a few new books each month.  Then, I spotted this fantastic idea from an Instagram post by A Rocky Top Teacher.  When she gets new books, the kids that want the book get a ticket to write their name  on and put it in the cup.  Once all the tickets are in, you pick one so that person gets first dibs. The other kids can put it on their "To Read' list. I thought this was a genius idea because I see kids from seven different classes.  I had been trying to figure out how to distribute new books fairly and this works perfectly. It prevents the kids from my first period class always getting the new books. It works great with a single class too, especially if you have lots of kids that want to read the same book. So, that's what the cups are for. I use plastic cups and a dry erase marker to write the title so that I can wipe it off when done.

The big book shelf below is introduced after a couple of weeks of school.  It is a place for teacher and student recommended books.  The small teacher section holds some books I know my friends will love.  The larger section is for my friends.  If they have a book they love and want to recommend, they fill out a quick half sheet that basically tells why they recommend the book without giving away the ending.  It gets tucked in the book for browsers to read.  I do the same for the books I recommend. It's a great spot to take a friend that is having trouble selecting a book on their own. 

  Lets' quickly talk about building book excitement.  There is one, foolproof, never fail, way to do it.  It's not the only way, but it's the best one!  I'm talking about. . . 
Never underestimate the power of a good book talk!

There are a few different kinds of book talks, but I'm referring to a general book talk by the teacher when you bring new books into your library.  When I have a stack of new books for the month, I gather my friends in a circle on the carpet and we briefly go through each one.  This is where the show begins.  My excitement level for these new books transfers to my friends, so I (whether I really am or not) am totally excited about each and every book as I talk about it. We discuss the cover, I read the back, tell my connections, my thoughts.  I may read a small section from the book or just a line.  In Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin, the very fist line of the book is, " My mother named me after a cow's rear end." If that doesn't hook your students, nothing will! Mine dissolved into a fit of giggles and after that book talk almost all wanted to read it. Scholastic puts out this flyer on how to give a book talk.  It is mostly geared towards kids, but the tips also apply to a teacher given book talk. I tried to find more resources for teacher book talks, but there really isn't much out there. Honestly, just show your enthusiasm for the books, find a hook in the text, and they will want to read them.

Some other easy ways to build book excitement for your classroom library:
  • Golden Tickets!  In random books, I hide golden tickets. They are tucked in well so that they don't fall out when browsing but are found while reading.  The ticket allows the reader to claim a small prize.  I started using the golden tickets from The Nifty Librarian's Tpt store.  It is a free download which is editable so you can change it to your name and how it works if you like. I've since created my own, but those are a good place to start.
  • Wrap Books!  Some months, I will wrap the new books like presents and allow students to unwrap the book which is the one we do a book talk on.  For this, we do one a day with a quick book talk. Honestly, this takes no more than five minutes.  It's the unwrapping of the book that is the hook.  They can't wait to see what it is.I also sometimes pull books I already have that are good but just not circulating.
  • Bulletin Boards!  In my class library, I do a monthly (if I don't forget to change it!) author spotlight and genre spotlight.  The book talk at the beginning of the month revolves around getting to know the author and his/her books.  I always try to find something interesting or quirky about the author that captures my friends' interests.  Then, when we do the genre spotlight, I can showcase books that some of my friends may have never thought about reading. Our spotlight this  month is on the author Andrew Clements and the realistic fiction genre.
  • Read Aloud!  I think liking to be read to transcends every age.  I have clear memories of being in 5th grade and my teacher reading the book The Man in the Box to us every day after lunch. It is set during the Vietnam War and tells the story of a captured American soldier who is tortured and put in a box in the hot sun and how he is helped and eventually freed and brought to safety by a young Vietnamese boy who lives in the village. I remember the book being so boring at first.  Not exactly the reading material a 5th grade girl is likely to select.  However, my teacher made that book come alive and our class couldn't wait to get back from lunch to read that book. I remember venturing into the historical fiction genre for books afterwards, which is something I probably never would have done if not for that read aloud.
  • What are you reading?  This year, I've made a commitment to read more of the books my friends are reading.  Mostly because I realized I had not been keeping up.  My friends were reading and wanting to talk about books I didn't know.  This year, I've been reading tons of books.  It has me excited about their books and enables me to have some great in-depth conversations about books with them.  It has also helped me be much better at fitting books to my readers.  If I can talk genuinely about a book with real knowledge of it, I can sell it!  It has also helped to improve my reading conferences.  While we don't have to have read the book we conference about, I have to say it does help.
These are just a few simple ways to build excitement in your library.  There's more, but this went on way longer than I intended!   If you are still reading, thank you! :-) I hope some of this has been even just a bit helpful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Classroom Library Redo! Part 1: Purging and Restocking Your Classroom Library

 This is part one of a two post series.  

