Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Books, Books, Books Part 2 - How to Level Your Books

In Part 1 of my blog series, I went a little into the background of my classroom library and why it changed. I went from cringing when my new books were being read, to LOVING to watch my kids devour them, even if they then became “gently loved” and damaged. The bottom line is, if you want your kids to grow as readers, then they need to read, and those books need to be on their level. The first place to start with building a classroom library is to level your books.

Now this task can be very time consuming and sometimes a difficult one. Before you can start this process, you need to decide which way you are going to level your books. Are you going to use the Lexile level, the Guided Reading level, or grade level equivalent?   A quick google search of guided reading conversion chart brings up a plethora to choose from.  

There are a couple of different sites that you can use to find levels on your books. I used Scholastic Book Wizard and AR Bookfinder. These two sites are the biggest free ones to use. There are a couple other sites or apps you can use, but you had to pay for those. Now here’s where it gets difficult. After you decide which system you are going to use to level your books, you may not find it on your “chosen” website. So now what do you do? I was only using AR Bookfinder because the school I was at took AR tests, so my kiddos needed to know which books they could test on. When I couldn’t find a book level on AR, I would jump to Scholastic. So I had to use multiple websites to look up some books. Now it gets even more difficult!! Something in me said to check it out on both sites…. big mistake! Each website had different information!! So now what do I do? I decided I couldn’t label a book one level, if it could be too easy or too hard. So, I chose to start all over. I looked at several different conversion charts I found on the internet, and decided to come up with my own, converging the ones I found useful in my classroom. When I came across books that weren't the same, I'd error on the high sided one, just to be safe. I made each grade level a different color to help me monitor my students choices by just glancing at the sticker color in the corner. 

My old library was organized by genres, but that wasn’t working in my current classroom, because my students would choose whatever books they saw that looked good, no matter what the sticker said. So I decided that it would be better to organize them by their Guided Reading level. I know that this isn’t going to solve the problem completely, but it cut down on it. The funny thing is that in fixing one problem, I created a new one. My students would take two books, peel off the sticker of the one that they could have, and trade it with the book of one they couldn’t.  It drove me crazy. I had to have a “come to Jesus talk” with my kids several times, and finally had to start making kids who checked out books (more on that later) with stickers that were switched miss recess, and the problem took care of itself. I could tell which stickers were tampered with because the edges were messed up, but I never told them that.

Now I am not by any means claiming that my way is perfect, correct, or fool proof, but it’s what works for my classroom. That is the key to any classroom, finding what works for you and your students.

Please check back for Part 3 of my series where I will wrap up how I keep track of my books, how my kids check them out, and the overall look of my classroom library. Thanks for reading!

 Great adventure awaits you!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Books, Books, Books Part 1 - I think I have a problem!

I have a book problem. I buy them constantly - at the store, from Facebook groups, yard sales, you name it, if I see a good one, I’m buying it! I’ll take all the FREE ones I can get too! There is no shame in my game! I buy not just for my classroom, but for my own kids too. (You know where they end up anyways once they are done with them...wink, wink!) You can never have too many books? Right? Right? Riigghtt???

I started out in 5th grade, and didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on books, so I did what I could. And you know what, they read them! And then the pages started falling out and covers got ripped and bent, and I was so upset. My precious books! And you know you can never tape a page back into the right spot once its fallen out! I fixed them, and moved on, all first-year teacher happy.

The next year I moved to 1st grade and packed away those older books, and started collecting more age appropriate ones. I remembered the problem I had the year before, and if 5th graders couldn’t take care of the books, then 1st graders couldn’t! So, there they sat, looking all shiny and glossy on the shelf. Sure, I’d let them borrow one every once and awhile, but never keep them long. I didn’t know any better.

A friend was our reading specialist, so her and an aide went through the books I had and leveled and sorted them for me. They sorted the books by genre, then leveled them using guided reading I think. Seeing them in boxes with cute labels I had made (pre-pinterest or TpT) made my teacher heart happy. I stuck with this system for all my 1st grade years. I even started leveling my kids using DRA (I think), and only letting them pick certain books.

Then we decided to move back to Michigan after 8 years of living in Florida. I took a job teaching 2nd grade, and after that year, I decided that system just wasn’t what I needed anymore. So, I sat down and figured out what I wanted it to look like and how it could be functional.

I had so many books, and no way to track them, so they “grew legs and walked out my door”, and I never knew who had touched it. My kids weren’t sticking to the levels on their cards, because they saw “better” books in the same genre tub, and didn’t “pay attention” to the level on it. These were my top problems, so how was I going to fix it? I started by packing up my books in boxes and bringing them home for the summer!

I hope that you will join me next time as I walk through my classroom library, and how I set it up! Until then, please share with me…..

Do you have a classroom library problem? Which problem do you have?
         a)     I have too many books and nowhere to put them.
         b)     I don’t know how to sort or label them.
         c)      How do I level them?
         d)     I don’t even know where to begin…..

 Great adventure awaits you