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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)

Hi Beth,

I LOVE your website, and it has given me a lot of great ideas since I was moved to third grade two weeks before school started. I used to teach all of the fifth grade math, so I am really putting in a lot of effort into researching how to teach reading. Needless to say, you have a lot of stuff that I have already used in my classroom. I have a question about how students check out their books. Do they sign them out somewhere? My students are signing them out but I must admit it is a pain to keep track of; however, I want to know that my books are being returned. How do you manage this part of the library?

Thanks!!

Hi Beth,

Would you be able to send me the Excel form that you used for your organization? It would be great to have a template to work from.

Thank you!

Hi Nicole,

You asked about why I color code my books instead of just using the Fountas and Pinnell levels. When I first started leveling my library many years ago, I was teaching second grade and thought that using different colors would be better than using letters. It was my hope that color codes would be less obvious than actual letters. For example, if a student was reading a J, it was clearly lower than a P. However, I learned very quickly that no matter how you level your books, the students know the "order" of the levels and catch on to any system a teacher puts in place.

Still, I strongly believe that students should be reading "just right" texts. There is just too much research that shows that students who are reading too far below or above their reading levels will not make adequate progress. With that being said, it is more important for me to ensure "just right" reading than to just allow students to read whatever books they want to read with no attention to the difficulty level of the book. While I teach MANY lessons on choosing "just right" texts, my lower readers often still continue to read books that are just too challenging for them. In turn, they are not able to apply the strategies I am teaching them when reading these books independently. While I am aware of the stigma of levels, I am most concerned with my students' reading growth.

If you watch the video on my classroom library at the beginning of this post, I show how I really involve my students in determining their "just right" level. I do not simply assign students a level. They must also figure it out themselves. Making them part of the process helps them feel more in control of their reading and accepting of their "just right" level (whatever that may be).

I hope this helps answer your question!

-Beth

Hi Beth,

I just have a question about the way that you level your books. Can you explain why you choose to 'color code' your books? I have seen other teachers who just level with the Fountas and Pinnell level... do you ever have issues in your classroom regarding students being anxious or embarrassed about the level they are reading? I would love more on your thoughts and opinions on this when you have time! Thanks!

Jean,

I actually create most of the activities and games for my word study centers myself. I often get ideas from teacher resource books or online games and recreate them using Microsoft Word or Print Shop. I also think of favorite card games or board games (Go Fish, Uno, Sorry, Candyland, etc.) and try to change the game in a way that it can work for learning a specific spelling pattern.

Scholastic has some great resource books for center games. Here is a link to their teacher store: http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?URL=StoreCatalogDisplay&storeId=10001&store=TS&jspStoreDir=TeacherStore&src=BTB000000N0010100000&langId=-1&catalogId=10002

Hi: Would you be willing to share where you purchased or how you created the materials for the games and activities you use in your word study centers? Thanks so much!

Leigha,

Unfortunately, your challenges are ones that most teachers are probably facing on a daily basis (myself included).

I remember so well being a first year teacher and being so completely overwhelmed with everything I was being asked to do. It took me many years to really feel like I was doing a good job!

However, with all of your challenges (kids at so many different reading levels, kids being pulled out, etc.), a reading workshop is really the best approach to take. The great thing about reading workshop is that it allows you to differentiate your teaching to meet the needs of your very diverse learners.

I also have a huge range of reading levels in my classroom. I still teach a whole-class mini-lesson everyday, but then I meet with guided reading groups and strategy groups during individualized daily reading time (IDR) to meet the very specific needs of my readers. Remember that your higher readers need to be seen less than your struggling readers. Many teachers try to make sure they meet with each reader an equal number of times, but your low readers should be seen more often. Your higher readers will still grow if they take part in an effective mini-lesson each day and then get IDR time to practice the strategies you are teaching when reading their self-selected texts.

I also have many students who are pulled out for different services. I try to work closely with the teachers who pull them out because I want them to be aware of what I am teaching. This way they can connect my teaching to what they do when they work with my students. I often share with them my conferring notes and my notes I take when meeting with the kids in guided reading and strategy lessons so that they can really focus on the readers' weaknesses. You might also ask these teachers who pull the students out of your classroom if they can stay in your classroom on certain days to support the student within your reading workshop. It is nice for them to see how you teach so that they can observe how you deliver your lessons to the class.

