Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mock Caldecotts - The Why and How



This week my third graders participated in a Mock Caldecott.  It was a whirlwind of reading, rereading and analyzing 15 picture books in 1 week.  Crazy, I know.  For some reason I thought the ALA Youth Media Awards were later in January, but over my winter vacation I checked my calendar and noticed the Caldecott Medal would be announced on Monday, January 11th! Yikes! That gave me one week to put the mock together. But, it ended up being a great way to jump start our new year.

If you haven't ever participated in a Mock Caldecott or Newbery, I highly recommend you do so.  I think this year marks the 4th or 5th year I have organized a Mock Caldecott and I'm always happy with the outcome.  Picture books are a wonderful thing and I read 1-2 each day to my class.  Read aloud time is probably their favorite time of the day.  But giving students extra time to reread and carefully look at and discuss the books is valuable teaching and learning time.  I'm always amazed at what they notice and discuss.

Fortunately, I had already read most of the books on my list of titles I wanted included in our mock this year.  The few that I hadn't read aloud yet I was sure to read on Monday and Tuesday.  I think it's important to just read and enjoy the book as a "reader" first.  Later we can reread as a "Mock Caldecott Committee member".  I provide a list of our titles which includes author, illustrator and art media used.  You can click here to see the list I gave my students this year.

It's always fun to get other students or teachers involved with your mock.  One year I was able to convince my 6 second grade colleagues to participate in a month long Mock Caldecott.  It was lots of fun and lots of work organizing the books and voting, but well worth it.  This year I met Kathleen Sokolowski at nErDcampLI and after mentioning I would be doing a Mock Caldecott, asked if she would like to participate with us.  Kudos to Kathleen for participating and skyping with us after my last minute tweet the Sunday before our week of mocking! On Thursday we skyped and shared/discussed our favorites for the medal.  Lots of fun.

Finally, there is the voting part.  Before we do the voting I give my students plenty of time to work in small groups with the books each day.  I give them a list of the criteria from ALA, but put it in third grade friendly terms.  It takes a few days for students to start moving away from "this is my favorite book" or "I like this page" and start focusing on the criteria, but they eventually do.  I usually have a chart with the terms I want them to focus on - noticing how the illustrations tell the story or make the story better becomes important to them.  We talk about how the illustrations show mood or character emotions. Students like to compare illustrations in different books.  They like that Kadir Nelson's and Matt Tavare's illustrations are so realistic. (but they do note that the animals in If you Plant a Seed are NOT doing realistic things!) They notice that Christian Robinson's illustrations in Leo: A Ghost Story use limited colors.  They like that and wonder why Christian decided to do that and discuss possible reasons.  They notice a similar thing in the artwork of Erin Stead's  Lenny & Lucy.  They decide that Erin must of wanted us to notice certain things on the page and that's why she gave them color.  They pointed out over and over how each illustrator was able to convey emotion in characters whether realistic or cartoon-like.  By Thursday I started noticing favorites when students kept going back to certain books.  They would pull a group of students over to them and start pointing out the qualities they loved in the illustrations.  Many students loved the magical or fantastical elements of Drum Dream Girl and The Whisper.  On Friday, before we voted students got up and gave their last pitch at convincing their classmates that their book should be selected for our Mock Caldecott Medal.  Then I gave each student a ballot and had them vote for their top three choices.  You can click here to see our ballot.  The book that gets the most votes wins our Mock Caldecott and any close seconds get our Mock Caldecott Honor. You can see who won our Mock Caldecott by going to our class blog.

This year I also started a Twitter account for my class.  We are @Grade3Warriors.  During the week we tweeted about our Mock Caldecott thoughts.  When authors favorite, retweet or tweet back to us it is thrilling for my students. Authors have become real celebrities to my students.  They are so disappointed when an author or illustrator doesn't have a twitter account!

