Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Thinking About Books and the Classroom Library


This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016.


It is August 1st so  many of us are busy getting our classrooms ready for our new students!  We start school in 2 weeks and there is lots to think about.  I have been in twice and thought I'd share a piece of the process I've been through so far. 


My room after being cleaned this summer--my view from the door!


Reorganizing books always takes the most time for  me. I love the room design thinking --especially after reading The Third Teacher and the Language of Room Design a few years ago. I love thinking about spaces in the room and the ways they might support student learning and I will post about those spaces in the next week or two.  Today I'll focus on some of the thinking that I've done as I've thought about revising the classroom library from how we left it in the spring to how it will support students early in the year. I know students will love different books as beginning-of-the-year third graders than my end-of-the-year third graders enjoyed by springtime last year.  So taking a look at the series baskets and the organization is important. I always begin by asking myself lots of questions:

  • Which books were popular last year?
  • Which books did kids not read--are there any books or series that are maybe outdated?
  • What kinds of books support readers early in the year?
  • Which books should I highlight during the first few weeks of school to support independent reading?
  • Which books did not get enough use because they weren't accessible to kids?
  • Which new books/series might I add to the classroom library?
  • Are there any authors that I want to highlight early in the school year?

Our meeting area is an area that I have used recently to highlight books we have read or learned from recently.  A few years ago I added this bench from IKEA that would house those books, knowing they would rotate so kids would have easy access to books that we had read recently.  Last year, I started #classroombookaday, a classroom practice that Jillian Heise and Donalyn Miller created. It is a daily that is one of our favorite times of the day. We end each day with a picture book and log these on a wall above our cubbies. Kids loved this time and revisited the books often throughout the year.  I had a basket for these books thinking I'd rotate them in and out as they became less popular but kids used all the books all year.  So this year, I wanted to have a space dedicated to #classroombookaday--a space that I knew would be big enough to hold all of the books we read and one that will grow as the year goes on. I found this to be extremely important to 3rd grade because this routine valued picture books and most kids read a few picture books every day because of it. So I bought several large white baskets to house these books during the year.  There is also space for other baskets that will rotate based on our current units of study, readings, etc.


Another area that I changed was my poetry area.  Last year, I had two full three-shelf units of poetry books. The kids almost never read them. They were spine out on the shelf and weren't engaging enough for kids.  I weeded my poetry collection down by about half and decided to display them differently. I purchased more of the baskets that I used in the meeting area because they hold lots of books that kids can browse by puling the basket to the floor next to them.  At first I used the white baskets but then realized I had 5 gray baskets -the perfect number for the poetry collection I had.  I know that visual clues are important to young children so having all of the poetry in gray baskets will be another way for them to think of them as one area of the classroom library.  I housed them on the bottom shelf of another 8 cubby shelf from IKEA. On the top shelf, some students will house their individual book bins. (Still to do: Label the baskets as poetry.)


My next job was to go through the chapter books in the classroom that were no longer front and center. Our classroom library changes throughout the year as we discover new series, change as readers, grow out of some books and into others.  Because of that I have to go through the books and pull those books that I know will be important to have out early in the year.  I am thinking about what kids might read but also about how to make sure to value books at various levels so that students do not get the message that long difficult books are what is valued in the classroom. I want to introduce them to books that they fall in love with--books that help them develop behaviors as readers early in the year.  This is the stack I pulled today, knowing I have to create new baskets to replace baskets most readers won't get to until the end of the year. All books will still be part of the classroom library because readers need access to lots of books but the books I highlight in baskets and in displays will focus on lots of books like those I pulled today.


Finally, I take a look at books we've discovered recently. I feel lucky as a third grade teacher that so many authors and publishers see the need for quality transitional chapter books. It seems there are new ones coming out more regularly lately.  When a new series begins, it is usually only a book or two but as time goes on, series grow and they are in need of their own basket/space in the classroom library. These are some of the new series we discovered last year and that will be great supports to readers early this year.  Just when you think you have more baskets than you need, you find that you need just a few more. So a new order of baskets is on its way to me from amazon and they will house these new series as well as a few others.


