Setting Up My Classroom Library

Happy 2020, teacher friends!

This year I’m heading back to Foundation and moving classrooms meant moving  my (rather large) classroom library. Again. I have to say, moving books is hard. They’re heavy, for one. And they always end up in a different order to however you’d set them up before.

Because I was headed back into the junior grades I thought it was important this year to set everything up with a system that would help my young students to be able to put books back where they belong. I did this a few years ago (with varying success) but I wanted to streamline the process a bit this year.

I don’t have a ‘reading corner’ this year (mostly because I took the only ‘corner’ space in the classroom for my teacher bookshelf and desk area so I wasn’t in the way of the students). Rather, I have a reading wall, with two bookshelves of books for my students.

One shelf has a collection of Australian authors and Australian picture books, because I believe in the importance of letting my students know which books have been written by people from our country – and this shelf includes books sorted by authors (at the top, Aussie authors I have multiple books by) and then other Australian authors who I might only have one or two books by. There’s also a collection of Indigenous titles in there, too, and I may separate those out later in the year so students can find them specifically.

Below that I have series titles and also books with multiple copies about the same author – these include Dr. Seuss titles, Little Golden Books, the Mr Men/Little Miss series, Pete the Cat, Splat the Cat, and more.

The second bookshelf holds all the nonfiction titles at the top, traditional tales, superhero and Star Wars books and at the bottom, the rest of the picture books that my students can access.

You’ll note that each tub has a title and below it a picture and label.

Every book in my collection now has a coordinating sticker with the picture/label that corresponds with the shelf or tub it belongs to and I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that this will ensure most things go back where they belong. I’m also going to bring back my Lost Books tub when I get a chance so I can train up some classroom library helpers to assist their peers in returning books.

I won’t lie, this took a long time and many hours to get looking the way that I wanted it to. I moved bookshelves into different configurations, tried to match books up into categories then had to go through and make labels and stick them on to books. But I’m so happy I did it before the year and that I can start 2020 with a good system in place.

(And a HUGE thanks to my Mum who came in and lined all the books up neatly, because she wanted the shelves to look good on the first day – I don’t know what I’d do without here!)

Do you have a classroom library system? Let me know your method in the comments!

Keeping Copies Organised

Or, How I Make the 43 Folder System Work For Me

I don’t know about you, but I constantly feel like I’m chasing my tail when it comes to my paper trail at work. In school’s, no matter how much we might try to go digital for relevant things, there’s always paper EVERYWHERE. Especially the copies needed for the week.

I’ve tried everything, from digital daily folders on my computer, to a hanging file, desk drawer organisers, paperclips with days of the week on them… I’m pretty sure I’ve trialed at least two different systems every year for nine years and I’m rubbish at sticking with them because nothing ever seemed to work for me.

Enter my version of the 43 Folders filing system, which is still going strong 6 months into my tenth year of teaching and I have no massive urge to change it up.

So, what is it?

There’s a lot of resources available online for this if you do a search, but I’m going to share my very lack-of-research approach to this filing system.

It’s essentially what it says it is: 43 folders – in this case, 43 file folders for a filing cabinet (or milk crate or storage box or whatever you have on hand). 12 of the folders are labelled with the months of the year, and the remaining folders are numbered 1-31 for the days of each month.

At the start of each month, you move your current month’s folder to the front and line the days of the month folders behind it. Whenever you do your copies for the week, you simply pop them into the days you intend to use them. If you’re copying in advance, you can add them as easily to future dates – or, if you’re very well organised, and copying for future months, you simply file them away into that month’s folder so they’re ready to go when you get there.

At the end of each day, you move the empty daily folder to the back of the pile – I usually place mine right behind the next month – and the days begin to cycle back around so you can start preparing for the future again.

You can see in the photo above that I’m halfway through a month (June), so my days 1-10 folders are already behind July, read to go.

I usually also take out weekends and public holidays so that I know exactly which days I’m teaching and can prepare my resources accordingly.

At the end of each month, I go through that month’s file – which usually has a lot of things left over in it – and decide what to keep, to move back to the next month or to recycle or pass on to a colleague. The whole system is self-sustaining and means I always know where to find my copies.

(And those brightly coloured items at the front are my Write and Wipe pockets so I don’t lose them, either!)