On Monday we will watch the ALA Youth Media Awards live in our classroom.  The awards begin at 8am EST and fortunately my students begin arriving around 8:10am EST.  This year we have also invited our new full time library media specialist, Ms. Yildirim, to watch with us. (Thank you School Board for working to restore full time librarians.) My students are so excited for Monday morning.  They will be thrilled if a book that they have read wins of course, but I also know that if a title is announced that they are not familiar with I will hear voices calling out, "Can you get that book?"



Sunday, December 27, 2015

Exploring and Experimenting with Inquiry Circles

Over the years I have been interested in taking my student research in a more authentic direction.  I wanted to move away from a teacher-chosen, whole group topic to more of a student chosen topics.  While teaching second grade I did this with research clubs during reading workshop.  After finding out what my students were interested in learning about I collected books and magazines on that topic.  Students selected the group they wanted to be in and spent time reading and taking notes on that topic.  I usually had at least 5-6 themed clubs prepared.  The usual topics were outer space and various animal groups. Groups usually presented their learning on a poster.  Kathy Collins' book, Reading for Real gave me the inspiration for these clubs.



Since moving up to third grade last year I started reading about inquiry units and recently read the book, Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles for Curiosity, Engagement, and Understanding by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey "Smokey" Daniels.  What a terrific book! The book explains why small group inquiry should be used and describes 4 different models for inquiry.  The best part is the lessons that are included, which are divided into 3 sections: comprehension, collaboration and inquiry.  The books is filled with examples from real classrooms with real teacher talk.  This book gave me the push I needed to dive into inquiry circles in my classroom.

MY FIRST INQUIRY UNIT

First, I want to say I am so excited that my school district hired full time librarians once again for our elementary schools.  After many years of budget cuts I am delighted that our school board worked to restore these wonderful library media specialist.  This unit was completed with the help of our most wonderful library media specialist, Ms. Yilidrim.

I decided to make my first inquiry unit a curricular inquiry.  I began with a broad theme, "Oceans".  As part of our science curriculum we are suppose to study plants, photosynthesis, etc.  I decided I could teach the skills and concepts using the Ocean theme.  By using a collection of read alouds, short articles and videos I taught my class important reading comprehension and note-taking skills.  Along the way I gave my students an "Inquiry or Wonder" Notebook and gave them time daily to enter questions they had about our topic of study.  I used the information in these notebooks to pull questions that I thought might work for our first "mini-inquiry".  It was my intention to get them into the research part quickly so they could begin answering their own questions.  Here's some of the questions we started with: How deep is the ocean?  Where are the underwater mountains located?  What is the temperature of the ocean?  How do fish breathe underwater?

Students chose the question they were interested in researching.  I placed students in pairs to begin the research.  They have limited experience working collaboratively and I thought partners would be a good beginning.  While students researched together everyone was responsible for their own note-taking.  When I do this again I will have larger groups to compensate for absences and learning/reading abilities.  Besides more researchers get through more research!

CAN'T WE JUST GOOGLE IT?

While we taught our students how to use trade books and reference materials to search for answers to their questions, I also decided to BEGIN teaching them how to use the internet to get answers to their questions.  I was hoping to teach them how some questions are quick to answer, while we might have to delve further to answer other more complicated questions. But that didn't happen. For my third graders these questions were hard to answer!  Here's some problems using the internet with third graders.  First, reading level.  There are some good sites to help them out, but often they are so full of technical language that they needed help to figure it all out. I think for the future I will create a list of helpful websites for students when doing research.  Second, trying to teach them that everything on the internet is not always trustworthy is an ONGOING lesson.  Hopefully by the end of the year my students will have acquired some basic knowledge on using the Internet for research.

PRESENTING WHAT WE LEARNED

I decided to put my students in larger groups after the research was complete.  Most groups had 4-5 students.  I taught them how to use Google Slide Presentation.  Students divided up the slides making sure they had an introduction slide and a slide with all the resources included.  Each group presented to the whole class.

You can see some example slide presentations here and here.



WHAT DID I LEARN?

