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RV Lessons for the Classroom – Part 1

December 22, 2017

So you probably read the title of this post and are thinking I’m crazy. How can you take lessons learned from living in an RV and relate them to teaching? It may seem a little far-fetched, but I promise – making full-time RV life manageable is not very different from making your second home, I mean classroom, work best for you and your students.

Wants vs. Needs

The first lesson I learned happened VERY quickly. While packing for our first deployment, we had no idea how long we would be away. Unfortunately, you can’t pack an entire 1,800 square foot house into a 35-foot-long RV. It just doesn’t work that way. (Believe me, I probably would have if I could.) I was forced to really evaluate what we NEEDED and what we really LOVED. For example, I now LOVE my RV wardrobe. I have a small closet (probably fitting 30-40 hangers MAX) and a basket for folded clothes. There is nothing in there that I don’t absolutely love and want to wear every single day. Now, I can’t say that for my home’s closet and am seriously debating having a major purge ASAP.

Having to narrow down my closet to the things I loved most really showed me what I don’t need or miss. So often, we hold onto things “just in case” and then “just in case” never comes up! If you do this at home, I can almost guarantee you do the same thing in your classroom. Teachers are notorious for hoarding – you just never know when you’re going to need those empty toilet paper rolls and googly eyes! However, all that hoarding for “just in case” causes so much clutter that we begin to lose sight of the things we really need for our students to be most successful.

If you think you might need to reevaluate the items in your classroom, take a look at the list below of areas that easily become a hoarder’s paradise. On your next classroom work day (do those even exist anymore???) or maybe one day over the break, spend some time in your room to get things tossed out. It will be well worth the extra work for the rest of the school year!

Areas of Clutter in the Classroom

– Teacher’s desk

– Stations/Centers (This was my weakness! Give me alllllllll the center activities!)

– Leftover school supplies

– Guided Reading/Math materials

– Paper scraps (Yep, I was “that” teacher.)

– Filing Cabinets

– Leftover classroom party supplies

Motherhood Organization

Making Mornings Easier

November 16, 2017

When I was teaching, I was surprised by how many non-teacher friends couldn’t believe what time I got up or left for work each day. The craziest part of this to me was that I was the queen of sleeping as late as possible and still getting to work on time. (I lived 5 minutes away and regularly got out of bed after 7:00am and was still at school by 7:45am. THANK YOU dry shampoo and coffee pot timers.) While I of course had mornings when I was feeling a little more frantic than others, I attribute my easy mornings to 3 main things.

Plan a Week of Clothes
Call me a crazy girlie-girl, but this was my favorite way to plan ahead for the week! Each Sunday evening, check the weather for the following week. Then take 30 minutes or less to plan your outfits, including shoes and accessories. Use this time to take care of any ironing and find a good spot to lay them out. Our old closet had a small space on one wall that was too small for shelving but perfect for a rack that I could hang my outfits on. This made mornings soooooo much easier! I just grabbed that day’s outfit and was ready to go!

Make a Week of Breakfasts
Time for coffee in the morning? ABSOLUTELY. Time for breakfast in the morning? Not unless it’s a Saturday. I’m not a fan of sweets in the morning (except my super sweet coffee, of course) but I never had the time to make things like eggs. So, I got into the habit of making ahead breakfast burritos and/or breakfast casserole. Even if I didn’t have time to eat at home, I could still take them to school and pop into my microwave I kept in my classroom.

Find a Consistent “Drop Spot”
Finally, find a “drop spot” that works for you. Make sure it’s a place where you can easily drop off your things, but where you’ll always see it as you’re leaving for work in the morning. My spot was on top of the dryer in our laundry room. I walked past it every morning and afternoon, so I knew my bags would always be there. I kept my purse, keys and teacher bag there. If I was taking something like muffins for breakfast, sometimes I’d even leave them there as well!

