Bulletin Board Planning

Last summer Susie and I worked on a bulletin board for Library Card Month. For various reasons and circumstances the bulletin board stayed up all year long. It was never my intention to leave it up so long, but one day just kind of ran into the next one.

Snoopy Has a Library Card! Do You?
After taking the board down the last week of school I vowed to not be stuck uninspired for the coming year. One day during a quiet few minutes I looked at Susie, our library assistant (but I hate typing library assistant because she is the beating heart of our library), and said, “Get out your phone. Pinterest. Bulletin Board ideas. Go!”

For 15 minutes we used our phones (Pinterest is blocked by our filters) and wrote down ideas for the entire year. Anything was fair game and our list quickly grew!

I printed a stack of my Bulletin Board Planning Guides and started sketching out each idea. If you’d like a copy, the PDF is here.  The beginning of my summer binge marathon of Buffy was a nice companion to all the sketching and planning I did. Bulletin_Board_Plan

The next night I decided which font would work for each design. The night after that I typed all of the letters into a document I set up to reverse outlined letters so that I could quickly print the letters on cardstock.

A few days later I started printing the letters, put them in a gallon Ziploc with the sketched out plan, and now I have a stack of Ziplocs with a pair of scissors stashed by my couch.

TV time is cutting time. By the time September comes along I should have most of the hard work of the bulletin boards finished! When it comes time to put up the bulletin board, I’ll have all of the parts and I’ll know how they should fit on the wall.

Bulletin board parts stored in Ziploc bag with the sketched out plan for the board.

The Sorting: Flash Cards & Games for Student Groups

I was discussing strategies for assigning students to group with a friend the other day. We were in Target’s Dollar Spot. When I said I used flash cards, she gave me a quick quizzical look. I explained my strategy and told her that she may find it helpful, because she’s starting at a new school. When you know your students well it is much easier to assign them to groups. When you don’t know your students as well, then you need some random student generators.

Flashcards and card games are a great help!


Last year I used a set of Arthur cards all year. They are number cards with three cards per set. One numerical representation, one visual representation (dots), and one written word. When the three cards are put together correctly they make a picture on the back. I used the cards to put students in groups or to decide who got to use the Smart Table first during centers.

This set is great, but I want some steps that will easily divide students into pairs or into larger groups. Here’s what we found at Target.

These Frozen cards can either help you divide students into pairs (each card has a match) or into groups of four (there are six repeated colors in the set). If you start with groups of four (maybe a table group) then students can break off into pairs for specific tasks.


These Finding Nemo cards and the Crayola dino cards are identical sets of four, which is great for dividing students into groups of 3 or 4. Keep an eye on the last few cards you’re passing out and be sure you only have one of each number left, rather than two (leaving a group of just 2). The numbered cards are great if you need to rotate through stations. I usually say something like, “Twos! It’s your turn at the SMART Table!” Once students walk over for their turn, they leave their card in a little basket and then I reset the time. This helps me keep the crowd over there at a minimum. It’s a new resource and very popular. The dino cards would be more difficult to use in this way.












I saved my favorite for last! I love these Dr. Seuss cards because there are two wild cards! If you have an odd number of students and need just ONE group of three, then you can throw a wild card into the deck. The student with the wild card can choose his/her group.

When I saw these and then opened the rest, I thought the wild idea might work for some of the other sets, if you don’t have any groups where you’ll need all the cards. You can easily designate one design as the wild card.

I’m planning to laminate all of my new cards. It will be a bit of work to get them run through and then cut out, but my Arthur cards are really well worn. Even though these cards look good to go, once they’ve been handled once or twice by an entire grade level they start to get grimy quickly.

Saving Time for Student Checkout

One of my priorities this year is leaving enough time in a fixed lesson for student book checkout. I pledge to do less “projects” in my fixed schedule which often are a time-suck away from reading aloud and student book choice. Instead I’m focusing on projects during my collaborative efforts with teachers and students.

To help me keep track of the new times in our schedule and in my pledge to give students between 15-20 minutes for checkout and library centers, I posted some signs. My friend @tanyareadsbooks has these in her library. I love them and snapped a photo the first time I saw them. This year I have made them for myself.

I will admit though that I made them the second week of school, posted them, and then sat in my teaching space reading aloud to students, but occasionally glancing up and squinting. It turns out that the “large” font I had used on the first set wasn’t large enough for my aging eyes. Thank you very much Mother Nature.

I had to take them down and put up a new set in a larger font and all in bold print. Adding the clock to this location is also helpful to me so I can look straight at it as I pace my read aloud and lesson and generally stay on track.

