This is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years. She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter. The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.
Summer is the time teachers hold sacred because it is a vital to helping us renew and replenish what made us become teachers in the first place. As we sit in our comfy chairs, we enjoy the break, but our minds often wander back to what we love to do: teach. Our minds trace the layout of our classrooms as we sit wondering if there is a better way to arrange furniture, a better way to structure center times, and going over a whole plethora of other issues that help to balance the time we are with students.
One necessary component of the classroom that is absolutely vital to learning is a well-stocked library. If you are like me, you have roughly an 80/20 ratio of fiction to nonfiction picture books in your class library, the way many primary classrooms are set up. However, it isn’t necessarily the way they should continue to be set up. Research supports the necessity of great informational texts as a choice in the primary classroom. Many teachers know students who are struggling to read informational texts now who could have benefitted from exposure to them earlier in their schooling.
From personal experience, my observations draw me to conclude students prefer a good nonfiction text over a narrative. During group reading, students are much more likely to maintain focus when engaged in reading with each other about animals, insects, nature, or transportation (to name a few). Students love giving their opinions, and isn’t that what we want them to do? Forming an opinion is part of the higher-order thinking model. We all want to help our students be better problem solvers. Informational text is an important bridge to making our students “thinkers”.
You may ask, “Where on earth am I going to find additional informational texts?” I hear you, and I have some ideas that may be worth your time. If you are short on funds, and you are a new teacher just beginning to build a classroom library, or you are a seasoned veteran just looking for more books, there are places to look without “mortgaging the farm.”
Some sources may be no farther than your fingers and your laptop. There are online garage sales all over sites like Facebook, so do a search for them in your area. Many times, families are just wanting to rid themselves of an overabundance of children’s books. Another source may be a site called freecycle.org. I was able to find an entire set of Beanie Baby toys for free a few years ago. The thing that distinguishes this site from other sources is the guarantee of items being free. Join up, then explain that you are a teacher looking for nonfiction or real children’s books for your classroom library. As always, use caution when dealing with online communication. Meet in a public location to pick up any resources donated. I met the donor of my Beanie Babies during the day in a parking lot next to a law office. Another resource is the old-fashioned yard sale. Check newspapers for locations and times as well as what is being offered.
Finally, many new informational texts can be found inexpensively here on the Hameray site.Something to consider: Hameray’s books are leveled readers which makes them perfect for independent reading, and the variety of topics is endless! Most of the informational leveled readers are under $5, making sets of them very affordable I am especially loving the Zoozoo Into the Wild series. There is even a Zoozoo app!