I reminded myself the entire time that the PROCESS was more important than the product.  I learned that my students could work collaboratively but it was messy and filled with problems along the way - but very worth it.  I know that with practice, they will be better at it next time.  This was authentic because they researched questions that were important to them.  I want to make sure I give students skills and strategies that they will use for a lifetime, not just for the moment.  Finding reading materials on a third grade level is the most challenging thing for me, especially if I want students to be able to work on different questions.  Going to the library to work with on the Chromebooks was great because I had access to another teacher.  It was a joy working with our new library media specialist.  Completing this type of research would be very difficult without having another expert involved!

Here's a list of some of the skills and concepts they learned and practiced:

  • working collaboratively, listening, helping and not always getting your way, being a member of a team
  • listening and taking notes
  • reading and taking notes
  • non-fiction reading strategies
  • locating information in table of contents or index, deciding if the text will help you, deciding what key words to use
  • rereading over and over to understand something
  • using graphics to understand what you read
  • summarizing key points from text or video
  • asking questions when you don't understand and helping someone when they don't understand
  • why it's not nice to plagiarize
  • what does .gov, .com, .org mean?
  • how to locate the author of the website
  • how to use key words to look something up on the internet
  • getting your questions answered is hard work, you have to concentrate and persevere
  • how to use Google Drive and create slides
  • how to use a Chromebook
I know my list could go on and on, but I will stop there.  I wanted to make sure I documented my thinking after I was finished with this first try at inquiry circles.  I look forward to our next set of inquiry circles.

Have you used inquiry circles?  Have you taught young students how to use the Internet for research? Do you have favorite search engines or websites?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What can you do about fake reading?


WHAT TO DO ABOUT FAKE READING

A colleague recently complained to me about a group of fake readers in her class.  You know what I'm talking about! Those students that hold the book and try to look like they are reading.  They turn the pages and when they think you are watching they place their eyes on the book.  But we know they are often looking around or just staring at the pages.  Often they might read the words, but they aren't making any meaning.  They just can't seem to stay on task reading!

I see this problem every year, mostly in the beginning when many of my students unfortunately, have not had a lot of experience reading independently. And sometimes it sneaks back in and I have to do a few reminder lessons. Here’s a list of possible lessons.  I know it might sound like a lot, but it’s worth the time.
(If you have a couple fake readers, your other students are probably fake reading at some point also)

  • Do a mini-unit to build stamina during independent reading.  I spend the first couple of weeks of school doing this, but you can do it any time. (I have also needed to do a repeat with a small group of readers mid-year in second grade, and last year I pulled a couple of fake readers mid-year to “practice” our stamina.
  • Define stamina.  Tell students directly that the class will be building reading stamina.  I start with 3-5 minutes the first day of school. As soon as I see one student become unfocused I call time.  I tell them how many minutes we have done and set a goal for the next day. Some teachers even graph the stamina. (Always connect why these habits are important to them - i.e. they become better readers, this is what good readers do.) 
  • Model independent reading time. The good and the bad!  Make an anchor chart with the class, and review it every day until it becomes habit. Go back to it when these habits breakdown later in the year.

  • Model fake vs. real reading. (Here's some ideas from Pinterest)  I find naming the problem and telling them why it isn’t good for them helpful.  Students are often relieved to find out that they aren't the only ones that have a difficult time staying focused during independent reading.

  • Teach students Fix-Up Strategies. In my third grade class we create a chart that displays problems we have during reading. Once a couple of students share their difficulties other students begin sharing too. Then we can begin talking about what to do to fix those problems. I refer to this chart all year long and even add to it as we become more advanced readers. Once students can name their problem it's easier to focus on solving it!

  • Teach them how to select good fit books.  I have found lack of stamina and choosing the wrong book to be the key reasons students fake read. Sometimes choosing an easier book (or one we think is easier) can help students develop better stamina and feel successful. I also think it’s important to confer with readers to check accuracy and comprehension on their independent book, especially if they fake read.

  • Third reason students fake read… comprehension strategies or lack of… lessons on what good readers do (think) while they read are essential for all, but especially these fake readers.  Fake readers often have never experienced what it feels like to read and enjoy a book. This is constantly a topic of my small group instruction.  Pull those fake readers together for a group (level doesn’t matter) and give them a strategy to practice.

