Friday, September 16, 2016

Making Reading Visible with Visual Book Shelves

Author's note: This is the second post in a series on how I'm approaching reading in my 7th grade English-Language Arts classroom. The first post can be viewed here.

As I mentioned in last week's post, when I make decisions for how to approach reading in my class, my primary focus and goal is to help my students cultivate a positive relationship with the act of reading. I want them to see themselves as readers, and one important step in that process is to help them celebrate and share what they're reading with others.

Showing Off Our Shelves
Because of that commitment, I knew that I wanted to make our reading visible this year. We all keep a list of books we've read in our journals, but the problem there is that their reading remains hidden when the journal is closed. I wanted to devise a way to give a "shout-out" to each of my students as they finished a book while also keeping a visual record for students to look at if they wanted some ideas for titles to put on their "Coming Soon" list.

I decided to have my students create a visual book shelf, using "tiny books" that I laminated to make them reusable (major props to our librarian, Mrs. T, and her assistant, Ms. D, for doing that for me). Students use a dry erase marker to write the title of a finished book. Then, they use magnetic tape to add the book to their class's stack on my whiteboard.

I like this method because it's easy to glance over and see the tracks of our reading. It sparks conversations. When students see their peers adding titles to the class shelf, they are motivated to do the same. I've got a shelf running behind my desk too--we're all reading together!

My bookshelf so far this year. 

One downside is that, based on the volume of reading already this year, I feel like I'm going to run out of room pretty quickly! Not a bad problem to have. I'm brainstorming what to do once our shelves are full--I may keep that area for our "current reads" and move older books to another location as the year moves on.

This idea is a simple way to make our learning visible to others. It's become a procedure to update the shelf once a book is finished, and my students enjoy showcasing their reading. I love how such a small piece can help continue to grow and build the reading relationships we're working hard to establish in room 209 this year!


  1. Middle school students are at such an important age in reading development. Love the statement to help "students cultivate a love of reading". Many middle schoolers don't get this opportunity, then it's too late. Your classroom seems like a fun and exciting place for reading instruction. Great ideas; thanks for sharing.
    Dr Kendra Strange

  2. "IT'S NEVER TOO LATE!" said the senior ELA teacher bringing reading workshop to secondary.

  3. What a great way for your students to share their book lists with each other, Katie!

  4. I like that this is encouraging healthy competition among your students. What a way to go in these days that social and electronic media are making students read less. Keep it up, Katie!