11 July 2012

Classroom Library - Hold tight, it's looong!

Update: Here's an updated version of my classroom library: Click HERE!

When it comes to your classroom library, organization is key. While the grade you teach may help determine how you want it organized, chances are you’ll still be left asking questions. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know what I’ve tried, and I know what I will and will not do next time.
At the end of my second year of teaching, I knew I wanted to perfect my classroom library so that students would be more interested, and for it to be more organized so that I felt better when I looked in that direction.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
I taught second grade my first year as a teacher, and had my books organized (or so I thought) by level (kind of), and by genre (kind of). My school was big into AR and the system that I used was based on AR levels, however, the students read what most interested them anyway, so the levels didn’t even really matter. I realized about the second week of school that it wasn’t going to work, but I had bigger things to worry about than the organization of my classroom library.
I got married after my first year of teaching, and ended up back in my hometown, but at a new school, and teaching 4th grade! Unfortunately for me, they didn’t use AR, and I had to reconfigure how I wanted to organize my classroom library. I ended up organizing my classroom library based on Fountas and Pinnell’s Guided Reading Levels, with some books organized by series, author, and genre. This system actually worked really well for the most part, however, the more a friend, and co-teacher and I looked at Common Core, and looked at where we wanted to be as teachers, we decided that we needed to revamp our classroom libraries.
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve looked at many different ways to organize a classroom library. While the classroom libraries I saw were beautiful, and had top-notch organization, none were exactly what I wanted for my own. So, I decided to come up with my own system (I’m not claiming rights to it) using what I’ve seen, what I’ve tried, and what I want and need in a classroom library.
Here's what my classroom library looked like at the end of last year.

Over the course of this year, many students would say, “Do you have a book about ________ that is a Level ___,” and most of the time, I couldn’t give a definitive answer because I really wasn’t sure. Or I knew I had a book about _____, but it wasn’t at that student’s level. After getting that question so many times, I finally realized that there has got to be a better way for organizing books.
After much going back and forth between methods and ideas, I finally settled on organizing books by genre, author, and/or series. Each book still has a level on it, but books on a particular topic (ex. The Titanic), or books by a particular author (ex. Patricia Polacco), or books of a particular genre (ex. Mystery) will be grouped together so that regardless of level, students who are particularly fond of mystery books, can go right to that bin, and find a book that is “just right” and of interest.
I would like to say that the journey ended there, however, I had to decide what genres I wanted to use. Simply fiction or non-fiction seemed too broad, but narrowing it down to the nitty-gritty seemed daunting. Finally, I settled on these genres:
Autobiography, Biography, Informational, Realistic Fiction, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Traditional Literature, Poetry, and Teacher Spotlight
Again, I’d like to say that it ended there, but I had to then decide how to “code” the books. I was most interested in coding the books, because I wanted my two classroom librarians to easily be able to find the proper “homes” for books, and I wanted my students to become more aware of what types of books most interest them. I just knew this would be the easy part! Again, I was wrong.
I had planned on using the round colored dots, one for each genre, however, I ran out of colors and on paper it was not very aesthetically pleasing. So, I simplified...I have two main colors; one for non-fiction, one for fiction. Writing on the dot is then the code that further categorizes the book (ex. realistic fiction). I use another color for poetry, and a different color for traditional literature. yes, I know, traditional literature is fiction, but I felt like it really can stand on it’s own.
Finally, I have a different color for what I call “Teacher Spotlight.” Originally, this was going to be “Mentor Text”, but any book can be a mentor text, and I didn’t want students to think that only the books that I had labeled “Mentor Text” could actually be used as a mentor. That’s when I went back to my friend, and co-teacher with my dilemma. She suggested “Teacher Spotlight” - books that the teacher has shared or spotlighted!
Here are how the genre codes originally look (strongly disliked)
And here are the new and improved genre codes (L.O.V.E)
Books that are part of a particular series, by the same author, or are a particular subject, are sort of special. Those books have a colored dot denoting their genre, but they also have a white address label that tells the reader that it belongs with a particular series (ex. Magic Tree House), author (ex. Beverly Cleary), or subject (ex. American Presidents).
Phew! Yes, it's time consuming. Being able to have an organized classroom library that actually gets utilized is sooo worth it! Once I'm back in my classroom, I'll post new pictures of the finished product!


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