Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SoLSC Organizing the Book Room 4.28.15


Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

Last week I answered a Tweet posted by Michelle Nero (@litlearningzone) about how our book rooms are organized.  We started a great conversation which led to a few more inquiries of how mine is organized.  Here it is in pictures and thoughts.

I wanted to create a room that has books out in a visually appealing manner, easily organized and a place where any students could come check out books.  I work with students all over the building, and we're not always in this room.  I needed it to be well organized and self-explanatory so that way if students visit this room with an assistant, they would know how to find books without my help.  My reading students often come to me without a book identity and not feeling like they are readers.  My goal by the time they leave me is they know what they like, they've tried different genres, and they know what to do to continue their reading life.  Big goals, but I aspire to reach them with each student.  
The wonderful thing that has happened is my reading students have influenced their classmates.  Before we knew it this year, we had students all over the building wanting to come down to my room to check out books.  My reading students always get first priority, but I'm happy to let anyone check out books.  
I try to keep current with my book selection.  I purchase a lot with my own money, which is not always an option for all teachers.  I figure I read the books, my daughter reads the books, and then there are lots of school children who read them, what a value!  I get other books from Scholastic, which is a wonderful option.  I don't have students order from me since they order from their classroom teacher, but I get a few bonus points from my orders that I always turn over right away and buy more books.  
I don't have as much room as I would like, so I'm constantly weeding out books to make sure I have room.  The tired and true books stay, but kind of like the rule with throwing away clothes in my closet, if I haven't worn them/a child hasn't checked out a book in a year, it can be weeded.  I give them away to new teachers, students or book collection services.  
Students check out books by writing their name and the book title on a paper on a clipboard.  Nothing fancy.  I tried using an online book service, but I couldn't get it on the school iPad, only on my iPhone, and since I don't leave my phone in the room, it became impractical.  The kids can sign their own books out, and I can hunt them down if I need them.  Probably not the most efficient way, but it works for now.
The top shelves are my most popular books, the ones that I know the kids like to check out and find very easily.
I do have books that are leveled by a colored dot system.  These are picture books that are leveled, but grouped together in multiple levels.  For example, A-D are together since they have similar characteristics.  I continue that up through P.  Some are divided out by fiction/informational text.  I level these books for a purpose.  I service 1st-4th gr students.  While I strongly believe in choice, I also know students need accessible texts to support their growth.  Every child can check a choice book out.  My younger students who need support, also check out a book they can read on their own.  We talk about the characteristics of each colored dot bin.  We talk about books that have short sentences vs. longer sentences.  Books with just a few sentences per page vs. books that have more text than pictures.  Books that have pictures that help tell the story and words and books that have pictures that support the story but may not help figure out the words.  This way, students understand what books are right for them instead of me assigning them a level.
I really like the colorful bins that I was able to purchase this year.  They are eye appealing and the best part is there are dividers so I can section off series.  Each bin has 3 sections, so I can use 1 bin to keep 3 series organized in.  It also gives a separation for the picture books so they aren't all stuffed in the large bin.  I got them through Really Good Stuff.
Some favorite bins are the new books bins.  As I bring in new books, they go in this bin and they are frequented often!  I have a new bin that has longer chapter books and another one for transitional chapter books.
I also started a Challenge for students.  Our students in 3-4th grade can vote in the IL Bluestem Choice Awards.  The list for the 2016 vote just came out in March and students have until February to read at least 4 books from the 20 book list so they can vote.  I have bookmarks in this bin that list the books so they can keep track of what they have read.  I posted above this bin the books I own from the list that they can check out and another list of the books I have read from this list.
This year we received a bookshelf someone didn't want.  It has 4 sides: 2 are for display, 2 sides you can stack books.  I use them for my new picture books.  One display side is for new fiction picture books, the other for new informational text picture books.  The sides are where I rotate them out.  Anything I purchase this year goes on the shelf.  At the end of the year I will dot them and put them in the bins and start over next year!
Here are my shelves in pictures!

Top shelf has fantasy and realistic fiction series.  Also popular graphic novels.
2nd shelf has more graphic novels and books that have text and illustrations (Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, etc)
3rd and 4th shelves more series, most that aren't as popular.

Colored Dot bins
The yellow dot bins have an informational text bin and a fiction text bin

Top shelf has the "new" books.  Popular bins!  Also the IL Bluestem books.  I've since added lists of what they can check out and bookmarks so they can keep track what they have read.
Bottom shelves have colored dot bins.

Top shelf has the very popular Elephant and Piggie and Fly Guy collections.  Also transitional chapter books.
Middle shelves are divided by genre.

Top shelf has Animal series (Who Would Win, Seedlings series, National Geographic Kids) and animal series.
Next shelves are divided by genre.

New Fiction Picture Books on display for eager readers!

New Informational Text Picture Books

What do you do to organize your book room?  Any ideas to pass along to me?


  1. Classroom library organization is always a work in progress for me. I have my books in bins, mostly organized by genre. I don't have to worry about level since I'm teaching gifted readers in 5th/6th - pretty close together. The only thing I do to separate levels is I have a shelf for 6th grade and up because that shelf contains more "mature" material. I have some bins that are organized by popular series or authors. I'm using Classroom Organizer online for checkout, but I've learned there's no perfect checkout/in system. Books still disappear. I like your challenges geared toward award winners and your colorful bins! Mine are red, black, and white. :-)

  2. I love the pictures of your library. I like the organizational supplies from Really Good Stuff, too. I teach 6th grade, so my books aren't labeled by level and instead by genre. I use dots as well, but I think I should get something for "New Arrivals," like you have. I label my baskets with laminated index cards that are attached by metal rings so I can move the labels around as needed. Thanks for the informative post!

  3. Wow. You are so tidy. My classroom library is arranged by broad genres - I find that this forces my kids to look through books they wouldn't otherwise bother with...and discover something new!

  4. Wow. You are so tidy. My classroom library is arranged by broad genres - I find that this forces my kids to look through books they wouldn't otherwise bother with...and discover something new!

  5. As a lit coach I did similar things, Michele, bins and labels, for teachers and sometimes for students. As a classroom teacher, most years I spent a couple of days with students, getting them to learn about all the books in class, & finding a new way to organize. That way they already were familiar with what was available in class. I haven't done that this year since I took over the class so late, but I did also always had 2 special shelves & do now: one for 'new" books and one for 'recommended' books. Students read what their peers read, & most will try a new one once in a while, so both are popular.

  6. Wow! What a thorough explanation of your classroom library! Your book nook sounds bigger than my little room, but I do what I can to cram books everywhere! My really new and favorite books line my ledge in the front of the room. My favorite place to buy books is at my local library where I can buy picture books/chapter books for a quarter! What a steal! I also have frequent visitors (that are not my reading students) who love to book borrow as well. That always makes me smile.

    I'll be "pinning" this post and I'm so appreciative that you took the time to share your classroom library with us! It's beautiful and full of lots of reading love ... and yes, there will always be books that disappear, but I always say that at least there is one more happy home with a good book. :) Thanks again Michele! Just awesome!

  7. I love that you share beyond your own students. Thanks for showing how you make it work. It looks fantastic.

  8. This post came at a great time for me as I've been mulling over the lack of engagement of many of the readers in my third grade classroom. This is my first year in third grade after 10 years in kindergarten so the arrangement of my classroom library was different than how I did it in kindergarten. I have a standing, swinging shelf where I put some series books like Clementine, A to Z Mysteries, and Judy Moody. I have nonfiction arranged in bins by subject and a few picture book author bins (Mem Fox, Kevin Henkes, David Shannon) but by and large all my chapter books are in leveled bins. I was thinking how this does not emulate real life- you don't go to the library or the boook store and go to the "M" section. I feel like maybe this has emphasized level over other important aspects of the book. I want to redesign my library and you've given me great suggestions on how to get started. I want to purchase those book baskets and make a basket for new arrivals. I also like the idea of really digging into the classroom library to show the students where everything is and highlight the books. You've given me a lot to think about. Great post!!