Mornings can be tricky. These things helped me stay organized so that I could sleep in just a little longer. While this was before I had LG and left the classroom, I can only imagine how much it would help to plan out these things if you’re getting kiddos ready for school in the morning, too!

Organization Reading

Organizing Home Reading Practice

November 9, 2017

Reading Folders

Just like one can use Little Red Writing Folders to organize classroom writing assignments, you can also designate folders for reading practice.  We utilized these folders for take-home purposes. I realize many schools do not assign “homework” anymore, but it seems the majority of schools will allow for some guidance on reading practice at home. I found the folder method to be very helpful in organizing students’ reading responsibilities. This simple folder format allowed even the youngest students to take ownership over their nightly literacy practice and parents were thankful for the ease of nightly homework rituals.

Our folders were the sturdy plastic types and could hold a book in each pocket. In the front pocket, we typically placed the basal reader that students had been practicing in class. Our “assignments” followed the same trajectory every week, with the warm-up story needing to be practiced Monday nights, the main story on Tuesdays, the supplemental text was read on Wednesdays, and the main story was reviewed on Thursday nights. Since we needed the basal textbooks for both in class and at home practice, the folders helped my students keep up with where their books were at all times. To everything a place, and everything in its place! The back pocket of the folders could hold extra mini readers they were working on in small groups for extra fluency practice, too.  Library books are an option here, too, but sometimes those books did not fit our folders’ pockets.

Also like the writing folders, the resources in the middle of the folders were my favorite. One can pretty easily differentiate what is placed in the page protectors attached via prongs in the folder’s center. My students helped me switch out the pages, too. Some items I have used in the past include sight word practice pages, parent letter, decoding strategies, sight word phrases, fluency poems and songs, reading logs, reading contest forms, and my favorite- the Elkonin boxes page for spelling practice. Elkonin boxes or sound boxes were used in class to practice spelling words, then used at home, too. The students loved them and I saw an increase in true spelling understanding!

Overall it was just nice to have a folder that equated simply reading. When parents and students saw it, they knew they had a grip on their assignments and knew where everything they needed to practice was located. Even as an adult I believe that half the battle of completing tasks is having items you need to accomplish your goals organized and easy to access. Try out a reading folder with your class today!

Organization Writing

Little Red Writing Folders

October 21, 2017

Organizing Your Students’ Writing

I needed to make writing a bigger priority in my classroom. There are as many ways to approach writing instruction as there are types of writing utensils! So, I started simply. I got myself and my students organized first. This began with red, plastic, pronged folders. Since writing was going into these folders, I naturally had to name them “Little Red Writing Folders.” Just like that, it stuck.

First, I numbered the folders on the outside with a permanent marker. Since they were plastic they usually lasted a few years and could be reused without student names written all over them.

Now, what goes into a little red writing folder?

Whatever you want, really. Of course, this does depend a bit on the grade level you are teaching. I think the only rule here is to not put TOO much into the folder. It is a “little” red writing folder after all. My folder for the first graders consisted of a few basics. First, you need writing paper in the folder. I placed this on the left-hand side of the folder. If your students are too messy with supplies, you may only distribute one page of writing paper at a time or have a designated tray in the classroom for fresh writing paper. On the right side of the folder, there was room for unfinished pieces or pieces ready for “publication.” I have seen writing workshop folders labeled “in progress” on the left and “finished” on the right side pocket, but again this depends on if you want to store fresh writing paper in their folders or not.

The center prongs of the folders are where I like to have resource pages. There are plenty of options here. I definitely recommend page protectors to keep those resource pages in place longer, and also to ease the transition of different pages over time. Place one or two page protectors in the folders and fill them with: writing prompt ideas the students generated, writing reminders/rules/checklists, sight words/vocabulary words, sequencing words (first, then next, last), model writing samples, or writing style ideas. The possibilities really depend on your writing focus and where your students might need some independent guidance. Here is the checklist I liked to use with my first graders. Since it was in a page protector, students could literally check off this list with their dry erase markers.