Fire Drill Procedural Posters

I saw a Pinterest Pin float by last year and I snagged it for my Back-to-School Board. It was a chart to display the procedures for a fire drill.

I think is wonderful because I always forget to mention fire drill directions to all my classes. For the past two years, it took 7 weeks before I saw every class. By then students had participated in up to 5 drills and it wasn’t on my radar. But it’s really important for students to know how to exit the library during a drill. There are several exit routes that are possible. I want to make them comfortable with the routine, even if they never have a drill with me.

So I started to make a poster with marker when I thought “I could Photoshop this.”

Which I did.

And then I thought, “I wonder if someone else could use this?”

So I created more options.

And then I thought, “Maybe I should make it both Portrait AND Landscape.”

So I did that.

And this is the result for me:

And this is the result for you if you need a set for your own classroom! A set of 4 Portrait style will fit on a chart paper or a set of 6 Landscape. You can use the penguin set or there are pages for students to draw their own pictures.

Lining Up is Hard to Do

Often when teachers pick their students up I say these words, “lining up is the hardest thing we do.”

And it’s true. I dislike lining up at the door because it blocks the entry for others, so we line up several feet back. It’s vague and tricky. Add in the fact that students line up for three weeks in a row and then don’t have to do it again for another 6 weeks and it’s a challenge. Generally speaking, lining up and walking in line are skills most frequently used in school. As adults we need to know the skill, but we don’t often practice it. And I think we might admit that we’re horrible at it.

In my school our students mostly line up in number order. The students know who they stand behind and in front of. Or they should. But they don’t know how much space to leave for a missing person. You’ve seen it before, the line inches closer and closer to the front. They’re like fish straining for the pinch of food you just dropped in the top of the tank.

Throw in grievances like, “I’m the line leader!”

“No, I’M the line leader!!!”

“He’s touching me!”

“Mrs. Green said I’m the line leader today! You were the line leader yesterday!”


I decided to just go ahead and mark up the floor where I want students to line up. I made 32 circles to tape to the floor. Numbers 1-30 (our class sizes run large) and two that say “Line Leader or Caboose.”

This way it doesn’t matter who gets to the line first, they will know where they stand. Everyone will have some semblance of personal space.

(Please, let it be so.)

A friend said, “I like that idea, but my students don’t all have numbers and the ones who do might lead out number 17 first so everyone is a line leader during the year.”

If your students have numbers, then the numbers will work. If the teacher wants to take out #17-25 first and then #1-16, then those kids can just step to the side and head out the door.

If you don’t use numbers as religiously as we do, then this idea can still work. What about putting colored shapes on the floor? 5 green turtles, 5 yellow stars, 5 blue whales, etc. You could match the colors or shapes to a seating chart you might have. Or, just ask students to go stand on a shape. They’ll be spaced out enough and have a sense of where to stand. You might even be able to do this with popular book covers (if you have a decent color printer!). Just print out 5 Dr. Seuss covers, 5 Scaredy Squirrel, 5 Elephant & Piggie, etc. Or color code by printing 5 Yertle the Turtle (green), 5 Green Eggs and Ham (orange), 5 One Fish Two Fish (yellow).

I’m now kind of wishing I had done that and added numbers to the pictures! Maybe next year.

One more strategy before I ask you what your favorite strategies are for lining up! In my previous school it was easier to have students line up out of the way, but near a door. We always did a seated line. There were no numbers, but we often had a line leader. The first student sat down by a post and opened his book to read and then the rest of the line followed as they finished checking out their books. This worked really well. I really dislike not being ready when the classroom teacher arrives to pick up students, but it’s hard if you have to wait for teachers who are running behind schedule. I try to have students lined up at least a minute early.  A seated line makes waiting really easy because they can read and whisper about their book with their neighbors.


What are your strategies for getting students ready to go at the end of class?

Kindergarten Checkout Strategies

I’ve been getting my checkout strategies finished before I head back to work at the end of next week. Like the rest of you, I’m trying to keep my to do list from getting out of control!

My strategy for organizing student library cards from last year worked really well. To recap, each student has a bookmark with one label that says their grade and teacher and another label with their student barcode and a label protector. The cards are organized in a flash card pocket chart. Students can find their card from the pocket or if there are a lot of students from one class coming in then we lay them out on a table. Students use their card to checkout and then drop it in a basket at the circulation desk. We count the cards each day to track the number of patrons coming to check out books and then refile them into the pocket chart. Counting and refiling takes less than a minute and we do it about three times a day.

