Skip to main content

Book Baskets in the K-2 Classroom

(These baskets would work well for book baskets. They just need fewer books in each one.)

Do you use book baskets in your classroom? Do you want to but just can’t find the time to manage them? Do you wonder if you are using them in the most effective manner? Read on to find out how to use Book Baskets effectively in your classroom and manage them quickly and easily.

Do I need Book Baskets?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Did I say yes? Yes!

I’ll be the first to admit, I did it wrong when I first started using book baskets. In the beginning it was just a basket of books on the table for Self Selected Reading (SSR) time. As time went on, I figured out how to use individualized book baskets in a meaningful and productive way. All students were on task and they didn’t take much effort to manage.

First Steps….

Get a basket for every student and a few spares for new students. Find a place to house them permanently in your classroom where they are easy for students to access. That’s it!!! Setting them up is that easy.

Don’t go grab a bunch of books and stick them in the baskets. You’re going to populate your baskets with the books you use during Guided Reading. In this way, students have books they are familiar with to practice independently. You’re not going to change them out too frequently either, because you want them to have some books below their current reading level because this is how children develop fluency and confidence.


Sara, aged 6, an above average reader in September of first grade. Let’s look in her book basket……

Level E – How an Orange Grows

Level E – Miss Potter is an Otter

Level F – My Best Friend

Level F – Funny Fish

Level G – Who Makes this Sound?

Right now, Sara has these 5 books in her basket. She’s been in school for 3 or 4 weeks now and has done Guided Reading lessons with all of the books above. All the students in her reading group have the same books. After working with the book for 3-5 days in guided reading, the students were told to put the book in their book basket. By now, the level E books are very easy for Sara to read but as she rereads them she is developing fluency. Another benefit is that she is paired up at center time with Angel (see her basket below) and she reads these books that are above Angel’s reading level aloud and Angel gets the benefit of hearing a fluent reader and being exposed to some vocabulary above that which she can read. Notice also, that she has a mixture of literary and non-fiction type texts as any good book basket does.

Angel, aged 6, a below average student in first grade. Let’s look in her book basket….

Level aa – I Like

Level aa – This Is A …

Level A – Mom and Dad

Level A – Jobs

Level A – At The Zoo

Notice that Angel also has 5 books but she only has two different levels. Angel may be moving slower because she had to do some letter sound work at the beginning of the year instead of jumping straight into reading. She might also have a little stack of sight words on index cards to practice. Her books are all emergent readers with repetitive text (“I like dogs. I like cats. I like birds.”) She can figure out the text by looking at the pictures and using the repetitive pattern. However, when she is in centers with Sara and they get out their book baskets, she is also a 6 year old, so she is interested in the books that Sara has too. They may look at all their books or I might suggest they take turns reading aloud one book from their basket. “Ms. Foster, why didn’t I get that book that Sara has?” “Because I only have 6 copies of each book so I can’t give the same book to everyone at the same time. You’ll get that one in your basket later.” They generally buy this as an excuse, there isn’t really a need to go into their differing needs as readers. However, as the year progresses, you may want to set goals and help them begin to monitor their own progress, turning their differences into something to be celebrated and worked on.

Managing the baskets

In the data binder that I keep at my reading table, I have pre-assessment data on each student and running records showing their progress throughout the year. Each student has their own tab in the binder so I can flip to their information quickly. On the back side of the tab divider I write the books as I give them to the students. After they have more than 3 or 4 levels in their basket, I collect the first ones I gave them, and mark them off the list. I do this as part of their guided reading group and it only takes a few moments. When I give a group a book for their basket, I quickly jot the level and title (or an abbreviation of it:) on the tab divider for each of those 4 or 5 students. It literally takes less than one minute. When I’m ready to take back a book, I ask students to bring their book baskets to their reading group and I tell them which book to turn in and mark through it on their tab divider. This also takes less than a minute. It also keeps them honest, because those guided reading sets are expensive, belong to the school and you will need them year after year so you don’t want them going home in book bags. Below is a sample of what Sara and Angel’s tab dividers might look like in December.


