Monday, July 2, 2012

The Evolution of a Classroom Library–Part 1

If you read my last post you know that I am in the process of unpacking my classroom.  You may also know that I’m not a particularly talented organizer/unpacker.  BUT, since my last post I have made some headway.  I have continued the process of organizing my classroom library.

Last year I did not have a great library system.  It wasn’t particularly organized, and I didn’t work hard at training the students to use it well.  Overall I was dissatisfied with my classroom library organizational system.  It quickly became clear that if my library isn’t organized it is not a useful resource for my students.  Ergo – I am working hard to take full advantage of the classroom move to organize the library.

I asked on my FB page how you organize your classroom library and received some great comments!  I tend to agonzie when making decisions of any kind and your feedback helped me make my decision!

My classroom library is going to be organized by theme/genre/topic. instead of organizing it by levles. Why you may ask…3 reasons.

1.  I want my students to read good fit books.  BUT I want them to be able to identify good fit books in a realistic setting. 
I really liked what Candis from I Teach Dual Language had to say on the topic:
"I recommend genre/thematic and maybe favorite authors similar to what they will find in a real library. While I do recommend small group instruction should be focused at students' instructional levels, I really believe that interest plus a little bit of guidance creates ability for self-selected reading. My students made much better gains in reading when they could find books they were interested in. Plus, as you add more books and books in both languages, it is much easier for students to understand and maintain your system by topics than by levels. Just my humble opinion of course! :)"
2. As an avid reader since a young age, I never ever chose a book based on a level.  I chose books based on my interests.  While I do recognize the importance of students reading books that are at their level – I want their reading experience to be as authentic as possible.  I hope train my students to first identify their interests and then how to find a book within that interest that is at their level.

3.  Properly leveling a library takes a LONG time!  Like a REALLY LONG TIME! 
So, here is how I am going through the process of organizing my classroom library.
First, I unpacked all of the books and did a general sort.  I sorted the nonfiction books, and fiction.  I’m definitely finding the fiction books to be a bit more problematic when sorting – not nearly as clear cut as say dinosaurs or the states of matter.
Here you can see my amazingly well sorted piles!  I had a lot of fun tossing the books around the area.  Debbie Diller would be proud! 

This is the first step she employs in her Math Work Stations book – a general sort!  But as you can tell my piles were not exactly…distinguishable from each other. 

So I continued my general sort by then doing this:
*I found lots of lovely sites that shared their book bin labels.  I printed the labels and cut the ones that fit my needs.
*I gathered my piles and made fancy piles on my empty desks.  I started with the easy stuff – Arthur, Clifford, and the non-fiction piles. 

I will now need to begin more thoroughly sorting through my fiction.  I found some good book labels to give me ideas – books with animal characters, books about friendship, books about real life, books about human and animal relationships, etc.

So tomorrow I’ll continue the general sort by more thoroughly sorting my fiction.
After sorting Debbie Diller recommends purging.  I’ve been doing this throughout the sorting, but I may identify more books that are purge worthy as I label the books and book bins.

Here are the sites I used for my first round of book bin labels.  I believe I’ll eventually need to make my own but these helped me with this first round of sorting.

If you have any tips on classroom library organization or management I would love to hear from you! I’m always open to friendly advice!

Mrs. Castro
Pin It


  1. I, too, want to sort my books like you are doing. I just find that I don't really have enough of a specific character or author to make a whole basket out of it. Like... I have maybe 3 Arthur books and 5 Kevin Henkes books, for example. Frustrating!

    Marvelous Multiagers

    1. I inherited a lot of books! I also went to a lot of library sales - the Arlington Heights one is supposed to be very good - it's in August. I'll probably go...

  2. I love your crazy piles! That's EXACTLY what my room looked like while I was organizing my library! It always looks worse before it looks better- and it takes forever- but it felt so great when it was done! Looks like you are making TONS of progress :)

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I'm glad I'm not the only crazy pile lady! I know it's worth it, but you're right it takes forever. Have you shared pics of your classroom library on your blog?

  3. It looks like you got a lot done! I organized my books like that last year & although it took a lot of time, it was worth the end result! :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

    1. Thanks Lisa! I know it will be worth it but I foolishly hope I'll never have to do this again!

  4. That first picture looks SO familiar! I tell people that I love organization but it always takes me so long to get there because I want it to be absolutely perfect and last forever once it's done!
    One idea for your miscellaneous fictions books is to group them in baskets by the author's last name. You could have a basket for Authors A-E, F-L, etc. Just tell your kids that if it is fiction and is not from one of the class's favorite authors or from a theme basket, then they have to look at the author's last name. Even if they don't get put back in exactly the right spot, it's not a super big deal. That's what the class librarian is for (your smart and nerdy early finishers)! :)

  5. I love your site! I just have been hired as a 5th grade dual language teacher and am beginning to build my library. Any tips on where to get affordable books in Spanish for my kids? I've been looking into Lectorum and at Amazon. Unfortunately I don't have a budget for them and will be purchasing them myself. Any info is appreciated! Thanks!

  6. From the couple of years, the prices of different products are increasing rapidly and people think that lower in price means lower in quality. This is totally odd statement because for the help of students and education experts our services are available on GrabMyEssays website to take a look of our rates and quality. No doubt this is amazing offer but in fact this is all about students and other educator's help.