Independent Reading needs to be taught and modeled. Simply putting a book in their hands is not enough. We need to send the message that Independent Reading time is important. If you use this time to lesson plan, organize your desk, check in with colleagues or grade papers what message are you sending to your students? Instead, pull up a chair next to a reader. Take a few minutes to talk with them about their book. This will go a long way in teaching your Fake Readers the value of independent reading. They will long for you to talk with them!

Other than fake reading, what do these types of readers have in common? My experience has been they are my lowest readers. Not surprised, are you? But I also find they are my students that are performing "on grade level", but at the lower level of that group. I call them my "low average" students.

I hope one of these ideas helps! While Fake Readers are so annoying, I don’t believe most are doing it on purpose. I think there is some kind of “breakdown” in their reading that we have to address.

Here's some books that I have found helpful in teaching independent reading routines and comprehension strategies.






Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mercy Watson to the rescue! How one student becomes a reader.

http://www.mercywatson.com/http://www.mercywatson.com/

This is the story of a student in my class, we will call him Nathan. Nathan reads below grade level and receives academic support services for both reading and math.  In September Nathan struggled to complete the reading survey that I gave to my third grade class.  Even when I read many of the questions to him he was confused-he didn't know himself as a reader.  He worked hard to answer questions, but the survey was handed in incomplete.   He readily admitted he didn't like to read, or "sort of" liked to read.  But this is not why I am writing this post.

Early in September Nathan found the Mercy Watson series of books in our class library.  I would like to say that I introduced this wonderful basket of books to him, but most likely I did not, because Mercy Watson books are considered too difficult for him according to his benchmark reading level. Having said that, I rarely, if ever, tell a student No, they can't put a book in their reading box.  I do however help them navigate the book selection process - some students need more guidance than others. Choice is the key element to my reading workshop.  Students chose the books that go into their book baskets, but they must be a good fit book, one they can read independently. (Students are free to read any book during our Free Choice reading time.)   This is where the story really begins - during "shopping time", when students in my class select good-fit books from our class library to put in their personal book baskets for independent reading.   Nathan asked to put a Mercy Watson book in his basket and I said yes.  I prepared myself mentally to have some other book choices ready for him when we met later to read Mercy Watson.  I felt fairly confident that Nathan would struggle and decide to choose a different book.  But Nathan proved me wrong.

As I conferred with Nathan he stumbled over word after word, often reading nonsense words and he lacked fluency.  I dutifully continued with our conference and taught him a decoding strategy that he readily applied.  Of course he was struggling and this book definitely wasn't a good fit, but I knew he wasn't ready to let go of this book.  I asked, "Do you think this book is a good-fit, just-right book for you?"  He replied, "I think so."  I realized he had probably never experienced reading a book that was on his independent reading level!  No matter how many lessons I had done on choosing a just-right book he couldn't relate...yet.  So the book stayed in his basket.  I made sure there were other books that were a better fit, just in case.  I made a note to meet with him again soon.

Every time I met with Nathan I thought, "this will be the day" he figures out Mercy Watson is too hard for him.  But each day we met he kept rereading that Mercy Watson book and practicing the strategies that I showed him.  He had even began collecting the tricky word on post it notes so that he could practice and show me them later. Before long he was discussing the content of the book with me.  It was clear his comprehension was sound and he really liked the story!  Then a few more amazing things happened.

During shopping time and free read time I observed Nathan chatting up Mercy Watson with fellow classmates and even taking them to where the basket of books was located.  Other students started to check out Mercy Watson books.  Nathan even told the AIS Math teacher who pushes into our room about Mercy Watson!  One day he showed me a page in the book that had a picture of all the books in the series and said he was looking for two that were missing.  After asking classmates it was clear that 2 of the books had gone missing. (Yeah, this happens sometimes...a book finds a new home.)  He wrote the titles down on a post it note and asked if I could get them for the library.

