Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on the Start of a New School Year

Monday marks the beginning of my fourth year in the classroom. Last week we had three work days to get prepared, scrutinize our class lists and most importantly come to terms with waking up before 11am again. Before getting into my plans for the new school year I'll recap my summer reading.

This summer I only managed to read 32 books (not including rereads), which is significantly fewer than last summer. Assuming the weather holds up I should finish Love, Ruby Lavender at the pool today to bump the total to 33. I did a lot more traveling for ultimate this summer and it's hard to get any reading done on those trips. Of the 32 books I did read 10 were 2010 titles. Going into the summer I had high hopes and big plans. I wanted to finally read some series I had never gotten around to such as His Dark Materials, Little House, Gregor the Overlander, and Prydain (I read High King a few years ago and loved it but for some reason I haven't read the series in its entirety). The only series I did complete was the Pullman one, which is another reason my numbers are low for this summer, those suckers were l-o-n-g. I also read the first Gregor the Overlander book and I'll probably complete the series at some point.

The best new book I read this summer was Clementine, Friend of the Week. Sapphique is next on the list of favorites.

Preparing my classroom was a pretty painless experience this year. The biggest task is always putting my classroom library back together. Every May I remove all the books from the shelves and place them inside closets and cabinets so that the janitorial staff can move the bookcases when they re-wax the floors. This year I managed to create enough space so that I could keep most of the books in their baskets when storing them so that all I had to do last week was but the baskets back in their spots on the shelves. Below are a few slightly blurry pictures of my classroom library.
On the left is the overflowing Caldecott Honor shelf.

I organize most books my reading level. A through F are in red baskets. G, H and I are in the yellow baskets with G on the top yellow shelf, H on the middle shelf and I at the bottom. Simiarly J, K and L are in blue baskets and M, N and O are in the green baskets. The top of the self holds mostly "I Can Read" and other early reader books of that size again leveled by color. The tall bookcase contains a basket for class favorites. There is a basket with all of Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie books, a basket for all the ToonBooks and a basket with various other graphic novels like Lunch Lady, Owly, Babymouse, Bone, etc, there is an overly stuffed basket of Dr. Seuss on this shelf as well. Above that is my poetry shelf including all the thick Silverstein, Prelutsky and Lansky collections as well as stand alone poetry books and some verse picture books. The top shelf is were I store my teacher's hands only books. Hardcover jacketed favorites like Traction Man, Lion and the Mouse, Curious Garden, all the Van Allsburgs and autographed picture books. Also on the top shelf is my complete William Steig collection since I don't introduce Steig until April his books can stay out of reach (expect of some copies of Pete's a Pizza which reside in the yellow baskets).

The two left most cases on this wall contain chapter books organized by series or author. Again the blue baskets contain series that are easier than the green baskets. The middle bookcase contains baskets for our favorite authors. There are baskets for Ezra Jack Keats, Kevin Henkes, Robert Munsch (don't worry LYF is not in there!), Cynthia Rylant, two baskets for Arnold Lobel and two baskets for James Marshall. On the far right of the picture is the Caldecott Medal shelf.

Behind my guided reading table is one last book shelf that houses student book boxes. My students use these blue plastic boxes to hold store the books they want to read during Sustained Silent Reading that day. Every morning and afternoon students have a chance to swap out books always maintaining seven books in their boxes. I use the book boxes so that when it's time for SSR the students simply have to retrieve their box and they are ready to read.

The classroom library is the center of my classroom. We spend time on the mats reading, listening to others read and participating in discussions about what we read (as well as what we write). Monday I will read some of my favorite books (there is nothing I enjoy more than the first time I get to read Munsch's Purple, Green and Yellow to a class) and discuss our classroom library procedures. We will talk about how it is important to carefully return books to their proper baskets and how to choose "just right books" for our independent reading. The students will design name tags for their book boxes and begin filling them for our first SSR. I usually start with 5 minutes of SSR the first day of school and slowly build up to 20 minutes by the beginning of September. Unfortunately our schedule doesn't really allow for us to do SSR for longer than 20 minutes.

Monday we will also vote for our first chapter book read aloud. I usually preselect 3 titles and after a short book talk on each title the students vote for the book they want to hear. If the vote is close I make sure to include the runner up title in the next vote. The last couple years my class choose Patrick Catling's The Chocolate Touch (a book I remember my second grade teacher reading to me!). I like starting with novels that have very short chapters (less than 1o pages) at the beginning of the year so that students who may not have a lot of practice sitting and listening to pictureless books get a chance to get used to this kind of listening without having to sit for too long (remember they're seven year olds).

I hope to use this blog to write a little about how my class reacts to the books we read together this year. I will try to post weekly about the classes reception to both old favorites and new releases. I'm really looking forward to getting Mini Grey's Jim, Who Ran Away from His Nurse and Was Eaten By a Lion which I predict will be a big time favorite. I'm also looking forward to reading Jacqueline Jules' chapter book Zapato Power with my students. Last year's class loved making fun of my horrendous Spanish when I read Patrick Jennings Faith and the Electric Dog.

I welcome any and all read aloud suggests you may have as I am always searching for that next great book. My goal as a second grade teacher is simple. I want to create life long readers. I firmly believe that one positive reading experience (the proverbial "homerun book") is all it takes to make someone a reader. My task then, is giving my students a chance to find that book. So if you know of an amazing but little known picture book or chapter book that you think my second graders would get a kick out of please let me know. And if you're an author or publisher and want to get a galley into some potentially receptive hands I'd love to have the opportunity to help make that happen. So please leave a comment or shoot me an email.


Mrs. F-B's Books Blog said...

Wow! Your classroom is so incredibly organized. I think you've got a librarian inside that teacher body! hope you have a great year :-)

Ms. Yingling said...

What an awesome room! Clean, organized AND bright and attractive. Your students are very lucky.