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A Virtual Peek Into My Classroom Library

By Beth Newingham on October 6, 2009
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

A library is an essential part of any elementary classroom. To run an effective Reading Workshop, it is necessary to stock your classroom library with books of a variety of genres, topics, and levels.

A library is an essential part of any elementary classroom. To run an effective Reading Workshop, it is necessary to stock your classroom library with books of a variety of genres, topics, and levels. Teachers who use the workshop method know that readers need lots of books in a single year, as they are given time to read self-selected texts independently on a daily basis. For this reason, it's important to organize your classroom library in a way that allows students to easily find "just right" books that they are interested in reading.

Read on to watch a video about how I organize my classroom library and how I use it as a tool to help my students evaluate their own reading progress throughout the year.  You will also find ideas for collecting more books for your own classroom library, links to download book labels, and additional photos of the library.

 

 

Take a Virtual Tour of My Classroom Library!

 

 

Using Colored Baskets to Organize My Books

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Fiction picture books are stored in red baskets.

 

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Chapter book series are kept in blue baskets.

 

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Chapter books that are not part of a series are kept in yellow baskets.

 

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Nonfiction texts are stored in green baskets.

 

Basket Labels

All baskets have a unique label that tells a reader what type of books they can find inside.  The basket labels vary based on the section of the library in which the basket is located.

 

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Nonfiction basket labels reveal the topic students will find inside.

 

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Fiction picture book and chapter book labels reveal the basket's genre.

 

Chpater books 
  
Chapter book series baskets reveal the name of the different series a reader will find inside.

 

Basket labels 
Download my pre-made labels and a label template you can use to create your own.

 

How I Level My Books

 

I do not level my books just so that I can assign students a color code (level) and then make them read only at that level.  I make certain that my students are involved in the process in every way.  They read books from the classroom library and try to determine what levels seem "just right" for them.  I meet with each student individually to decide upon a comfortable "just right" level so that students can start choosing appropriate books that they can read independently.  (Watch my library video for more information about how this process works.)  Once a student's JR level is determined, he or she can refer to the basket labels as a guide for finding books that are "just right" for them.  As the school year progresses, students are constantly reevaluating what levels feel "just right" for them and reading trial books at a higher level before deciding to regularly read books at that level independently.

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A color code sticker can be found on the back of every book.

 

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Basket labels also indicate what color codes can be found inside.

 

Library conversion chart 
The color codes in my library correspond to Fountas and Pinnell's guided reading levels.

 

I use Scholastic's Book Wizard to level my books.  It provides a variety of levels including guided reading level, grade level equivalent, DRA level, lexile level, and interest level.  A description of each book is also provided along with its genre, common themes, and topics you will find in the book.  The Book Wizard also allows teachers to create, print, and even exchange book lists with other teachers.  You can also use Book Wizard to help you find "just right" books for your students using the "Book Alike" feature.

Check out Scholastic's Book Wizard

 

Collecting More Books for Your Classroom Library

It's common knowledge that an effective classroom library has a large variety of books at many different levels, about many different topics, and of many different genres.  That sounds great, but where can you get more books?

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One of my favorite ways to collect additional library books is to ask my current students to donate books from home that they have already read.  To provide them with an incentive, the donated books are given a special label with the child's name and the date that the book was donated.  Students like to know that their book will forever be part of the Newingham library.

 

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Another idea to consider is a read-a-thon.  Students can collect pledges from family and friends for each book they read in a month (or a certain period of time).  Students can count the books they read in class and at home.  Not only are students motivated to read lots of books, but the money raised can go to the purchasing of new books for your classroom library.  The kids then get to enjoy reading the books they earned for the class.

Find more ideas about how to collect books for your classroom library without breaking the bank!

 

Keeping Track of Your Books

Once I began collecting a good number of books, it became important to me that I had some sort of inventory of the books I own.  This is helpful when choosing books to read aloud, when suggesting "just right" books for students, and for keeping track of all my books. Since I was using the computer to look up the levels of my books, it made sense to also add the book title, author, level, and library location to an Excel file that I could access when searching for a book.

