Sunday, February 2

Book Box Organization

Are you like me, in that messy student book boxes drive you nuts? Messy book boxes mean transitions take even longer than they could...cuz kids are looking for whatever tool, book, notebook, etc is needed.

My transitions and visual clutter have improved so much since I started teaching kids to organize their book box a specific way. I change my method just a bit each year and we spend a LOT of time practicing how to organize them. It's even a strategy group for kids that need the extra opportunities to build their "muscle memory"...but it is truly worth every second!

I hope I don't appear too controlling when you read it...

well...I guess I am kind of controlling...but I like to think that I'm choosy when it comes to deciding what I'm going to control...and I  truly do appreciate other folks' ways of doing things.

So maybe that makes me controlling but flexible? Not rigid.

That said...I have my students organize their Book Boxes a VERY.CERTAIN.WAY.

Because it helps me AND because it helps them.

So this is how I have them organize it...from left to right the inside of their Book Box is supposed to be set up like this...

I'll explain why after the pictures...

My Tip

In case you can't read my little poster above, here's more of a close up... 
Book Room (Numbered) Books
These are instructional level books that I have given to them from our Book Room or my classroom cart during Guided Reading. I have them put these on the far left side of their book box so that if we need the title again during a group they can find it efficiently. It also helps me a BOATLOAD when I go to return the books to the Book Room or my cart.

Reading Folder
This serves as a wonderful divider. It contains their Weekly Reading Log and their Comprehension/Shared Reading work.

This is either their Reading Notebook or their Poetry Notebook, contained in a composition notebook. Basically, the notebooks act as the bookends on either side of their largest collection of books.

Reading Notebooks hold mini-versions of our important anchor charts in the front section and students take notes and do their responses in the second section. They refer to their notes during Partner Reading (which occurs after Private Reading each day).

Shopping Books
Each child has a reading partner who reads at a similar(ish) level. Partners are assigned a shopping day (Monday - Thursday) to select 6-10 titles at their independent reading levels. Independent level are determined by me through conferring and running record assessment. The higher their reading level, the fewer the books they select for the week because the books get longer as they go up in level.

It's really easy for them to locate their Shopping Books because they are tucked between the notebooks. Easy to locate, easy to put away.

During Private Reading they read from their shopping books for the bulk of the time, then they can read from their Look Books.

All the leveled books have a small label in the upper right corner of the front cover.

Here's a peek...

The other notebook, described above.

Note: the book boxes tend to fall over when they're too top heavy, so I have students store their composition notebooks sideways, spine facing up.

Look Books
These books are not leveled (typically) and are selected from the author/character/topic tubs in my library. Often, the books are too difficult for students to read independently but they are so engaging and excited about them that they are allowed to have 3 in their book box.

Look Book shopping day is every Friday.

Students can read these during the last part of Private Reading each day...My firsties are doing Private Reading for 33 mn right now...the last 8 mn they can start reading from their Look Books. The visual timer helps them know when that time begins.

Having them off to the other side of their box makes it easier for them to only take them out when they're supposed to...

Here's a peek...

Strategy Bookmark
Students put these at the front of their book boxes and use them while reading. On the back side I use Sharpie to note which levels they should be shopping for on their shopping day. For example, 5G 2H or 3I 1J. When they move levels, I cross off the previous levels and record the new ones underneath. Not too fancy, but it's worked well so far.

Thanks for stopping by today!!!


  1. Wonderful Always! Love your ideas Lisa... :)


  2. This is a great post, as always, Lisa! It's so helpful to see little tricks on how others organize their book boxes and manage shopping for books! That part can drive me crazy sometimes!

  3. Girl you have done it again! Way to make something intimidating and potentially tear-inducing *for this teacher right here* easily accessible and friendly! :) I need to do something different with my library...this is TOTALLY going to be it! :) Thank you for giving me a direction to go in...I really was quite lost on it! :( Your step by step directions have me so excited to try it out!! :) Thank you for this!! :) You're a life saver!!

  4. I love your little tip! I'm also a bit picky on how I want things's the little things, right? ;)

  5. You are brilliant. I want to come read in your library!!!!
    Teacher to the Core

  6. I am SO doing this Monday! Get my little firsties organized!! Thanks for sharing this tip!! Love it!

  7. Ok WOWZA - such a great system - thank you! Love seeing all the pictures as well to help me figure out how to do it. I like to think of myself as a Moderately Flexible Control Freak!
    : )
    Whimsy Workshop Teaching

  8. Love it! This is a great system!

  9. Lisa, I love your post. I am a self-professed control-aholic. This post totally speaks to me. Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

    Mrs, Rios Teaches Second Grade

  10. Not controlling at all! Just organized and systematic! Love how you have this all set up and so easy for the students to use and know what materials they are supposed to be using.
    Conversations in Literacy

  11. After my water damage and flood in the classroom last month, much of my library needs fixing up. This post is so AWESOME Lisa! I love your attention to detail regarding certain books and materials in the boxes. Perfect organization for a first grade library management system! Thanks for sharing with us!

  12. Love all your books and your idea about assigning a specific shopping day! You are amazing!
    LY - Faith :)

  13. What a wonderful idea... I absolutely love it. Your children are so lucky to have you!! My kiddos' book bins are a mess, and this will be so helpful! xo

  14. So organized! I love that you have a system that is so easy to follow for students.

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

  15. It was nice to see you in the newsletter today! Congratulations!!!!!

  16. I LOVE date nights with my boys at the diner - so simple and so fun!

  17. I love your set-up for book boxes! So smart, and organized! I'm pinning this so I can keep it in mind for next year! My students know what to keep in their book boxes, but this takes it to an entirely new and improved level! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Theresa @ True Life I'm a Teacher!

  18. Will you take a picture of your whole library from a distance? Thanks for all you do!! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Shoot - I'm no longer in that classroom or at that school. I'm so sorry! The general set up was that I had a wall with built in shelves (2 shelves that ran the length of the wall) which were organized the same as each other all along the wall, shown in the second grouping of photos on the blog post. The other sets of shelves were made of maple and placed perpendicular to the permanent shelves with some walking space between the built ins. I hope that makes sense! I wish I could find a picture from a distance!


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