I certainly do not have a "right" answer to all of your questions, but hopefully some of these suggestions will help!

-Beth

Chereylene,

Feel free to use anything from this post (including the video) as well as any pictures from my website in your presentation. It is exciting to know that teachers from Kuwait and Bangkok are also working on building classroom libraries for their students!

Good luck!

I am an international teacher and am so impressed with your wonderful classroom library. I am doing a presentation about classroom libraries, including a lot of information about leveling. I love your video and would love to include it at the end of my presentation. May I please have permission to do so? My presentation is for other teachers in my school in Kuwait, and possibly at a conference for international teachers in Bangkok.

Thanks so much for your work and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Chereylene Gilbertson Fourth Grade Teacher American International School, Kuwait

Hi Beth, I am a first year teacher, and I am reading through all of the great stuff that you do. I am familiar with the workshop and how it works, but I am really struggling with how to get through all of our content combined with all of the students that are in and out of my room for different services. When I add in my couple of students who just don't read during independent time and the reading levels in my room which span D-Z, I get stuck. I am trying to make it work, but I was wondering if you might have any advice on where to start.

Thanks, Leigha

Lisa,

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.

I also introduce each genre during my launching unit so that students can begin recording the genre code in their reading log. However, we study many of the genres separately and more thoroughly in different units of study throughout the year.

I hope I've anwswered your questions! Thanks for posting on the blog!

-Beth

Misty,

I am sorry that you are unable to download things from my website. I'm not sure what exactly files you can't open. However, I am suggesting you follow the directions below.

Instead of just clicking on the links to download the files, try right clicking on the hyperlinks. Then choose "save target as." Browse your computer to determine a location to save the files. Once you have them saved, open Print Shop. Once you are in Print Shop, open each file individually. Hopefully this will work!!

-Beth

Hi Beth, I am so glad another staff member at my building recommended I take a look at your website...you are an incredibly devoted and inspiring teacher to all!!! With such an organized library, I was wondering how you go about introducing your students to your classroom library (how to find books, what the labels mean, etc.) and the proper way to use it? Also, do you introduce all the genres at the beginning of the year?

Please forgive me, my email address wasnt correct with my first post.8

I have tried everythng I know possible to download these files and I cannot get them to work. I would like to see and use the templates to create my own but I am finding it impossible to download even with Print Shop 23. Can you help point me in the right direction? Thanks so much!

Jen,

You can download my Excel "library catalog" book list on the Classroom Library Organization section of my website. There is a link to it from the Teacher Resources page. You can just delete my books and use it as a template for your own library.

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Bethany,

You can download a list of the books in the my classroom library on the Classroom Library Organization section of my website. You can access that page in the Teacher Resources section of my class website.

-Beth

I just can't stop looking at your site. I am a literacy coach with Mpls public schools and this is the direction our district is moving. I watched your library video which is so helpful. I had a hard time finding 2 forms on your website that I would like to start using. One was the "choosing just right book sheet" and the other was the "Trial book evaluation form." Am I just missing it on your site?

Beth, I love your organizational system!! Is there any way you can share your list of books? I would love to see everything you have. Bethany

I was wondering if I could get a template of the excel sheet you used to organize your classroom library?

Phoencia,

I am still in the process of entering all of my books into the Media Collector database. This is the software I use to catalog all of my books. I will post a link to my collection as soon as it is complete.

You can find an Excel file with a list of my books from a few years ago on my class website.

Good luck with your own library!

-Beth

Hi All,

Would you please email me a copy of your book list. I am a newer teacher and would love a list to aspire my library towards.

Thanks for all your hard work!

Jada,

Unfortunately there is no specific website where I find images of all the book covers I need when posting them on my theme charts. I just use Google images to find JPEG images of the book covers. I right click to copy the images of the book covers and then paste the images in Microsoft Word. Finally I print them out on cardstock and laminate them for use in future years.

