Process: Slice of Life

Yesterday was my first “summer” work day back in my classroom. Living so close to my school, I can go in and putter around for a few hours here and there or dedicate entire days to getting specific tasks done. I wandered around the room yesterday transforming it from its fairly tidy end of June state to a complete pulled apart mess.

This is always the beginning for me – making it look much worse before it gets much better. I watered and repotted plants, leaving some stranded on tables waiting for a larger pot or a perfect new spot or both. Some surfaces got wiped down. Unsorted papers were stuffed in a few places waiting for a dedicated day, an empty recycling bin and a very strong coffee. Some furniture was shifted. Needing a second or third look before finding a “new year, new spot”. Again waiting. I need to clear some surfaces and clear out completely for a few days when the building engineers do the summer deep clean. Then I can come back in and again pull things apart before putting them back together.

Every year. The same process. Pulling it apart. Settling on the new. Organization. Systems. Flow. This process needs to happen each year. Shake it up. Smooth it out. Wonder and shift.

It happens with my classroom library as well. Every summer the shake up happens. I take my carefully organized library, turn it on its head and put it back ready for a new group of learners. To honour that writing too is a process, today’s slice is all about these classroom library tasks. Not the details but the beginning of the details. I have been thinking about doing a blog series about the maintenance of the classroom library that needs to happen each year. Today my writing is the skeleton of that series. The very beginning. The just ideas stage. The lists and tasks are both my schedule to follow and the beginning of a series of posts. I think. Process: Slice of Life

How does a blog post or a blog series happen? Just like many pieces of writing. Shaking it out. Sorting and shifting. Making a mess. Lining it up. Flushing it out.

This slice is not a finished piece. It is the beginning of the process. Lists. Ideas. Thinking on the page.

Here we go.

Classroom Library: Summer tasks Maintenance

  1. Returning displaced (why is it where it is) materials: class collection, read aloud collection. What’s changing? Weed as go (not so much weed out but moving to new places) Talk about different collections and reasons for organization (bins, labels, stickers, areas)
  2. Weeding – What goes? (less this year because of major work done last year) What changes? More dramatic this year because of grade level change. Beginning the list of “holes”/what’s missing? How are other titles stored? Can I have a lending library? Where? How? (Are number 1 and 2 two posts or one?)
  3. What gets added? Books not yet labelled (deciding what part of collection they will go into) Reorganizing to make space. How do I store books that don’t immediately get put into the collection. Book talk bins. Bins not yet labelled.
  4. The big organization is full of the little tasks – genre labels, systems, switching out bins and baskets. What materials does this involve? (stickers, labels, etc.) Location, location, location. Big shelves. Little people. Literally accessing the books. Stools?
  5. What is missing? Wish lists. The beginning of the noticing.  Diversity? Who are my readers? Will the books provide windows and mirrors?
  6. Bookstore visits. What am I looking for? What am I purchasing? What remains on the wish list. Priorities (definite gaps, Mock Caldecott titles, expanding nonfiction collection)
  7. Seeking out help. What titles specific to this grade level are must have titles? Importance of reading community. Blogs. Goodreads. Direct questions on twitter. Continued thinking about future readers (this links to #5) #7 and #6 should be switched.
  8. The ongoing piece of things. Is this separate post? Woven within? The lists I keep as I complete all of these tasks. Ideas of books for specific themes? To complement units and inquiry. Possible directions. Art ideas. Read alouds?

My intent with this series is to talk about what’s involved in maintaining a classroom library that meets the needs of its readers. It is work! Fun work but work.

Feedback? If you are reading this post, I would love some feedback. Would this be an interesting series for classroom teachers to read? Should I write it? What would you be particularly interested in reading about? Questions? Ideas?

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

26 thoughts on “Process: Slice of Life

  1. I would ADORE your series surrounding your thinking as you prep your classroom library for a new class! I think spending lots of time over the summer on your classroom library is critical to planting seeds for ultimate book love. Not to mention how much fun it is! I am especially interested in #4…..location! In my rather cramped classroom with so many books, I am always thinking about different ways to make tubs more accessible. Looking forward to all your posts! P.S. Did you see Princess in Black #5 will be out beginning of September?!

  2. I would be interested in a blog post/series on this topic. I read a ton of books over the summer, and I always have to figure out how to incorporate these amazing books into my classroom library (if at all). I didn’t love how my classroom library worked with my students last year, so I would love to get some different ideas for next year.

  3. Carrie, I would absolutely love this series! I would love to know different ways to organize books – categories? bins vs on-the-shelf? How do you organize the books you use as mentor texts – where do they live and how do you find what you want/need? Thanks for putting it out there!

  4. I desperately need to know how you “catalog” books. Do you have some sort of check-out system, or is it an honor system? I “lose” a handful of books each year because I don’t have a good system. I’ve tried index cards, little slips of paper students fill out, keeping a binder and writing down what gets checked out and when. Nothing seems to work. Thanks for posting — great idea, btw.

    • Thanks Marilyn. I did use an honour system. Although I would write things down on a paper that was all about crossing out, adding on and starting a new sheet. I didn’t lose any titles somehow this year. But I always sent this message, “Take it home. Read! Enjoy. Then bring it back. I trust you!!”

  5. All the thinking that surrounds the building of the library shows that this is an integral part of your classroom. Sadly, not all teachers see the importance of this library. I think all your processing through this would be a great help for teachers as they think about the role of the classroom library.

  6. “Will the books provide windows and mirrors?” This is my favorite line. 🙂 I agree with Elsie that a blog series on your topic would be very helpful and interesting. For those who work on rejuvenating our library every summer, you may give us some new ideas. For those who don’t, maybe it will serve as a hint that they could or should. Looking forward to reading more!

  7. The work you are doing is my last weeks of school – I have to box up every book, so this becomes the work to do. I would love a blog series, Carrie – things to think about as I unpack what I think is an organized library!

  8. This would be an awesome series! I love your voice and reading your posts. I wish I could putter in my classroom too- school is going through major construction so no access until closer to school starting. But I am dreaming.

  9. I did the beginnings of this work the week after school ended. But. I have so much of this to do. Next year will be a new grade level (4th) and all subjects! I suspect I will be reading and riffing off your blog series in an attempt to channel your energy this summer. Finding a new rhythm in a new space is a tall order. Exciting and thought provoking work. Let the sorting begin!

    • All subjects now! I always wonder what it might be like to NOT have to teach all subjects but can imagine it is a little daunting when you have been able to specialize. Keep in touch!

  10. As you consider your process, I wonder how students will take ownership of the classroom spaces and books, nooks, and plants, and so on. Where is there empty space for their touch–things and ways of being that only little ones might know.

    Together, all of you will be “making it look much worse before it gets much better.”

    • Ah yes, this. Kid tested and kid informed still will need to happen. Very quickly, more messes are indeed made as I realize that certain things just won’t work when it comes to flow and how students use the room. I love when children make suggestions or use things in ways that allow us to rethink spaces and systems together. It’s a never ending process! I welcome the continued changes.

  11. I’d be interested to read about the motivations behind your decisions. Convenience (for you and students)? Alignment with a particular lesson or unit? An expression of an evolving philosophy in your approach to facilitating reading? Thanks.

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