Time Well Spent #sol18
July 17, 2018
One day last week, I spent the day in a classroom with a teacher reorganizing her classroom library.
LOTS of Books
There were lots of books there. I estimate that this teacher had 800-1000 books in her collection acquired from inherited books left in her classroom by the previous teacher, her childhood or friend’s childhood books, recent acquisitions, and gifts. Her books had been leveled into general themes and reading levels.
Make a gathering place for each reading level band: A/B, C/D, E, F/G, H/I, J/K, L,M, and above. Then possibly sort into narrative and information books. Finally group in loose themes to create book bins of twenty or so books.
Begin at the Beginning?
This is my sixth or so library overhaul with a classroom teacher in the last two years. My goal is to have some ideas but to give the teacher lots of room to think through her collection his or herself. I initially try to start in the middle of the collection. As a first grade teacher, that would have been around a F/G level using Fountas and Pinnell’s Guided Reading Level by Month Chart. She had many unleveled picture books in subject categories, so we began there. That project was four hours in this classroom. Two things contributed to its length. She was evaluating texts as she went. What to keep and what to purge. I might have kept all but the most glaringly obvious mismatches and then weeded at the book bin sort. Eventually we developed a rhythm going along that she looked quickly through and made a brutal cut and then I leveled and reread some books suggesting uses for a few such as mentor text for certain aspects of reading or writing and book progressions.
Interestingly in this sort, our ages became an obvious difference in selection. There were many books in her collection that I had used as a teacher or parent. Of course these books are twenty-some years old now. For her, they all seemed ancient. She cut nearly all of them. While jarring at the time, it might not have been a bad move. Many things have changed about our teaching, our read aloud, and the way books draw students. Unless I saw some emergent storybook potential in these books, her decisions stood.
Picture Book Sort Tip
Think who will read? Why read? What is this books potential use?
End of Stage 1
At the end of stage one, all the books were divided into reading levels.
Reading Level Tip
You might not sort all of the books into reading levels. Some might be freeform in a very appealing sort of their own perhaps series or topic.
General Library Regroup Procedure
- Divide all the books into Reading Level. Some you won’t be able to, in that case, approximate. Use a strategy here, either pitch as you go or create a pile to look at later. Don’t let that pile get too big, twenty books no more.
- Categorize those leveled books into subsets. She used narrative and information. In the bins I made for the book room, I just used general feel of going together. The teacher says I’m loose with those categories. I might be. It’s nice here to start thinking about categories that are going to go across levels for partner reading, leveling up, or whatnot. Some categories that work might be: pets, dinosaurs, problems, favorite characters, or funny. This is a good place to consider mentor texts at levels and emergent storybooks.
- Make a decision about how high your library should go. As is common, her library skewed high. She had many books in the above level M category and very few at Level A/B. Perhaps she won’t need those kinder levels in her class, but it’s something to consider. She ultimately decided to offer to upper grade colleagues high level books that she didn’t think held an appeal to first grade.
- Notice what is amazing about your collection. This about book progressions. A student wants to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Would Diary of a Worm be a first step? What books are glaringly missing? I definitely need more Fly Guy. This may take some thinking. This doesn’t have to happen today. You can look at a level a week during the year as your kiddos use them and adjust or make a buying/finding plan.
- Create sort system. This could be bins of certain colors, color dots, bin numbers, labels or names. The point here is to make the subject the focal point, not the book level. However at first grade, book level will be important.
- This is the tricky level. Live in the library. Watch how the students select or don’t select books. Notice what draws them, what books they request. Find a way to let students create book bins of their own with their partner or as a group.
- Resist the urge to buy a lot now. Borrow library books. Try out new series or characters. Scouring blogs and bookstores. Ask colleagues.
So in the end, these 1,000 books took about six hours to sort, categorize, and weed. She had some glaring gaps in her library. Information books, some series, book pairs, book club offerings, some levels. Knowing that she can borrow some from the book room, the library, and begin her acquisition plan. My assistance is available for the next teacher, but I believe hers is as well. I did pocket the Icky Bug Alphabet book from the rubbish pile and saved Mossy from oblivion by comparing it to A House for Hermit Crab.