Class library list 

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I chose to print out my Excel library collection file as a sort of "card catalog" for students to use when looking for specific books or books by a specific author.

 

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In the past couple of years, I have been transferring my book collection to Media Collector, a software used with IntelliScanner.  An IntelliScanner is a device used to scan the barcodes on your classroom library books.  The information is collected and stored on your computer.  You can choose to add your own categories to the collected information as well.  For example, once a book is added to my collection, I add categories for book level and library location.

 

 

  

Comments (200)

Heather,

You asked about a way to keep track of the books your students check out. When I first organized my classroom library I had a pocket chart with each student's name. The students were required to write the name of the books they checked out on an index card each time they put new books in their book box. However, this became a very time-consuming and laborious task for the students and began to take time away from their actual reading of the books. For this reason, I did away with a check-out system. I now trust my students to put books in their book box and then exchange them for new books when necessary.

However, your situation is different since it sounds like the kids come to you instead of having them exchanging books on a daily basis in your classroom. If you are only allowing your students to check books on a scheduled basis, the index card system may work for you.

-Beth

Shannon,

You asked about websites to use for leveling classroom library books. I have found that the Scholastic Teacher Book Wizard is definitely the most extensive resource for finding levels for books. However, I do come across some books that are not included on the website. When this happens, I try to make a judgement call. After looking up levels for nearly 3000 books, I have gotten pretty good at determining the characteristics of books at the different levels. I use this knowledge to assign a level to these books. Since I can't be sure of the level that I choose, I try to error on lower side so that my readers are not finding themselves in books that are too difficult. I think you will begin to feel comfortable doing this as you continue to level your library.

-Beth

Beth, I am looking for ideas on how to keep up with which of my students has what books. I really like the scanner. Does it allow you to tag a student to a book like a school library does?

Wow what a fantastic website! I have already uploaded your book labels (thank you)! Do you have a link to upload the signs for the different genres I noticed on your walls in the virtual tour? Thank you!!

I need suggestions on how to keep track of the books the students check out. I am a reading specialist and have about 45 students so I need a quick, easy and organized way to keep track of the books the kids check out from me. Any ideas would be appreciated!! Thanks

Hi Beth! Thank you for sharing your ideas! I have started leveling my class library. I am using the Scholastic site and have found many levels there for my books. However, there are still some books that I can't find levels for. Did you have this problem? If so, what did you do?

Amy,

I just use the clipart that is in the Printshop program when creating my basket labels. There is no way for me to post links to the clipart or send you the actual icons since they are not files I have saved on my computer. If you like the clipart you see on the basket labels, I suggest you look into purchasing Print Shop. It is an awesome software program that can be used to make a variety of things for your classroom including signs, banners, newsletters, cards, etc. Here is a link: http://www.broderbund.com/store/broder/en_US/AddItemToRequisition/productID.110597600

-Beth

I have purchased this program to make the same labels but can not download the zip file...am i doing something wrong??
mrsjohnson15@yahoo.com

Mary Letterell,

You asked why I put numbers versus putting the actual F & P letter on my books when leveling them. See comment #48 for a detailed answer to this question.

Thanks for posting your question on the blog!

-Beth

I teach 1st grade and use your basket lables however I would like to be able to copy them to a small lable to place on my books. Can you either post a link or the icons to use I can not get the pictures to copy.

Hi Beth, A quick question about leveling your library. Why do you put numbers versus putting the F & P letter?

Danielle,

Check out comment #86. Piper asked a similar question about checking out books, and my answer is the same one I would give to you. Let me know if you still have additional questions after reading comment #86.

Thanks for posting on the blog!!

-Beth

Hi Beth!

First of all, congratulations on the new addition to your family! :)

Secondly, this is a random question about classroom libraries. Do you have a system in place where students "check out" a book to read? How do you keep track of your books and making sure they don't walk away?? I feel like every year I lose books!! Help! :)

Thanks!

