I love having my classroom library. As an ESOL teacher I see students in all different settings, both in my office and in their classrooms. Having a well organized library allows me to quickly grab books to use for read alouds and help guide them towards independent reading books they will find interesting and are close to their reading levels.
I find it helpful to know the reading levels of books especially when I am looking for books to use with older ESOL students that are reading below grade level. This allows me to show them high interest books or find books connected to topics that they are studying. I like to record the books level on the back of the book. This way students do not focus on the levels.
1. Find Book Levels
I find it helpful to use more than one leveling site since they have different databases of books that they include.
The primary way I leveled books was through the Classroom Booksource webpage (they also have an app that can scan books). You type in the ISB code and the book information comes up including book level. The site saves the books you enter so you can keep track of them.
Scholastic Book Wizard
This site also gives book level information. You can also use it to keep track of the books you have in your library.
2. Sort By Category
The primary way that I organize my library is by category. Some of the categories are purposeful such as math, history, or fairy tales. Others are because I have a large number of books that go together such as dinosaurs. Books go into baskets which makes it easier for students to quickly flip through them.
3. Label with Pictures
Each basket is labeled with the category and has a picture. This is helpful for my ESOL students to know what the topic is about.
4. Use Baskets to Store Books
Having book baskets helps students to find books. It also make it easy to make suggestions based on a student’s interest. Many of my baskets are from the dollar store. Those are nice because of the price. I also used student book boxes for smaller for categories that I didn’t have as many books in.
5. Have a Checkout System Writing down books: I give each student an index card. They write down the book title and then put a checkmark on it when they return it. I organized them by group in library pocket cards.
A well organized classroom library is at the heart of most literacy programs. Sorting books into categories help children find a book that they are looking for and also helps them to discover one that they did not think they wanted to read.
In my ESOL room I have a fairly large classroom library. It doesn’t always fit into the daily lessons since I would typically only see students for 30 minutes and they have independent reading time in their classroom. It was great for students that finished an activity early and I allowed student to borrow books. Classroom teachers would tell me how excited students were to bring back a book with them. Especially in upper grades some teachers didn’t always have high interest low level books so I tried to stock a large supply of those kinds of books (graphic novels were in constant demand.)
Where to find books?
Donors Choose: My favorite place to get new books was through Donors Choose. I received a number of graphic novels and other new high interest, easy to read books. Keep an eye out for partner matches, they are a great way to fund projects at 50% off. Here is an example of a funded book project. If you have never used the sight give it a try!
Thrift Store: Books are typically very reasonably priced at thrift stores. Whenever I go into one I peek in the book section. Sometimes there is nothing but other times you hit the jackpot!
Yard Sales: Same as thrift stores, sometimes you can get lucky.
Other Teachers: Keep your eyes and ears open, especially near the end of the school year. Teachers moving
Scholastic Book Points: When students place orders through scholastic you can earn points that can be used to get free books. As a non classroom teacher I have never been able to take advantage of this program but have good things from classroom teachers that do so.
I use book lables on each of the book baskets in my classroom library. This helps my non readers find books that they are interested in. This is especially important for ESOL students where visual support is key.
If you are interested in becoming an ESOL teacher, many states allow you to take the praxis exam and then use that to add on to your teaching licence. This weekend my husband went to a workshop and was very impressed with the information he learned from the review session. He had been searching for review materials and not finding anything so just wanted to put the word out that this training was helpful.
Probably the biggest piece of information he realized is that the test has been updated and the linguistic section removed. I remember that being the most challenging section so that was good news.
It looks like the trainings are offered around the country but not very frequently in any one city.
Learning the alphabetic code is an important part of early literacy. This is also true for ESOL students. My daughter is 2 1/2 years old. She is learning English as her first language. I came up with these alphabet cards as a way for her to learn new vocabulary, name familiar people, and the letters and sounds of the alphabet.
For ESOL students they could take part in a similar activity by going on a scavenger hunt for people and objects for each letter of the alphabet and taking pictures of them, then creating their own flash cards. The flash cards can then be printed on cardstock or developed using a photo sight. Recently there have been deals for developing free photographs. I used one from Amazon. Shutterfly also has one 20 FREE 4×6 prints + free standard shipping.
I’ve included a template if you would like to create your own alphabet flash cards using photographs. Just insert pictures into the PowerPoint template, save as a .jpg file and then upload the file into a photo developing sight (or print on cardstock).
Throughout the school year I am assessing my ESOL students. Often this is through short formative assessments that are integrated into activities we are already doing. To get a sense of their speaking level I will sometimes take out the WIDA speaking rubric and simply listen to students conversations and write down where they fall on the rubric. Writing is also easy to organically assess. I look at writing samples students have completed or are in the process of completing, take note of how much support they have received and again use the WIDA rubric to score.
Listening and reading are a bit more challenging to assess. When I do a read aloud and ask comprehension questions I can use the listening rubric to get a general sense of their listening levels and use the reading rubric along with anecdotal notes to get a reading level.
Sometimes I need to get a sense of how my ESOL students are doing through a more formal assessment. This gives them exposure to the format of the WIDA assessment that they take once a year and the academic testing language they will need.
I recently updated the assessments I have been using with my students this past school year. I added a color and black and white version to each assessment and changed some of the graphics. I also reviewed the upper level passages and question and in some cases increased the difficulty levels. This is partially because WIDA has increased the difficulty of its assessment. You can read more about the changes here.