Setting Up the Middle School Classroom Library
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
One of the things in my classroom of which I am most proud is my classroom library. Actually, the classroom library setup is one of my non-negotiables for my classroom setup at the start of the year. Once the classroom library is completed, usually everything else falls into place. This year it’s a little different. It is now November and I am still tweaking the library due to lack of storage and time.
One of my main concerns is space. I have all of these wonderful books and am figuring out how to display them in the classroom with the least amount of interruption. Our classroom library is divided into two sections. One is for the books that the district provides for the classrooms. The other is comprised of books that I have brought in over the years, along with donations from former students, family, and friends.
This section has grown by leaps and bounds (I am grateful for the generosity of others). I often find that my students are drawn to this section. To make the library a well-functioning part of our classroom, I asked the students to help, especially since they are the consumer that is being served. They have come up with some very interesting ideas as to where to place the crates and bookcases to allow for the extra books.
My district supplies our classrooms with book bins and bookcases, but unfortunately they aren't enough. There is some counter space, which is also very limited. Counters are used for writing center materials and resources. To solve some of my storage issues, I have gotten creative using a strategy that goes back to my college days — I use milk crates! I also use baskets for storage. Garage sales are great for finding all types of baskets!
Pearls of Wisdom — Consider student recommendations for the classroom space because they are using it all the time and may have ideas you hadn't considered. This will also help build a sense of community and ownership in the classroom for the students.
Creating a Library System
It is extremely difficult for any one person to keep track of all the books in our classroom library. My students and I have developed a system that turns the responsibility over to them. I do check in every so often, but they are responsible for the care and smooth running of the library. From checking out books, to re-shelving the books in their proper bins, the students maintain the classroom library. They check on each other as well, so that everyone gets to enjoy the library space.
Leveling the Library
As new books come, it is important to level them as quickly as possible so that they can be put on display for the students to inspect. Leveling does take time. I will admit that not all of the books in my library are leveled, but the majority of them are. Students are able to select a book by level or by genre. I have yet to find one website that is able to level all of my books, but have used these and have found them to be reliable. Best of all, they are FREE of cost.
As I reflect on the process of designing the space for the classroom library, I realized a couple of things:
Relax and remember it's really about getting the books into the student's hands
Invite the students to design the space
Make sure that the space stays welcoming and appropriate for the grade
Do you have any tips that help make your classroom library shine? Looking forward to hearing your ideas!