I will never forget the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I was first told (many years ago) that the library was going to be closed for testing and I had to go into the classrooms to teach my lessons. I had no idea what I was going to do or how this would work. And it seemed that with each passing year the library was closed for longer periods of time. I grew to expect to be in classrooms for most of May and part of April (apparently elementary students need two or three weeks of additional practice testing).
I know that this is not an unusual situation, but at the time it really upset me. And honestly, it still does. However the situation is not going to change any time soon. And as anyone who has worked in education for more than two weeks can tell you, flexibility is a must.
Checking Out Library Books
Most likely you will need to stop book check-out for the year. I truly hate having to do this but it is a choice I had to make. I know some librarians who take books into the classroom and use a portable barcode scanner to check books out. I admire anyone who is able to do this. In my school it would be a logistical nightmare and create a host of other problems.
I still want my students to have access to books as much as they can. I encourage teachers to check out books to keep in their classroom. Primary teachers are the ones who usually do this. For 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers I will often provide a book set or a stack of paperback books so their students have something to read after they have finished testing. This is especially important for teachers who do not have a large classroom library.
Something else you will need to think about is how students will return the books they already have checked out. You do not want to collect the books as you go in and out of the classroom. Plus having students keep their books for a few extra weeks is a scary thought. One idea to help with book collection is have student volunteers go around and gather the books from classrooms (when testing is finished early enough that the students won’t be a distraction of course). Parent volunteers can also be a big help with this. And I always put a couple boxes in the teacher’s lounge too. When a teacher walks their class to lunch or recess they can stop by and put the books in the boxes.
Lesson Ideas and Suggestions
Below are a list of suggestions of things you can do in the classroom when the library is closed for some reason. Of course they can be done in the library as well (and some of them are pretty simple ideas). Also they do not involve technology. If you still have access to Chromebooks or devices of some kind during this time that is fantastic! You have many more options available to you. But in my school every available device is always used for testing so this is never a dependable option. And I don’t know how many times I went into a class and their and SmartBoard or projector were not working either.
This one will definitely take some planning. Invite speakers to come in and talk to the students. These could include a local author who doesn’t mind doing more shorter, informal presentations. You can tie it in to a book that you read with the students earlier in the year. Ask the teachers for ideas on who they would like to see come in to speak to their students. Work with the other specials teachers to do a grade-level activity. Or invite the public librarian to speak about the summer reading program.
Depending on the weather take the kids outside. Do a nature walk, join the P.E. classes or just relax in the shade and read. You can create a library beach day or camping day.
Over the years I have created bingo review games for science and social studies for all the grades that test those subject areas. Teachers love the extra review prep for their students and kids love playing bingo. This is the time when I will give out “nicer” prizes to the students. And by nicer I mean stickers with googly eyes, puzzle erasers or scented markers or gel pens. In my district giving out candy or food for any reason is strictly prohibited (with a couple exceptions) so any type of food incentive is out.
A few that I have done recently include Robert Munsch, Steve Jenkins, Mo Willems and Doreen Cronin. Gerald McDermott’s trickster tales work really well too, especially with third graders.
My kindergarten and first graders always have specials in the afternoon, so I usually just do story time with them. I have several books that I save and only read during this time. Depending on the class I will do a craft with them or pair it with a short movie. I always do ocean animals the first week and zoo animals the second. Some of my favorites are:
- The Three Little Fish and the Big, Bad Shark by Ken Geist
- Don’t Eat the Teacher by Nick Ward
- Dude by Aaron Reynolds
- Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae
- Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer
- The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo by Laura Murray
- Animal Strike at the Zoo, It’s True by Karma Wilson
Tongue Twister Contest
This is one of my favorites!! I will review tongue twisters with the kids (also a great way to review figurative language). Then I usually have the kids write their own tongue twisters and practice them. To do the contest, I usually pair up with the music teacher and have the two classes “battle it out” to see who is the tongue twister champion. There are so many different ways you can do this. I have even had the principal come in and compete a couple of times.
Nonfiction Text Features
I have purchased some paperback nonfiction book sets from Scholastic that I can easily take in to the classroom. I like the Smart Words series or the National Geographic Readers. I will hand out a graphic organizer and we’ll practice using text features. I have several different graphic organizers that I hand out for the students to complete. And there are so many ways to expand on this if you want to do a more in-depth type of activity. In the resource library are two nonfiction graphic organizers you can download and use.
Just for Fun
Word searches, puzzles, coloring pages, hidden pictures. There is nothing wrong with having your kids color or do a hidden picture for a few minutes. The kids love it and it is a great stress reliever. Plus I sit down with the kids and join them. I always keep a stash of these on hand because you never know when you might need one.
Don’t forget the resource library!
Also, don’t forget about the free resource library. There are many different activities for grades K-5 including graphic organizers, task cards, bookmarks, reading response printables and book recommendation templates! You can access the library by clicking the link at the top of any of my blog pages.