Happy hunting for resource pages for your own Little Red Writing Folders. Even older students will get a kick out of the organization of your writing folders. Tootles!

Homeschool Motherhood Organization

On the Road

September 24, 2017

Wow! I can’t believe how quickly things can change! Although, you’d think by now I wouldn’t be surprised a bit! In my “Renfros on the Road” post, I shared with you all that we were ready and waiting for my husband’s first call. Flash forward over a month and we’re already finishing up our first “deployment”!

Life On the Road

We knew things could change in a hot minute, but we really got a taste of that recently! One minute we were planning our 4th of July family gathering, the next we were running around like crazy people trying to gather up my husband’s new work clothes and work materials so he could leave THE DAY after getting the call to work with his father 13 hours away in Iowa. We were both shocked it happened so fast, but it was certainly great practice for what’s to come!

Due to the nature of Matt’s first “deployment”, we thought it was best for LG and I to stick around with family for a few weeks. Much like any job, there was a huge learning curve and Matt just needed time to wrap his mind around his new work without the temptation to hurry home to his little girl every night. While we missed him tremendously, having 2 weeks back “home” was great for me to gather everything I wanted LG to have while we traveled.

While we are planning on buying a travel trailer in the near future, there simply wasn’t time for that with how early Matt was called. Fortunately, he found us an AMAZING farm house in a tiny country town on AirBnB. It has been the neatest experience! We’ve spent lots of time checking out the town and nearby larger city of Des Moines, and we have loved getting to know the owner of the home! We’ve already decided she’ll be our first guest back home in Texas when we get our new home together!

Tot School on the Road

As you can imagine, I was extremely nervous about how life outside of our own home would affect our little one. LG is now 19 months old (I hate typing that!) and is a super smart, curious, spunky little one. How was I going to keep her busy in a place that wasn’t ours?! So, I spent several days sorting through all of her toys to find her favorites for fun and educational practice. I decided to bring this shelf and committed to filling up the 3 baskets with as much as I could to keep her busy. I split them up into 3 categories.

  1. Craft Supplies – My thinking in ordering this was simple – keep the messy stuff highest up. Ha! I was SO excited to load this basket with stickers, coloring books, crayons, KwikStix and a dry erase board. My girl LOVES playing with stickers, so I knew I had to grab a ton! Thank goodness, Michael’s has a BILLION sticker books to choose from and they’re each only $1! While traveling, I also picked up some Crayola Color Wonder markers and they truly are a wonder! I could almost guarantee a mom or teacher came up with this product!
  2. Fine Motors Practice – LG may still be only 19 months old, but I figure it’s never too early to practice our fine motors! This basket is home to lots of pom-poms, pipe cleaners, magnets, blocks, clothespins, and her stacking rings. I wish I had grabbed a pair of tongs in place of the clothespins for now, so I’ll definitely be getting one soon!
  3. Books & “Noise Makers” – I always try to keep lots and lots of books on hand! I love to read picture books to LG, but she’s still too excited about ripping pages out to give her anything other than board books to read on her own. I was THRILLED to find these board books with buttons on Amazon! They’re perfect for practicing her colors, numbers, animal sounds, and identifying every day objects. She loves them!! I also threw in her favorite “noise makers”. She doesn’t have a ton of tech toys, but she sure loves those!

Thankfully, all of these activities have held her attention really well while traveling! If you’re traveling anytime soon, or are just looking for activities your toddler can play with at home, I hope these are some great options for you! If you have any questions about where I got any of them or other ideas, leave me a comment! I’d love to chat with you!

Organization School Psychology

Organized Chaos

September 14, 2017

Since I have two offices instead of one classroom I can’t give you any classroom organization tips, but I do want to discuss the importance of organization and offer some ideas for how to organize information for students of concern for both teachers and school psychologists.