Each week, when I’m preparing my lessons, I lay out the week’s folders on a table and sort through my materials so I can clearly see what’s happening each day. When everything I need is in it’s correct spot I know I’m good to go and the folders go back into the filing cabinet ready for the week.

Then I simply pull out the folder for the day and leave it on my desk so everything’s where I need it to be!

And yes, there are week’s when this system doesn’t work – although, that’s mostly when I’m at my most disorganised and haven’t set aside some time to ensure that everything’s prepped in advance, but it has, overall, made my life a lot easier during the day.

What about you? Do you have an organisational system that works? Share it in the comments.

Every Kid Needs a Champion

Chances are, if you’ve been in the education game for a while, you’ve seen this TED Talk by Rita Pierson. I’ve seen it half a dozen times now, but it was brought back to mind this past week when a presenter for a professional development session my school attended share it again and I was watching people who’d never seen it before watch it for the first time.

The message Rita sends is so important and always a timely reminder of why we’ve chosen to become educators, even when sometimes it seems like the hardest job.

Admittedly, this year, my job has become more challenging, both from all the different leadership roles I’ve taken on and also because I have an interesting group of students – who I love and adore but also require a different kind style of teaching than I’ve used in the past.

Since it’s been a while from the last time I posted here on the blog, I wanted to share the video and one of my takeaways from watching it again, this time, that I’m planning on applying in my room from the upcoming week.

When Rita talks about her student who got 2 questions right on a test, she mentioned placing a big +2 on their paper instead of the score out of whatever number of questions. I love the way this reframes the results of students for them, focusing on their positive. As teachers, we’ll always value the mistakes and misunderstandings of students as a way to future guide our teaching and instruction, but it’s also so important to value the successes, no matter how small, because you never know the impact this will have on children.

Especially children who struggle in school.

Friday Reads #4 – Back Into It!

Week 2 of the year saw us continuing our start up learning program, so the lessons were pretty prescriptive and texts were chosen for us, but I did want to share the books that didn’t fall into those categories. This week marked the 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires and so we read a new release that takes a look at what it was like for the people who lived through this, as well as started our first novel read for the year,

The House on the Mountain by Ella Holcombe and David Cox
Allen and Unwin, 2019

I’ll preface this section with the warning to have tissues on hand while reading this book, because it’s very emotionally charged. Following the lives of a family living through a devastating bushfire, from the lead-up to the evacuation to the aftermath that is confronting in its honesty. This is a book that evokes a sense of place and the landscape is as much a character as the people in the story.

As a class, we listened to this via Storybox Library, with author Ella Holcombe reading the story, and it was an experience. Most of my students are too young to remember the bushfires themselves, but many of them know older students or siblings who do, and the conversations this story prompted were as sobering as they were deep and meaningful. It’s well worth taking the time to unpack this with students.

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

I’ve waited a long time to teach a year level that Skullduggery Pleasant would be an appropriate class read for, and I have to say, nothing has made me happier. We’ve spent a lot of time this week reading this book (we’re in to chapter 4) and since I started it we’ve not had a day when my students haven’t asked for us to read a bit more. And even though we’ve read some intense scenes, we have a good giggle every few minutes.

For the uninitiated, this book follows 12 year old Stephanie as she stumbles onto the world of magic and the skeleton detective, Skullduggery Pleasant, after the death of her uncle. It’s part fantasy and part mystery, and Derek Landy is very clever with his dialogue and characterisation. It’s a lot of fun.

What have you been reading this year?

Friday Reads #3 – Back to School Week!

It was week 1 back at school for 2019 and the students were back for two days this week. Day 1, as always, was a total whirlwind of a day, but Day 2 was a lot more relaxed and we spent some time unpacking one particular story today as we explored our school’s learning protocol of Take Risks, and, in particularly, the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. (I think you’ll agree, this story fits that bill appropriately!)

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

I adore Peter H. Reynolds’ books, and Ish is no different. It is about a young boy named Ramon who loves to draw until one day a mean comment leaves him doubting his abilities to the point where he gives up. That is, until he realises how much his art is loved by another. It is a book that celebrates artists, but most importantly, that ‘perfect’ doesn’t mean ‘best’ and that anyone can draw anything-ish!