I think I have about 4-5 more hours of work thinking about and revising the classroom library for the fall.  I plan to go in one more day to just focus on that job--pulling the books that I want to highlight to independent reading, weeding through picture books and nonfiction to reflect on what changes are needed there, and creating new author baskets in both fiction and nonfiction areas of the library. Lots to do but some of the most important work to get ready for a new group of readers!

How are you rethinking your classroom library to be ready for the first weeks of the school year?

(You can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook starting September 1 by joining our group here.)
Our new edition of Still Learning to Read will be released on August 15 but you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse!









20 comments:

  1. My favorite getting-the-classroom-ready task is sorting through the library. You have a lovely space, Franki!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always admire your room design and classroom library. Looks fantastic!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Franki, tell me more about the baskets that you ordered from Amazon. I am making some changes in my classroom library as well this school year. One of the changes is moving my picture books from being stacked on shelves to book bins. Your blog always inspires and motivates me to shift my thinking. Thanks friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just ordered plain white baskets from amazon--the size that fits series books. But you can easily find some at Target, Walmart. The new ones I get that fit all sizes of picture books are from Target--it is this basket without the lid http://www.target.com/p/room-essentials-storage-large-bin-perforated-gray/-/A-50054102 that you see in the photos.

      Delete
  4. I'm 70 and retired from teaching (as of one year ago). Your blog with its photos makes me so nostalgic. At this time of year a teacher mentally smells that woody aroma of pencils, the dust of chalk that never is quite washed away, the smell of new books as their pages are crackled by the teacher in an examination. Oh well, I could go on, but I've made my point. I'm envious.
    Have a great year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so understand! Getting ready for a new group of students and a new year is always such fun. I can imagine it is part of the cycle of a teacher's life even after we leave the classroom. Our work is definitely a gift.

      Delete
    2. My mom asked me last night if I was excited to start a new year. YES! I told her about this comment and she wanted you to know, Judy, that at 89 she STILL misses it!

      Delete
  5. P.S.
    One more thing: your blog contains awesome information!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Franki, I always admire how much thought and reflection you put into your library and classroom design. Your intentions are always fueled by the children in your classroom and what they will need.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was exactly what I needed today! And I love #classroombookaday! Can't wait to start it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm taking the opportunity of moving to a new classroom to start with something different this year. The 4th graders and I are going to spend the first week sorting and organizing the library together as a way to review genres and get to know one another's reading tastes. I'm hoping the students get a sense of ownership of the library. But of course, I'll spend some time sorting through first to weed out the old and to make piles of mixed genres for each group to work with. I wouldn't want to miss the fun of going through the books myself at the start of the year!
    Thanks for the references in your post - I can't wait to read up on #classroombookaday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, just friendly advice from a librarian. Many "old" books have value. I entered an old warehouse-like library and worked and worked to re-organize and clean. I found many "old" books which I kept in a special collection area. One was dated 1946 and was about the milkman's horse-drawn "truck." What an irreplaceable gem. Another was an early computer book with pictures of those huge, room-sized computers. After I "retired," my replacement threw out those books as "old." I was so sick!!1

      Delete
    2. I have been both a librarian and a classroom teacher and I do think the weeding process is critical. However, I think some books that we think are so wonderful are books that kids won't pick up. Trying to determine how to use space takes such intentional choice. I just pulled so many not-even-that-old books from my classroom library this week because kids have not been reading them. They are some of my favorites. I put them in a box in a cupboard hoping that they match a student's needs this year but will end up donating them if no one is interested. Such hard decisions!

      Delete
  9. Franki, I also teach 3rd grade and would like to know your process for having kids select books for their book bins. How often do they choose new books, how many, can they choose them from everywhere in the room, etc. Thanks! Lindsay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I work with them individually to fill their book bin the first day of school and then they can refill it anytime--they have about 10 mins in the morning before announcements, sometimes when I conference with them, we redo it. I try to not have them do it during reading workshop as it distracts others but we get to the point that they do. They should have enough in there for a few days so even if they finish a book, they should have another in there until they have time to refill. Hope that helps!

      Delete
  10. Thanks so much!! The new post for today about the first week was wonderful!! I love this blog so much! It energizes me and makes me so happy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting us know!

      Delete

We welcome your contribution to the conversation!