-Beth

Stephanie,

In answer to your question about the labels on the back of my books, I put the name of the basket and the section of the library so that students can return the book to the correct location. However, some baskets in the library are named by a specific genre, so there are times when the actual genre does appear on the label.

When recording books on their reading log, the students must determine the genre based on their reading of the text. For this reason, I choose not to put the genre on every book. This makes my students have to think for themselves.

To answer your specific question about my fairy tale labels, my labels would say "fairy tales" (in reference to the basket), not traditional literature. The students must understand that a fairy tale is a type of traditional literature and then record the correct genre code on their reading log.

I hope I have answered your questions!

-Beth

Beth,

I love how you post book covers as visual reminders when teaching themes and when students are commenting on read-alouds. Is there one website where you can download all of the covers at once, or do you just make color copies of the books?

Your website is fantastic! I am so impressed with your class library! I can tell you are a skilled and highly effective teacher!

This isn't a library question, although I am in the process of organizing mine like yours...I was wondering, silly as it may be, how do you play Magic e Uno and Word Family Candy land?? Thanks!

Wow! Your post about Reader's Workshop was great! I'm looking forward to your post about the Reader's notebook. Thank-you for sharing. I've learned so much from your website. I'm wondering about the labels for the books themselves, Do you label the genre and which basket the book is returned in. For example, do you label the book Realistic Fiction and Family/Friend Relationships or do you just label it in with Fiction and Family/relationships? Or do you just label it family/relationships? Or for Traditional Literature would you label it with Fairy Tales and Traditional Literature? Or would just label it with Fairy Tales. Thanks in advance :) Stephanie

Shannon,

I'm glad you found this post helpful! I know that I checked out tons of other teachers' libraries before deciding on my own system to use. Good Luck!

-Beth

Thank you for sharing. One of my goals this year was to better organize my classroom library. I had begun but this has helped to make it even better.

Julie,

I will be doing a future post on Typing Camp since I create many of the resources I use for the fun week on my own.

However, we do use an instructional video called "Typin' Time." It is a great video for teaching students ways to remember the location of the keys, but unfortunately, the company that produced the video is no longer in business.

However, we use the software program "Type to Learn" in the computer lab for extra practice once students are introduced to the keys. It is great! Below is a link to purchase it on the Scholastic site. It is also offered in many issues of Scholastic's Click software club. After typing camp, I send out Click flyers that offer "Type to Learn" so that parents can purchase a copy for additional practice at home. The bonus points you earn can be used to buy lots of books for your classroom library!

Link to Type to Learn: http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_16051_-1_10001_10002

Link to Scholastic's Click Software Club: http://teacher.scholastic.com/clubs/click/october.htm

Check back often for a future post on Typing Camp!

-Beth

Hi Beth, I was wondering where you got the resources for your typing camp. It looks amazing and I would love to use the video and resources. Thanks!

Melissa,

I'm glad you found this post useful! I purchased my library baskets from Really Good Stuff. Here are links to their medium and small baskets that I use to hold picture books and chapter books.

Small Baskets: http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/product_details.aspx?item_guid=0a035899-836a-469d-97a1-3a268b99af23#

Large Baskets: http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/product_details.aspx?item_guid=1c5eb308-0c0e-4352-8685-cefd11e83605#

Good luck organizing your library!

-Beth

hir books.. !Congratulations I love the way you sort you,,,Where did you buy the color plastic basket for all your books..Please let me know . Iam a Kindergarten teacher and I want to do the same in my classroom with my books...

Leighteach,

I do have a rubric to assess my Reader's Notebook, but the way that I use my notebook (including the weekly letters) has changed a bit over the past couple of years. My website does not completely reflect what I use in my classroom at this point. However, you are in luck. My next three posts will be directly related to reading workshop. Stay tuned this Wednesday for a detailed post about reading workshop, complete with a video that shows what it looks like in action on a typical day in our classroom. The post after that will be specifically about Reader's Notebooks. I will describe the different sections of my reader's notebook and provide links to download the updated pages.