Danielle

Veronica,

You asked how I would categorize a collection of alphabet books. I am not sure exactly what you mean when you refer to "alphabet books," but if they are part of a collection, I would probably keep them all together in a basket labeled "Alphabet Books." I hope this answers your question. If you give me more information about the types of books included in your alphabet book collection, perhaps I can better answer your question. Thanks for posting on the blog!

-Beth

Piper,

You asked how my students check out books and how we keep them organized. When I first organized my classroom library, I made the students check out the books. I had a pocket chart with each student's name, and they were required to write the name of the books they had in their book box on an index card each time they put new books in their box. However, this became a very time-consuming and laborious task for the students and began to take time away from their actual reading of the books. For this reason, I did away with a check-out system. I now trust my students to put books in their book box and then exchange them for new books when necessary.

The key to organization is the labels on my library baskets and the corresponding labels on the books. As you can see in my post, each book has a small label on the back that indicates the book's location in the class library. Students use the labels to ensure that they are returning their books to the correct baskets in the class library.

To make sure that my students understand the labeling system, I devote multiple mini-lessons at the beginning of the school year to teaching my students how the library is organized and how to properly return books to their correct location.

-Beth

Christy,

Unfortunately I can't share the Print Shop files because they are too large to load here or send via email. My posters are over 35 MB, and my email file size limit for sending attachments is 20MB. Also, I use fonts that are likely not installed on your computer, so you would have to recreate much of the hradlines and text boxes as well. If you have Print Shop installed on your computer, you can easily create your own genre posters using the headline tool for the genre title and text boxes for the genre descriptions. I scanned in the cover of the books I wanted to use for each genre. However, you could probably just use Google images to find book covers on the Internet so that you don't have to take the time to scan them.

-Beth

Lisa,

You aksed if I had any suggestions for a syntheis unit for third graders. I am guessing you are referring to the comprehension strategy. Here are links to a couple great websites (readinglady.com) that focus heavily on comprehension strategy lessons and resources.

Reading Lady Main Site: http://www.readinglady.com/index.php?&MMN_position=1:1

Reading Lady's Mosaic Listserve: http://www.readinglady.com/mosaic/tools/tools.htm

-Beth

Kris,

You asked what type of assessment I use in my classroom. I am guessing you mean what type of reading assessment I use to determine my students' reading levels. Our district adopted the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Here is a link to their website where you can read more information about it: http://www.fountasandpinnellbenchmarkassessment.com/

I would highly recommend using it!

-Beth

Sharon,

I am so glad you found my genre posters to be useful in your library! Thanks for sharing my website with other teachers in your building!

-Beth

Beth, I love your ideas and resources! I am working on transforming my classroom library. How would you catergorize a collection of alphabet books?

Veronica

Beth, I love your theme posters. Do you have a template that we could use to create more that would love similar to yours?

Wow! What a great library. I have one practical question, however, as I am a first year teacher reevaluating my procedures now that next year is on the horizon. How do your readers actually check in/out the books? My library has a daily pile of books that are returned to places other than the shelf. How do you manage all of the books, and keep them organized?

Thanks!

I love your library. I am getting ready to teach a unit on synthesis to third graders. Do you have any suggestions?

What type of assessment do you use?

Beth, I am a school librarian and have been looking for information about various genres to use with my students. I have found posters that have them all listed on that one poster,but was looking for something with each one listed seperately, so I could introduce them one at a time. I found your webpage and this is exactly what I needed. Thank you for sharing with others. I will be sharing this site with other teachers at my school who are setting up classroom libraries and/or are redoing the classroom libraries they already have. Again thanks for sharing your great ideas. Sharon Sumners

Kelly,

You asked about links on my classroom website to other teacher websites. While I know that there are probably many amazing teacher websites that exist, I have never had links to them on my website. I am guessing you may have been looking at another teacher's website when you saw those links. However, I like your idea and may scour the web this summer to find some great teacher websites that I can link to from my own site!

I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help!

