Saturday, July 07, 2012

Organizing the Classroom Library

I've spent some time in my new classroom over the past few weeks. I love being there and thinking about the space. I know it is early, but I need to start the year off organized and I wanted to get things moved and unpacked. I wanted to spend time thinking about the best way to use the space. (My husband is always a huge help during these first few days in the classroom--moving things over and over until it feels like it will work for student learning:-) One of the biggest jobs is always organizing the classroom library. I want the library to teach students about being a reader. I want the books to be accessible but I also want the organization to help students learn ways of choosing books, finding favorite authors, trying new things, etc. I want the library to meet the needs of every reader in the classroom from the very first day. I feel like I finally have a good start on the library and thought I'd share some of the process.

One wall of the classroom (the one that you see as you walk in the door) is a wall of shelves. The shelves are built in and are pretty much from floor to ceiling. I knew I wanted kids to see books when they walked in and I also knew the students could not reach the top shelf easily. (It was tempting to use that top shelf for my own storage but a good friend taught me the importance of eliminating messes that you can see from the doorway and I always create messes in storage areas.)  So I lowered a few of the shelves, making space on top for oversized books to display. I know these books will be gone most of the time but there seem to be so many books that are a little too big for a regular shelf and I don't want those to get lost --I want them to be visible. So I used this shelf area for mostly fiction--baskets are sorted by series and authors that I am thinking will be popular in the early part of 4th grade. I have a variety of easier and more difficult series/authors. I know these will change but I want everyone to walk in seeing old favorites as well as new possibilities. The last shelf in this area is designated to the fiction novels that don't fit into an author/series category but may as the year goes on. I want 4th graders to begin to know themselves and their tastes. Finding authors and series you love will help them think ahead as readers and begin conversations around who they are as readers.



The Smartboard is front/center in the room and I want it to be accessible during read aloud, minilessons etc. So I created the meeting space around the board but not so that it is the center. I built out the shelves a bit so that the "front" is at the easel but it is a flexible space for using whatever tools available. I plan to put nonfiction on these shelves next to the easel and behind.

Behind the easel/meeting area will be the nonfiction books. I am thinking hard about ways to organize these so that they are more accessible for student reading. I want students to choose these for independent reading, to find topics and authors they love, find series that hook them--just as they do with fiction. I also wanted to create a comfy space for sitting with books and friends. This area of the library is next-up on my list but the space is set.

I have 4 small shelves in the back of the room at the edge of the meeting area. I plan to put picture books on these--those we'll use for independent reading, writing mentors, etc. Many picture books are also in the NF section.  I always hesitate putting picture books in a different area from fiction novels but it seemed to make sense with the space this year. I'll use the two shelves on the right for picture books.  I plan to use the shelf closest to the Smartboard to highlight new books. I am hoping to get some low display shelves for directly in front of the Smartboard to highlight books that are currently being read/discussed in classroom. 

This is my favorite shelf! It is right next to the picture books and it houses graphic novels. I was happy to see that I've really added to my GN collection in the past few years and I had enough to justify an entire shelf. I think this will be a good message for kids--to see that graphic novels are as important as any other kind of book in the classroom. There are a variety of authors and genres represented with Babymouse playing a key role, as she should! This shelf makes me happy!


I have built quite a collection of poetry for the classroom. Years ago, as I realized poetry was not a favorite for me, personally, I decided to deliberately build my poetry collection. As I was sorting books, I was shocked to see just how much that collection has grown. Our district gives each classroom a library of books an many are great poetry. So between my books and the ones in the district collection, I had to find a good space.

This is what you see when you walk straight into the classroom.  I decided to dedicate this whole area to poetry as I needed the space and it seems to fit well.  This space is off to the side a bit so a small rug and low table in front will make the poetry inviting. And I have top shelf space to change out books on display.  I may also add the word play books that I have to the top of this shelf. (You see the Bananagrams are already there.) Seems a fitting place.

These pictures might give the impression that the classroom only has books. But I believe strongly that kids needs lots of tools for learning.  And I want it all to be visible so students know right away that all tools are valued in the classroom.  Years ago, I had books visible with math and science materials in cabinets, out of view. I realized the message was not one I wanted to give so I now work hard to put as many tools as possible out there in the view of students. I want them to have visual reminders of all of the tools available for them and I want them to be able to access the tools readily.  Students' cubbies are on one wall of the classroom with storage underneath. I plan to use the bottom areas for board games (I have lots of math and learning games), building toys, science tools,  math manipulatives, etc.  The drawers near the sink are already filled with magnets, velcro, etc that kids can access. And I have a shelf near the doorway that will house supplies such as pencils, staplers, paper clips, sticky notes, etc.


