The end of the school year has arrived. If you haven’t already enjoyed that last hooray at bus duty, anxiously waving good-bye to your students for the final time in the 2016-2017 school year and then running to your staff’s last day of school get-together as fast as you can, the time is coming soon. Children are excited and parents are finalizing summer plans so they aren’t driven nuts with complaints of “I’m bored.” And as usual, you are fending off the stereotypical comments of non-educators: “Oh, you have the whole summer off—how nice!” You try not to respond aggressively, and you politely highlight that it is in fact not true that teachers get the summer off. You know summers are about continuing your own education and planning for the next school year. By the end of summer, you will have re-set, re-energized, and re-grouped with goals for your in-coming learners.
As a former teacher myself, I miss the summer re-set. When I was a school principal and district administrator I enjoyed this time to be able to casually talk with teachers without the chaos of students and bells. It’s a time to be connecting with colleagues, quietly working in your own classroom, and setting your learners up for success the following year. You reflect, you think, you research, and of course you organize. Organizing the classroom library seems to be on the summer to-do list for almost all elementary educators. As you reflect on your own library, it may come to mind (or I’m telling you now) that in January Edmentum's Exact Path solution for individualized learning began reporting Lexile® measures. So, how can this help in organizing your library?
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The Lexile score can help in a variety of ways, even if your school does not organize its central library using the Lexile Framework for Reading. Lexile scale scores may be used to match students to books or to measure reading growth. If you do not use the Lexile Framework you may locate a comparison chart to assist you in interpreting a Lexile score. Such a chart will provide a general comparison of the Lexile scale score to other measures your school may use, including Fountas & Pinnell, Reading Recover, DRA, ATOS, Follett, and others. You can trust that the Lexile score reported in Exact Path is accurate, as it was determined through a research project we at Edmentum conducted in partnership with MetaMetrics®, the parent company of the Lexile Framework for Reading. Together we completed a quantitative study to provide you the most valid and reliable Lexile Scale Scores.
If you and your school do not use a measure such as the Lexile scale to organize books, that’s okay; using measures is a matter of great debate. But, measures are very helpful in determining growth on a scale. Even if you or your school do not use measures to organize books, the Lexile measure in Exact Path can help you understand each learner’s reading growth.
As you organize your library, here are a few things to think about. Always remember, there is no absolute correct way to create or organize your classroom library. You’ve got to think about your sanity first, so do what works best for your style. Organizing and maintaining a library takes a ton of time. The ideas I share are credited to great teachers that shared their classrooms and ideas with me over the years, which challenged me to think, “What’s really best for children to grow in their reading?”
1. Again, there is no one right or wrong way to create, organize, and maintain your classroom library.
2. Use sticker labels or a stamp with your name, so that the book gets returned. The easier this is to spot, the more aware parents are that the book needs to come back to you.
3. Determine “how” you will sort the books and if you will level them. This will depend on your philosophy of teaching, your school policy if applicable, or your past experiences.
- A note about leveling books...Leveling all your books takes a lot of time. If you do level your books you also need to decide if you will have the leveling located on the outside of the book, or the inside. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to each. If leveled on the outside, it’s easier to locate. However, outside leveling also creates conversation about student ability among your learners and may result in competition or negative self-perception.
- A note about sorting books...Organizing books by category is widely recognized as a best practice because it gives students choice and allows them the opportunity to determine if the reading level of a book is a good fit for them. Of course, you know that part of this is teaching routines for how to choose a book, as well as how to use the classroom library.
4. Decide how you will physically organize your books and book library space. There will be many questions involved in this. How much real estate do you have? Will you have reading rugs, bean bags, or other features? Do you have shelves? Will you use book bins? In most classrooms book baskets or bins seem to work well, and are reasonably affordable for the classroom budget.
5. Plan how you will include your students in the management of the library. What will the check-out process be? Will students have jobs in maintaining the library? What will the return process be? Giving your students an element of ownership over the library is a small way you can build excitement about reading.
6. Think about how you will sustain your library. How can you partner with parents to help them understand the importance of a classroom library and which books may be appropriate to donate? Are you able to go to garage sales or donation centers to shop for reasonably priced books on occasion, or can you ask parents to be on-the-look-out?
Want to find out more about how Edmentum Exact Path can support individualized learning for kindergarten through 8th grade students? Check out our Research Base for Reading and Language Arts!