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.


  1. Cant imagine a more effiecient redo.. good job! Quick tips on how to write an exploratory essay, explore here.

  2. So glad to see you back! Your blog was one of the first I came across a couple of years ago. I'm totally revamping my 5th grade classroom library now!

  3. Hi I am an English learner would you pls give me some tips how to p0pp

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  8. very nice and attractive blog. i like it very much, and have a good posts.

  9. Really great post, Just revamped my Year 2 library and have a buch od books which are old, boring and never get read. will have to bite the bullet and get rid of them! never thought of giving them to the kids to take home! great ideas Thanks!!!

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  15. Such peculiar educative info. Keep up posting. I'm eager to learn more!

  16. I have set up a library system that is able to stay organized. When students are looking for a book about dinosaurs, they know where to find it. Students can explore genres and experience a variety of texts. Without organization, they are not able to locate their interests or return to favorite books.

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  21. Thank you for sharing all these great ideas, Nancy! I can't wait to incorporate quite a few in my classroom next year!

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