I have always loved having a big class library. It has really  helped me create readers out of my most reluctant students. But, over the years I realized that I had been lazy and sort of let my library go.  It  really hit home when I went to a workshop by Donalyn Miller and read her book Reading in the Wild. Holy Moly! If you read it, be prepared to look at your class library with new eyes and be compelled to improve things! It was this quote that really made me rethink my library:

  ". . . remember why we build classroom libraries 
in the first place: so our students will fall in love with reading and find the right book at the right time. We cannot offer our students meaningful              book access with damaged, outdated, 
or uninteresting materials." (p. 86)

Yes, a lot of my library was MUSTIE.  MUSTIE is Donalyn's acronym for the six factors librarians use when removing books from their collections.   Essentially, MUSTIE asks if your books are Misleading (contain information that is no longer accurate), Ugly (torn, ripped, yellowed, etc,), Superseded (having older copies of books that are often updated), Trivial (books that don't engage most of your readers), Irrelevant (outdated, no longer popular), or can be found Elsewhere.  I really suggest you read her book, especially chapter 2: Curating a Classroom Library, where Donalyn goes in to much more detail.  Using the MUSTIE criteria, I did a huge purge of books in June, at the end of last school year.  I ended up pulling about 275 books.   These are just some.

Once I had all the books pulled, I let my students take home as many as they wanted.  Honestly, I had kids coming from classes I don't even teach asking for books.  Anyone that asked for a book got at least one. I even had kids taking books home for siblings. I realized this when one of my toughest boys was holding on to a fairy tale story book. When I asked and he explained it was for his little sister, I wanted to give him a huge hug.  Of course, I couldn't because that would totally have messed with his tough guy image! It was so great to send kids home with books they wanted to read over summer vacation.

I then spent the summer restocking. Books are everywhere! And, you don't have to spend a fortune to restock. You can go to a thrift store.  Thy always have a children's book section.  I went to library book sales and got these goodies below. Books at my local library run from $0.25 to $2.00.  I would say most of the books I purchased were about $0.50 each.  When buying used books, just keep in mind that it should look fairly new and be relevant to your readers.  Don't purchase more MUSTIE books to replace the MUSTIE books you've purged!

I ordered way too many books (That's not all of them by far!) from Amazon using points instead of cash.  This is great for getting newer, popular, and more current books.
(By the way, The One and Only Ivan?  I cried from the middle of the book to the end!  One of the best children's books I've read in a while.)

Finally, the last thing I did to restock my library was to go to the Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale where they had great deals.  There were dollar tables, and they offered Build a Box where you could stuff as many books in a box as possible for $25.  Th warehouse by me is having its next big sale in December.  I suggest clicking the link and seeing if there is a warehouse near you.

There are still many other sources for stocking your classroom library inexpensively:  
  • Ask parents!  You can send a flyer home with an upper grade class asking parents if they would like to donate any books their child may have outgrown. If there aren't younger siblings at home, you will probably have parents happy to donate when they know it is helping their child's school.
  • Facebook:  Many communities have online garage sales where people will post items they want to sell. Also, just putting the call out there on your personal page that you are seeking donations for your classroom library will often bring forward people who have books to give but just didn't think about it.  Of course, this works best when all your FB friends aren't teachers!
  • Ebay.  When searching for books, don't just look for one particular book.  I find I get more results when searching in the children's book category for "book lot." This way you get auctions for several books that are generally on the same level instead of individual titles. A couple of years ago I had a student that refused to read anything. Flat out refused to read.  Finally, I was able to interst him in the Bone graphic novels.  He liked the first one and said he would like to read another. Our school library didn't have it, so I was able to go on Ebay and purchase several books in the series for a fraction of what they would have cost anywhere else.  It was money I was happy to part with because my friend ended up reading all the books!
  • Craigslist:  I haven't used this myself for books, but I do see them listed.
  • Scholastic has an article on Ten Easy Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library.  It's an older article and some ideas I've suggested, but there are some others that might work for you.
  • Finally, this post from The Nerdy Book Club has lots of great ideas!
So, heading back to prep my room at the end of August with boxes of books turned in to quite a job! My library is sorted by level and by genre. Most of my books are leveled, even if they are not in a leveled basket.  One of the easiest ways I've found to do this is to mark the book level on the bottom of the book. It is not seen by all and then the book can be in the leveled baskets or the genre baskets. I have to say though that I am not a believer that a child should be tethered to certain books because of levels.  My students are allowed pick books that interest them. We use the reading levels more for guided reading instruction.  But, for this to work, you really need to be tuned in to what your friends are reading and how it is going.

This is posting on Tuesday morning.  After school this Tuesday afternoon I am planning to do a Periscope tour of my finished classroom library, sometime between 4-5 PM EST if you want to watch.  Connection is always a little sketchy in my classroom, but hopefully it will work and I can do the tour. The second post in this series is the Classroom Library Redo Part 2: Organization and Excitement!  This post will show you finished pictures of my library, how it is organized, my circulation procedures, and some extra tips on helping your students make the most of the library. If the Periscope tour works out, I will embed it in the post which should be up in a day or two at the longest.

Hopefully, you found this first part helpful.  Check back for part 2!
As always, thanks for reading!