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.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picture Book 10 for 10 Event - #pb10for10

It's time for the annual Picture Book 10 for 10 Event hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.  Each August 10th picture book lovers get together and share their top 10 picture books.  This year you can connect with everyone through The Picture Book 10 For 10 Google Community! This is my 4th year participating.  In fact, the first time I didn't even have a blog yet!

The Bee Tree
I love most all of Patricia Polacco's books!  She writes from her own family experiences and they always pack an emotional punch.  I start with this book and nearly every year I cry or get choked up.  A great story to share the love of reading.

Each Kindness
I won't be surprised if this book is on a lot of lists this year.  A great story to read any time of year, but I like to read it during the first month of school.  A very realistic story with a very realistic ending.

Short Cut
I use this book every single year as a mentor text in writing workshop.  I've used in grades 1-3.  Enough said.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Fun, silly and imaginative book.  I read it on the first day of school.  Then later in the week I use it as a discussion starter about the books we love.  We turn it into an art activity.  Yes, I still think it's important to do some arts and crafts in the classroom sometimes! You can learn a lot about students while they cut and paste and talk.

Oliver Button is a Sissy
Oliver likes to draw and pretend.  He doesn't enjoy sports, but wants to tap dance.  Another book relating to bullying, acceptance and being yourself.

Amazing Grace
I'm always surprised that my second or third graders have not read this book before! It's a classic as far as I'm concerned.  Grace wants to play Peter Pan in the school play, but children think she can't because she is a girl.

Jacob's Dress
I found this book sometime last summer and knew I would be adding it to my read alouds.  The story of how Jacob convinces his parents to let him wear a dress.  It's so hard to find books that deal with LGBT issues for our younger readers.  We all have students that don't fit the norm in our schools and classrooms.  It's so important that we find books that represent students that are a bit different.

A terrific picture book biography about a young Jane Goodall.  My students always enjoy this book.  It is generally the first biography I read to my class.  Not only does it describe Jane as a young child it connects to the ideas of following your dreams and persevering.

The Most Magnificent Thing
Another great book to read early in the school year!  Read and watch as this little girl struggles to create the most magnificent thing.  She has to stop and start over many times to get it just right.  I use this book to introduce the concept of persevering to my students and we will use it over and over throughout the year.

Wolfie the Bunny
Just because it's funny and I know my students will giggle.  It's very important to read lots of humorous books, especially in the beginning of the year.  Great for building a community of readers. Just because it's funny doesn't mean it won't have a message and create some conversation. 

Happy Reading! And don't spend too much on all those new books.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Google Drive in the Elementary Classroom - inspired by #cyberPD2015

This summer I participated in #cyberPD Google Community.  We read and discussed Digital Reading: What's Essential by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson. The conversations have continued at the CyberPD blog. You can also find this post there!

Last year I began exploring Google Drive with my third graders after my district had recently began using Google Apps for Education.  I wrote about my first experiences here. For this post I thought I would share the different ways I have tried to use Google Drive in my Reading Workshop. I certainly am not an expert, but I hope by sharing my experiences it will inspire others to share how they use Google Drive in their classrooms.

I think many teachers probably have some experience using Google Drive, probably Docs, which is similar to Word, a word processing program. However Drive is much more powerful and versatile!   What makes it so powerful is the ability it gives teachers and students to collaborate and share what they create in an authentic manner.

Google Draw
The first tool that my students got familiar with was Google Draw.  I love this tool because it is so versatile.  Students can make posters, graphic organizers, thinking maps, diagrams and can even add clip art or images.  And since my third graders had basically no typing experience this was a great tool to start with to help them get familiar with the keyboard, and not get bogged down by typing. Just like you might partner or group your students to work on a project traditionally you can do the same thing in Google Drive.  Students and teachers can share documents digitally and work on them together.  For example, after participating in book clubs my students worked in partnerships to create Circle Thinking Maps about main characters.  One student creates the document in their drive and shares it with the second student.  Then they can work together to create the map and share it with me when they are done.  I have my third graders sit down next to each other in the computer lab so they can communicate with one another easily and I can help or chat with them together while they work.  However, students can work in separate places and even at home in a collaborative fashion using the Chat function to communicate with one another.  To get an idea of what is looks like on the screen when students are working on the same document you can view this quick video of Brian St. Pierre's 5th grade class working on on document together. Of course it is wonderful to see students creating digitally, but the exciting part is all the ways we can now share our creations.  With Google Drive you can embed documents in websites or blogs, or share them by using URL's.  And yes, you can still print them out traditionally.  All student work is saved electronically becoming sort of a digital portfolio.

We didn't create a lot since I was learning last year, but I wanted to show you a few student samples so that you could see all the possibilities this tool provides.

My colleague, Brian St. Pierre, has several tutorials on Youtube for using Google Drive that you might find helpful.  The first one is on sharing a document with another person.

Google Presentation
Google Presentation is like a slide show.  Once students were familiar with Draw it was very easy for them to learn how to make slides. At the end of the year each student created a slide and then I was able to put all the slides together to create a Google Presentation that I embedded on our Class Blog.

Google Forms
Another tool we tried was Google Forms.  Forms is a great way to collect information, whether you are surveying your students about their reading life or creating a quiz or test, you can do it with forms. After we had read an article in our Scholastic News about whether video games should be considered a sport we decided to create a survey using Google Forms and then embed it in our blog as a post called Is Video Gaming a Sport?.  When you are in Drive viewing your Form you can also click 'view responses' and you will see a spreadsheet of all you data.  You can also create a chart or graph of your data once in Google Sheets. I am still learning how to do this!

Organizing Google Drive
It doesn't take long to collect lots of student documents once they start sharing with you! I will admit I have not organized my student shared documents.  One of my colleagues creates a file for each student in her class and shares the file with that particular student.  She asks that all their finished work go into that file.  This is something I will probably do this year.  It will be a mini-digital portfolio.

Students also need a list of student usernames so that they can easily share documents.  I created a document that listed everyone's name, including mine, along with their usernames, and shared this document with my class.  That way they could copy and paste usernames when they needed to share documents.  Students have usernames that look similar to an email, but are not an email account.

Google Classroom
If you want to have a central place where you can digitally hand out assignments, provide links and collect student work then Google Classroom might be right for you.  Google Classroom is linked to your Google Drive.  Once you sign up and create a Classroom you can invite your students to join. It's definitely very middle school and high school friendly.  You can upload worksheets and hand them out electronically to your students.  Students complete the work and hand it back in electronically.  All student work is than located in your Classroom folder. Google Classroom keeps track of this and you can even grade assignments digitally.  Late in the spring I decided to experiment with Google Classroom to see if it might work for my third grade class.  I made a short video so that you can tour my Google Classroom to decide if it is right for you and your classroom.

As you can see Google Drive has much potential for helping students create and share in a meaningful and authentic manner.  I have just touched the surface of how we can use it in our classrooms.  I look forward to teaching my new batch of third graders and exploring more ways to use Google Drive in my digital reading classroom! I would love to hear how you use Google Drive in your elementary classroom.