My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features

Summer in my world means bright early mornings, family vacations to the ocean, long afternoons of reading and classroom library tinkering! Sometimes the tinkering is a full out overhaul like this reorganization two years ago that involved moving shelves, switching bins and massive weeding.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Other years, it is a lot of adding to the collection and rethinking organization. This year, I am about to embark on some more big changes. I will likely have a Grade 2/3 class this year after teaching Grade 3/4 last year. Some series will go into storage and displays will change. I have more weeding to do and many books to label and add to the collection. I also have some donated books to sort through – some will become part of my classroom library, some I will share with other teachers and some will make their way home with readers.

I LOVE this work. Interacting with the books reminds me of titles I need to promote and stories that must be read. I also love the time to think about how Reading Workshop will roll out this year with a new group of students. Always, I want our library to be well used, well loved and working for all of the children in the room.

As I work this summer, I plan to share some of my thinking. Maybe it will be helpful to someone out there and it is always a useful process for me. Sharing, after all, promotes the best kind of learning there is.

I believe in a room full of books and time to read them. I also celebrate lots of book displays, incredible illustrations, an organization system that makes sense and a place for student voice.

Today’s post? Ten important features in my classroom library, beyond the books.

What are they and why are they important?

Book Jacket Wallpaper 

In my teacher resource area live lots of books and a wall of book jackets. This photo shows three layers of jackets. The “wallpaper” actually goes up another four rows. The message? That books are important: they are treasured, they are beautiful and they impact everything we do.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Behind the Scenes Organization

Every book that makes it into the collection is labelled with my name and “stickered” with the bin code. The trick to keeping the sticker on? Scotch tape. Labelled books mean that they can all find their homes when not being read.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Reader Statements

In January of 2014 I had the opportunity to hear Pat Johnson and Katie Keier authors of Catching Readers Before They Fall here in Vancouver. One of my take away pieces of learning was about using Reader’s Statements to communicate what readers do. For example: Readers think about what they read or listen to or Readers make sure what they read makes sense. I now record Reader’s Statements that come out of student conferences and post these up with the name of the child that talked about the idea. We refer to these often!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Return Bins

Some students put books away really well after learning the system. Other students find this more difficult. These big bins allow students to “return” books to a central area and a student volunteer of one of us working in the room will return the books at a later time.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Boxes

Each of my readers has his or her own book box. It is supposed to be for the books we are currently reading. But often our book joy overflows and many many books end up in these boxes. We work on prioritizing, keeping lists and letting books back out to be read by others. As one brilliant student always reminds us, “The books aren’t going anywhere. They are here all year for you to read.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

20 Beautiful Books Shelf

I have many special books in my collection. Some might be a signed copy. Others might be saved for specific read alouds. Some were important gifts. But, it doesn’t feel right keeping them all away from the readers in the room. So, this year I started using this shelf and we call it the 20 Beautiful Books Shelf because it always has 20 books on it and well, they are beautiful! Each of these books has a green sticker on the back and must be returned to the shelf after reading. I switch the titles here every few weeks.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Fiction Shelf

If I read a book or book talk it, it goes onto this shelf. These titles sometimes go back into my “resource” collection and get circulated when they take a turn on the “20 beautiful books shelf.” Other titles are library books and get returned to the library. Some books end up in our class collection. But after we have all enjoyed them together, they hang out here for a while so that they can be located easily when a reader wants to read one of them again. This shelf gets a lot of love!

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Recently Read/Book talked Nonfiction Shelf

And if fiction books are loved? So are nonfiction! And equally so! So I have a shelf for our nonfiction titles too. See the explanation above for fiction.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Favourite Read Aloud Bin

Sometimes, our recently read shelf gets full and I need to move some books out. When I try, there is often loud protesting! “No, we are still reading that one a lot!” (Rereading is celebrated in our room!) Sometimes, a book needs to go here so it can be found easily and that it gets a special place of honour. The bin is empty in September and slowly fills up throughout the year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

These titles came out of the Favourite Read Aloud bin at the end of the 2013/2014 year.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

Book Jacket Vocabulary

I love to highlight the nonfiction titles we have read and all of the learning that happened through our reading, writing and discussions. I post book jackets with key vocabulary and leave them up all year. Students often refer to the word lists and I use the words as prompts for review.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

The most important part of all of this?

That my students feel that they learn in a “wonderland of books.”

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for thatAll of these books and all of the organizing means that it often looks like this in my room. This is buddy reading with the Ks – lots of reading, lots of engagement, lots of literacy.

Exactly how it should be.

My Classroom Library: Beyond the books, 10 important features There's a book for that

In this recent post, I talk about questions to think about when setting up a classroom library.

What features in your classroom library make it work for your readers?

Celebration: Different Days

celebrate link up

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

This week I am celebrating different days. Each day this week had something out of the ordinary and it made for quite a lovely week with lots to be grateful for each day. Change brings new perspectives and insights. For this, I am grateful.

On Monday, which just so happened to be Family Literacy Day, my children came to school with me. They had a Professional Day at their school and wanted to come hang out in my classroom. They were involved in lots of literacy activities and did a wonderful job supporting and connecting with my students.

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

Tuesday afternoon is typically quite busy in my classroom. This week, we worked on having a very calm p.m. We finished art/writing projects and everyone felt very proud about getting all of our art up on the walls. A sample of student art work – gorgeous winter castles.

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Wednesday, we celebrated outside winter play with the FunMobile sponsored by Participaction.

What fun my class had playing outside with our little buddies from Mr. Blanchard’s K/1 class. Lots of activity, much laughter and some creativity with cones . . .

 Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Thursday we celebrated science with Lisa and Nelly, our amazing volunteer scientists from the Let’s Talk Science Program. Students learned how to use different equipment to measure liquids. Celebration: Different Days There's a Book for That

On Friday I had the opportunity to celebrate my own learning with an amazing Professional Development Day. Pat Johnson and Katie Keier authors of Catching Readers Before They Fall were in Vancouver for a full day of presentations and discussions.

catching readers

I could write a LOT about things I took away from this session but I am going to try and limit it to my top ten takeaway comments/ideas/questions/inspirations. Note – these come from sessions with both Pat and Katie.

1. If a child is struggling with a word when reading, don’t help by prompting with the same strategy – use a different one. (i.e. if child is sounding out and not getting word, don’t say “try the other vowel sound” – instead, use a meaning or syntax prompt)

2. Be careful about our language – not “This is what good readers do” but instead ” Readers . . . ” when we talk about the habits/strategies of readers.

3. Our assessment should focus on what it is the child does when stuck. What strategies does he/she have? Which does he/she need to learn?

4. Use Reader’s Statements with your students to communicate what readers do. For example: Readers think about what they read or listen to or Readers make sure what they read makes sense I am already thinking about what statements I want to highlight with my students and where to post these in the room. 

5. Think about the difference between heavy handed strategy teaching and “spotlighting” certain strategies. Integrate strategies because all readers need all of them. There shouldn’t be a continuum where certain comprehension strategies are taught at certain grades.

6. Don’t skip/rush the shared demonstrations. Children need the “do it with me” time. Some need more practice and explicit support linking back to these lessons as they are developing independence with the strategies.

7. The children who struggle (who don’t have a reading processing system happening) do not realize that other readers have all of these things going on while they read – make thinking explicit in modelled read alouds

8. Really think about what fluency means. It is not just speed and accuracy. It is also phrasing, flow, punctuation, expression, etc. Use text to show how punctuation “tells us how to read it”  in shared demonstrations to talk about fluency.

9. Effective literacy programs are anchored in best practices but responsive to today’s world. Think about  purposes for reading/writing when thinking about using new technologies i.e. blogging and sharing with school community, wider world, responding to comments, etc

10. When thinking about having children use technologies – think about a shift from children thinking about technology as a toy to using it as a tool. Is what we are teaching helping our students become literate? Help them be creators/producers and not just consumers.

I also loved that in Pat’s a.m. session she referred to one of my favourite blog posts on the Catching Readers blog: Signal Words This is a great post full of ideas about how to assist students learn how to read nonfiction texts.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week!