So what can we learn from this story?  Choice matters.  Time to practice reading matters. Students are individuals, not levels.  All the data we collect on them should be used to help us help them!  And most of all, we are teaching children to read and write so that they can read for enjoyment, connect with other humans, and learn about the world - we are NOT teaching them to to read and write so they pass a test.  I know this.  I believe this.  I try to remember this ever day in my class.

It's October and Nathan is still a below grade reader.  That's okay.  He's a reader now.  And he knows what he likes to read, and he can't wait to tell you.

By the way...those missing Mercy Watson books...I ordered a new set and they came in the mail today.  I can't wait to hand them to Nathan on Monday morning.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Word Study - inspiration from Word Savvy by Max Brand

One teaching goal I have this year is to improve my word study, in particular my vocabulary instruction.  I will admit that I have been working on this goal for awhile!

Last year I moved to a new school and new grade, a change I embraced and was looking forward to. Over the last ten plus years I had done individualized spelling with my young students in first and second grade. Vocabulary was embedded in my read alouds, but I knew I needed to go deeper. I wanted to see my students use new vocabulary in their language and writing, but the truth was that it rarely happened.  I've been reading a lot about best practice in word study, trying to get a handle on what exactly I needed to do to improve my lessons. I thought a lot about how to fit in these crucial lessons. I always had the best intention and planned for word study, but often when schedules get tight these lessons seem to be the first to be "rescheduled".  Each day as a third grade teacher last year I knew I was missing opportunities and I knew one lesson and a worksheet wasn't the answer. But how could I create a word study program in my classroom of diverse learners including many English language learners that would be meaningful and improve my student's spelling, vocabulary, word solving and comprehension? And I knew whatever I created had to be easy for me to incorporate and teach my students. Just like my reading and writing workshop, which has a predictable routine that my students could rely on, I wanted to do the same for word study. I also knew that time, or lack of time, was a problem. I needed routines that both myself and my students looked forward to and could automatically incorporate into my day.
http://www.amazon.com/Word-Savvy-Integrating-Vocabulary-Spelling/dp/157110366X

Last spring I read Word Savvy by Max Brand. It was so inspiring for me and came to me at a crucial point. As I began thinking about my back to school lessons this fall I started taking notes and planning how I would create a stronger word study program in my classroom. How could I take what Max was doing in his fifth grade classroom and make it work for me and my third graders?

Read Like a Writer
This idea wasn't new to me - I use this idea in writing workshop.  I often reread mentor texts with the eyes and ears of a writer.  Asking students to notice writers' craft so that they might use the same ideas in their own writing.  But Max says that if we want students to go beyond the surface level of words we need to start by "modeling our own curiosity with words."  He suggests embedding this in read alouds right away, at the beginning of the year.  Max has his fifth graders collect these interesting words in their Reader's Notebooks during read alouds.  Max also teaches his students how to note and identify important words, particularly in content areas and non-fiction.

How's it going for me?
During my class read alouds I have definitely made sure I'm modeling my "curiousity for words" regularly. This wasn't too hard, since I read aloud regularly and have an authentic love for literature that I share often with my students.  I just needed to make that mental plan for making sure I hit that point each day.  Word Study and Read Aloud time merged.  A great way to save time! Within the first week I had my students using their Reader's Notebooks to jot down interesting words and phrases while they listened.  I encouraged them to share what they were writing.  A handful of students were jotting, most were not.  We kept sharing and talking and a few more students started jotting.  Some were writing down the words that they heard others share.  That was okay.  A couple of students shared some amazing and deep thoughts about words and phrases, especially after I modeled for a few days.  What did I learn and notice?  First, they can't spell the words and often can't read what they wrote. This isn't really surprising because the words they choose are hard words! 2. They mostly want to know what the word means - that is why they thought it was interesting. (Future teaching) 3. Most students can't listen and take notes. (Not surprised.) 4. Many students are poor listeners and struggle to focus on the story.  The good news is that I can tell my students love read aloud time and they will improve with time! The next steps are getting a lot of these words up on display in class so we can refer to them and use them in our language and writing.









