Classroom Library

Today we will be talking about classroom libraries! The Saskatchewan Reads document states that “libraries play an important role in supporting and engaging students as readers. “They provide environments rich in information, literature, and technology that, together with effective instruction, enable students to achieve curriculum learning outcomes and acquire the attitudes and skills for lifelong learning” (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2008, p. 1).” It is recommended to have books around the room, in addition to on the shelf, and students can assist with this book selection. I plan to display books on top of the shelves once I have read them aloud to the students. Another option is to switch out books based on current units of study and/or student interests. Routman (2014) states that “excellent classroom libraries” should be of top priority “ahead of the latest technology, resources, programs and standards. It is only through wide, self-selected reading that we will produce proficient and joyful readers as well as writers” (p. 99). It has been one of my main back-to-school priorities, as I know the importance of a well-stocked and organized classroom library for student literacy achievement.

 

My classroom library has both leveled books (blue bins) and interest books (green bins). Students select from both blue and green bins to fill their individual pouches so that during guided reading they have books to keep them engaged and improving during read-to-self and partner reading. Having students self-select these books regularly helps avoid interruptions to my guided reading lessons, as students are excited to read. Students get to choose where to sit, whether it is the reading cubbies, couch, Tipi, swivel chair, standing desk, carpet, or pretty much anywhere but the roof! We even get to enjoy the outdoor classroom space in the fall and summer.

 

When students are both comfortable and interested, classroom management takes care of itself. Well… pretty much. We do have to go over stamina training (graphing time on-task to meet a class duration goal) and lessons on the “Right Fit” books using the 5 Finger strategy. 

Scholastic notes that “experts claim a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student, so a typical class of 28 students would have a classroom library of close to 600 books.” While that may seem like a lot of books, 20 books per student is on the lower end, especially when considering the diverse learning needs in our classrooms. I am proud to say that I have grown my classroom library to 500 books over the past three years. I found the best sources are garage sales, family members and friends with young children, and talking to administration. As a Student Support Teacher, the number of students that I serve varies so 500 books feels like the right amount… for now!

The changes I made this year to my classroom library were to my green bins, or interest book sections. I created more sections so that books can be found easier. I used to put multiple categories in a bin but this just didn’t work for student put-back. Using the labels I found, I created 12 categories: Friends, Family, Cultures/Canada, ABCs, Math, Weather/Seasons, Animals, Fiction, Feelings, Good Character, School Stories, and rhymes and poetry. There are many other categories but I found these worked best with my previous system. The labels were easy to use and I printed the bin labels on Avery 8168 labels. The corresponding book labels were printed on Avery 8293. Everything printed well and it looks visually appealing but not too distracting (in case you are interested in these labels for your own classroom).

 

My hope is that students will be able to select books that they are interested in and also put them back in the correct bins. I will explicitly show them how to select and re-shelf books. At this time, I will also explore with students the books that can be found in each section and we will move books around if needed so that it makes sense to the kids. The system is self-explanatory enough that educational assistants, substitute teachers, co-teachers, administrators, and parents will be able to come into my room and select and re-shelf books to read with learners without me having to explain things. This should help books stay where they should.

My blue bins, or leveled books, are relatively the same as last year with a color-coded dot that roughly correlates to 2 levels of Fountas and Pinnell. I am not too worried about each book being precisely leveled as students will learn how to select “Just Right” books. The idea is that they are reading books that are within their level so that they can build fluency, maintain comprehension, and feel successful, albeit while still being challenged.

Class 18

I am beyond excited to share the classroom library with a new set of learners and some returning friends! As I always say, reading is succeeding!

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‘Twas the Week Before School: A Look Into Our Classroom

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas time; back to school time! This classroom – and more importantly, this teacher – is ready for the kiddos to return!

