Today I'm sharing with you how I arrange, organize, and implement my take-home library! My students fill out a reading log each night and I send home books at their reading level for them to read.  I did this for 4 of the years I taught in Oregon (in kinder, 1st, and 3rd), didn't do it when I taught 2nd grade on Lanai, and am implementing again in 1st grade on Maui.  I didn't do it on Lanai because I didn't have enough extra books for it.  And you know what? I noticed a huge drop in my students who filled out their reading log and read at home.  When I send books home each night for my students to read, they don't have the excuse that they "don't have anything to read" at home! 

First up, collecting books!

When I taught in Oregon, I was lucky enough to have an educational foundation in my school district that gave out grants to teachers.  I won a grant for a take home library my second year there.  I bought collections of books from Scholastic that were appropriate for grades K-2. At the time, I taught kindergarten and found that I needed to supplement for the lowest levels.  Luckily, I had worked with a Title I teacher a few years prior who had boxes upon boxes of books and she gave some to me! Many of them were old leveled readers, but that meant that there were the lowest levels available.  

Here is a basket of old leveled readers at my new school that I'm going to use for take-home books.

Next up, leveling them! 

Every school I've worked in (until now) used the Developmental Reading Assessment, so I leveled my books with DRA levels 1-38.  In DRA, 1-3 is kindergarten, 4-16 is 1st grade, 18-28 is 2nd grade, and 30-38 is 3rd grade.  The levels are kinda funky.  There is 1, 2, and 3.  Then 4, 6/8, 10, 12, 14, and 16.  Then 18, 20, 24, and 28.  Then 30, 34, and 38.  I like the DRA assessment because it gives a lot of good information on who each student is as a reader and also gives suggestions for what to practice to help them move forward.  By using this assessment, you can group students by level or even by strategy that they need to work on.  It does take awhile because you have to read with each student, but I appreciate it because I get to know my students so much more.  

But my new school doesn't use DRA.  We do STAR testing 3 times a year.  It's an online reading test.  That means I don't read with my students until they are in groups.  I'm nervous, but I've heard it's pretty accurate.  The STAR test gives students a grade level rating, which is different than the DRA.  My students rated at a 0.5 (middle of kindergarten) to 1.7 (7th month of first grade).  So now I need to re-level my books to reflect the grade level rating.

There are many other leveling systems you can use and conversion charts are an easy google search away.  You can level your books by Fountas & Pinnell's Guided Reading Level, Reading A-Z, Lexile, or even Reading Recovery (if your school is so privileged to still have that awesome program).  I recommend deciding on one leveling system and sticking with it. 

To find all the levels, I first started with Scholastic's Book Wizard.  Then I would google search the title in parenthesis, the author in parenthesis, and the words "reading level" in parenthesis.  I would most likely find a website that has the information.  

On my older books that are labeled with DRA levels, I had made address label stickers with the level number on them.  I cut the labels in half before putting the sticker on the top right corner of the book cover.

The old leveled reader books in my new classroom already have circle stickers on them.  I think just writing the level on the sticker with a Sharpie would be a great option.  

Since my new school uses the STAR test, I'm going to change all the levels on my books to the grade level equivalent.  I'll probably use address labels and have to peel the old labels off my books. 
So after all my books are labeled and I know my student levels, they can start taking them home.  I keep my books in these Sterilite drawers.  I have 4 sets of them and label each drawer with one level.  Kids pick a book from their level and put it in their homework binder.  If they don't bring it back the next day, they don't get to bring a new book.  So the rule is: if they forget the book at home, they'll have to read it more than once.  Which is not a terrible idea. Students become better readers by reading text that is familiar.

I don't use a check-out system or keep track of who has which book.  If they bring it back the next day, they can get a new one.  If they don't, they'll have to read the book at home twice.  I'm sure I lose a few books each year doing this, but I feel that not having to deal with the hassle of keeping track outweighs that risk! 

Make sure to check out all the other Bright ideas link up!  You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

I teamed up with Teacher Created Resources to bring you some fun projects that you can make with their accents and inexpensive items from places like the Dollar Tree.

Unfortunately, we don't have a dollar store on Maui, so I went to the next best place: Walmart! I ended up making 4 different items and have plans for one more.

TCR sent me 3 different items to play around with.  I requested aqua chevron straight border trim, sassy circle letters, and chevrons and dots library pockets.

First I made little containers for my classroom.  I started with Better Homes and Garden brand kitchen canisters for about $5.  I taped in a piece of border and slid in the labels.  I made one for Starbursts to give kids when they level up on our Super Improvers Wall (read about mine here).  I also made one for those little pencil cap erasers. 

I actually made them in the car as we drove to Lahaina to eat dinner at Kobe Steakhouse, a cute little Teppanyaki place that my kids and hubby just LOVE! 

