August 14, 2011

Ownership and Engagement - The Book Box

Nine years ago, as a first year teacher, I believed strongly in the importance of daily self-selected independent reading (SSR). But I also encountered lots of problems when trying to implement SSR in the classroom:

* When do students pick books from the classroom library?
* What if the books they pick are WAY too easy or WAY too hard?
* What about the students who want to change to a new book every day, therefore never finishing anything?

Then, I learned about individual student book boxes from a wonderful local education consultant - Norma Kimzey. My book boxes were just magazine files. They looked like this:Book boxes solved all my problems - a real magic pill! Here's how:

* The teacher selects several books (2 novels, 2 nonfiction texts, 1 magazine) based on student interest and ability.
* Students may write a request for new books at any time. This written request is housed in the student book log inside the box.
* Students may bring additional books from home or the library to add to the book box (with teacher approval).
* Students ALWAYS have something interesting and appropriate to read without having to wander around looking for books.
* Students are exposed to titles they might not have otherwise picked up.

My students and I love using book boxes!!!

However, over the last eight years my plastic book boxes have begun to crack and break. I got to thinking - How would this sound to a student: Welcome to fifth grade! Here's your broken book box!


Solution - new boxes! However, magazine files are expensive... and I'm cheap. So I decided to purchase plain cardboard magazine files. I found them for under $1.00 apiece at Bags Unlimited
But who wants a brown cardboard box? Not very engaging if you ask me.


So this year, my students will be decorating their own book boxes. We'll use collage and drawings and make them beautiful! I made mine last night:

The best part is -
Making my own box made ME excited about learning. It made ME want to fill the box with awesome books. If it can do that for me, the person who came up with the idea just as a cheap way to have new boxes, what could it do for my students???

And that's how it hit me - by decorating their own box, my students will have a sense of ownership and they will be more engaged in their own SSR experience.

Student-decorated book box:

Much better than a broken plastic box!!!

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  1. The box prices have more than doubled. I wonder if cereal boxes would work.

  2. The price decreases dramatically if you purchase in bulk - I bought 24 boxes for $24.30. I just checked, and that price is still listed on the site. I bought the third size, listed for magazines.

    However, cereal boxes would also work. I know several teachers that have used them. The problem is that that they fall apart very quickly because the cardboard is so thin.