-Beth

Stephanie,

In the post (and in my classroom library video) you can see how I use labels on the back of the books that indicate where the book belongs in the library. The labels indicate the section of the library and the basket in which the book belongs. I dedicate multiple reading workshop mini-lessons at the beginning of the school year to teaching my students how my library is organized, how to properly return books to correct baskets, how to record books in the reading log, what the color codes mean, etc.

Thanks for posting!

-Beth

Carrie,

I use self-adhesive floppy disk holders to display the labels on the library baskets. (Luckily I bought tons of them years ago because floppy disk holders are pretty much "extinct" at this point.)However, I have found that over the years they lose their stickiness. We have begun hot gluing them to the baskets to make sure they don't fall off.

-Beth

Hi Beth, I love your website and awhile back I came across another teacher's website that had many wonderful ideas like yours! I believe at the time, that teacher's site was a link on your site. However, now when I look, I can't find any links to other sites on your page? Did you at one time have links, and if so, what were they? Maybe I had found it somewhere else....

Thanks again for your amazing work and wonderfully useful website!

Kelly

Hi Beth, I am so impressed with your classroom library and have been following your website for a few years now. My biggest problem is that my students have a difficult time keeping the books in the correct baskets. How do you go about keeping the books organized? Thanks.

I LOVE your classroom website and have just discovered this blog as well. I'm wondering how you attach your labels to your bins. I use bins similar to what you use and either my labels come off, or I have to use so much tape it looks yucky. Yours seem to be just stuck in the middle!

Julie,

I too have quite a few readers this year who need to keep more picture books than chapter books in their book boxes. Of course this means they will certainly need more books and will need to switch their books more often.

The book boxes I use are large enough to hold nearly any size picture books and are very sturdy. They are from Really Good Stuff. They are a little pricey. However, I bought mine years ago, and they are still in great shape. Here is a link to the product: http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/product_details.aspx?item_guid=89a797ab-9e61-4239-9643-007c4daa12fe

If you do not have enough books in your classroom, I would suggest checking out books from your school library or your local library for weeks at a time so that students are able to continue reading a variety of books at their "just right" level.

-Beth

Hi Beth, In an earlier post, you mentioned having your students collect enough books in their book boxes for about 2 weeks to avoid their reading time being used just for selecting book. I'm a 3rd grade teacher with weak readers who are almost all still in picture books or very easy early chapter books despite it being January already. Any suggestions on what I could do for my students' book boxes? I foresee them taking a very large amount of books to sustain them over even a week's worth of reading time and though I have around 800 books, selection might become problematic. Also, what kind of boxes do they use? I'm worried that they wouldn't be large enough to accomodate their picture books. Thanks!

Ms. Jones, I am currently using Print Shop Deluxe Version 23. However, I believe that all of my templates and files I have posted in my website and on the blog can be opened with any version of Print Shop.

-Beth

What version of Print Shop do you use to create your book basket labels?

Roberta,

Thanks for posting your thoughtful comments on the blog. I hope my posts will continue to provide you with useful ideas you can use in your classroom throughout the rest of the year!

-Beth

I just want to thank you for a wonderful website. As a first year third grade teacher it's been super helpful. We are starting to order books for next year and I was wondering if you could give me 1-2 of your favorites for each genre? Thanks!

Mufridah and Jamie,

You both asked for feedback about Intelliscanner.

I purchased my Intelliscanner about 4 years ago. I immediately began cataloging all of my books. It is a wonderful tool because you can just scan the barcode on the book, and it automatically recognizes the author, publisher, title, and a variety of additional information depending on the book. It even finds a picture of the cover for many books.

However, there are some things that I did not like about it. First of all, the titles were not always like I wanted them to look. Since I wanted my books to be in alphabetical order, I didn't want book titles to begin with The, A, etc. When that happened, I had to edit the title. Also, when I originally kept track of my books in an Excel document, I always entered the title of a series book by listing the title of the series followed by the specific title of the book. That way kids could easily find all of the books I had in a particular series when looking up books in my Excel "Card Catalog." When using Intelliscanner, I found that I ended up having to edit the title way too often.

