Posted in Books, Classroom Library

Ode to a Scanner Gun

Whenever adults ask me about why kids like to check books out of my classroom library, I always give the same response. Sure, I could say it’s because I love graphic novels and have bookshelves full of them. I could say that my rules are lax, and I’m not a huge stickler for timelines and due dates (I don’t actually have due dates). I could say it’s because kids like to kill time in my room during lunch. I could say it’s because I’m friendly and will spend time talking about book suggestions. But I personally believe the main reason kids are drawn to my classroom library is because they get to control … (insert drumroll) … the scanner gun.

USB Wireless Barcode Scanner

I bought a barcode scanner gun when I decided to organize my classroom library using Booksource. I chose a wireless scanner so that kids weren’t tied to the desktop when checking in or out books. This also allows us to add books to the library and shelve them at the same time. While Booksource has a great app that uses a phone or tablet camera to scan books, the scanner gun has been a game-changer.

(Sidenote: when time is short, I still rely on the Booksource app to scan books using my phone, so that I can get kids back to class quickly.)

When students are ready to check out a book, Booksource makes it super easy. Students simply click their name, select Checkout, then after clicking in the search bar use the scanner gun to scan the barcode on the book. That’s it! The book is registered and students simply click Check Out to finish checking out the book. The operation works in reverse if they want to check in a book. Often, my students just drop the books in a return bin and my son uses the scanner gun to check all of the returned books in at the end of the day. It really is incredibly efficient. Plus, you know, kids get to play with a scanner gun. On the teacher end, it also makes adding books to my library extremely quick and easy. I’m not ashamed to admit this is one of the best (and most inexpensive) tools I’ve purchased for my classroom.

Posted in Books, Classroom Library

My Happy Place

No, not Disney World, though that makes me pretty happy. My Happy Place is my classroom library. After reading books like Kids Deserve It and Game Changer, I took a close look at my own classroom library and what I needed to do to make it a happy place.

Knowing that I’m a special education teacher, with a half-size classroom for pull-out groups, and knowing that I actually spend most of my day in my inclusion classes, you might be asking yourself, what classroom library? Why does she even have a classroom library? I have a classroom library because reading is important. Reading choice; reading books you love is important. I want to be the teacher who knows what books you love.

I’m proud to say my room houses over 1,100 books for kids to check out (but there’s a new book box on the way, so that number will go up). I’ve spent the past two years carefully curating a collection of high-interest books that kids are eager to read. I have books from all of the genres, formats, and reading levels I can think of, to ensure every reader has books that are accessible to them. Students from my two co-taught homerooms check out books almost daily. So do students in the other two homerooms on my fourth and fifth grade teams. So do students in my one pull out group. So do random students who ask if they can check out books. Anyone and everyone is welcome to check out a book. Students drop in any time I’m in my room (normally on their lunch or recess) to check out books.

Because my library is my happy place, I can talk for hours about it. Feeling a need to narrow this post to just one aspect of the library, I’m going to talk about how I organize my collection. There are tons of ways to organize and keep track of your books and I’ve read dozens of blog posts trying to figure out how to make this work. I settled on organizing my library by genre-ish and using the free website Book Source to catalog my books.

The Teacher Dashboard gives you a quick glance at the status of your library.

Guys! Book Source is amazing. I can’t believe it’s free. I was able to scan all of my books into the system (with the exception of a few I had to enter by hand). The books can be scanned via a bar code scanner (which I will write a love letter about in a later post) or using the Book Source app and camera on a tablet or phone. Once all of your books are scanned, you can easily inventory or check titles through the teacher dashboard.

But wait, there’s more! You can also create individual accounts for all your students! Students can then check out/check in the books they borrow independently. The teacher dashboard allows you to print a list of what is checked out, so you can do a pulse-check with students about the books they are reading. The site is truly amazing as a student management tool as well. (Again, more on that later!)

Before I go down the rabbit hole of Book Source awesomeness and create the world’s longest blog post, let me wrap it up. If you are looking for a way to easily catalog and manage your classroom library, you should check this resource out. It’s super user-friendly and entering your books is easy enough that my fourth grade son scanned the vast majority of mine. It is by far the easiest check in/check out system I’ve ever used. This website really has completely changed the nature of my library.

*Disclaimer – I got no kickbacks from Book Source for writing this post. In fact, they don’t even know I exist. I just wanted to share this resource with teachers that might be looking for the a great (and free) organizational tool.