Getting Ready for a Year of Independent Reading! Library Organization and More!

classroom library organization
Well, it's back to school time for me, and a big part of my classroom preparations involved "tidying up" my classroom library.  I always have a ton of questions about how I organize my somewhat ridiculous collection of books--so I thought I'd share a little bit about how I get my library ready so that my students can really dig into their reading from that first week of school!

Here is my monster shelf of books...this is where a huge chunk of my collection lives...this and the "yellow spinny thing" that I inherited about 20 years ago from a retiring teacher.
reader's workshop
 These two sections of my collection are organized in bins and are grouped in author and series collections.  For series where I have only a few, I put several "like" series in one bin.
classroom library
 Each bin has a label with a number...and that number gets written on each book in the bin.  This makes it SUPER easy for students to return books to the right place.
reading book organizationbook organization
Here you'll see another collection of books (do NOT judge the mess...I hadn't "tidied" this shelf yet!) where I have bigger books and genres...there is a biography bin, animal books, Magic School Bus books, fairy tales, poetry, and so on.  I also have two "just for fun" bins which are great when students need a quick read or if we go read with a buddy class.

Any books that don't have a specific bin get put on the regular shelves...these are a great place for students who are struggling to find a book to just "browse" to see if something captures their attention.
classroom library
 I also like to keep things as streamlined as possible...if a student can't find where a book goes, they can put it in the "Please find my home" bin and then that becomes a job for my library team. There is also a repairs needed bin where parent helpers fix damaged books every few weeks.
book bins
In another part of the room I store my multiple copies.  These books are not free for students to use, but I use them for book clubs or if a student REALLY wants a book.  I keep them protected by bobbleheads and other important items!
literature circles
 I spend a lot of time making my collection organized because I really and truly want my students to use it.  I do not have them check books out--it's all honor system.  I want them reading during reading time, not having to do a complicated system that then needs to be maintained.  No books are organized by level because I want students to learn how to select a "just right "book.  In fact, the entire first few weeks of my literacy instruction focuses on "reading behaviors" such as choosing the right book, reading with stamina, selecting from different genres, how to stay focused, and so on.  We make lots of anchor charts and do lots of practicing...we take interest surveys and make "books I want to read" lists.  I do tons of book talks to try to get them super excited to dig into my book collection!  Many of the lessons and resources I use are in my "Getting Ready for a Year of Reading" resource.  You can click the image below if you are interested in seeing more.
forms for teaching reading
I hope you have a wonderful year of reading with your students...and have fun getting them as excited about book as I hope you are!

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Early Finisher Solutions

"{Insert name here}, I'm done.  Now what?"  Sound familiar?  If I got a quarter, or a penny for that matter, every time a student asked me that question, I could probably put in for an early retirement!

Having a collection of go-to activities for early finishers is a must!  First, that pesky question is no longer being asked.  Next, having activities accessible to students reduces the boredom which in turn, reduces the troublesome behavior.  Also, activities can and should extend and/or enrich students' learning.  

Including activities for early finishers can be as simple as you want to make it.  Early on in my teaching career, I had what I called "wise choices".  It was a list of activities that students could choose from when the were finished with an assignment.  The list was a short standard list.  It included unfinished work, reading, or writing.  When I was asked that "I'm done, now what?" question, I simply pointed to my wise choice chart.  

As time as evolved and resources are in abundance, I have broadened my choice activities for students.  Students like having a wide variety of activities to choose from.  Honestly, from time to time, I like to change things up myself.

Over the past couple of years I have had my students using an Early Finisher's Choice Board Activities notebook.  The notebook goes with The Choice Board.

Within the notebook, each subject has a dedicated section.  Students place their responses to the early finisher's activities into the corresponding section.  

Here are examples of choice board activities that they respond to and place in their notebook.  

Additional Ideas for Early Finishers

Task Cards
Brain Teasers
A teacher approved website
STEM activities

For the early finisher activities that require a recording sheet and/or other printables, students fold the paper in half and glue the top half of the page into the corresponding section of their notebook. They love to go back and see what they have completed throughout the year.  

You can grab the above printable for free HERE.

I've rounded up a handful of free and paid resources from the author's here at Upper Elementary Snapshots as well.  They are great for early finishers and are teacher approved!

