Student Centered and Lead Classroom Library
My first year teaching we were given the book The First Days of School by Harry Wong. My main take away from him was let the students do the work. Teaching is exhausting and it’s important that we focus our energy on student learning. The classroom library is an excellent example of something we often spend hours on before school starts that exhausts us before we even see students. The following is a suggestion to save you time, energy, and MOST IMPORTANTLY promote student engagement and ownership of the classroom library.
Pull out your boxes of books. Put them on the carpet in the middle of the area where you will have your classroom library. Don’t worry about organizing the books at all. If it feels uncomfortable and messy then clean the bookshelves and bins.
Sorting and Categorizing
This is the part that gets messy, but learning is messy! First, have the students gather in the classroom library area. Then share with them the objective is to look at all of the books, work with their classmates to group them together, and then label them.
Start by handing each student a small stack of books. They will look at them and slowly start noticing and talking about them. Your role is to listen and only engage when you notice students struggling. Be sure to let students struggle, ask guiding questions, and spend more time listening than talking.
As students start making piles of books, give them post-it notes to write possible categories on. Once all the books are sorted into groups, gather the students together, and list all the categories listed on the post-it notes on chart paper. Ask students what they notice about the list. The goal of this conversation is to clarify category meaning, combine like groups, and create an overall collective understanding of what’s in your library. This will get students excited about reading!
Next assign partners to a pile. Instruct them to review all of the books and determine the final label. Once they have reviewed the pile, give them the label to write the name and decorate. Labels can be made from index cards or there are many other commercial options.
Continue to Build Ownership
After the books are placed Into labeled bins and put away on shelves, listen to students and encourage them to recategorize them as they discover series or types of books they like. Also, I’ve found it very helpful to assign two people to be librarians. There are many ways people manage classroom jobs; however, you do, make it a priority! I did not rotate that job in my 5th grade classroom, only because the student liked it and no one else wanted to do it.
Please share your experiences, hacks, etc. below together we are better!!!