Monday, July 15, 2013

Setting Up a Classroom Library for Preschoolers

Here are some things to consider when setting up your classroom library.

Find the Right Spot

The first decision that needs to be made, is where is the best spot for a library. I recommend a quiet area of the classroom. The block and dramatic play centers tend to be very loud, so a quiet library should be far away from these centers. I also like to put my library next to my writing center. Many students like to use books as an inspiration for their writing. 

Decide How to Display Books

Here are a few things to consider while deciding how to display books.
  • Experts recommend having 10-15 books available per child. (That's 180 books in my classroom library!)
  • Books should be displayed with the front of the book facing out. (This takes up more room then just having the books lined up on a shelf with the spines showing)
  • Preschoolers are going to be accessing the books. Think about height, ease of getting to and putting away books.
Here are a few ideas for displaying books;

These slotted book shelves are a great way to display books by their covers. I use this area to display books that support our current theme. 
(The books in this picture are from my All About Me theme)

I'm limited on furniture, so I also use book boxes to display books. These are actually locker crates that I use to display my books. They are great because they can sit directly on the floor. They usually run around $3 a piece during back to school season.

Here is a great idea from Kindergarten Kindergarten. The black bins on the lower shelves are dish drainer buckets. You can find them in the kitchen section in Wal-Mart for a few bucks a piece. (I'm actually purchasing a book shelf so I can use these bins to expand my library, since I still have not reached the 180 book mark)

Remember that books can be displayed ANYWHERE in the classroom. They don't all have to be in the "library". I have a book bin (They're actually ice buckets from Wal-mart. Less then $2 a piece!) in every center in my classroom. 

Choose What Books to Include in the Library

If you're book crazy like me, you may not be able to put out all your books at the same time. (This is a good thing! My students love it when I switch out books) Think about the following questions to decide what the best books are to include in your library. 

  • Are there any books you want out ALL the time? (Such as class favorites, class made books, cultural books, all about me books etc.)
  • What are you focusing on this week/month?
  • Seasonal/Holiday books
  • Books by the same author (It's my goal this year to always have at least one author "series" out at all times)
  • 50/50 - Our ELA curriculum this year is focusing on using 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction.

Make it Comfortable and Inviting

You chose the perfect spot for your library, figured out the best way to display your books, and chose what books you want to include in your classroom library . . . you're almost there! All that's left is making your library comfortable and inviting. You put a lot of thought into this space and you want to make sure the students USE this wonderful space to read. 

  • Pillows (I found black pillows at Garden Ridge and my TA sewed some fabric into pillow covers)
  • Bean Bags
  • Rocking Chair
  • Stuffed Animals (Kohl's is a great place to find stuffed animals that go with different books. And the proceeds go to a great cause)
  • Carpet
Here are a couple other great ideas:

Bath mats can be picked up and moved by students. The dollar tree often has carpet squares for $1. 

A child sized couch makes an inviting place for children to sit and read. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Teaching Preschoolers How to Care for Books

As preschool teachers (and parents) we know how important it is for our students to have their hands on books. Experts say 10-15 books should be available PER student at all times. In my room with 18 students, that's a minimum of 180 books! Now, think about the first day of school. 18 preschoolers walk into the classroom and begin grabbing books off the shelves and leaving them on the floor, fighting over books, walking on books, throwing books, coloring on books, ripping pages out of books, oh the chaotic nightmare can go on and on and on . . . but let's put an end to that right here. There's HOPE! You can have a large, book filled, and CALM classroom library that meets the literacy needs of the students without breaking the bank by replacing books every few months. Trust me you CAN! Yes you CAN! Just keep reading. . . 

Teaching Preschoolers How to Care for Books

First rule of classroom management (in my book anyway), don't give students access to materials you haven't discussed with them yet. Therefore, on the first day of school, I recommend either leaving your book shelves empty, covering them with something, or leaving the library center closed. A small book box will get your students through the first day or two of school, until you get a chance to discuss how to care for books. 

(3 minutes)
I use a T-chart to facilitate a discussion on proper care of books. 