Sometimes I miss the stress of graduate school because if I wasn’t organized or procrastinated on something it only impacted my life, but now if I do that it impacts a child’s life!  This is why being organized is so vital in our jobs as educators.  If I misplace a referral packet for a child, that could delay me picking the best assessments to give that child.  Or if you forget to fill out the behavior rating scale on time that can cause a child to not get a more appropriate intervention sooner.

One thing that helps me with this is to give myself, and sometimes others, due dates.  When I give parents or teachers evaluation forms to complete I often give them a date I’d like them back by.  Sometimes they even thank me for giving them a deadline!  But to help myself a little more I write their due date in my planner so I know on that day to check to see if I have it back, and if not I can check in to see if they need any help.

The main piece of advice I have is get yourself a good planner.  Some people like to use technology or old fashioned paper.  I use it to keep up with every little thing!  Like if I fax something or send something home to a parent I make sure I write in my planner for the next week to check on it.

For students of concern I recommend keeping an individual folder on them and make sure to keep notes with dates on anything new that happens.  For a teacher this could be something like on 8/10 I started working with Caleb in a small group on short vowels using XYZ intervention.  For a school psychologist it could read something like on 9/10 I spoke with Ms. Brooks about changing Caleb’s small group intervention to add a phonological awareness component.

As a school psychologist, it is important that we have documented everything that has been in place for a child before we jump into testing them for a disability.  Of course every case is different, just like every child is different.  Legally and ethically, we need to make sure we do everything we can within general education to meet a child’s needs.  This is why being organized and documenting these efforts is so important to determine if a child may need to be evaluated for a disability.  For teachers I can imagine sometimes this is frustrating because your gut might be telling you this child will need more intensive services, but we have to give them a chance.  If we jump from A to Z we have no idea if D or J might have worked for them.

Most school psychologists work at 2 or more schools and serve more students than the National Association of School Psychologists recommends.  So it is very helpful if you can bring data that interventions and researched strategies have been used with a student, and they are still struggling with specific skills.  For example, when I hear a child is struggling with reading I don’t really know where to start.  However, if I hear that your student who is in reading intervention is struggling with reading words with blends and diphthongs but can understand material that is read aloud I have a better idea of what we need to do next.

Another tip I have is don’t put off simple organizational tasks.  I am required to track all of the students I test in an Excel sheet.  I have to put what school they are at, grade, date of permission, etc. It’s not a hard task, and I could put it off and then go back and enter all of that data months after the fact.  However, it is so much easier if I keep up with it on a daily or even weekly basis.  It does take a little more effort and time, but when it’s due all I do is submit it instead of having to take a few hours to go back and add everything all at once.  I’m also less likely to forget something or make a mistake when it is fresh on my mind.

I love to make a good to do list!  If there is a new procedure or something you’re always forgetting to do.  Make yourself a checklist for it and put it somewhere you’ll visually see to remind you.  Once you use it a few times you will get in the habit of it!

Hopefully, some organizational tips from a school psychologist translate to meaningful organization in your classrooms!

Back to School Classroom Management Organization

7 Tips for Successful Classroom Management

September 12, 2017

The day had finally arrived. I had just graduated from college with my teaching credential a few months earlier. My classroom was organized, decorated, and prepared for the year. I anxiously awaited the arrival of my new 34 students! I was only 22 years old, and while my carefully laid out lesson plans, strategies for differentiation, and sheer excitement for teaching gave me confidence, one area that I realized I was not prepared was classroom management – specifically, how do I get 34 completely different students to cooperate, listen, and “buy-in” for the year. Thankfully, I had a wonderful grade-level team and an incredible principal and mentor who helped me establish classroom routines, procedures, rules, and expectations that made that first year a success. I could not have done it without them!
So, for all of you first year teachers, and even those who may have been in the classroom for a long time, here are my top seven tips for successful classroom management:

1. Articulate Your Expectations

If you fail to clearly communicate what you expect from your students, they will inevitably fail to live up to your standards. Now, this requires that you actually decide what your expectations are. Begin by selecting what behaviors you want to teach. What expectations do you have for transitions? Turning in work? Needing to use the restroom? Getting books from the classroom library? Noise level? Sharpening pencils? Asking for help? Dismissal? The list goes on and on. However, choose which procedures you have specific expectations for and go from there. Remember, you can’t teach the behavior unless you have determined your expectations for it. So, spend some time mapping it out – it is time well spent!