Thanks for your comments!

-Beth Newingham

Beth, I am so glad I discovered your website. I have used many of your ideas and shared them with the teachers at my school. I wondered if you have any rubrics to assess reader's notebooks or strategies used during workshop? Also, could you explain the weekly letters. Are they for homework, or a weekly class assignment?

Hi Josh,

My post next week will focus specifically on Reading Workshop. I am even creating a video to show what a day of reading workshop looks like in my classroom. I think some of your questions will be answered more thoroughly in that post.

In next week's post, I will certainly include tips for keeping students on task including a daily self-checklist that students complete at the end of workshop.

In my classroom, students are not allowed to "shop" for books during independent reading time. Instead they must choose books (when necessary) during our morning work period or even during recess if I am not on duty. I tell my students that their book box should have enough books inside to last them at least 2 weeks, so they are certainly not visiting the classroom library on daily basis. If a student finishes his or her books during independent reading time, he or she must reread their books on that day. My third graders are expected to be prepared for workshop everyday. That means they are encouraged to shop for new books when they know that they have less than 2 days worth of reading material left. Making this "no shopping during independent reading time" rule a few years ago really improved the reading environment in my classroom. Readers are not distracted by the inevitable talking that takes place among classmates browsing books at the library, and my small group lessons during that time are now much more productive without the disruption of book shopping.

We do not use a basal text in our classroom. We teach whole-group strategy lessons as our mini-lessons each day, and then students practice using those strategies in their self-selected texts during independent reading time. The strategies are also reinforced when students read books at their instructional level in small guided reading and strategy groups.

I think more of your questions will be answered in my Reading Workshop post next week. Stay tuned!!

-Beth Newingham

Beth,

I've been following your work for a couple years now and I am so impressed and inspired by how you run your classroom. I teach 4th grade and am trying to get a feel for managing the workshop.

One challenge I am facing is keeping the kids engaged in their independent reading. It seems that I have several students spending their entire reading time looking for books, and not enough time reading or at least trying to read books they've picked from our library or my classroom library.

Also... do you use basal readers in your classroom? We use them to teach our strategies, so I am looking for insight into balancing Reading Workshop and whole-group basal reading.

I would love to hear your other tips on how to manage students during the workshop times.

Thanks!!

Josh

Nicole,

Here are some answers to your questions:

1. You asked about mini-lesson ideas for reading and writing workshop. The philosophy of workshop is great, but where do the mini-lessons come from? This is a question so many teachers ask. My district is currently in the process of writing units of study for each grade level with daily mini-lessons for each month. While I can't share that here, I can recommend some books that can be useful when looking for mini-lessons.

"Revisiting the Reading Workshop:" This Scholastic book has mini-lesson ideas for the first 30 days. http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_20655_-1_10001_10002

"Workshops that Work:" This Scholastic book is geared toward grades 4+, but it also provides sequential mini-lessons for the first 30 days. http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_25425_-1_10001_10002

Frank Serafini also wrote a book called "Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days." In the book, he provides month-by-month strategies for running a reading workshop across an entire year.

You can also write your own mini-lessons. Just look at the skills or units you have been teaching prior to implementing a reading workshop and try breaking them into smaller mini-lessons.

Remember, during the mini-lesson the teacher instructs the whole class on a skill, strategy, or habit that students need to learn and use during independent reading. The teaching point is stated clearly and demonstrated or modeled for students. Students are then invited to actively engage in trying out the skill or strategy on their own before they begin their independent reading for the day.

2. If you would like to do reading partnerships but do not have enough double-copy books, think about using the school library or even checking out multiple copies of chapter books from the public library. If my students want to do a reading partnership with a book that is only a single copy book, we always check the school library first to see if we can find another copy. Without 2 copies of the same book, I think it would be hard to do reading partnerships effectively. It is important for the students to be reading the books independently but also simultaneously so that they can meet to discuss the common text.

3. When I first started teaching in my district, there was an anthology that teachers were expected to use. However, we have gradually moved away from that since we know that "one size does not fit all readers." Our district has now adopted the Reading Workshop framework, so that's why we are currently writing our own curriculum.

