Saturday, February 23, 2013

Classroom Library Thoughts

Next week I will be moving into a non-fiction unit for reading workshop. so that got me thinking about my classroom library.  So, I thought I would share how my classroom library is organized, and how it changes as the year progresses.

The upcoming non-fiction study will mean my classroom shelves have to undergo some major changes. Some baskets, like Song books and Abc books will be moved into storage to make room for more non-fiction. Some series books like Biscuit, Fly Guy and Clifford will go back in my storage closet too.  I often wonder if I would keep everything out all year long if I had the room in my library!

The second grade class library needs to be very diverse in terms of reading levels. It's not only that second graders progress through several reading levels through the year, but is also the fact that the characteristics of the books change more than other grades. Second graders rely heavily on pictures early in the year and still need shorter reads to maintain comprehension. And you need a lot of these early transitional readers because they are shorter.  By the end of the year most can read longer chapter books without pictures and have the stamina to maintain their comprehension over more than 100 pages. But of course not all of them progress at the same pace. So that means both Fly Guy and Magic Tree House books are called second grade books in my classroom, and we respect and honor the children who are reading these books. Don't get me wrong, my students know that some children can read "harder" books, they aren't dummies!  But there are always clusters of students reading the same types of books so they can talk about their reading and make recommendations to each other.  No one is left out of the reading "club".  I currently don't have leveled baskets, but prefer to group books by series and categories in my class library. I could write a whole post about leveled books, but suffice to say that while I do benchmark my students according to Fountas & Pinnell, the information I get from these running records, such as guided reading level are a teaching tool and I do not label students publicly as a Level J reader. We spend lots of time learning about choosing good fit, or just right books. It's an ongoing topic throughout the year, both in whole group and individually. I set aside a few mornings a week for students to shop, or select books from the class library when they first arrive at school. During this time I am available to help my little "shoppers" and they are required to check in with my so I can "approve" their selections. I work very hard to spread the idea that the books in our class library are ALL "second grade" books.

Growing Readers and Reading for Real by Kathy Collins, More Than Guided Reading by Cathy Mere and Beyond Leveled Books by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak are books that have really helped guide me in my thinking about my class library.  I have also found information from Teachers College Reading & Writing Project extremely helpful as well.  They now share resources on their website.

By January I have almost all of my fiction displayed in the class library, but I don't start the year that way. I have made curtains that I attach with Velcro, so I can open and close parts of the library as necessary. I still need to work on how I introduce different baskets to my students. Sometimes it's like Black Friday, and I have 25 kids attacking one or two baskets all at the same time! Not a good idea.

My students know our class library very well, but it can get a bit messy and books often find their way into the wrong basket.  (As you can see there is an Eric Carle book in the Song Book basket.)  Books are backwards and upside down too, which drives me crazy. So, this last Friday we took some time to clean out and organize the baskets. It's great to sit back and watch them work, and take ownership of the class library.  There are always a few oohs and aahs when a student notices an interesting book they never noticed before - and then library organizing becomes shopping for books time.

Here's some pictures from the beginning of the school year.  I am certainly not a interior decorator!  The shelves are mismatched and I am always going to the dollar store for replacement baskets, which rarely match.

And here are some photos of what the library looks like now, in February.  I will share more about how I change my library for our non-fiction unit next week.  I will try to take better photographs!

How do you organize your classroom library?  What do you think about leveling your class library? Care to share your thoughts, pictures or blog?

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