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

I always spend the first few weeks of school practicing the different procedures in the classroom over and over again – making sure the students know exactly what it looks like and sounds like to carry out the procedure correctly. Yes, we literally spend time walking from the playground to the classroom, passing in blank papers, pretending it is the end of the day – multiple times! Although it can be incredibly tempting to fly through the teaching of classroom procedures and expectations to get to all of the academic stuff, don’t do it! If you want to have an effective learning environment, you are going to have to spend time teaching and practicing procedures. If you do it the beginning of the year, you can establish clear expectations with a receptive audience in a positive light. Otherwise, you will inevitably spend time during the year battling for control of your classroom or trying to get your students to “un-learn” what they have been doing for their procedures all year. Trust me, taking time in the beginning is SOOOO worth it!

3. Look for Every Opportunity to Catch Kids Doing the Right Thing

Everyone appreciates praise for doing something well. So, especially in those first few weeks of school, help your students learn and apply the classroom rules, procedures, and expectations, by highlighting the students who are doing these things well. Be specific in your compliments so that others can learn from their example. Rather than say, “Great job, Leah!” you might say, “I really appreciate how Leah quietly came in from recess, took her seat, and now has her eyes on me.” Or “Thank you, James, for raising your hand before you speak.” The kids usually catch on pretty quickly. When students are receiving specific feedback and attention from you (and even the rest of the class), it gives them less reason to act out in hopes of receiving negative attention.

4. Establish Classroom Rules

This might be a “no-brainer,” but having classroom rules in place is an essential component of a successful classroom management plan. Now, the debate goes on as to whether to create rules as a class or to have your own rules established when you begin the first day. I have used both and both have been effective – the choice is yours (or perhaps your schools). However, when establishing rules make sure that they are fairly global in scope – otherwise you will end up with way too many. So, rather than “Don’t lean back in your chairs” or “Only walking feet in the classroom,” use a rule such as “Be safe.” Both of the previous rules are encompassed in that general rule without having to create a list of 25 different rules addressing safety. On that note, however, spend some time discussing what that general rule might look like in the classroom. In my classroom, we always brainstorm at least 10-12 examples of what following that rule looks like and what following that rule does not look like. for the younger kiddos, having picture cards also really helps! Again, just like procedures, spend some time on this one. If your students truly understand the rules, you will have far fewer struggles enforcing them.

5. Be Consistent with Consequences

This perhaps is the hardest one for me – especially in those first few days and weeks of school. I so desperately want the students to know how much I care about them, that it can be incredibly difficult to “reprimand” those cuties for what might seem like small offenses. The reality, however, is that those adorable little kiddos are smart. And if they know they can smile, sniffle, or plea their way out of a consequence, they will! So, be consistent! If your students come in the classroom unacceptably, make them do it again, and again, until it is right. If you use a behavior clip chart, colored cards, or some other method to hold students accountable, start using it right away. I don’t usually send home a weekly report for behavior that first week of school, so this is a perfect opportunity to teach your students that you have expectations and that you will be consistent in holding them accountable. Believe it or not, students actually find comfort in knowing boundaries, and being consistent assists in making those boundaries clear.