Follow up activity: After reading, we had a big chat about the change in Ramon’s mindset throughout the story, from growth to fixed and back to growth. We discussed the difference between criticism and constructive criticism, as well as our own personal strengths, skills and qualities.

For something a little fun – and because we’re all still getting to know one another – we also completed a page from Big Life Journal’s Growth Mindset Printables Kit (the Take Chances, Keep Going drawing challenge).

What have you been reading this week?

Friday Reads #2 – Holiday Edition

This week I haven’t read too many children’s/middle grade books, but I do have one to share with you:

The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams

I’m a bit late on the train for this book which was released back in 2008, but I’m glad I read it this week. Dennis is an ordinary boy living an ordinary life with his dad and his older brother; but his ordinary life is about to change when he discovers that if you open your mind and take a risk, life can be anything but ordinary. This is a wonderful book that challenges gender stereotypes, promotes male-female friendships and celebrates what it means to be uniquely you.

What have you been reading this week?

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Friday Reads #1 – Holiday Edition

We’re over half-way through the Summer holiday break here in Australia and for a lot of teachers that means getting back into the swing of things. I know I’ve spent more time that I normally would in at school preparing my classroom (one of the hazards of changing rooms and year levels), but I’ve also had the best opportunity to start thinking about the books I’ll be sharing in my classroom in 2019.

I’m hoping this year to share a post every Friday with a list of some of the books my class and I have read together in the hope that you, my wonderful teacher friends, might find a book that’s new to you, or one that will fit topics you’re teaching.

Once school goes back, these lists might be a bit more ‘thematic’ but since it’s the holidays I thought I’d share 4 new picture books I’ve added to my collection recently that I’m very excited to share with my class throughout the first term of 2019.

The Word Collector – Peter H. Reynolds

Some of you will be very familiar with Peter H. Reynolds other books, The Dot and Ish, but this book was one I thought would be perfect for my 3/4 students. It’s about Jerome, who loves to collect words. He has notebooks and notebooks full of them, and then he discovers how to put these words together, and how to share them with others and it’s just beautiful. This is a wonderful book for vocabulary and for inspiring students to look for new words all around them.

Are the Star Engineer – Komal Singh

I stumbled upon this in a bookstore and had to buy it. Ara is a girl who loves numbers and maths and wants to count all the stars but isn’t sure how to do it. She visits Google’s Innovation Plex and meets with four (real-life) female engineers and learns about their jobs and learns new ways to approach solving her problem. This is a great book for girls in STEM fields, as well as looking at problem solving and coding.

Islandborn – Junot Diaz

One day, Lola’s teacher asks her students to draw a picture of where their families emigrated from. It’s a project that gets everyone excited – except for Lola, who was so young when her family emigrated that she can’t remember the Island her family called home. What follows is Lola’s conversations with family and friends to unlock their memories – which are at times joyful, heartbreaking, scary and lovely. This book celebrates cultural diversity, family and identity, and is just a gorgeous book to share with others.

Armstrong – Torben Kuhlmann

This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book explores the history of the first moon landing through the eyes of Moon Mouse, a young mouse who dreams of reaching the moon. It’s a story told in pictures and words and every page has lots of detail to unpack, and the last few pages have short paragraphs on the history of those people who made it possible for humans t land on the moon. It’s perfect for discussion determination, persistence and patience, as well as following your dreams and the history of space flight.

What are you reading this week? Feel free to share your reads in the comments or add you blog link below for others to follow along!

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Big News for 2019!

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful Christmas filled with love and family and friends.

Now that I’m on Summer holidays here in Australia, I’m taking the opportunity to rest and relax (as much as I can in the scorching heat) and read as much as I can.

I’ll also be spending a lot of time preparing for the upcoming year because in 2019 I am moving out of my comfort zone (the junior grades) and into Grade 3/4. I’m nervous and excited and I can’t wait to wrap my head around everything that I need to know and do… although I suspect that’s a lot and it’s going to hurt my brain for a little while!

I also have some goals for 2019:

  • Post more regularly on my blog (it fell to the wayside this year unfortunately!)
  • Share book recommendations for the classroom
  • Start vlogging my teaching experience? (This one makes me super nervous, so we’ll see how I go!)

What grade are you teaching in 2019?

What are your goals for the new year?

Tranquil Tuesday

Hello, teacher friends!