Free Resources

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Paid Resources

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How to Teach the Presidential Election Without Bias

The 2016 Presidential election is fast approaching. This election has been one of the most controversial ones in recent memory. How do teachers tip-toe around student opinions and just teach the facts? We have created this blog post to help guide you on how to teach the presidential election without bias.

Do's and Don'ts
Teachers must maintain professionalism in the classroom when teaching about the election. Favoritism toward one candidate cannot be displayed in any way. Even though the classroom teacher may have strong convictions, s/he cannot try to persuade the students to support one candidate over the other. Because of this, we have created a  a table emphasizing the do's and don'ts in the classroom that should be adhered to. You can download it for FREE here.

dos and donts

What Ifs...
There will probably be some questions and tense moments in the classroom. Here is a list of "What if's" that may surface in the classroom and how to handle them. You can download it for FREE by clicking here.

what if

Parent Communication
Communicating with parents will be important when teaching about the election. We have created a parent letter that you can download for FREE here. This letter outlines what will be taught, how it will be taught, and how you, the teacher, will deal with issues as they arise.

parent letter
Election Unit
There is so much to a presidential election that has to be taught. You need to avoid debates and arguments without facts, and teach the foundation of the process of voting and the presidential election. We have developed a comprehensive Presidential Election unit that you can download by clicking here

This unit includes:
-qualifications in order to be president
-the roles and responsibilities of the president
-the electoral college
-the popular vote
-how elections work
-key vocabulary associated with elections
-qualifications in order to vote
-past presidents
-the process of becoming president
-candidates’ stances on key issues: education, health care, economy, environment…

President Election Activity

As the teacher, your primary goal is to educate your students about government and the election process in a non-biased way. We would love to hear how you teach the presidential election in your classroom.

Enemy Pie: 5 Literacy Lesson Ideas

I love Enemy Pie! The first time I read the book to my class, I was hooked.  I'm not sure if it was the adorable illustrations, the clever storyline, or how relatable the story is, but it was a book that I incorporated into my classroom every single year!  Each time I read it I found new ways I could use it in my teaching.  I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the ways I have used Enemy Pie by Derek Munson in my classroom.

Enemy Pie is the perfect read aloud for Upper Elementary! Here are some Reading and Writing Lesson ideas for using Enemy Pie in the classroom. LOVE number 3

I love giving my students a list of ways they can "hook" their readers at the beginning of their narrative writing piece.  A hook is a way of beginning a story so that you grab the reader's attention.  Some good hooks that I always suggest are starting with an action scene, dialogue, or figurative language (Onomatopoeia), etc.  However, I use Enemy Pie to teach my writers how to begin their story with suspense.

After teaching a lesson about the importance of hooking your reader right away, I use the book Enemy Pie and read just the first page.  As a class, we discuss the technique Derek Munson uses to grab their attention.  I allow my students to figure out that by adding the element of suspense right away, you make your reader WANT to continue the story.

Enemy Pie is the perfect read aloud for Upper Elementary! Here are some Reading and Writing Lesson ideas for using Enemy Pie in the classroom. LOVE number 3

When we are all done reading, I love asking my students to create their own recipe for Enemy Pie. They are really fun to read! Not only do they have to write a recipe for it, but I also ask them to write the directions explaining how to make it.  This is great if you are trying to teach Informational Text Structure.  I stress Sequential Order during this activity and use it with my Text Structure Unit.

There are lots of examples out there for 1st person point of view.  What I really like about Enemy Pie is that while it is written in first person, it also contains dialogue.  Dialogue can sometimes through students off and lead them to believe the story is written in third person. By showing them this example of how dialogue can be used in a first person story, they gain a better understanding of point of view.
Enemy Pie is the perfect read aloud for Upper Elementary! Here are some Reading and Writing Lesson ideas for using Enemy Pie in the classroom. LOVE number 3

When I teach Perspective, I often ask my students to tell a story from a different character's point of view.  Enemy Pie is perfect for this activity.  After reading, I ask my students to think about Jeremy Ross's point of view, or perspective.  What was he thinking at the beginning, middle and end of the story?  I then ask my students to rewrite a part of the story from Jeremy's perspective.