‘Twas the week before school, when all through the class

Not a student was stirring, not even a gasp;

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The sight words were hung on the bulletin with care,

In hopes that the new students soon would be there;

The teacher planned guided reading snug in her bed,

While visions of comprehension strategies danced in her head;

Reading Strat

Link: The Measured Mom

Soon students in their new shoes, and I in my dress,

Would settle our brains and bodies to do our best.

When inside the Tipi there arose no chatter,

The students would learn Zones of Regulation to solve a matter.

Class 21

Student-friendly labels on the books for sorting in a flash,

Will make it easy for students to have a reading bash!

Class 23

Some students, to the reading cubbies will go

Some at the standing table looking at objects below,

When, will students to my wondering eyes appear,

I can’t wait until tomorrow when they are finally here.

But will the little students be so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment Whole Body Listening was it!

   More eager each day for the students that came,

She whistled, and planned, and labelled by name;

“Now, Sweetheart! Now, Honey! Now, Buddy and Friend!

Learn, reading! Learn, math! Learn, writing and pretend!

Write on the whiteboard tables but not on the wall!

Now walk only, no running, walk only in the hall.”

Marshmallows

Link: Kindergarten Lifestyle

A clean class before the hustle-and-bustle fly,

When met with an obstacle, give growth mindset a try.

So students, the outcomes and lessons we’ll do,

With buckets full of books, and F&P sight words too.

And then, for the wiggles, a sensory cushion on the seat

Let the kids be kids and move their little feet.

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Another option for those who need turning around,

A swivel egg chair the students will be glad I found.

Class 24

The board all dressed in Letterland, letters from head to foot,

The math manipulatives covered so I get student input.

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A bundle of Good/Poor choices, Inside Out in the back,

And Circle of Courage is all part of our pack.

  Her eyes-how they twinkled! Her smile how bright!

The students were coming, their minds like a light!

Her small little class wrapped up like a bow

And the tabletops for writing were as white as the snow;

The classroom bulletins were covered by curtain,

Weighted dogs, Telemircale teddies, and pillows were there for certain.

Class 19

The room felt like home with plants in their pots,

The students would care for, and water them lots.

The teacher area was organized, set to work like an elf,

And I’d work in the space, that was all to myself.

Class 12

In a wink of the eye, in the guided reading zone,

Students would soon know how to read on their own.

Class 18

Looking at the I Cans, and getting straight to work time,

LLI at the horseshoe table to ensure all is fine.

Class 11

And laying on the couch when the teacher knows,

That a strategy is needed to care for the woes.

Class 20

She can see the whole group, from any spot,

But the students snuggled in their sections cannot.

Class 8

I heard the teacher cheer, as she prepped into the night,

“Happy School Year to all, and to all a learning right!”

Adapted from A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, 1779 – 1863

 

Reading Intervention Planning

This year I had the opportunity to attend a Joyful Literacy Reading Summit in Saskatoon. We learned all about helping struggling readers thrive through a games-based approach. I spent the next couple months trying to implement my newfound knowledge into my teaching, as it positively applies to my work as a Student Support Teacher. So far the kids are loving the games and our Grade 1 reading scores are improving!

With my brain full of great ideas and seemingly not enough hours in a day, my first step was to read Putting on the Blitz by Janet Mort. The text offers ideas about setting up meaningful interventions and there are great game-based resources and examples to learn from. My task was to try and figure out how this would work for my students and within my environment with the resources allotted to me. The next step was to approach my room and resources with a different lens. I had to figure out what I already had in my room that could be used to create game-based phonics and phonological awareness interventions. Suddenly fly swatters were looking like tools for learning in our Sight Word Splat instead of for their intended use! However, I did also have to purchase resources and took advantage of great finds at the Dollar Store, as well as, the Teacher Tax Credit. It is amazing what resources you can find when you look at things with a different perspective.