Our school has a motto this year.  Since we are a grade 3-5 school, this is my students' first experience with the motto.  Each day it is recited on the announcements.  So, I decided to use it as a non-fiction text and focus on some vocabulary that we thought was important.  We did this over several days.  And these wonderful words are referred to all the time, so I know students will use them in their oral language.




Discovery Note Taking

I've taught and used various KWL and R.A.N strategies for note taking or deconstructing non-fiction texts.  And of course their are plenty of graphic organizers out there.  But I like the Discovery Note Taking tool that Max uses with his students because I think it is versatile and can be used for all types of non-fiction.  I also think it directly reflects the types of thinking we do as we read non-fiction.  So far I have used it to model my thinking as we read an article on Wonderopolis.  I should mention that this was our third reading of the article.  On the second reading I asked students to highlight important words in the article as they read independently.


Future Plans

Word Savvy also includes a section on Spelling as well.  This year I have decided not to do traditional weekly spelling lists and tests.  Of course I will continue with my spelling and word study instruction, but I will assess differently.  I'm really trying hard to look at student writing to determine spelling instruction.  As a third grade teacher I think that decoding and word solving are also an important part of the Word Study umbrella and need to be linked together.  I want my students to make connections between writing and reading tricky words.  Max's book also has a section on word walls, another topic that I would like to improve upon.  I hope to write about my experiences throughout the year.  Word Savvy by Max Brand is a great book.  It's a quick read full of great ideas.

Please share your thoughts about Word Study!








Sunday, September 20, 2015

Keeping track of Student Reading Conferences and Assessment Data - The Confer App

Here in New York we had a slow start to school.  Tomorrow will begin the 4th week of school.  But due to many September holidays tomorrow will only be Day 11.  I use to stress about the choppy September schedule, thinking that my students would struggle to develop stamina and get their learning mojo going.  But over the last several years I've become more zen about the whole September schedule.  I enjoy the slow start and having a few extra long weekends.  It gives me time to build my teaching stamina and I'm sure it helps the students too.

One challenge of this slower beginning is the fact that TONS of assessment data is due.  Some that is helpful and some that is meaningless to me.  But I won't be going into the meaningless stuff today.  I try to keep it positive here on the blog, or mostly positive.

Since I'm thinking about assessment today I thought I would write about my tracking method.  For the last 3-4 years I've use the Confer App to keep track of my reading conferences and assessment notes.  But I will admit to falling behind once late winter or spring comes and "forgetting" to log in my notes. One reason I think this happens is that the app wasn't always working for me, especially when we started to do more book clubs.  And sometimes I forgot my ipad at home. Using my iphone is a pain because I often need to take my glasses off, even thought I do have progressive lens.  So I started to think I might start recording the old fashion, paper and pencil way, again.  But then I thought, Yuk, I already tried that many ways. So, back to the Confer App.  I decided to go back and read all the directions. I like simple and it is a simple app, maybe I missed something.  And wouldn't you know, reading the directions helped.  There were things I could do that I didn't know. (or they are new to the app)


Here's some things that I liked and learned by rereading the directions;

You can customize the note categories!  I didn't know that.  I thought I was stuck with only strength, teaching point and next step.  So I added "text" so that I could enter titles or other text the student is reading.  I also added a "concerns" category.  Sometimes I wanted to note a concern that wasn't related to next steps.

I also figured out how to create groups.  This will be so helpful when doing book clubs or even strategy groups.  I was never clear on this before.

Other things you might like;

There is a section to enter benchmark level.

You can sort students by categories.  For instance you can sort them by date of last conference.  That is helpful for making sure you conference with all students and don't miss anyone. Sorting students by "next steps" is also helpful for forming strategy groups.

You can set up multiple classes.  You could keep your writing and math conferences on the app also.  I only use it for reading.

If you are looking for a simple way to collect your conference and assessment information this might be a great tool for you.  It's not fancy or colorful, but it gets the job done.

INTERESTING NOTE: The same company that  makes the Confer App is developing Snapfolio App.  If you go to the website, you can watch the video.  If you have used Snapfolio I would love to hear your thoughts.

