Liberate Your Classroom Library in 5 Steps

Liberate Your Classroom Library in (Almost) 5 Easy(ish) Steps

July 31, 2017

Here we are July 31. When we teachers turn our calendar over to August, we will be officially in count down mode.  You have your list in hand ready to tackle your back to school agenda.  Here’s a place to begin that will change your school year.  Your classroom library.  Oh, I know, you do go through it, discarding or repairing,  regrouping within (gasp) levels.  Let’s as they say- BURN IT DOWN!

.5 (Rationale)  Keeping your library the same as you ever have keeps it stale for the          students and for you.  How many times have you said to yourself or a student… oh, I’m pretty sure I have a copy of …. let me see where it might be? We change.  The students change.  The times they are a changing.  Even though I have a friend with a nostalgic basket of books of ’80’s TV characters,  the kids aren’t going there.  We’ll come back to that going there idea.

.75  This goes without saying perhaps, but you can go two ways, either dump all the books on the surfaces of your room quasi-sorting as you go or leave them as is and shift around.  The second suggestion only works in you DO NOT have them in leveled bins.  If they are leveled by a single reading level, it’s time for a big change.  NO ONE, not even a first grader wants to be defined by their reading level.  Doing this causes you to make many other rules like you have choose two books from another bin. 

1.    What do you need/want them to read? Think about your year curriculum in reading and writing, but don’t forget about science, social studies, and even math.  This is also a good time to think about the stretch of the year.  Are there some books that having them out in the beginning is just going to cause… issues.  What books will prepare students for later skills?  How might groups of books encourage certain skill development?

2. Slip zucchini in with the chocolate cake.  Humans don’t grow by Wimpy Kid alone. (or Elephant and Piggie or Captain Underpants)  You get the idea.  What ideas in those books could I slip in with them?  Could an information book about something they build or do make its way into the bin.  There is room here for lots of creativity.  Don’t forget about poems and short texts perhaps in page protectors.

3. Progressions  Mary Ehrenworth is the absolute queen of this concept, but there are others.  If everyone wants to read the most promoted, difficult, not age appropriate book in the known universe,  what are some stepping stones along the way.  When conferring, you can lay out the planning with your student. This week, this book.  Next week, perhaps this and so on.  Not every student is going to be ready to tackle that hot book that’s on everyone’s desk.  What books feels the same?  This also breaks up the notion that all the books we read must be HARD.  If your star readers notices the same theme in a much easier book,  more is the beauty.

4. Rearrange the furniture (metaphorically).   My husband’s mother is a genius at changing the look of her home by changing the arrangement of pieces.  Sometimes decorative,  sometimes small pieces,  some times where the sofa is.  Move the categories or bins or actual books around.  If I am working on small moments,  some books from other bins might make it into various ideas on small moments or leads or stretching.

5.  Watch and Learn  what are the students taking out?  How are they jumping from book to book?  What are they talking about and recommending to their classmates?  To spark buzz read excerpts of books or copy pages that will wet the readers appetites.

So get in there with your stickies,  your swiffer duster, your notecards, and your imagination.  As Levar Burton would say,  take a look, it’s in a book.  Do some research about classroom libraries and then… you know the rest.








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