With significantly less  money in my pocket, my next step was to pull everything together and create a phonics and phonological awareness intervention year plan. This year plan utilizes the games that I have already created in my classroom, as well as, the Florida Center for Reading Research’s Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading curriculum. If you are a primary teacher and especially if you are a primary Student Support Teacher, I highly recommend taking the time to utilize this resource. It does take a lot of time to create – printing each game on cardstock, cutting, laminating, labeling the resources in Ziploc bags, and filing – but in the end you have hundreds of age-appropriate lessons, games, and assessments that focus on phonological awareness, phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. The best part is that it is research-based and the kids are highly engaged by the games! They ask me to play them again and again!

The intervention plan is flexible in regards to the proposed timelines and activities – the students’ understanding will dictate the speed in which you proceed or review concepts and your classroom resources and game creations will vary from my own but can easily be incorporated into this plan. There are Saskatchewan curriculum connections. And since reading intervention is one piece of the literacy pie for my Grade 1’s, I have included guided reading plans with reading strategies and resources.

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I find that having this intervention plan posted in my room allows for easy planning in my Weekly Planner, which can also be adjusted to meet your planning needs. This planner helps when you need a substitute teacher due to an unforeseen event, such as illness. At a quick glance, my substitute teacher is informed about our daily activities, where to find the materials, who I am teaching at what time, and the behavior and academic needs of my learners. So far I am finding that the two resources work nicely together.

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May your literacy and intervention planning be as joyous as your play-based teaching!

Resources for a First Year SST

As a first year SST, I found myself wondering “what resources do I need to be a successful teacher and support?” These are the resources that have helped me get through the first few months (right after some awesome colleages and kids!):

Reading:

FAIR – researched based phonics activities/games. Great to cut-out, laminate, and file so they are easily accessible. So far I have utilized letter recognition/sounds and rhyme games with great success and engagement from the kids! Note: K level actually translated to Grade 1 in many cases (adapt/gage for your children as necessary).

Letterland – kids love the actions and really retain it. Videos on Youtube, as well as, the Sotrybook are great tools for basic classroom teaching and interventions.

This always helps too:

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#halloween #awesomestaff #teacherlife

Measured Mom – everything early literacy (and math!). Great, engaging activities to get student engaged during small-group instruction. It is a good idea to cut-out, laminate, and file some of these supports so they are easily accessible. I also made kids their own individual books and while they worked on those we played some games one-on-one. The kids loved it!

Raz-Kids – for levelled books for guided reading (totally worth it to get an account!)

Reading Assessments: 

Concepts of Print by Marie M. Clay – for basic/initial reading assessments

Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Kit 

Orchestrating Success in Reading by Dawn Reithaug – assessing the 5 main components of reading (great for LIT goals)

Reading Power by Adrienne Gear – great for LIT goals and reading instruciton

Autism:

Circles Curriculum – teaches social boundaries/relationships

Getting Unstuck – how to problem solve

Whole Body Listening – great tool for whole-class listening (pair with both positive reinforcement, such as a marble jar, and negative reinforcement, such as name with checks on board, and you will be set!)

Zones of Regulation – great for emotional thinking and tracking (self-monitoring)

Motivation:

A Love Letter to First-Year Teachers from We Are Teachers

And whatever you do, don’t forget to ask questions.. lots of them!

Positive Learning Spaces

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Great things are happening at Westmount! 

Spent a lot of time creating an inviting environment for my primary learners. All the time was well worth it after the first comment: “Wow Ms. Gorham, you’re room is beautiful like you and your boots.” (AKA how to get an A+ part 1).

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Thanks to a colleage, I get to walk by this every day. Nice reminder for the students and staff at our school that we are all here for a reason. Kids are often running up to the wall trying to find their prints! #educationweek

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We are lucky to have a wonderful SCC at Westmount! It means a lot to have individuals dedicated to the education of our children! Creating inviting environments like this take time but really is appreciated! Great things happen when we work as a team! #weremember #remembrance2015

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Circle of Courage in the office to reinforce our LIP goals/teachings. Looks great!

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Celebrating the Holidays!

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