Lots to do, but happy about the basics of the room so far.




17 comments:

  1. This looks beautiful! I'm so envious of all the space and storage you have. My classroom is tiny so I'm always trying to figure out how to maximize the space. A few years ago a colleague help me figure out a great arrangement and I've not come up with a better one since. Every year I examine it to see if there is anything I can do differently and ask new colleagues for their input, but so far everyone says keep it as it is and so I do.

    Are you teaching fourth this year? And how many students will you have?

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  2. Thanks, Monica--This is a new room/school for me and once I get the space to work, I probably won't change it for years either! Several of the shelves are my personal shelves that I bought on sale a while back. I finally just bought matching ones because I had mismatched so much. I do love the space--it is an older school and they just redid all of the rooms a year or two ago. I am teaching 4th and we'll have anywhere from 25-30 kids this year.

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  3. Franki,
    I'm so jealous. Not setting up a classroom is going to be one of the hardest parts of my transition to literacy coach, Setting up the book room just isn't the same.

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  4. Love all the shelves for books. When I moved into the classroom where i am now 2 years ago, I had to scrounge for shelves for my books. The first comment I received (and this from a fellow teacher at that) was that I had too many books! I changed things a bit and now am fairly happy with the set up. We can't get into our school though until the last week of August - the week before school starts.

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  5. Like Monica and Mindi, I too am jealous. I don't have near the space you have and all my bookshelves are old and mismatched! I wish I had your room!

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  6. Wow, I love your new classroom! I would love to have The space you have. I am looking to makeover my room this year with additonal bookshelves that create a cozy library/reading space. I've been told by colleagues and staff alike that they think my room is cozy and inviting. I hope to have a room for my high school students that is as inviting as yours. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Franki,
    I too, have moved classroom and building. I have "put away" most of the books using baskets and display bins. But I am having difficulty with what to do with student supplies. What is your thinking about student supplies: book bins, response notebooks etc?

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  8. Joanne, I am going to use those cardboard (wide) banker's boxes for supplies, notebooks, etc. Also will have storage for supplies like pencils, etc. on tables. Some baskets around room for other things that need to be easily accessed. I left enough shelf space for the organizers throughout room-I want them to put them away each night and for crowd control, I don't want them stored all in one place.

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  9. It looks like you have tons of storage & shelving! I'm also rethinking my non-fiction area. I've focused on adding to that area & now need to make it more accessible. Great post that already has my wheels turning!

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  10. Franki-
    Like everyone else, I love your room- the shelving is amazing! I love reading how thoughtful you are about organizing-- I'm not going to have my own classroom this year (reading this makes me wish I were!) but I am definitely going to share this piece with teachers! Thanks so much!
    Carol

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  11. Franki,
    I didn't know you returned to the classroom . What an amazing space. I like the organization of the books and the visual display.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  12. OMG (as my students would say) ... I have total room envy. I love the fact that you have so much built in storage - shelves, cupboards and even drawers. I've pretty much scrounged up book cases over the years - their only connecting factor being the same colored contact paper! Love the easel area, too, and the fact that it is right beside the smart board and computer - I am just imagining all the teaching possibilities this makes so much more convenient and fun. And you are already setting up the library! My room is boxed up and out of bounds until the third week of August, so I'll have to live vicariously by taking a peek at your room from time to time!

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  13. Inspirational! It makes me want to go to my classroom with your pictures in hand but mine is presently closed for cleaning. Oh well, I can start planning.

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  14. Wow! Can I go back to fourth grade and be in your classroom?

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  15. I love your blog! Can we doante some classroom library goodies for your use?

    Thanks,
    Ben@classroomlibrarycompany.com

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  16. Franki, Your room looks great. I'm not nearly as organized as you. I am moving to a new school and back to fourth grade and all of my stuff is in a heap waiting for the other teacher to clean out her stuff. :) So, the beginning of August will be very busy for me getting organized. I can't wait to dig in and get started. Love what you've done and congratulations on your new job!

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  17. Julie--I didn't know you were going to be teaching 4th grade. My August is crazy/busy so I wanted to at least get basics done early when I had some time at home.

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