I hope that my answers were of some help to you. My next post will be specific to reading workshop with lots of management ideas and a video of what reading workshop looks like on a typical day in my classroom. Check back soon!

-Beth Newingham

Jen,

Here are answers to your 2 questions:

1. I got my magazine rack at Calloway House a few years ago. When I checked their website today, I noticed that the item you are referring to is no longer available. However, here is a link to some other similar book racks they carry: http://www.callowayhouse.com/prodsearch1.asp?type=search

2. I purchased my Intelliscanner two years ago. Since then they have come out with newer (and probably better) scanners. The one that I own is not currently available on their website, but I actually think I paid more than the $79 that the new one costs. I have found that it does not have information for every book that I scan, but it certainly saves time. It also comes with the Media Collector software which is a great program for keeping a detailed record of the books in your classroom library.

I hope I've answered your questions. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help!

-Beth

Kim,

What a big change going from kindergarten to middle school! Library organization is such a big job. However, it is so wonderful to see your students able to find books of interest so easily once the books are finally organized. It certainly pays off in the end. Good luck! -Beth

As a new 3rd grade teacher, you have given me so many inspiratinal ideas! I have been collecting so many books, leveling them, and starting up my own library. I have a few questions if you have a second...

1. Could you consider posting more mini-lesson topics for reading/writing workshop? My school uses a different reading/writing program, but I really feel that my I could still incorporate reading/writing workshop into my schedule. I would love to know what type of mini-lessons you do!

2. I would love to do "Reading Partnerships," but don't have double copies of books yet. Do you have any suggestions for ways I could still do reading partnerhships even without double copy books?

3. Does your class also read from a basal or anthology? Or do they strickly get to pick their own books?

Thank you for for sharing your classroom and for taking the time to respond to questions as well!

Take care!

Beth, I have always loved your website and getting great ideas from you! I have two questions for you:

1. Where did you get the display rack for your magazines?

2. I clicked on the link for your Intelliscanner (I too, have many books and it would be sooo much easier to scan them into a database instead of typing every title), but I can't seem to find the exact model you show. I saw another model for $79 but was wondering if yours was cheaper and if it was, what model is it?

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

I have switched from kindergaren to middle school- what a change! So I am building up my library. Right now, sadly, my books are just on the shelves in no order. After seeing this site though- boy do I have ideas. Thanks for the inspiration!

Sara,

I'm glad my post gave you some ideas for organizing your own books. You are so smart to get your books organized now so that your library will be ready to use when you get your own classroom! Good luck!

Mary,

I love your idea of having a picture or symbol on the back of your books that match the labels on your book baskets. This sounds like a perfect solution for helping your kindergartners successfully return books to the correct baskets. Good luck with your eventual return to the classroom!

Hi Beth!

Thanks for all your ideas & downloads. I am a substitute teacher looking for my own class. In the meantime, I've been organizing my books. Your site has helped me a tons-thanks for the labels too!

Sara Smith

Wow! I thought I had a lot of books. I have recently moved to a different state, so all of my books are currently in boxes. After seeing how neatly organized your classroom library is, my creative juices are flowing. I love the idea of using the labels on the back of the books, but I will have to use a picture or a symbol for my younger Kindergarten students. It would be wonderful to have so much space for all of books. I can't wait to get back into the classroom. Thanks for sharing your organizational tips. Mary

Hi Christy,

Wow! What a drastic change of profession. I am so happy that you are finally able to fulfill your dream of being a teacher. Good luck with the rest of your elementary certification program. It sure is fun to finally get a classroom of your own when your pre-service days are over!

Beth,

I am a pre-service teacher, and I am working on my elementary education certification. I am completely switching professions, from accounting to teaching. I have always wanted to be a teacher and am finally able to fulfill that dream. I stumbled across your classroom site when I was looking for racing-themed classroom ideas. I just wanted to let you know that I fell in love with your race-themed room and all the ideas you have. I can only imagine what a fantastic teacher you are! Thanks for all the ideas and I cannot wait for my own classroom to put them to good use!! Christy Edgar

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