Hi OCB-ers! We have a fun guest post today that shows you a neat way to incorporate technology into getting your classroom library organized! Enjoy!
If you are anything like me, you have tried a variety of methods to make "take home books" simpler. Once my students are ready to start taking leveled readers home for extra practice, I want to get them into backpacks as soon as possible! However, the organization of the whole thing can be tough. I have used spreadsheets, colored dots, handwritten notebooks, preprinted notes - no matter what I do, the process of organizing, recording, and managing take home books takes at least an hour each week. That is time that I have won back using a new resource.
Introducing Classroom Organizer Booksource! This is a website that allows you to set up and manage your classroom library (or guided reading/leveled library) just like a public library. You can check books in and out, print records both of your whole class and student histories, and even email overdue notices. Sign me up! I have found that this resource works best when you are able to use BOTH the website and the app. You will need to register online first at classroom.booksource.com. You will get a screen like this where you will need to create an account.
Once you have an account, you will want to login as a teacher. For some peculiar reason this website has a second login screen. They have a main login for the site, and a second one for the teacher. This was a source of confusion and frustration for me as I got started. I highly recommend using the same password for both. This will help in the long run, as there seems to me to be no advantage to the separate logins. Once you login as a teacher you will have some basic set up to do. You will need to enter your classroom settings. This is where you decide how many books kids can check out at a time and for how long. You can also decide how much information you want to keep track of (Do you just want student name and title, or do you want to track reading levels?)
You will also need to enter student names to set up your class. The site offers you options to make things fancy with icons and images if you want. Or you can be like me and keep it plain and simple. Because I know how quickly my students change reading levels, I chose not to attach any sort of level for them. It is also pretty simple to edit individual students after the fact if need be, as there is an edit option next to each student name.
Finally, you will need to build your library. There are a few ways to do this, and I think this is both the biggest part of the work, and the place you are most likely to become frustrated. Here is my experience: You should, if possible, download the app that accompanies this site. I downloaded it on to my iPhone, but it is compatible with iPad and Android phones as well.
With this app, you can choose to add titles to your library. The app allows you to scan the ISBN code on the back of your book to input it into your library simply by using your phone or iPad. This is not always successful. I have found that one of three things happens:
1. The app scans the ISBN, recognizes the book, and automatically loads the book title and ISBN.
2. The app scans the ISBN and loads it, but does not recognize the title. If this happens, you can manually type the title in.
3. The app says that the ISBN is not valid. There may be a way to trouble shoot this, but I just bail on the book at that point. I figure that some books might give me more trouble with this system than they are worth.
If you are not able to use the app, you can still manually add titles through the website. In fact, you can manually add them through the app as well. Classroom Organizer says on their site that they are continuing to build their database, and they currently have about 80% success with title recognition. I did find in my room that I had better success with trade paperbacks. Guided reading books were less likely to be recognized. Also, the site does not recognize Scholastic's ISBN numbers, which could also be frustrating. So, depending on the type of books you are using, you may have different experiences. So, now you are set up with the site... This is one of those projects that requires a bit of time to get started, and then will save time in the long run. Once you have student names and books entered in to your account, all you have to do is scan! There is an option to "Check out" and an option to "Return." You simply select a student name, scan the book, and hit check out! Or, choose the student name, and click return. No more cross referencing lists, writing titles, and flipping pages. If you want, you could also easily teach your kids to check books in and out for themselves using an iPad and a student login.
Finally, the site offers reports. You can print reports of all books that have been checked out in the class, or individual student reports. This is nice because you can see the entire history of what a student has checked out. I love that it automatically organizes the lists for me, and all I have to do is print.
There is more to this site that I have not explored, so I am sure you will discover new things if you work with it. For example, it will let you import excel spreadsheets if you already have your library typed up! Being completely truthful, the app and site have mixed reviews online. However, I am encouraged to see the creators continuing to update and make smart changes to make it work even better. If you are willing to put a bit of time into set up, this could make the organization of take home books a dream!
How do you manage the organization of take home books? Do you know of any other great sites or apps?
Karen Langdon is a kindergarten teacher, wife and mother devoted to bringing authenticity to the classroom. She is also the author of her own blog, teachingace.com. Feel free to visit her blog for more articles to support your teaching!
Side Note: I received an email from Emily Voss, the project manager for The Classroom Organizer at the Booksource after this article was posted, and she personally wanted to address any confusion:
"The first issue is regarding the use of the second password. This does cause confusion, but makes sense to have in place for a lot of our teachers who use the site. In some classrooms, the teacher lets the students check out and return books on the Classroom Organizer completely on their own. The second password, or “Classroom Settings Password,” is used to protect the teacher’s account information and data located on the teacher page.
The second comment is how to enter books into their account. There are actually five different ways to enter a book in their Classroom Organizer. Besides the app and manually entering the titles, teachers can scan books in using a bar code scanner they can plug into a computer via USB port. The Booksource sells these barcode scanners and they can be purchased nearly anywhere. Teachers can also create an excel spreadsheet of all of their titles and import it into their account. If they are customers of The Booksource, they can import their books using a order invoice."