Wednesday, August 14, 2013

21st Day... Book Boxes

Well, it's a little hard to sneak into school when you arrive to find that the principal, the secretary, and two custodians are already there when you arrive! I am so lucky to adore the people I work with, so there were hugs and conversations, and I had a chance to empty the boxes out of my car. There wasn't much time to spend in my room though. Alas, after planning all of the details of that (intended) covert operation, I forgot my camera!

So, I've switched gears to talk about my book boxes. And while my August posts are supposed to be about my back-to-school organizational strategies, this one requites some "background knowledge," so pardon the preface before I get to the part about the plastic bins!

Among teachers, the word "book boxes" often refers to the personal collections of books that kids have at or bring to their desks. We don't have those in sixth grade, although we do have a "book box" on each table where the independent reading books for group of kids are stored. I'll talk about those boxes in a different post.
Love these "Tots," available from Krista Wallden HERE at TpT
The book boxes I am referring to hold the materials that are used during literacy "rotations." My approach to literacy instruction is probably an amalgam of lots of approaches, and I am constantly adjusting it in an attempt to meet kids' needs. With 32-or-more kids, I usually have five groups with six or seven kids in each group.  I rarely have extra help, so I need to make sure that all of the kids are engaged in productive learning tasks while I work with a small group of students for guided reading. My strategy is an odd mix of "CAFE" and Centers, and it involves both student-selected and teacher-assigned tasks.

Usually one of the rotations involves reading from a collection of books and then doing some kind of writing. Many of my book collections are non-fiction, and the tasks include note-taking skills so that students can reference the text as they engage in expository or opinion/argument writing. The books below are Time for Kids biographies. I also have collections of subject-specific books such as rain forest animals or continents or natural disasters.

Some of the book collections are genre-specific, when I try to push a group of readers to try on something new, like science fiction. And some of the books are author-specific. Here is a Shakespeare collection that I used as a prelude before some of my readers took on the challenge of a passage from William S., himself.

I think teachers are legendary for their ability to collect two things... Books. And plastic bins. I am passionate about both! My OCD tendencies push me towards having all of my bins matching.  In the case of my book boxes, I have most of the books stored in the flipboxes (made by Rubbermaid) shown below. (I also have "standing baskets" for book collections that are too tall to fit in the flipboxes.) The main advantage of using the same type of bins for storage is that they stack easily. I also love these because you can affix a label to the side for easy identification.

I hate to spend too much time searching for things. I'd rather spend my time planning what to do with the items. Storing my book collections in this way has made it so much easier to find what I need in order to prepare lessons and activities. When these are used with a group of students, I often hand them the box with the directions and any other necessary materials tucked inside.

How do you store your book collections? Do you do guided reading in an upper grade classroom? What are the other kids doing while you work with a small group?


  1. I love your Rubbermaid containers. I looked for them on the Rubbermaid website and can't find them. Do they have another name? Also, do you remember where you got them? They would be perfect for my set of books.


    1. Hi Karen: They are "officially" called: Rubbermaid 1.8 Gallon Handi Box Snap Case. Good luck! (Mine have lasted several years!)

  2. Yes, I do guided reading in 6th grade. I too do a mish mash of CAFE and other things. Lots of responding, open ended questions, practice with both fiction and non fiction strategies. I also make sure they have independent reading time. Thanks for sharing. I keep my books in an enormous bookcase, which is full!


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