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Monday, June 4, 2012

Classroom Library Organization

Thank you to the couple of people who have signed up for DropBox via my link! I just started using DropBox recently after a recommendation from Deb over at the GREAT first grade blog My Little Classity Class, and it's completely made my life easier (especially once I started sharing fonts and graphics 'in the cloud' to have them at work and at home!).

I have some good news: I finally have my classroom library organized! Organization is tough for me, and I have to admit... this needed to be done all year!

Here are the before and after of how I organized my classroom library:

I decided to separate my books by topic and genre, not level, and here's why:

Bookstores and libraries aren't separated by level, and I want my library to be AUTHENTIC. Even more... I want my students to focus more on what they want to read, and less on limits for themselves. Yes, I will teach them about choosing books, and choose appropriate leveled books for them for our "book clubs" (my version of reading groups), but I don't want levels to keep them from reading something they want to read.

I tell my students all the time that sometimes I enjoy going back to read an old favorite. No, it's not on my reading level- but I enjoy it. It's important for kids to see that reading isn't just for 'learning'- because then some of them think reading is just for school.

I'm all about showing kids that reading is fun. Because I'm the kind of dork who stays up until 2 chatting to her far-away husband- and THEN stays up until 6 finishing The Help. (Yeah, that was last night. But it was really good!)

Also, it takes a super long time to level a bunch of books, but that's beside the point. I didn't feel it was right for me, anyway, especially since we are not an AR school.

Anyway, here's how I did it.

I would highly suggest that you put on music or TV to keep you company while you go through this process. For me, that meant Netflix playing Arrested Development on the SmartBoard. Ahhh.

I cleared away my special library seating.

I packed away book boxes so they were out of my way (and ready to be moved to my new room).

I had baskets from Dollar Tree (and Walmart) already, so I gathered only 2 things as supplies. Make sure you get the Super Sticky Post-Its if your baskets are anything like mine!

Start to separate books into piles based on like topics, series, or genres. Some of mine include "insects," "animal fantasy," "historical fiction," "Rainbow Magic Fairies," etc.

When they're somewhat decided and you know you have enough for them to be their own category, make a Post-It and put them into a basket. If I ended up combining two categories (or more), I just stuck all of the Post-Its on the front.

Warning- your room may look crazy while this is happening.

But I promise- it will get better!

To the left, a rolling bookshelf (with our writing supplies on the other side.)

To the right, dollar store baskets looking pretty under the umbrella.
When it finally is all done, you can collect the Post-Its (putting them back to back or paper clipped together if there are multiple topics in the same basket), and then use those to make nice, typed, laminated labels. I plan on using Velcro to put mine on, just like I did with my number labels for book boxes.

I put a few of the books that I use primarily for teaching or specific holidays or skills into a milk crate, using Post-Its like tabs. This especially helped when I had only one Mother's Day book- not enough for a basket, but still something I want to be able to find easily come May.

I also have a stack of books that didn't fit in my categories- the ones I didn't know what to do with, or might get rid of- so, for the time being, they just went here in this crate.

Now- how to keep the organization going. Stickers are tricky- I'm not sure I'll want these categories forever, but I do love the way they keep students accountable!

I have thought of two solutions- one would be a "return" basket that my classroom librarian uses to return books to the appropriate categories. Another would be using clothespins with my students' numbers on them to clip to the baskets, so students can easily find where the books go back. The tricky thing about that is that my students are allowed to have multiple books at a time in their book box, so I would need multiple clips for each student and that might get confusing.

Do you have any suggestions? What works best in your room to KEEP your classroom library organized? Thanks for your advice!


  1. Organizing my library is my summer goal this year. I have it organized by levels but I want to switch it over to categories. Levels are easiest to keep organized I think- I just write the letter on the back of the book. I just have a hard time finding a book when I want to read it! I've seen teachers use paint stirring sticks {from Home Depot} for students to mark where their book came from... just make sure the students have their name or number on the stick. Maybe having the sticks color coded could help with more than one book? I like the idea of clothes pins too!!
    The Learning Tree

  2. LOVE the idea of sorting by category instead of reading level. I also teach my students to choose books that they WANT to read rather than having them compare their reading level with their friends. Book Clubs are time for appropriate level reading and "Read to self" (Daily 5) is time for reading what you like ;)
    I also like the clothes pin idea! You can have a sign in sheet also or just put small color stickers on the back of the book. It's easy to just change or cover the stickers with new ones if you change your mind about categories ;)
    I'm pinning this post so I can come back when I'm ready to organize my own classroom library!

    All Students Can SHINE

  3. Love your website! I would love to donate some bins and our Book Retriever app!

    Please contact me for the Itunes code for a free download. Keep up the great work!

    Ben Conn

  4. I love your idea about having a return basket and having the class librarian put the books back where they belong. I may have to try it. It irks my nerves when students put a sports book in the Poetry and Songs basket! I also have a basket that is just for "Ms. Robinson's Favorites". I put a variety of picture books and chapter books, and I change them up every so often. The students really love reading books that they know I love.

    Also, you're blog is awesome!


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  6. Love your blog. I'm a new follower! Organizing my library has been my main to do these last few weeks. I bough bins from the dollar tree and organized by genre and level (because we are an AR school). I also plan to number my bins so that students know what numbered bin to return the book to. I like your idea of having class librarians return books, so I may make that part of their job. In years past I've had kids return books as they get a new one, but that ends up in a huge mess.

    Would love for you to stop by my blog sometime!

    Success in Second Grade

  7. What about using a bookmark with the category printed on it? That is a lot of bookmarks, but the students will know where to return the book to and have a bookmark when needed. Thanks for your great post!


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