When using Excel, you can organize your book information anyway you like. For instance, if I want to know all of the books I have by a certain author, I could easily choose to reorganize my book list by author. This was not a feature in my version of Media Collector (the software that comes with the Intelliscanner).

Another problem with Intelliscanner/Media Collector is that every book is not in their database. When that happened, I just added the book myself. Many books did not have pictures for the title, so I ended up scanning them in because I wanted to have the book covers visible for every book when I printed out the pages. I do LOVE that feature! I also found it easy to add new categories like level, library location, etc.

I should point out that Intelliscanner has made many updates to their product and has increased their database since I purchased the product. I am guessing that many of the problems I ran into have been solved or at least improved.

I do think it will save you some time, but it is not as efficient as it may seem.

I hope my advice is somewhat helpful!

-Beth

Beth,

I clicked on the link for your IntelliScanner. I have been working all year at levelizing/cataloging and my books (I too, have several books). I have recently taken a break because I was begining to feel as though I would never finish. My goal was to have my personal books levelized and catagorized by the begining of next year so that my library will be more student friendly. I was wondering if you felt like the IntelliScanner was a big help. Would you recomend using it to make a catalog of your books or do you believe your previous catalog version is more kid friendly? Is it that the IntelliScanner does what you had already done by hand? Just curious, I would definetly prefer to use this technology if it can create a catalog like you had already done by hand.

Your classroom site and blogs have always impressed me and given me ideas that I can implement in my room.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, I appreciate it!

Hi Beth! Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your wonderful expertise esp. in the creation of your library in the classroom. I hope to explore your site more fully. Thank you so very much :)

Sorry Beth, I see your post above! My apologies!!

Hi Beth,

I apologize for revisiting this post, however, I have a quick question for you regarding how you level your books with the colors. I am in the process of levelling my books as they were previously just stored in genre, and taught the students extensively how to choose "just right" books. However, I am going to level them. Why have you chosen to used the color system versus the Fountas & Pinnell letter? How do you find this system works for you? Do you find students choose books at their level? What are your experiences with this. Thank you and Happy New Year!

Anita,

When using Intelliscanner (with Media Collector software), there is a way to keep track of the books that students check out using the barcodes on the books. However, I do not use this feature. For that reason, I am not completely familiar with how laborious this task might be to implement in an elementary classroom. I'm sure you could email tech support on the intelliscanner website for more information.

Thanks for posting!

-Beth

Beth,

I love all of the "toys" of teaching--I think after the kids themselves, it's one of the many things I like most about my job, so I just wanted to write and say so many thanks for all the info about organizational gadgets that you put into your posts, and particularly ways to utilize computer technology & software. I am especially excited to figure out this IntelliScanner unit. Do you happen to have any feedback/advice about the item? I see on the website there are several different media collector options for purchase. Any thoughts would be highly appreciated.

Take care, and thanks again.

Cheers, Mufridah

I was wondering if there is a way to keep track of the books the kids check out with the intelliscanner? How do you keep track of that in your classroom library?

Daar Sir/ madam

How can i get a library Softwere , i am working as a librarian in a school in bangkok .

thanks shialesh

April,

When I first started organizing my library, I did purchase my own "assembly required" bookshelves from various office supply stores. However, the bookshelves you now see in my classroom were provided by my district. Our district passed a bond issue a few years ago which provided each school with money for building improvements. Our teachers voted to use a chunk of that money to purchase bookshelves for each teacher since so many of us were organizing our classroom libraries at the time.

-Beth

Hi Beth,

Did you purchase your bookshelves?

Maria and Elizabeth,

You both asked about the Excel template that I use to keep track of the books in my classroom libary. Here is a link to a page on my classroom website about library organization. There you will find a link to the Excel template I use.

http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexlibraryorg.htm

-Beth

I love your idea for the book spreadsheet! Would you be willing to share it so I have a format to start with? Thanks!

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