6. Establish Positive Teacher-Parent Relationships Early

While building relationships with parents may seem out of place in a discussion about classroom management, I have found that building positive relationships with parents makes a huge impact on what happens in the classroom. When parents understand that you want the best for their child and that you want to partner with them in helping their student grow, they are much more receptive to a phone call or meeting in which you have to address a challenge that has arisen. Begin by making a positive phone call in the first 2 weeks of school. Most parents dread the “phone call from the teacher,” so make the first call purely positive and be specific. As a parent myself, nothing warms my heart quite like hearing a specific compliment about my child. Communicate with parents early and regularly. Ask them questions. Let them know that you are on their team and you are invested in each student. Building these relationships is a tremendous asset in understanding student behavior in the classroom. Parents are able to share insights from home and you are able to share insights from school. Together, you can partner to make the school year successful for each student, which aids greatly in classroom management.

7. Make Sure Your Students Understand that You Are On Their Team

While I have alluded to this in other tips, building relationships with your students and reminding them that you support them, believe in them, and want the best for them is the essential component that binds all of these strategies together. Look for the best in each of your students, and as your relationships grow, I have found that issues with classroom management dwindle. All of the rules and procedures will not be nearly as effective unless the students first believe the teacher is in their corner.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my tips. I hope they give you some strategies to implement as you begin this school year. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on successful classroom management strategies! Comment below with your favorite classroom management strategies!

Classroom Management Organization

Behavior Charts

September 3, 2017

While the topic of “color charts” is controversial, one thing that isn’t, is the need for consistent parent communication about behavior. One of the worst things that can happen when it comes time to have a serious conversation about the behavior of someone’s child is hearing them say, “This is news to me. I didn’t know he/she was having any trouble.” Parents deserve to know how they’re children are doing in class, and students need the consistent accountability.

Color Charts

I cannot offer you studies about the effects of using color charts, and I can’t tell you what will work best for your particular students. But what I can offer you is personal observation from my experience with them in my classroom. After several years of using color charts, I learned to make tweaks with each class. Here are two important things I learned:

  1. Keep It Personal – I’ve seen teachers use small, personal sized color charts on each student’s desk so that they can have a quiet reminder of their choices each day. I think this is a great idea! However, I preferred to keep one larger one so that I could be more involved with it the way I wanted.

I ended up keeping my color chart fairly low behind my desk. While it wasn’t completely hidden, it was not in clear view so that I could avoid embarrassment as much as possible. Having it behind my desk made it a much more intentional tool for me. When a child was struggling, I could invite them to my desk for a conversation in private. We could discuss their current behavior and take care of any color changes without making a scene. Having my color chart in a personal, “teacher” space made me more intentional about addressing behavior.

  1. Keep It Positive – Keeping it “positive” may sound strange. But there are certainly ways to do this. First off, I tried to avoid condemning or super negative wording on each color. I wouldn’t label the red chart as “bad day” or something hurtful. I tried to stick to terms like, “Pause and Think” or “Try Again”. That way when a student moved their clip to a color, they didn’t see this huge reminder of how “bad” they were being.

The biggest way I kept my color chart positive was by using it as a tool that could go back and forth. I always had plenty of colors above green to reward students for going above and beyond. I also made sure my students knew that moving their clip down didn’t mean it would stay that way all day. I had many students make their way down a few colors in the morning, go to lunch/recess, and come back ready to make better choices. Those students always had the opportunity to move their clips back up a few colors to show them that you can turn your day around. Sometimes we all have rough starts to our day, that’s just life. Our students are no different.

Behavior Charts – What’s Included?

While these are all ways that color charts were useful in the classroom, there were also ways that they were useful for parent communication. Every day I took just a few minutes to color in students’ behavior charts to let their parents know how their day went. Often times, my green, blue and purple students would color their own and I would color anything below. This gave me another chance to discuss student behavior and to brainstorm ways they can have a better day the following day. Students would get to move their clips back to green, giving them the reassurance that the next day would be a brand NEW day.

In my monthly behavior charts set, there is a pre-dated calendar for each month of the 2017-2018 school year. All you have to do is print and put names on them! In addition to a picture to color, I included the code I used to give a super short summary of why a student came home on a particular color. It helped me keep a record of consistent behaviors we needed to work on, and was very handy for parent-teacher conferences.