In some cases, the elements of a good fiction story can be hard to find. In Enemy Pie, it's a piece of cake...or pie. ;)  This is the perfect text to teach characters, setting, theme, rising actions, climax, and falling actions.  It's also perfect for demonstrating how many stories also contain a problem and solution. As we read through the text, my students fill in this graphic organizer, see below.  They note the problem at the beginning of the story and the step leading to the final solution.

Enemy Pie is the perfect read aloud for Upper Elementary! Here are some Reading and Writing Lesson ideas for using Enemy Pie in the classroom. LOVE number 3

You can download this graphic organizer for FREE by clicking the button above!  If you need more great graphic organizer activities that can be paired with any text, you can check those out right HERE!

If you already LOVE Enemy Pie, I hope I've given you some fresh ideas for using it in your classroom.  If you haven't read it yet, I'm glad I was able to introduce you to an amazing new book.
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How to Build Reading Strategies into Instruction

Whether you are teaching guided reading, shared reading, or having students read independently, this post will show you how to build reading comprehension strategies into your instruction.  You will also find a FREE Reading Strategies Questions sheet to use with your instruction!

It is important to teach the reading strategies according to the following method.  It has been proven to be an effective approach.  Teach one per week and focus on that one strategy throughout the variety of readings that week.  I found the best method is to:

Explain:  Whether you are using an anchor chart, writing on a board, or oral teaching, explain each strategy.

Model:  Always model so students can see how it is applied.

Apply:  Students should apply the strategy in their reading.

What reading strategies should you build into your lessons?  See below for the 10 Reading Strategies that will help your students effectively comprehend their text.

Think about questions before, during, after the reading.  Ask questions like...How could that be?  Why did that happen?

Question words:

***Connections are broken up into 3 categories.  Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-World

The first connection strategy is Text-to-Self.  In my opinion, this is the easiest connection strategy to teach, because little ones like to talk about themselves and their experiences.

Think About:

*  Prior Knowledge

*  How can I relate it to myself or something that happened in my life?

*  Is it meaningful?  -  I like to include this question because children can get off topic or not relate to things that are meaningful to the connection.

Text-to-Text can be a little challenging so make sure to model and discuss different books that you have read together in class!

Think About:

*  Prior Knowledge

*  Comparing characters, events, messages, lessons, etc.

*  Finding a common theme or writing style.

*  Is it meaningful?

Text-to-World can the most challenging of the connections.  If children aren't exposed to historical and current events, they might not be able to connect a worldly event to the story.

Think About:

*  Prior Knowledge

*  Current News

*  How can I relate it to something that happened in the world?

*  Is it meaningful?

***Visualizing is broken up into separate lessons:  Go Beyond, Fiction, Nonfiction

Visualizing in a fiction text is often different than visualizing within a nonfiction text.

Think About:

*  Prior Experiences

*  Vivid words in the text

*  Images in my mind

Go beyond visualizing in the text!  Using the 5 senses is an effective way to achieve this strategy:  SEE... HEAR... FEEL... SMELL... TASTE.

Think About:

*  Prior Experiences

*  Vivid words in the text

*  What do I see, hear, feel, smell, or taste?

In an nonfiction text, often visualizing is making comparisons.

Think About:

*  Words that tell about size, shape, or time

*  Prior knowledge relating to the same size, shape, or time

*  Comparing the two objects

Inferring is using background knowledge and facts from a text to PREDICT, MAKE JUDGEMENTS, and DRAW CONCLUSIONS

Think About:

*  The author wants me to think...

*  I'm guessing ... because ...

*  Do I need to change my thinking?

Determining Importance is best learned by highlighting important facts.

Think About:

*  What are the headings, boldfaced words, and illustrations telling me?

*  What is the main idea?

*  What are the important details?

*  I learned ...

Last, but not least is synthesizing.  I find this to be the most difficult strategy to teach children.

Think About:

*  I combine prior knowledge with the new information.

*  I create new ideas, opinions, generalizations, patterns.

*  I put the pieces together.... I get it!

I hope you find these tips useful.  Grab the following guide HERE to use during your instruction!

The free resource comes from the READING RESOURCE  below.

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