After some major layout changes my first few years here, I think we’ve settled on a layout that works best for how our library is actually used. However, that didn’t mean that I just rolled in on the first day, blew off some dust and was ready to roll! I’m always looking for ways to fine tune the library and make things even better than they were the year before. At the end of last year, I was asked to join our school’s PBIS team as the representative for special areas. Knowing I was going to be acting in that new role this year I spent my summer brainstorming ways I could do better incorporating the core concepts of PBIS and Leader in Me into our library layout and routines. I was also heavily inspired by two books I read this summer, Passionate Readers by Pernille Ripp and Inquiry Mindset by Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt. Without further ado, here’s what we’re working with this year!
The two biggest changes to the entry of the library this year are our line up lines and our snapshot wall.
Line Up Lines
I like my classes to come into the library in a line and stay in that line in our entryway area while we do our greetings and instructions for the day. When it’s time to line up and wait for their teacher to pick them back up, I like them to line up in the entryway again. However, only one of the library doors, the one on the left, actually has a handle and can be opened. Since there is only one door that can be used to come in and out of the library, I like my classes that are waiting to be picked up to line up in front of the non-opening door on the right. This keeps our entrance free and clear for all the other people and classes that might need to come in and out of the library (which can be quite a lot-the library also houses the copy room, a reading teacher’s room and, a special education teacher’s office). This system has always worked fairly well but I wanted to see if it could be made even better so, I bought some Duck Tape that looks like wood planks (but they keep telling me it looks like bacon!) and made two line up line markers. My clerk then had the genius idea to put a tiny perpendicular strip of tape at the one end of each line. We use that line to tell the line leader where to stop when they enter the library and to tell the line leader where to start our line when we are lining up for their teacher. So far, that simple visual has made a HUGE difference in how quietly and smoothly our classes are entering the library. We’re still working on lining up to leave but, it’s better than it used to be!
Based on my reading of Passionate Readers by Pernille Ripp and Inquiry Mindset by Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt I decided I was going to ramp up my promoting of reading (specifically myself as a reading role model) and curiosity this year. I also knew I needed to revamp our library entry wall. Previously, I’d used that large space to display our library bingo boards (library bingo boards were a system I used to reward a class for following expectations in the library). However, since we’ve become a Leader in Me school, we use something called an All Hands on Deck certificate to reward a class for following expectations during specials and in the cafeteria. Since I no longer using the bingo boards system I had big ol’ blank wall I could use to help me promote reading and curiosity!
I bought this bulletin board background paper that is like a thicker version of contact paper, a pack of assorted Astrobrights paper and, some new, more colorful dry erase markers and got to work. I love how it turned out and students and staff alike have been commenting on the new look!
For years, I’ve had specifically assigned rug spots for my Kindergarten classes and then just had my 1st and 2nd graders sit with their assigned group on a color of my choice (“Today all of the blue group will sit on purple dots”). This worked fairly well but, there were times it could have work better. For example, when the Kindergarten classes needed to work at the tables or the computers, I spent a good couple of minutes telling them where to go/finding them a seat because they didn’t have the same assigned seat color/number system the older kids did. And the older kids could waste a surprising amount of time figuring out which of the say, purple dots, they were going to sit on when they needed to use the story rug with me. I’d long been intrigued by these Sit Spots I’d seen but, thought it would be too pricey to buy enough of the red, blue and yellow ones I would need and, I’d still need to number them. Plus, I wasn’t positive they were going to work so I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on them until I was sure. I considered just using a marker to write on the rug’s existing dots but then the rug dots wouldn’t match up with the color-coded chairs/groups I have been using for years. Instead, I decided to try to figure out how to do a cheaper homemade version of Sit Spots to test the waters. I Googled ideas for making my own and found a post (that I CAN NOT find now-argh) where someone had done it using felt circles, industrial strength velcro and a permanent marker. I used these red, blue and yellow stiff felt circles, and this industrial strength velcro and this permanent marker to create my own Sit Spots, just like in the post. It took a class or two for the kids to completely understand that the smaller circle was the one that dictated their color/number assigned seat but really, no longer than it usual takes them to learn their assigned seats.
New Seat Numbers
To go with our updated rug spots, I redid the color/number assignments on the back of all the other library chairs to be simple colored dots with numbers inside. In previous years, the numbers on the backs of the chairs were inside different colored animal silhouettes (so I had a yellow bunny group, a red squirrel group, and a blue duck group). I have never had classes learn their assigned seats and be able to transition so smoothly from one part of the library to the other so quickly, so early in the year!
We added two things to our library tables this year, one for the kiddos and one for the grownups who use our space.
For the kiddos, I decided to make mini garbage cans for each of the tables. That way, we don’t waste a lot of time getting in and out of our seats to take care of small messes. Plus, I was always finding small garbage in our table supply caddies anyway so I figured I’d steer into the skid and create an assigned place for the garbage to go. I found these small, metal cups at the Target dollar spot and covered them in Duck Tape that matched the table colors. At the end of the day, our library helpers will check and empty the mini garbage cans as one of their jobs.
For the adults, my clerk had the great idea of using all that leftover Duck Tape I bought to cover the garbage cans to cover the edges of all our tables (which does also act as another helpful visual for our kiddos when finding their assigned table seats). Then, she used that same big Sharpie we used for our homemade Sit Spots to label the assigned seat number at all the spots as well. So how is that an update for the adults? Well, the library often hosts meetings of various sizes before and after school and that usually involves moving the chairs for the meetings and then, people were never sure how to put the room back together when the meeting was done.
Now, they can quickly look to the colored tape to know what color chair as well as what numbered chair goes at each spot.
One of the days I was in over the summer I noticed some cabinets just outside the library that were labeled for storage. I peeled the stickers off and wheeled them to the back of the library where I store I MakerClub supplies instead! Now, we have a bigger cabinet to keep larger, bulkier supplies and another cabinet to use to store works in progress (a much nicer solution than just laying them on top of the drawer carts and hoping no one touches them which is what we’ve been doing).
One of the changes I’m most proud of this year are my Expectations Matrix Posters. As a Leader in Me and PBIS school, we’ve been working hard to update our expectation matrixes for the common areas of the school and have everyone make one for their own classrooms. I’ll admit, I had never taken the time to make one for the library before this year. As our special area representative on the PBIS team this year, I knew it was time to finally stop using the generic PBIS matrix for the library and make my own. Since the library is a large space and it would be difficult for everyone to be able to see a full matrix from everywhere in the room, I borrowed an idea I’d seen another teacher in my building do and only displayed the matrix for each area in that area. I also wanted visuals for all of the expectations since this is an elementary school and we have so many pre-readers and early readers. I had noticed that when special ed teachers used visual clue cards with their students the images all seemed to clearly be from the same place. I wanted the same familiarity and consistency in my images so I worked with a special ed teacher in my building to find the images for my posters on something called BoardMaker. I then worked with our districts print center to have the final documents printed in color and the largest paper they could and we laminated them for durability. Having these posters up and referencing them repeatedly during the first month of school has made a huge impact! We seem to have learned our expectations quicker than in years past and we aren’t having as many issues with students not following the expectations either.
So those are the changes we made to our layout that, so far this year, are yielding the biggest results. I might just be delirious because it’s the beginning of the year but, so far I love it and things seem to be going great! I also made some changes to our routines and expectations but I’ll be back to share those on another day.