Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


310: Rock the Reading Block
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Make your Classroom Library POP for Students

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You did it! You started a classroom library! I’m so happy for you, and even happier for your students.

I bet you love looking over at it from your desk, knowing all those inviting hand-picked titles are waiting for your kids to arrive, ready to help them fall for books.

But wait.

What if they don’t notice it? What if they don’t take time to peruse the titles? Or crack them open? Or finish them at 1 a.m. with their phone flashlight after everyone else falls asleep?

I can tell your blood pressure is rising just like mine. We can’t let that happen!

A library is a FAB first step, but there’s more work to do. As the term begins, it’s important to choose a few strategies to help get those books leaping off the shelves and into your students’ hands. This post isn’t about starting a choice reading program from scratch (check that out here), it’s about becoming a PR agent for your library in the first few weeks of school so you can generate wild ripples of excitement about your library that create momentum for your choice reading program to ride.

So let’s do it!

Get Parents in on the Fun

If you’ve got a back-to-school night, a parent newsletter, or any kind of early meetings or conferences with families, include your library somehow. Create a “Browse-the-Library” Back-to-School Night station, a featured library book column in the newsletter, or a digital sign-up for family members to come in as guest readers for your First Chapter Friday Program or guest book talkers (more to come on both of those).

Don’t be Shy with your Book Talks

Book talks. So deceptively simple it almost feels like they can’t be an important strategy. But in fact, book talking might be THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. When someone hands you a book, looks in your eyes, and says “I think you’re going to love this” and explains why, how happy are you? How excited? It beats the pants off perusing a hundred titles on a shelf with a vague sense that maybe your best reading days are behind you and you’ve already read all the books you’re going to love.

You can book talk a book from your shelf every day for the first few weeks of school just to get students noticing what’s there. You can invite students from last year to come give book talks. You can invite the principal, the field hockey coach, and the school secretary. Feel free to invite the mayor!

Soon enough kids will come back with books THEY love and you can invite THEM to give the book talks. And that’s when the book ball really gets rolling.

Set it up with Style

Yep, I know you’re already working on it. So here’s a little help if you want.

The way you set up your library matters a lot. Weed out the musty old stuff. Create displays of the top hits, of banned books, of First Chapter Friday titles (more to come on that, seriously), of books that were better than the movie.

If you’re looking for ideas for changing up your top displays throughout the year, I’ve got you covered! Check out these fabulous options.

Add some bookish posters or genre labels. Make your own, or use one of these sets…

Watercolor Fun…

Bright Colors…

You can sign up for both these sets of genre label and poster options below. Just pop in your name and email and look for them in your inbox in the next few minutes! You’ll also get my free Friday teaching idea emails for as long as you choose to remain subscribed.

    Host a Book Tasting

    A book tasting is a short event you can hold early in the year to help introduce students to your favorites in the library. You can accomplish this in as little as 15-20 minutes, it’s just a matter of taking the time.

    If you’ve never heard of a book tasting, check out this post: How to Host a Book Tasting.

    If you’ve heard of it and you just haven’t had time to set one up, grab the free guiding resource here to make it easy. Now you just need snacks and a few minutes to set up your room with a coffee shop vibe.

    Create a Selfie Station

    It’s a selfie world, so why not use it to your reading promotion advantage? Use these selfie station materials to set up a corner of your classroom where students can take a photo of themselves with a book they love, as a means of putting their stamp of recommendation on it for others. Save a bulletin board for student selfies, and encourage them from day one to head for your station and snap a photo when they read a book they love. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few photos up already to give them the idea – some from past students, school leaders, other teachers, coaches, etc.

    Which brings me to…

    Invite Guest Readers

    From the very beginning, let others in to help you promote books! The same people you might recruit during faculty meetings to snap a quick selfie with a book they love just might be willing to come in and read a chapter for First Chapter Friday, do a guest book talk, or talk for three minutes about how they build reading into their lives and why.

    Don’t forget to snap a photo of them with their favorite book while they’re there! You can use it to make recommended reading posters, add it to the selfie wall, or feature it in book displays.

    (Finally) First Chapter Friday

    If you’ve been around for a while, you know how much I love First Chapter Friday (or Meet a Book Monday, Book Trailer Tuesday, etc.) for helping bring more voices into your curriculum and getting kids excited about your choice reading options.

    The idea is simple. Just open up a book and read a chapter. It helps if it’s an AWESOME book but I know you have tons of those in your library. Start this program right away, and you’ll be drawing many interested eyes in the direction of your shelves.

    It helps if you give kids some sketchnotes templates to jot down big ideas, takeaways, and doodles on as they listen. You can grab my pack of six fun templates for free here if you want.

    One more thing… did you know quite a few first chapters are available legally online? Check out this video roundup of eleven FCF videos on Youtube in case you want to give your voice a break sometimes. You can have Jason Reynolds read a first chapter for you!

    Or you can incorporate guest readers with this bulletin board, which features five QR codes linking straight to first chapter readings of popular YA books. Grab a copy here. Then you can point early finishers toward these read alouds, and hopefully they’ll have new authors they love to look for on your shelves.

    OK, my friend, are you feeling ready to showcase your epic library and ignite a love of reading in your students? Then our work here in this post is done and it’s time for you to go do some printing and planning! Three cheers for you!

    hey there!

    I'm Betsy

    I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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