Here are my supplies on my lap: canisters, border, tape, and labels.

Here they are on my kidney table.  I love how the came out!

My next project was little gifts for my team on the first day of school! I started with yellowy plastic plant holders that I picked up for 78 cents.  Then added heather plants for $2.50.  I also bought a small bag of potting soil.  I taped the border around the planter and taped the label onto it, too.   These labels are also included in the freebie set that I linked above.

You can also see my name poster that I made on the table.  My principal asked us to make posters to hold up on the first day so students can find us.  I used the sassy letters and a piece of tagboard.  I also printed out some sea creature clipart to glue to the chart.  Too bad I didn't get a better picture! 

I also used the sassy letters to create my first day frame.  I bought the biggest frame I could find.  This one was just under $20.  I put colored masking tape on the frame to add some color.  Then I taped on my letters.  I've always wanted to make one of these frames.  I'm so glad I finally did! Look at this little cutie!

My last project is actually for one of my teammates.  She saw my iHelp jobs chart and LOVED it! 
This is from my class last year :)

You just take a piece of black foam core board and a piece of white tagboard to create the large iPad.  Then glue on cute library pockets (like TCR's dots and chevron!) and attach the job cards with velcro dots so you can change them out when you want.  You put students names, numbers, or pictures on popsicle sticks and slide them in the pockets.  You can check out my jobs chart labels here.
Today I'm joining some of my favorite bloggers for a fun Back to School Blog Hop! 

I'm here to tell you all about The Daily 5! 

The very first thing you should do is read the book! My first edition has dog ears and writing all over the margins.  It is a well loved book! This past year, those wonderful sisters came out with a second edition and it is all kinds of amazing! I still love the first book and think it's a great first read, but then you should read the second edition to learn how they have updated their thinking and also added in a Daily Math component. 

When I first started teaching, my team and I had students ability grouped for reading center time.  They stayed with their group and rotated through a series of paper pencil centers (sometimes there were manipulatives, too!) when I rang a bell every 12 minutes.  This worked well for me.  The students were compliant and working while my assistant and I read books with each group.  I saw every group for 12 minutes each day and did guided reading with leveled readers from our basal series while my assistant met with every group and worked on the weekly phonics skill with decodable Phonics Library books, also from our basal series.  

Then, I went back to college at night to earn my reading endorsement and I learned about Daily 5.  It incorporates choice, teaches independence, and students are engaged in activities that are actually helping them become better readers, not just quiet students.  

My first year doing D5, I kept my students in their ability groups and rotated them through Daily 5 centers.  I felt that this was a good transition for me.  I didn't change my whole structure, I just changed what my students were doing.  Then, as I read more, went to conferences, and talked with colleagues, I finally got rid of the rotations and recorded student choices on a clipboard.  

Then, I moved to Lanai and had a large class of 28 students.  These students were used to reading groups the old way I used to run them.  I tried to incorporate choice, but we had to stop D5 all the time because students were off task, talking, walking around the room.  No matter how many times I gathered them back to the carpet, went over our T-chart, and practiced the wrong vs. right way to do things, we just weren't building the stamina I needed in order to meet with groups.  So, I went back to the rotations.  

I made these cards so students knew what to do.  You can get them in my TpT store here.

Then last year, I had a much smaller class, only 17.  I decided to reintroduce choice.  I used Ladybug's Teacher Files freebie cards and made a new one for Respond to Reading.  You can grab those freebies from this blog post.

Students had a little piece of paper in their book boxes where they checked off which activity they chose.  They had to do them all throughout the week, so this helped for accountability.  I was also checking off their choices, so I knew if they were telling the truth about having done listening already :) 
Click the image to grab this FREEBIE!

This year, I've moved down to 1st grade and we've had a slow start.  We've already done our Read to Self t-chart and have 3 minutes of stamina built up.  We'll keep plugging along and then introduce Work on Writing next.  

So, my tip to you for starting with the Daily 5 - start small! Do what works for you! Don't feel like you have to change your entire reading instruction if you are not ready.  Change what your students are doing and get rid of all the worksheets that aren't helping them grow as readers.  Teach them how to independently read, write what they want to write, listen to fluent reading on audiobooks, and make words and work on spelling patterns.  These activities will teach them to be better readers.  When you are ready to add choice, do it! Students will learn to intrinsically work hard.  They will WANT to read! My students would tell me on a daily basis that reading was their favorite time of the day.  And by the end of the year, the novelty of the iPods had worn off and most of them just wanted to read their books.  It made my heart happy.

If you want to learn more about D5, a couple of summers ago I did a Daily 5 blog hop.  You can go to my TpT store to grab a bookmark with urls of all the blog posts and also pick up a stamina chart.  And I know the awesome bloggers at Freebielicious did a blog hop this summer for the second edition.  You can start at A Differentiated Kindergarten.

