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Getting Started

It’s a new year, a new school, and a new grade for me this year. This means new thinking. While it feels very a bit scary, I am also excited about starting with a completely fresh slate. Because books are the heart of my classroom, I am starting by tackling the library.

As an elementary school teacher and a Teachers College Reading Writing Project groupie, I always had a large percentage of my library leveled according to the Fountas and Pinnell text gradient. But this year I have some new thinking about how to organize my  library.

This is just one of four bookcases from last year’s library. It’s messy, but you get the idea.

Planning

Before beginning to organize, I needed to activate my schema and consider what I already know about my students and what I already know about effective reading instruction.

Here’s what I think I know about my middle schoolers:

1. Middle schoolers can be very self-conscious.

2. Many of my students will have come from classrooms using a prescribed reading/writing program.

3. Students will come with a wide-range of reading levels.

4. Some of them will be reluctant readers.

Here are a few things I think I know about teaching reading:

1. Students need to read…a lot

2. Students need to read texts that are at their level.

3. If a student has a high interest in a book, they can probably read at a higher level than their independent or instructional levels.

4. Students need to be able to choose the books they want to read.

5. Students will need to understand the features of a variety of genres.

6. Ultimately, I want students to have a passion for reading.

Implementing

After trying to synthesize some of these contradicting ideas, I have decided that I am going to try to organize my library like this:

1. Levels on the insides of books when possible. (Many of books have a sticker on the outside.) This ways kids and I can use the level information to push our reading and reading instruction, but allows it to be a little more private if a student is self-conscious.

2. Less teacher-prepared labels. I hope the students will take more ownership of the library and I want the library to be more flexible. How can it be labeled to encourage more reading. Someday, I will be able to organize my library like this one featured in the tweet below:

Like how this classroom library encourages kids to ‘go on’ as readers. With an author or series or genre. pic.twitter.com/fMxnatCwvZ

— Mary Ehrenworth (@MaryEhrenworth) March 1, 2013

3. Use interchangeable tags for baskets so that labels can be changed. Start with genres and series labels, but be open for change.

4. Catalog all of my books using Delicious Library! What books do I have? What books do students want?

I need to get started now because this is a fraction of what I am dealing with. #already tired

Boxes of Books

What you don’t see are another 10 boxes of books on the other wall of my garage. Phew!

What do you think? How do you organize your library?

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My first blog post

I’ve been teaching for almost two decades and (confession time) I’ve never done any authentic writing for myself. No journal, no diary, no nothin’. Wait…does Twitter count? Any writing I’ve done has been solely for the purpose of modeling for my students. Inspired by the Teachers Write project, I decided it was time to “walk the walk” and start my own blog.

This fall will be my first time teaching middle school. I will be teaching Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders. It is my hope that this blog can be a place for me to share my experiences and we can learn from each other as educators.

My general outlook on life and teaching: have fun!

Laughing PD