  • Level E – How an Orange Grows
  • Level E – Miss Potter is an Otter
  • Level F – My Best Friend
  • Level F – Funny Fish
  • Level G – Who Makes this Sound?
  • Level G – Furry’s New Friends
  • Level H – Furry Has a Nightmare
  • Level H – Water Everywhere
  • Level I – Rocks, Rocks, Rocks
  • Level I – A Parrot Named Ox
  • Level I – Airplanes
  • Level J – George Goes Bonkers

Sara still has three levels in her basket, 5 books, (it’s okay to have more but keep it under about 8).  She stagnated a little bit on level I and we worked on three books at that level instead of two before she accomplished it.  However, I am not concerned because she is already starting level J which is the goal for the end of first grade and it’s only December!  I’m going to be careful with Sara and her group because I don’t want to just keep pushing them UP through the levels.  I want to make sure to give them a good solid foundation by looking at the many standards they can master at each level even if they can easily read the texts.  How is comprehension?  Other grammar skills I can include such as compound words, commas, etc.?

Now let’s look at Angel.

  • Level aa – I Like
  • Level aa – This Is A …
  • Level A – Mom and Dad
  • Level A – Jobs
  • Level A – At The Zoo
  • Level A – I Can Help
  • Level B – Bear’s Fish
  • Level B – Things That Go
  • Level B – Cars
  • Level B – Pets Are Fun

Angel is not progressing at a pace that will allow her to keep up let alone catch up.  I would already have an intervention in place for Angel.  Just from the book basket point of view, I would leave more books in the basket because it is taking her longer to get through each level so she is going to be tired of the books more quickly.  I also might add in items such as additional sight words to work on or a “PALS” reading segment, and so on.

The book baskets are differentiated to each student’s needs and are useful for independent reading, reading with a partner, and self selected reading.

I hope these tips will help you boldly incorporate book baskets into your primary classroom!

Do’s and Don’ts for Word Walls

Thinking about creating a word wall?
Wanting to use your word wall more effectively?
Not sure how to use a word wall?

Every elementary classroom should have one.  Read on to learn how to use yours effectively.

8 Do’s  for Word Walls

  1. Do put it where students can reach all words
  2. Do begin with a blank word wall
  3. Do add words as you work on them
  4. Do interact with the wall daily
  5. Do teach students to use it as a resource for writing
  6. Do pull words off to create sentences
  7. Do let students “teach” using pointers and slappers
  8. Do have fun with it

8 Don’ts for Word Walls

  1. Don’t put it near the ceiling
  2. Don’t put up all the words before the 1st day
  3. Don’t put up words without students
  4. Don’t ignore the word wall
  5. Don’t forget about the word wall
  6. Don’t treat it like a decoration
  7. Don’t forbid students to touch it
  8. Don’t be afraid to use it

Let’s talk about Word Walls!  I have been teaching long enough to remember when Word Walls were something new.  They were originally part of a program called “4 Blocks” by Patricia Cunningham.  I remember getting the training and    being excited about using a Word Wall in my classroom.  Since then they have become a mainstream component of elementary classrooms.  Unfortunately, not everyone is using them to their full advantage.  With very little effort, a Word Wall can be a powerful tool for student learning.

I have provided you with a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts for Word Walls.  Let’s dig a little deeper into the Do’s and look at how to use the walls effectively.

  1. Do put it where students can reach all words

Dedicate a wall in your classroom.  I have taught in many sizes and shapes of rooms too so I know it can be a challenge  because of activboards, doors, windows, computer hookups, etc.  However, there is always one wall that can be used.  A large bulletin board can work too.  For the wall to be effective, students need to be able to see it, touch it and get up close to it.  If you look closely at this picture you will see that some of the lower letters are not crisp and smooth because they have been touched and rubbed against as students worked around the word wall.  A Word Wall is a tool it is not going to stay clean and neat all the time. And that’s okay!