At the end of the year I emailed our Kindergarten teachers to say that I wanted to significantly increase Kinder visits to the library. I want them to visit the library 3-5 times a week for checkout. I identified two things that are factors: opportunity and book organization. I’ve asked teachers to think of ways they can increase the opportunities in their classroom to visit the library. Ideas: visit the library right after lunch, walking the entire class through the library. Those that need books can quickly check them out while the others stay in line. Or, add a library center to their Reading Center time.

We also need to better organize student book returns. Kinders are less likely to know if they have returned their book and need a new one. Ideas: print a daily list of checkouts after book return time is over in the morning. Use drawstring bags with student names. Empty bag=needs a book.

I am open to additional ideas, but from feedback we decided to definitely try the bags with student names. I am crossing my finger that not too many go missing. Students will keep their library book in the bag. Teachers will collect library books from the bag. They will turn in the books, but keep the bags. These will be the students who need to visit the library that day. They will come to the library with their empty bag and choose a new book. I’ve done this before with PreKindergarten students, but with two very self-contained classes. Not with four Kindergarten classes in an open checkout schedule. I can’t wait!

In the picture you can see that I picked out Eric Carle drawstring bags. I made sure to buy enough to have extras, just in case. I also bought a roll of duct tape for each class to color code. We’ll write student names on the stripe we’re adding to each bag. 

I have really strong opinions about book checkout, and about Kindergarten checkout in particular. We do it on their first library visit. I really want to grow our readers from the first days they are in the school. I think these strategies to increase their circulation will be a positive step forward. I’ll certainly keep you posted about how it works! 

Here are the new library cards for all of our students! And that cheering you hear? It’s me–checking off one more task from my to do list!

Manage New Releases & the Hold List

Keeping up with new release books can be a challenge. Here are three strategies I use to manage new release books from the time I know the release date until the book has been circulated by most of my students who wish to read it.

Keep Track of Release Dates

Use an app or an old fashioned calendar to keep track of the release dates for books you want to read or ones sure to be popular with your students. My favorite tools are both electronic.

The first is the Days Until app from the Apple store. I like this app because it is simple, you can add a picture, and the event remains on your calendar even if the date is past (until you delete it). There are several Android apps available as well, but I do not have personal experience with any.

If you keep a paper calendar you can jot the title of the new release down on the correct date. In Google’s calendar online you can add a release date as a Task so that it shows on your calendar with the correct date.

Keeping track of release dates allows me to plan my purchasing and any special release-day events in advance.

Student Contests

Before the book arrives at your library, hype its arrival with a special display, contest, or something as simple as a raffle jar.

Before The Third Wheel release I placed hold slips next to a fish bowl and invited students to sign up to read the book. When the book arrived I selected a few names to read the book first and then used the slips to add all of the other students to the waiting list. It was a simple effort but had the same result as something more time consuming. If you have time to set up a special display or plan events-go for it!

 Managing a Hold List

Use your regular library hold slips and add the title of the new release book before making copies. I’ve found that it’s worth it to get all of the requests up front and then key them into the system all at once. Because I know how many students want to read the list and how long it is taking, I know how many copies of the book I need. If I need to pick an extra copy up from Costco or Sam’s then I do that to be sure all of the students on the hold list get a chance to read the book during the year.

I have a Hold List set available for free download from TeachersPayTeachers. All of the forms you need are included.  When the books come in, tuck in a bookmark with the student’s name. Use a notification slip to place in the homeroom teacher’s mailbox notifying the student the book is ready to be checked out.

My last strategy for encouraging students to use the hold list is to post signs at your popular shelves. Do you get tired of hearing “are there any…..?” from students who are tired of checking an empty shelf for a book? I ask those students to fill out a hold list. A sign posted on the shelves of Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Elephant & Piggie let students know they are looking in the right place and reminds them to put the book they want on hold.

iPod Listening Center

I feel like all of my best ideas lately are ‘stolen.’ Certainly all of my library centers are and that’s what is making me happy right now. I present my listening center journey….

I got the idea for iPod Shuffle Listening Centers on Pinterest:

I found the last link a few months ago, but finally got back to it about six weeks ago as the library center idea started to take hold. I was pushed into this idea for listening centers because I discovered that my audio selection for listening centers is not great. Our rack is stuffed full of bags, but until I got something out instead of putting something away I didn’t realize that most of the bags are not for teacher’s to use with listening centers. I approached another teacher and shared this idea of using ipods and the selection of cheap book/CD sets that you can get through Scholastic Book Clubs.

I decided to go for it. (As always….)

I ordered two used ipod shuffles from ebay, put out a plea to friends and family on facebook for old and forgotten shuffles, and wrote a Donors Choose grant for a set of four new shuffles. 

