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.