A Simple Set-Up for a Thoughtful Classroom Library!

The new year is a great time to reflect on how your classroom is organized. So, how is your classroom library working out? How do students check out books? How do you keep all those books organized? How much structure or freedom do you give students in selecting books for independent reading? There are a lot of factors for a teacher to consider when setting up a classroom library that will not only function well, but also encourage student independence and thoughtfulness.  Today I'm sharing how I set up and run my classroom library - come and take a peek!

First of all I have to admit that I am at a very well-resourced school; I have LOTS of books for my students to get their hands on. Some are new. Some are old. But the bottom line is, I have A LOT, which is fantastic because it allows my students to have A LOT of books in their possession. If you aren't so lucky, I'm sure you've got asking for donations, trolling garage sales, discount retail stores, and using those good old Scholastic Book Club points all on your "How to Get Books for My Classroom" list, right? :)

When I first set up my classroom, I use large area rugs to anchor my instructional areas. I use two rugs, one for math instruction, and the other for literacy instruction.

This is a shot of my "calendar rug" (sorry, it's a little blurry!). Each day, this is where we start our morning meeting, complete our calendar math and begin math workshop (math stations take place all around the room, but the rug serves as our whole group meeting point). For these reasons, I try to keep it clutter-free, both visually and literally!!! There are two main book shelves loaded with book tubs, and students keep their book boxes on top of one shelf. I've also got reading cushions stacked in the corner for students to use for read-to-self.

Although it took me a loooooong time to do it, my organizational system is very simple: I use Avery dots to label the books and their boxes. The books and their box have coordinating dot stickers to make for easy clean up and organization; all students have to do is match the sticker on the book to the sticker on the book tub. I know many teachers use this kind of sticker system- it's because it works!

I sort the books into two major groups, "dot books" (leveled within a certain range) and "choice books", different topics and genres. I made and taped some very simple labels on the boxes.

The "dot books" are categorized by the developmental stages of Bonnie Campbell Hill's Reading Continuum (clicking on the link will take you straight to a copy of it). Here are how I divide up the leveled books:
Emerging: levels A-D
Developing: levels E-H
Beginning: levels I-L
Expanding: levels L-O

While I want my students to get their hands on lots of just-right, leveled readers, I also want them to become independent thinkers; I don't want to tell them that they have to pick from a certain book tub without allowing any choice. I want them to be able to determine whether or not a book is a good fit, not just read books that I tell them to read. I teach my students to use the " I PICK" strategy as known by The 2 Sisters, and it works well in our class. For example, if a students is independently reading books that are level C, I will guide him/her to shop from the "red dot" box, and he/she will have to look through several books and determine which ones make for a good fit.

Another reason why I don't ask my students to just shop for a certain level is because publishers are so different when it come to their text-leveling guidelines. I have found several examples of when a labeled book may actually harder or easier than its advertised level. When they are ready, I'll ask students to shop from multiple tubs. I don't have any strict formula for determining when this should happen- I just base if off my observations during reading workshop.

I also have a number of "choice tubs" which as I mentioned are organized by topic or genre. I think it's extremely important to foster a love of reading in students! I always want them to have access to materials that interest them, so of course, students check out books of their own choice, even if they are "only" able to read the pictures.

I also use different colored Avery dots, but I also write a short word or initials on it. For example, math literature red sticker with an "M" written on it.

I start off the year telling students that they may select 10 dot books, and 5 choice books- 15 total. The bulk of the books are obviously for independent practice, however, I still want them to have books that they just love, or are interested in. 

They shop for books roughly every week and a half- a week is a little too short, but anything more that about 7 or 8 school days with the same books has them bored! I guide the book shopping during my "teacher group" in the Reading Workshop because I always want to double-check their choices, and help them correctly sort and restock their returns back into the correct tubs. 

Book shopping can be messy business, but it's worth it!
Now, it's later on in the year and the students are more proficient readers, and have great stamina, so I increase the amount of choice books to 10. At this time, they are more likely to be able to read the majority of the words in their choice books, not just the pictures. 

I hope you enjoyed your visit to our library! I'd love to hear what you do to keep your books organized in the comments below. What system do you use in your classroom? 

Thanks for stopping by!
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