Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bright Idea: Picture Book Organization

Oh, I just love to read about all of the Bright Ideas in this monthly BlogLand linky. I have collected so many tips and strategies and materials over the past few months... Haven't you? I am particularly excited about the August edition because I know I will have a list of Back-to-School ideas to consider!

My Bright Idea this month has to do with my picture book collection. I have a LOT of books--as in lots and lots and lots! I keep my picture books in "tall" boxes like these. I got the boxes at the Container Store, and almost any picture book will fit inside.

But here's what usually happens: I am running late for school (Why, Oh WHY do my stories always have to start like this?!) and I need a picture book for a lesson. I rip the top off of the first box, thumb through, no luck. Try the second box, thumb through, consider crying, still no luck. Try the third box, sigh with great exasperation and give up (or, less frequently, squeal with delight when I find what I need).

Based on this "system," I never knew which books I owned, and I was constantly buying a second copy of a book when my Amazon account said clearly, "You purchased this book...."  More than once, I said to the screen (withhold commentary, please): "Well if you're so sure I purchased this book, Where is it?!"

This madness came to an end this summer. I knew that this was the only time I would have for a picture book overhaul, so I took advantage of a few July days.

I numbered the boxes from one to six. (Coincidentally, I found that filling the boxes made them pretty heavy. I figured I got a "gym work out" every time I moved the boxes from one room to another. Well, maybe not a whole work out...)

For each box, I made an alphabetical index--and color-coded it to match the numbered label on top of the box. If I don't have my computer, I can quickly scan the indexes on the sides of the boxes to find what I need. More importantly, because I typed the list in Power Point, if I have my computer close by, I can just do a "search" for the book title and Voila! (Please say this with French accent since I can't find the accent key!) I quickly know which box to look in!

I also listed a possible focus for each of the books: nature, kindness, courage, etc. While it is not completely comprehensive (and there are a few typos and other errors), I have a system that works! I can search the document for a topic and see if I tagged any other books for use with that same topic. Compiling the Picture Book Index took a bit of time, but I did the work while watching movies, so it was fairly painless.

For many books, I took the system one step further....

When I read a blog post or track a pin to a resource about a book, I print it and put it in the back of the book. In this way, I have someone else's notes to help guide me through lesson planning.

Here's an example: Recently, I found a pin from Teaching with a Mountain View and a blogpost from Life in 4B about a book called Sierra that could be used to teach personification. I printed both and placed them inside my book.

So, how do I keep it all organized? I use sheet protectors cut in half! The "combo" looks like this...

I use The Important Book to teach a variety if different strategies every year, so I have (gulp!) three copies of the book (and now you know why!) (Click the pic to add a copy to your own library)

I know that my sweet blogfriend,Stephanie, from Teaching in Room 6 uses this book too. I found her blog post about the book, printed it, and placed in a "pocket" at the back of the book.  Now I can see Stephanie's notes when I take out the book to use it in my classroom.

And if you know me at all, you know that the pocket is not affixed crocked--even though it looks that way. When I propped it open (with a book of crayons!) to take the picture, the photo came out wonky-looking. Just had to set the record straight (heeheehee).

One of my absolute favorite sources for picture book commentaries is Barbara Gruener from The Corner on Character. I always love her ideas and she presents them in such a wonderful way! Here's my copy of Stellaluna... (Click the pic for a link to Amazon)

And here are Barbara's notes, tucked neatly into the "pocket" at the back of the book. I use a few small pieces of double stick tape to hold the pockets, and my notes stay right where I can find them.

It is so... refreshing... to have everything together in one place. I am forever spending my time trying to find "missing pieces" when I am trying to plan. Having the books and notes together will save me a lot of time. And having a Picture Book Index will ensure that I can find the right book in the right box without exasperation or tears.

Just look at all of the Bright Ideas listed in the Link Up below! The authors have listed a grade range--and most have listed a topic to guide your browsing. I just know you're not going to want to miss any of them!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, I'd love it if you linked up with me on Bloglovin, Facebook, or Pinterest.


  1. Kim, I absolutely LOVE this idea :) I have no idea how to organize my picture books, but when I get the time EVER I am going to do this :) Thank you xo!

    Laura Love to Teach

  2. Ingenious idea and super sweet shout out. Thank you for both! I LOVE your new look ... is this a KG font?

    Happy new year, my friend.


  3. I know what it's like to get some things really messed up at times and it's not easy! A little organizing will surely help. I've learned to create a system since I have already accumulated a lot of stuffs for BumblebeesRUs preschoolers. Labeling and using shoeboxes to classify items really helps! Thanks for sharing your ideas!


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