One side of the chart has a smily face and the other side has a sad face. I ask questions to get the kids thinking of happy and sad ways to care for books, and write their responses on the chart. Now I know some of you are saying . . ."but I teach PRESCHOOL they can't read." Here's why I use anchor charts/T-Charts/etc with my kiddos.
  • I can read. Writing down their words allows me to remember what they've said. I can then go back and remind them of what THEY said were happy or sad choices.
  • I consider this a shared writing experience. My students are being exposed to purposeful writing. They are learning that their spoken words can be written and written words have meaning.
  • A lot of times, my TA will go back later and add little illustrations next to the words to increase the amount of meaning my students are able to pull out of the poster. 

The students will have some great ideas of how to care and not care for books, but they may still need a little direction. 

(5 minutes)
I found this WONDERFUL book (FOR FREE) over at kindergartenkindergarten for teaching my students how to care for our books. 

Someone has not been taking care of this book! This book has been scribbled on, ripped, had things spilt on it, taken outside in the mud, and more. It's a silly way to show kids how not to take care of the book. 

(3 minutes)
After reading the book, we go back to the T-chart and I ask the students if there is anything else we should add to our chart. If there are specific things I'm wanting to address (such as leaving books on the floor), I will guide students to discussing those choices.

(3 minutes)
When the T-chart is completed, I summarize their responses and tell them what our class expectations are for using books. Also, don't forget to discuss the WHY of the expectations. Why is it a sad choice to leave a book out on the floor? Possible answers could be; It might get stepped on or lost. I leave the T-chart up and we visit it daily for a few weeks. Usually before or after independent reading time. 

My Expectations: I call them expectations not "rules", because they are more for my benefit. These are the things I'm guiding our discussions towards and reminding my students about. These are the things I want my students to learn about caring for books. I don't expect them to get them all the first day or even first week of school. There are no consequences for not following them (at least not at first) just gentle reminders. 
  • Books are for reading
  • Books should be in your hands! Not just sitting on the floor waiting for someone to step on them . . . 
  • Hands should be clean and dry before touching books. (My students don't have to wash their hands before reading our books, but our independent reading time is right after snack time so I always remind my students to make sure their hands aren't dirty or sticky before touching the books.)
  • One book per child at a time
  • Be gentle with the books
  • Share books by reading together and taking turns

Don't forget to STICK to your expectations. Monitor students in the library, giving gentle reminders to students who forget to put their book away, are being to rough, etc.  Catch sad choices BEFORE they get out of control. One book left on the floor is a teachable moment, every book in your library on the floor is chaos

I know this might sound like a lot, but it can be done in 10-15 minutes. Which is probably as long as preschoolers can sit at the beginning of the year! :)

Check back soon for tips on setting up a classroom library with 10-15 books available per student!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Our Perfect Names - Part 2

Don't Miss Part 1 - Our Perfect Names

Talking About Our Perfect Names

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a great book to read as a starting point for talking about names. In this book, Chrysanthemum starts school and some of her friends begin making fun of her because of how long her name is. Throughout the book Chrysanthemum discovers all the things she loves about her name and why her name is perfect! After reading the book, ask students what they love about their name. A discussion prompt can be sent home with students asking parents to talk with their child about what their name means, why they chose that name, and why their child's name is perfect. 

Wheels on the Bus - Phonemic Awareness

Use the song "Wheels on the Bus" to increase your students phonemic awareness! The beginning sound in thumpity thump is replaced with the beginning sound of a student's name. I combine each students bus and song page in a binder using page protectors to create a class book. The students love singing the song with all their friends' names and learning their sounds. You can purchase the song page in my tpt store

To make the bus, I precut the yellow bus, the white windows, and used a die-cut for the first letter of each student's name. The students cut out the black wheels for the bus, drew people in each of the windows, and then glued the bus together. I used a small picture of each child to show them driving the bus. You can find out how to create small pictures from my tech tip post

Shared Writing with Names

Our first shared writing activity each year has to do with our names. It's repetitive and my students love using the pointer to read the poster. This also helps them learn their friends names. I use different colors for each word in the sentence because it helps my students be aware of the repetition and separation of words. 

Happy July!