And now, head on over to Miss Squirrel's blog to find out her Back to School tip and how she sets up community supplies! 

Today I'm here to tell you about something that has saved my sanity on my 30-40 minute commute to work - Audible!

Audible is a service, now owned by Amazon (my fav!), that provides instant download, digital audiobooks.  They have over 150,000 titles in their inventory - the largest amount in the industry!  You can buy books for usually under $20 each.  Then you can listen to them as many times as you want.  There are also daily deals that are under $5.  I love Audible because I love to read, but don't always have time for it.  Being a mom and a teacher, I am always trying to find new ways to multitask.  One Saturday afternoon, I tackled deep cleaning our kitchen while listening to the entire book of Bossy Pants by Tina Fey (and read by her, too!) on my iPad.  It made the task so much more fun! I also painted our old bedroom while listening to One for the Money by Janet Evanovich and painted our old dining room while listening to Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close.

My new school is a 30-40 minute commute for me each day, so Audible has been awesome.  I downloaded the app and listen to the books in my car through the Bluetooth.  I've already listened to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and started The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene just the other day.  What I love the most is that it only takes about a week to finish a book! Now that school has started and my kids will be commuting with me, we'll be listening to books that they will be interested in, like Charlotte's Web, Because of Winn Dixie and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

And when you head over to, you can find an Audible promo code to either try the service free for 30 days or get your first 3 months for $7.49/month!

So what are you waiting for? Go grab the next book on your list and listen away!

I was compensated for writing this post, but all ideas and opinions are my own.
As most of you know, I start back to school tomorrow.  I worked so hard in my room these past couple weeks and of course I don't feel ready.  It will come together for me, but all I care right now is that the space is clean and organized for the kids, which it is.  When thinking about planning for back to school, I've prepped some super fun activities for my new little firsties.  And lucky for you, you can pick them up in the next few days in the TpT sale!

Stephanie's Back to School Bash for 1st grade has many fun activities for the first week.  There is an activity for the book Enemy Pie that I will do.  And a "How We Get To School" graph for the first day of math.  I also printed and copied the First Week Journal that kids will complete throughout the week.  I think it will be a great filler activity in case the lessons I planned don't take as long as I had thought.  It's always good to have something that that in your back pocket! 

Halle's Bully Book Pack is so awesome for teaching about friendship, acceptance, and sticking up for others.  We'll be doing activities for the books Mean Jean the Recess Queen, Hooway for Wodney Wat, and the Juice Box Bully.  I've already got our juice boxes copied on Astrobrights paper, you can see here and enter to win a box of colored paper! 

Susan's First Week Fun pack has an awesome activity that goes with the book My Mouth is a Volcano, which is all about blurting out.  And since I live in Hawaii, the kids LOVE making the volcano craft! 

Tracy's Take a Walk in Their Shoes unit is perfect for teaching rules and procedures! I'm going to introduce some scenarios whole group, then have the kids work in pairs to figure some out, as well.  

Susan's All About Me unit has some great activities for Back to School!  I love the Meet the Class book.  My class last year would read it over and over all year long! 

Over in my store, I have a whole section of Back to School items, many of which are hanging up in my room as we speak! 

What's in your cart for back to school?
Today I have a fun tip for saving ink and making your classroom oh so colorful - bright paper! My school doesn't have color printers, so everything that I want in color, I have to print at home.  It was a big shock to me a few years ago and I went through cartridge after cartridge trying to bring color into my classroom.  As we know, color can cultivate creativity and make a classroom warm and inviting. But did you also know that it can increase retention by 18%, accelerate learning by 55-78%, and also increase comprehension by 73%? (According to the Color Marketing Group).  Color is pretty amazing! 

I couldn't keep spending my whole paycheck on ink, so I started making things for my classroom in blackline and printing them on colored paper.  They still look great! So when Astrobrights contacted me about sampling their line of colors, I was so excited! I knew these would be wonderful for my classroom!

Here are all the colors that Astrobrights makes - in regular paper and in cardstock.

I printed vocab cards for Enemy Pie, from Stephanie Stewart's Back to School Bash.

I printed my math critical thinking question freebie to post around my calendar.

I printed this Juice Box Bully craft from Across the Hall in 2nd Grade's Bully Book Pack.  The great thing about using colored cardstock for crafts is that the paper fits perfectly in the copy machine! So easy! 

And here's a little sneak peek at my finished classroom! This is my math wall.  Can you spot the question discussion starters? 

Astrobrights is having an awesome back to school contest where one teacher from each state can win a $250 gift card to colorize their classroom.  You can enter through their facebook page! All you have to do is share a picture of how you colorize your classroom!  You can get more details at

But lucky for us - one Teaching With Style reader will also win this same box full of paper, plus a $50 gift card to Office Depot! Woot! Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway