Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Classroom Library Rant

I apologize now if my post makes anyone mad at me... I hope to just put something out there to think about.  I've blogged about this before because I'm super passionate about it!  So, if you've been a follower for a while, it may sound familiar.

Classroom libraries.

My school uses AR, which I have a love/hate relationship with anyway.

When I started out as a teacher, I had my library organized by AR color.

It was super easy.

I bought white baskets.  I bought spray paint.  I laid the baskets out across my driveway and spray painted them.

yellow
green
blue
red
pink
orange
black

Then I put all the books at "level yellow" in the yellow basket and so on.

The books all had colored dots that correlated to the color of the basket.

SO easy!  Easy to organize.  Easy for the kids to put them away.  And easy for the kids to know right away who was always having to go to the yellow basket because they weren't "good enough" at reading to be in red, where most of my kiddos were at the end of 2nd grade.

Also, very easy to teach kids that the only thing we need to consider when choosing a book to read is the level it is written at.

I started hearing kids policing each other about what color they should be reading based on which basket they were hovering around.

And kids not caring about what they were reading... as long as it was in their color basket.

I had a lightbulb moment.

I wasn't teaching my kiddos (2nd graders at that time) to love reading... I was teaching them to read words on a page, regardless of their interest, because the book was deemed to be "their color".

So, I re-organized my library.

I made baskets about interests or with books written by a certain author or about certain topics or characters.

Within each basket, the reading levels are all mixed up.

My students have to think about what they want to read first.  Then, what is appropriate for their reading level, is second.

It's still easy to organize.  My baskets are all numbered and each book has a sticker with the corresponding number.  All Captain Underpants books are in basket 20.  All books about math ideas are in 35.  Science books are in 18.  Animal books are in 17... I LOVE seeing them get excited about all of the baskets in my library.  I love that they look through baskets together.  They see books their friends might enjoy and they talk about them.

I love that they have to be aware of what is appropriate reading material for their individual abilities... but they don't have to base their decisions around that idea!  When I choose books for myself, I don't always choose things at my level... and I gravitate toward my interests first, of course!

I believe that this change has helped my students be more aware of WHY we read and has helped develop an enjoyment for reading... of course it helps that my library is HUGE with a wide variety of reading materials!  It's my pride and joy and the thing I poured the most money into when I was getting it up and running!

So, what do you think?  How is your library organized?

20 comments:

  1. Love this post!! I am the only one at my grade level who doesn't organize books by level. I have them similar to you by author/series etc... I was just thinking the other day that perhaps I should reorganize by level, but after reading this I'm going to keep it just the way I have it!! My school really pushes AR but it doesn't take that much time for students to look through a basket that interests them to find a book on their level.

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  2. I am really jealous of your book collection! WOW!! I too, organize by theme/author.

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    1. I organize my classroom library books by topic as well, but I need to mark their AR levels. Is there a quick and easy way to find the AR levels of books?

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    2. There's a website called "AR Book Finder.com" I believe. That should help! I'm able to log into my teacher account on the AR site. Then I go to "Manage Quizzes" and type in the titles!

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    3. I made a 'fake student' account for my classroom just for the purpose of finding books quickly. I log in as that student, type in the title, and find the level, points, etc. in just one click. I can log out without taking the quiz. I found it to be quicker than going into the teacher site. I then simply write the AR level and points on the cover of the book.

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  3. I hear you on this! Some of the books I have are organized by level- and it's influencing the choices my kids make. Reading should be fun- kids shouldn't have to worry about what others will think when the go to book shop. I'll be changing things for sure this year.

    Melissa
    Real Life in First Grade

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  4. Love your library... I think we think alike about our libraries. Thanks for sharing!

    Tina

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  5. I'm right there with ya! Luckily we dropped AR a few years back. Don;t get me started! I have mine organized by subject like you do. I have been wanting/maybe needing to use guided reading levels instead, but it just takes so long and I'm kinda lazy! I know some people do both, but I cannot wrap my head around that at all! So genre it is!

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  7. MentoringintheMiddleJuly 28, 2015 at 10:36 PM
    I've organized my books by genre for a number of years now, even when I wasn't "supposed" to. It makes no sense to me to do it otherwise. I don't always read books at my level,;sometimes I read challenging books and sometimes I read what I call a "beach" book. Kids should have those choices too. When books are arranged by topic or genre, kids talk to each other about books and why they should read them. Isn't that how we create lifelong readers?
    Marion

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  8. My library is VERY similar - the numbers are GENIUS! I teach kindergarten and the beginning of the year is rough on my organization. You know what I will be doing next week - numbering!! What I am also doing is leveling the books in the bins to help too. This takes a LOT of time, but I'll get there one day :) I use an app called Level-It - best $3 I ever spent!! So the children will chose by interest, then look for some books at their level. I do Daily 5, so it is a mixture of on level and high interest in their book bins.

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  9. This is exactly what I do! Even down to the numbers on the book bins matching up with the numbers on the books! Now the kiddos feel like they really have a choice of books to suit their interest!

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  10. I love your library. I started out with leveled books sorted by color, too. In fact, I still have a few bins of them. I no longer focus on color/level, but eventually I need to phase out all of the "color dot" baskets. I have added genre baskets, favorite author baskets, and series baskets. It's a work in progress. I like the idea of numbering everything. I haven't done that.
    Jan
    Laughter and Consistency

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  11. My library is currently organized the way yours is now, by genre and favorite series and authors. Our school has embraced a "balanced literacy" approach where everything is level, level, level. My students are even older than yours, and I believe that most of them have been able to choose books they can read through minilessons demonstrating how to do so and experience. I am going to level some books, but I am not going to insist that every book in their bag has a level number because the world outside of school is not organized that way, and as you mentioned, it breeds low self-esteem on the part of the less able readers. Love this post!

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  12. My library is currently organized the way yours is now, by genre and favorite series and authors. Our school has embraced a "balanced literacy" approach where everything is level, level, level. My students are even older than yours, and I believe that most of them have been able to choose books they can read through minilessons demonstrating how to do so and experience. I am going to level some books, but I am not going to insist that every book in their bag has a level number because the world outside of school is not organized that way, and as you mentioned, it breeds low self-esteem on the part of the less able readers. Love this post!

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  13. I love this idea. I'm definitely going to try it in my classroom. I also love the idea of using numbers.

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  14. I have organized my library similar to this but use colors not associated with AR levels. I have 6 colors with numbers. So Blue 1, Purple 1, Pink 1, Blue 2, Purple 2, etc. Students just have to match the color and number on the book to the boxes. Books are not leveled so students can browse and find an interesting book. AR levels and points are written on the bottom right corner. I do keep non-fiction books together in the #4 boxes. Some boxes are filled with sets like all Magic Tree House Books, A-Z books, etc. When we do book talks I encourage students to tell which box the book is in. Students have a page in their notebooks for recording their reading Wish List where they can write the title and location of a book their friend suggests for them. With boxes you can just get a new one and start filling it up whenever needed. It has worked for 30 years and is the most simple type of organization!

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  15. I definitely agree with your organization system over organizing by levels. I teach fourth grade, and my school does not use AR. Students are usually pretty good judges about what type of books are appropriate for their interest and level. Of course, there are the ones who need a gentle push...

    Mary
    Fit to be Fourth

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  16. I love your numbered bins. My library has 2 distinct areas; the leveled library and the genre library. We use GRL and I instruct my students to select 2 books from the appropriate level and then 3-5 books from the genre/interest/character library. I feel like they have self-selection plus assistance selecting the right level. However, no matter how I label the bins and books, they rarely get returned to the correct bins. Numbering them is simple and ingenious.

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