It’s been a while, and lots of things have been happening behind the scenes here at Little Bookish Teacher. I’ve got lots of things planner for the coming months for this little blog, so stay tuned.

Today I wanted to reflect on one of my favourite classroom resources – GoNoodle.

Many of you know I’ve been a GoNoodle Ambassador for a while now and I absolutely love the website and fully believe in the benefits it has for my class.

One thing I’ve really loved that GoNoodle has released recently is the weekly planners that have a suggested activity for each day of the week. This month, they’re focusing on Tranquil Tuesday – which is always a perfect opportunity for students to stop, slow down and refocus on themselves and get themselves back on track.

Today’s suggested video is Swirling, which is the digital equivalent of a glitter jar and is quite mesmerising to watch on a screen.

But really, every video in the FLOW collection can be used in every grade:

Some of my class’ favourites include:

  • Swirling
  • Victorious
  • Rainbow Breath
  • Weather the Storm, and,
  • Bring It Down

In the comments, let me know if you use GoNoodle in your class, and what is YOUR perfect Tranquil Tuesday activity?

How do YOU teach?

Park Troopers

Some of you may not know that I come from a family of teachers. Not my immediate family, but there’s a few extended family members floating around that work in both the primary and secondary sector, in various forms from retired to currently teaching to studying. It always makes family get-togethers interesting, because no matter how hard we try to avoid it, there’s always a bit of shop-talk (that quite often involves the non-teaching members of our families to roll their eyes!).

Today we went out to celebrate my Nonno’s 85th birthday, and it’s always a lot of fun.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my aunts, who retired a few years back after nearly 30 years in the classroom. It didn’t start out as school related – we were talking about science-fiction movies, and how the future is often depicted as quite bleak – when she asked me:

How do you teach your kids about the world?

This may seem innocuous enough, but it was really about how I address the issues in the present day world that kids (and adults) find distressing. We live in a world where there are a lot of things happening that our students are confronted with.

My answer?


I have a class that loves to chat – about anything, at anytime and to anyone – so it should come to noone’s surprise that we have a lot of good conversations about things. And I’m not just talking about conversations about what we’re learning.

I’ve been known to lose who sessions of pre-planned lessons because some thoughtful soul in my class asked a provocative questions and we’ve gone down the rabbit hole trying to find an answer, or debating an answer… or found more questions we wanted to unpack.

In this day and age of teaching, where lesson planning is deemed a crucial part of daily life and documentation MUST be had, it may sound a bit flippant when I admit to losing ‘lessons’ of ‘preplanned curriculum’ to chat, but the reality is that my students (no matter their home circumstances) don’t have the opportunity to sit and explore their thoughts and ideas on topics of their choice with a big group of people very often.

And it’s SO important.

I learn more about my students in these conversations than I do in something that’s been carefully prepared. Why? Undoubtably there’s an element of ‘well you haven’t got pre-prepared answers floating in your head’ there, but also, when you allow students’ licence to just talk, they show you what they really know – more than a worksheet or game might ever tell you.

What have I learnt from this:

Every child learns from it – not just the ones talking. Often those students who don’t participate are absorbing all the information their peers are sharing, and they’ll join in when a topic is more closely aligned to their understanding.

Young children need an outlet to talk about the ‘bad’ things happening in life. Not just the things concerning them, but also the things they might see on the news or overhear the grown-ups in their lives talking about. I’ve had incredible conversations with 6 and 7 year olds this year on why lockdowns are important to practice (because even though our gun violence in Australia is really low, we still prepare and practise). We’ve talked about the reasons why we are respectful during Anzac Day preparations and services. We’ve wondered about why different parts of the world have seasons, what an axis is and why Earth has one and why some parts of the world have minimal daylight hours during the year and how does this affect living things.

6 and 7 year olds want to know this stuff.

And yes, it’s important to be sensitive about some of the more hard-hitting things – it breaks my heart that my young students are aware that oversees some schools witness gun violence (it breaks my heart that it even occurs) – but school is a safe place for them to discuss these things with adults who can help them understand in kid friendly language.

If nothing else, I want my students to know that their questions and thoughts and opinions matter. They’re worthy of discussion. These are the people who will one day shape the future and being able to take turns, acknowledge other people’s opinions respectfully and to clarify will stand them in good stead.