If you use color charts in your classroom, I hope these ideas and charts help you use them with more intention and help keep your parent communication streamlined!


Stations Organization

July 15, 2017

One of the most frustrating things for me in the classroom was getting my stations set out for the week, only to find out in the middle of stations time that pieces were missing or broken. It’s awfully difficult to solve a situation like this while you’re in the middle of working with a small group! My solution to this predicament is to spend some time in the summer checking over your stations.


I know, we like to think that we’re going to take the entire summer off and do nothing involving school. If you can manage that, BRAVO! But I always knew that the more I got done on my OWN TERMS during the summer, the less stressed out I would be during the school year. So I made a point to spend a couple of days in my jammies with a pot of coffee and good movie, going through my stations.

The first thing I did before even going through each individual station was reevaluate the effectiveness. If a station was too difficult for most of my students to do without my help, or it didn’t really build the skill I was hoping it would, what was the point of checking to see if all the pieces were there? I’d toss the activities I no longer wanted and jot down what skill it covered so I could find something else in its place. This helped me make sure all of my stations were intentional and not just time-fillers.


Of course, “hindsight is 20-20”, right? While I was in the classroom, I used very large carts with giant drawers to store my stations. I had one for each subject I did stations in (Reading, Phonics, Writing, Grammar, and Math). In the beginning this was great because I hadn’t accumulated a ton yet. However, by the time I left the classroom it was a mess! In preparation for homeschool, I’ve already decided that I’ll be storing mine by skills. (Ex. Blends, Digraphs, Vowel Teams, etc.) I know that would have made life soooo much easier when it came time to plan my stations for the following week.

Like any other kind of organization, the way you store your stations really has to match your personality. What methods do you prefer to organize them in your own classroom?

Organization Reading

Keeping Up with the Chaos

July 13, 2017

Keeping Your Classroom Library Books Organized

You finally have your classroom library organized to perfection (if not, you can read last month’s Tenspire post for ideas). Next goal: Keep it that way. Maintaining a classroom library’s organization can be tricky. I mean, you could forbid the students from reading the books. Then the books on the shelves would stay pristine. However, this defeats the purpose of a classroom library, huh? What to do? Follow these easy tips to help keep your book nook in tip top shape.

Don’t simply place the books on the shelves. That is a recipe for disaster. You must have bins, baskets, or crates. The containers you choose should be durable and have enough room for the books to move around a bit on the shelves. If books are getting crammed in the bins the covers will get ripped and the students cannot access them easily.

The containers should be labeled– not just with names of the genre of books, but perhaps even color coded. Garage sale circle stickers come in handy here or you could order multi-colored dot stickers and professional grade book spine tape from a library supply store. Just think of the awesomeness! To label books by Lexile level easily, use an awesome app that will inventory all of your books for you! You can also use a coordinating app to have students check out your classroom’s books digitally, too. Now you are closer to a real live library in your classroom!

Another useful method for helping students place books back in the correct locations is to give each student their own personal placeholder. Use students’ classroom numbers to label the placeholders so you can use them year after year. Students can also decorate their own placeholders, too. I have seen paint stirrer sticks work well for placeholders or even something as simple as clothespins. When a student takes a book out of a bin, his or her personal place holder goes on the bin. Once students are finished with a book, they locate their book placeholder and switch the book for the placeholder. This method helps the teacher see what types of books each student is reading, too.

An option for students not finished with classroom books when reading time is over is to have them store them somewhere besides their desks. I’ve used a mailbox system also labeled with students’ classroom numbers or chair covers bags. Having students place books in their desks leads to beat up books and sometimes missing ones.

The last tip is one I have mentioned before, but make sure to assign a classroom librarian to help you straighten up the books at least weekly or even daily. Also, make certain that you teach all students the proper methods for getting books in and out of your library. Don’t go crazy reorganizing your books all year. Following these tips will have your books looking as organized on the last day of the school year as they looked on day one.