So I was training in Killeen, Texas this week and talking about Reader’s Workshop. One of the first “ah-ha” moments that many participants had was the idea of a classroom library and how to organize. Maybe you have books that look like this. A teacher in TN shared these pictures with me. They are the before. Her summer goal was to get this “mess of books” organized and accessible for her students.
So how do you organize books? In a Reader’s Workshop kids NEED access to books! Richard Allington says an average of 10-18 books per child is a recommendation. Do the math… and it’s a lot of book. They need interesting books! Fun books! Books on their “level, but not leveled books. Let me explain.
In a Reader’s Workshop we are going to teach kids HOW to pick books that are on their level. ( a blog post on this is coming soon). We may have leveled books in baskets, but our baskets should be organized by themes, genres, and authors. So there may be a book that we know is a level G in a basket about animals, but kids are looking in the animals basket, seeking out a book about animals that is a book they could read independently rather than looking for a level G book to read. Does that make sense? Keeping in mind that when kids go to the bookstore or to a garage sale or to the library to “buy” a book, they can’t ask someone to help them find a level G. That is “school reading”. We need to teach kids how to determine if books are a good book for them on their own because that is “real reading”.
So what is a teacher to do? First of all… I want you to take a good look at your books! How many books do you keep OUT of reach of the children in your class? You know what I mean. “Saving” them for read alouds- that NEVER GET READ?! Stop saving them, sort them into categories and put them into the baskets that kids will have access to all year long. That is the first step.
Now, let’s talk a little more about this sorting. First we need baskets and those are at places like Dollar Tree, Target, etc. Someone today told me you can ORDER from the Dollar Tree online? I never knew that! You have to buy in bulk… but we all have teachers friends we can do that with eh?
Then we need to make basket “categories” which we will label with their respective names. So look at your books. What do you have a lot of? What do you have enough of to make its own basket? Do you have a collection of books on dinosaurs, animals, outer space, poetry, realistic fiction, Dr. Seuss, or Lois Lowry? You will need to get an idea of your “labels” and of course get it organized, but one of my favorite things to do is to let students help with the sorting.
I put stacks and stacks of books (three or four baskets worth- but no more than 3 or four types also known as baskets) by my chair and call students over to the carpet for the mini-lesson.
You are now in my classroom…
“Boys and girls, I need your help. I have all of these books and I need some way to keep them organized so that we can all read them really easily. It’s like when I go shopping for shoes- it is easy to shop for shoes because they put all the same kinds of shoes together. Right? The other day I went to get a pair of tennis shoes at Walmart. At Walmart, they put all the high heels together. They put all the running shoes together and all the flip flops together and it’s really easy to find the kinds of shoes I want to buy. I want my books that are like each other to all be in the same baskets in our classroom so readers can find books easily just like finding a kind of shoe easily at Walmart. Let me show you what I mean, and I am going to need your help.”
I proceed to hold up a book and think aloud about what kind of book it is. I place it in front of me on the carpet. I do the same thing with another. Pretty soon, we start to see books stack on top of each other- the creation of baskets. Once we have clear categories outlined, I give each student a book to look at and we go around the carpet asking each student to tell about their book and which basket they are going to put it in. Ta-Da! Kids helping in the sorting. Kids feeling like they had a part in it- and they did- but I was scaffolding the process.
If you are not following Joyful Learning in KC blog… you need to be! Don’t let the “Kindergarten” scare you! There is stuff on here for everyone. Look at what she posted recently for your Reader’s Workshop and book bins! For this, I say THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
As far as organizing them… we can have the best of intentions, but there’s no full proof plan that I know of to keep them truly organized, however I do have some “lines of defense”. I have an Avery label on the back of the book that matches the picture on the front of the tub. (After they have been “sorted” by kids of course) A little matchy-matchy is the first line of defense.
Second, I have a mini-lesson with my students trying to instill in them the importance of keeping these precious books organized and it goes like this.
You are now in my classroom…
“Boys and girls… I want to read the BEST book for you! It is a Fairy Tale.” Sitting in my lap is the Fairy Tale basket. “You are going to LOVE this book!” I proceed to go on and on about how wonderful it is. Then I start to look through the basket. Low and behold it’s not in there! Bring on my panic!
“Oh no… you guys.. it’s not in here! Where could it be? What am I going to do? You have just got to hear this book!” Inevitably, you have one student who say, “Maybe it’s in a different basket?” (This is before it could be in a student’s reading tub for Reader’s Workshop of course).
So I act shocked and I say, “No! It couldn’t have been put away wrong could it? Could that happen? Could someone have put the Fairy Tale book in the animal book basket?” I have of course already hidden it there. I head over and get the animal basket and the kids watch me search through every book until it is found! “Boys and girls, here it is! That was so hard to find though!” Then I proceed to illustrate my point of how important it is to keep books where they belong so every reader in this classroom can find the books they are looking for! Ta-Da! Second line of defense. Helping kids do the sorting of the books as mentioned above also helps in this process of keeping books organized.
My third line of defense is making a classroom JOB of librarian. That person checks books every day/week/month- whatever! They help you to keep it “right”. I have never had to come up with a fourth line of defense… but that’s not to say some of you won’t need one.
And of course there is an APP for THAT! It is only .99 cents and well worth it if you ask me!
See what you think…
What do you do to organize your classroom? What lines of defense can you offer for other teachers reading this blog? I’d love to know.