Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Slice of Life - My Classroom Library

The middle of July brings with it thoughts of a new school year and teachers heading back to their classrooms in preparation for a new class of students.   I spent several mornings last week cleaning, unpacking, and trying to get my room back together.  

The area of my room which ALWAYS gets my attention first, is my classroom library.  It is my absolute favorite part of my room, and I believe it is a direct reflection of me and what I believe in. When someone walks into my classroom, I want them to think, "reading is important in this room."

The past four years I have arranged my room so that the library is like a little room within my classroom.  It is a secluded area, and the students love to go in and lay on the floor with pillows and read.  When the students arrive on the first day of school, the library is blocked off, so they can't go in or even see in.  They all want to know what is in there...creates quite a mysterious effect.   I always tell them it is a very special place, and some day soon they will be able to go in.  A couple of days later, we have a library grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  I give them bookmarks and pencils and together as a class, we have our first reading celebration.

This year due to the high number of students in my class, I have had to open up the library to allow more room.  At first I did not care for the new arrangement, but I am starting to see the possibilities.  It now houses my gathering spot for minilessons and what better place than my library!

The past couple of years I have also made some changes on how I organize my books.  We are an Accelerated Reader corporation and most teachers have their books arranged by book levels.  I am not a fan of AR and quietly express this to my students, parents and other teachers.  I think there are many other ways to get kids to read - but that is another post!

Trying not to rock the boat but still hold fast to my beliefs, I started organizing my books by different categories.  I pulled out the most popular series, favorite authors, Mrs. Eck's picks, and new books and created separate baskets for those, while leaving most books still organized by AR levels.  This worked well and only solidified my belief that kids need to know how to choose books arranged as if they were in a bookstore, not by AR level.

This year I have decided to organize some new baskets according to genre.  As I was perusing the baskets and pulling out books, I started thinking about how these new baskets could be used with my genre lessons while creating a learning experience for my students.  I am thinking about letting my students do the organizing as they are reading.  After a student reads a book and uses what he/she has learned about genre, they can decide where the book belongs.

As of right now, the baskets are empty, waiting for books that my students will read.  What do you think?  Do I dare continue decreasing baskets of AR book levels and creating more authentic organization, or do I keep it in AR levels like most other teachers.  I would love to hear your thoughts and how your classroom libraries are organized.

Have a great week!

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  1. Leigh Anne,
    So glad to see that you have the courage to stand up for what you believe. I think you organize the books in the way they are organized in the real world- by genre, by author, by subject (books about space), by favorites (I always think of those Staff Recommends signs that they have at bookstores) and not by AR level. If your school makes you do AR levels, do as few as you can that way. Best of luck!

  2. Well, let me start with the admission that I hate AR, so that is where this comment is coming from. My school used to have it as well, although we never had to organize our library by the levels. That being said, you have to work at your building, so do what you feel will work for you and your admin.

    My own rationale for not leveling my library - we were told we could when we began using Fountas & Pinnell assessments - is that students need to be able to pick what level is comfortable for them by figuring it out, not by a number on a book. Bookstores aren't leveled, so this is a skill I need to teach. Some do really well, some not so hot. I have to spend a lot of time on this every year.

    My library is organized by genre. I wrote about it here: http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/2012/08/classroom-library-organization.html

    Good luck! I love setting up the library. Best part of the classroom!

  3. I agree that leveling everything is a waste of time (AR, F&P, DAR...) and energy while discouraging many readers; however, I do have MANY books leveled to make it easier for ME to find them for TEACHING and book sharing purposes. SO MANY BOOKS, however, cannot be effectively leveled as the background knowledge is the determining factor. The CCSS actually moves us away from leveling all books into talk about complexity and challenge. When in doubt, quote the CCSS FOR our benefit!

  4. I organize my library in several ways...some author baskets, some genre, some theme. Kids don't always know, so by sorting books in a couple of ways, I find a way to help all students.

    Good for you for standing up for what you believe!

  5. What a great way to introduce a classroom library with a grand opening! Inspiring idea as I feel my classroom library needs some sprucing up! I teach first grade and have really started to question my limiting of student choice of books outside of direct instruction. Which has led me to moving away from classifying books, too. The more we put the learning in the hands of our students the better so letting students sort and classify books seems brillant to me.

  6. I rebelled the AR levels by coding my books with the AR points but using the same color sticker for all my books. I have to do AR, but I believe in reading (not AR). I would love to see a picture of your library!

  7. Organizing my classroom library was one of my favorite tasks when I had my own classroom. My school has never used AR, but I agree with everyone that organizing by genre, author, etc. rather than level. Good luck with your plans!

  8. I love your ribbon cutting ceremony! I organize books by genres, but I'm thinking of trying out some other things this year. I want my students to have more direct ownership, so I'm trying to figure out a way to have students recommend books similar to bookstores.

  9. First of all, I loved this post . . . I want to visit your library and the ribbon cutting and the reading celebration! Yes, it's clear what you value. I work in an AR building as well. I can be vocal with teachers and students regarding my hatred (harsh word, I know) of it. I still have to play the game, but I teach my kids that I want them to read for themselves and to fall in love with the characters but it's also my job to teach students how to pick good fit books with choice! My classroom library is grouped by genre, authors, subjects, themes -- but some labeled as AR. Almost all books are now AR, but I am not rushing to label the books. So AR books are interspersed in the book baskets.

    I love, love, love the idea of allowing the students to start creating book baskets!!! Yes, do it! The more ownership they have in the library, the more they will want to read to continue to add books to baskets or start a new basket! Can you even begin to imagine the conversations and discussions about books and where they should go??? You are so onto something with this idea! I can't wait for you to try it and share how it is going. I may just have to steal this little idea myself!

    Thanks for sharing!