The ebay shuffles arrived and one relative turned over her ipod in a heartbeat. I took my collection of audio books and loaded them into itunes. Copyright is something I have thought about. I’m not circulating more than one copy of the material, doing this for profit, and I since I can’t find these stories in mp3 files online anywhere (itunes, Overdrive) I don’t think I’m impacting on profits. I would love another perspective if you think I have made a wrong turn.

I put the book, a set of headphones, and the shuffle into one of my wonderful totes, added a tag with the title of the book and how long it will take to read and whallah! 

Even better…

It was a hoot today to turn around and see one young lady rocking out to Pete the Cat. She was signing along just having a grand time. Love it!

Some logistics….

I made title cards for each of the books I have available so that I can keep track of them. In my library I want to keep the selection the same for a few weeks and then I’ll start to rotate one new title in a week.

I worry a bit about ‘the ipod got lost.’ I was trying to figure out how to tie it to the tote. Inspiration struck!

The shuffles have those clips on them that make securing it with a zip tie perfect! I can cut it loose if I need to or I can take the whole tote near the computer to get the ipod plugged in to update and charge. I’m very confident that they can’t walk off without a lot of work and just leave the totes out on a small table.

There’s more I’d love to say, but I could babble on forever! I’ll bring the topic up again in the future and update on my progress!

Circulation Makeover

In my library I have one empty shelf. In all of the sections of the library there is just one shelf that is not needed for circulating books. All of the other shelves are 3/4 or completely full. There are no half shelves.

I was visiting another library and noticed two small out of the way shelves that were labeled “Halloween” and “Autumn.” I could immediately tell that the shelves get a lot of traffic. Students and teachers know where they are and that they hold seasonal and ‘hot topic’ books.

Keeping books on ‘display’ is a challenge. They are always checked out! This is a great problem, but organizing displays by more seriously searched-for themes is tricky. Teachers coming in for the one book they always teach with for that holiday or season won’t immediately know which shelf top I’ve set the display on. And then, is it on display? checked out? or still on the shelf? I loved the idea of labeling a shelf for display and not really showcasing the books, but storing them differently.

Except….I have no shelves available. The one empty shelf is in a corner with a dehumidifier in front of it. I started examining the space I have available and discovered that there is one large space available perfect for displays.

This is the best space I have and it’s not very well organized, but functional. The return bins sit on top of three electrical carts that can be rolled around as needed. The shelves underneath hold miscellaneous junk that should really be put away. It’s not the most attractive space in the library.

After deciding what I wanted to do I started to keep my eye out for the perfect shelves. I decided to get one of those 1×5 shelves from Ikea. When I went to buy the shelf (and I did), I had to go back into the store for a forgotten item. While on my second trip into the store I noticed a type of shelf better suited to my needs.

A week later, my circulation area looks like this:

I’m completely thrilled!

I have room to display books for nine topics and subjects. The shelves are in the Trofast series from Ikea. There are three shelves in this space, each with 3 cubbies. I bought 2 originally and then went back to get the third. I’ve got a few labeled for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Gingerbread and a few books in the slot for Snow already. The tubs are a bit shorter so that my Kinders can easily return their books and there is still room on the top for bookmarks, shelf markers, etc.

Camera Organization

In many libraries, librarians are the ones responsible for the tech equipment. I’m obsessed with organizing equipment. Obsessed.

The first trick I can offer you is to use a light colored marker (silver sharpie is my preference) and label all of the cords and power adapters that go with equipment. Nothing is worse than finding a pile of cords and not knowing what they go to. Or looking for a cord to go into a plug and not finding the right one.

There are many ways to organize cameras. I’ve seen some great ones! A friend of mine keeps a strip of card pockets on the wall under her workroom cabinets. Each card indicates a camera. Teachers can see at a glance which ones are available. It’s an old-fashioned card checkout system. Write your name on it and stick it in the pocket. This way teachers can self-checkout the equipment.

I would be fine with that, but usually the staff at my school ask before opening the cabinets in my office–even the ones with community supplies such as cameras.

The cameras used to be housed in their original boxes. They took up a lot of space and it was difficult to get into the boxes to see if the camera and the right parts were there.

Dollar Tree to the rescue! I bought a stack of sandwich containers. Each container got one camera and its USB cord.

I printed the barcode labels for all of the cameras (after putting them into a resource list). Each box got a barcode label. Each camera got its barcode number written on the side with silver sharpie.

Everyone who has stood next to me as I opened the door to the cabinet has been really impressed by the organization, but it only took me about 90 minutes to complete. The trickiest part was matching the right cords to the right cameras and being sure that all of the cameras were being matched with the right barcode number.