How do you keep track of your reading conferences and student assessment data?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Classroom Library Check-Up and Changes


It seems that I am always trying to improve how I arrange and present books in my class library!  I have written other posts about my class library here, here and here.  The class library is the center of the universe in my classroom.  It gets lots of business and I want students to be able to locate books easily.  Many of my students come to my classroom with limited experience self-selecting books and are unfamiliar with many titles and collections.  Many rely on parents, teachers and librarians to find and choose books for them to read.  But if I want my students to own their reading lives I need to organize my library so my young "customers" can locate books they will enjoy. The traditional way public or school libraries display books, with spines out or by Dewey Decimal system is not reader friendly and I think difficult for students to find books independently.  I like the books to be face out and I try to group my books into categories that make sense to my students.  So my August planning always begins with a library check-up.

Last year I moved to a new building and a new grade - I went from second to third grade.  Packing up my classroom for the move pushed me to weed out books from my collection, sort and pack books in boxes that made sense for life in third grade and donate books to some of my colleagues in the primary grades.  Over the years I had not only collected books, but some nice prime shelving as well.  My new classroom had much less shelf space for displaying collections.  Even with the purchase of some inexpensive Target shelves I still had hundreds of books packed in plastic storage containers. This year I was fortunate to inherit a huge shelf when another third grade teacher retired.  So the first thing I did when returning to my classroom this month to begin setting up for the new year was to start rearranging the class library.

I still like sorting books into series, but have added baskets reflecting genres and categories that third graders relate to - realistic fiction, fantasy, humorous, animal fiction, etc.  I also have a non-fiction section and have tried to group them into different categories to make it easy for students to select books.

The biggest change I am making to my class library is putting nearly ALL of my books into the library which makes them available to my students all the time.  In the past I have only put out certain types of books at certain times of the year.  For instance, while teaching second grade, I only put out the poetry books or other themed study while we were currently studying that topic.  One of the reasons was simply lack space in the library, but I also think I didn't view many of these books as independent reading material, especially when I taught second grade.

So now I have an entire shelf for poetry books out on permanent display which also reflects my goal of reading poetry more regularly.  I have taken all my wonderful picture books and lined the shelves with those as well. I still have a small personal shelf where I keep books that I refer to as mentor texts that I use in my lessons.  Those will not circulate in the class library.

As elementary teachers, we all have students with varying reading levels and abilities, so it's important that our libraries have books for all of these readers.  However, last year I found that certain book baskets were rather unpopular and I think it is because students may think these baskets are easy or baby books.  In second grade I had put my Hello Readers, Step into Reading and other leveled series into separate baskets.  This worked for my second graders, but not my third graders. So this year I decided to take these books and integrate them into other baskets.  I'm hopeful that this change will help.

Another change I am making is my book check out system - or I should call it my lack of a system!  I've tried many ways to do this and the truth is every system falls apart by November.  I do not want to police my class library and I have tried to organize methods for students to record and maintain records for book sign out.  The simple truth is the organized students do it and the less-organized students don't!  In the end, I generally know what books my students have in their book baskets because I talk to them about their reading every day.  And students usually know who has the most popular books as well!  The biggest problem I have is re-shelving books.  Students either can't remember where they go, or are careless and place the books anywhere.  It only takes a few careless students to cause a real mess of the class library!  So I'm trying something new this year - a return basket.  Students will put any returns in this basket and I can re-shelf them as needed.  Of course if they know where the book goes that will be fine and I know I will always have a few student helpers that have excellent organizational skills and will want to be library aides.  And in case you are wondering, some books do go missing with my system, but only a few.

I love seeing how others organize their classroom libraries.  So please share in the comments below.

Here's some pictures of my newly arranged class library.  It will always be ever-changing!

New shelf all ready to be filled with books! It does cover up a wall used for displaying student work and anchor charts, but it is the only wall wall available.
All filled up, just need to add some labels.



View of the Non Fiction Section

Some of those storage boxes that are now empty and books are in the class library ready for students!
Picture Book Section




New Poetry Section - I wish the baskets could be turned so students could see covers of books, but the shelf sections aren't wide enough.