       2. Do begin with a blank Word Wall

It’s tempting to go ahead and put it all up during preplanning.  Don’t do it!  Put up the labels and if parents question you during open house tell them “We will put up the words together in class as a learning activity!”  Here is a picture of a little sweetie (clipart mask hides her true identity;) on the first or second day of school.  Notice the blank Word Wall behind her.

 3. Do add words as you work on them

Incorporate sight words into your ELA lesson.  It’s a standard and you are going to cover it anyway so be systematic about it.  In kindergarten, teach a word, put it on the word wall and then practice writing it and using it in sentences.  In first grade, put up the kindergarten “popcorn” words quickly in the first few days and then add others each week or as needed.  In second grade, the first three Dolch lists will go up quickly because they should have been learned in first grade.  You might focus more on adding math and science words as you learn them.  But leave the sight words up there, many students will need them for spelling in their writing throughout second grade.

  1. Do interact with the wall daily

Use the Word Wall everyday.  Some days you might conduct an entire lesson using the Word Wall.  Other days, it might just be a sponge activity while students are washing hands for lunch.

  1. Do teach students to use it as a resource for writing

“Teacher, how do you spell…..?”  The spelling issue can fatally disrupt the writing process for many students.  By teaching them to use the Word Wall (and accompanying personal dictionary; if you like…) you can eliminate many of  these problems.  Students enjoy being independent and the process of looking for and finding the word on the Word Wall and then writing it is conducive to long term memory storage.  Win. Win.

  1. Do pull words off to create sentences

Physically pulling the words off the Word Wall to create sentences helps students experience the meaning of each individual part and see how they work together as a whole.  Best practice; ask students to pull the words off and see what they can do!  I will never forget little Jose who after a similar lesson in my first grade classroom, used the Word Wall to write the sentence “I like my teacher.”  It was the first sentence he had ever written!  He cut it out of his journal and gave it to me.  I still have it taped to my pencil holder.  That was just the beginning for little Jose and many others who were energized by the power to create meaning with words!

  1. Do let students “teach” using pointers and slappers

I allow students to use pointers and slappers during whole class work with the Word Wall but I also have the Word Wall as a center during literacy centers.  I have to model this at the beginning of the year, but it is always a favorite with my students.  Here is a picture of a sassy little teacher going to town.  See the feet of her “student” in the rocking chair to the left.  Both students are engaged and learning.

Consider this: when a child says “Let me see..” they always hold their hands out to touch the thing they want to see.  We “see” things better when we touch them.  Allow your students to touch the words and the pointers and fully experience the Word Wall.

*a slapper is a flyswatter used to slap words. It’s very fun:)

  1. Do have fun with it                                                                                      Sing the words, dance while you read them.  Have fun!  Want more ideas for ways to have fun with a Word Wall?  Stay tuned for an upcoming product called Fun With Word Walls.  Follow me on to receive notifications when I post new products!
Here are some products that will make putting up and using a Word Wall as simple as pie!

                                                     Word Wall Words    

                                                       Pirate Word Wall 

                                                     Polka Dot Word Wall

                                               Elmer Inspired Word Wall

                                                      Personal Dictionary

Nutella Truffles


No, I haven’t decided to turn this into a cooking blog. LOL!   The Nutella Truffles are the teacher gifts my daughter is giving to her teachers for Christmas.  Rockdale County, where I teach, got out on Friday but the county we live in goes until this Thursday so I was in the unique position of actually having time to do something special for AnaBeth’s teachers.

The recipe is below if you would like to try them:)

Happy Holidays!



Nutella Truffles  (makes about 30 good sized truffles)

1 cup Nutella

1/2 cup crushed vanilla wafers

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Mix thoroughly and add vanilla extract (about 1 – 1.5tsp) until ingredients bind well

Will be slightly dry.  If it’s too dry to roll, you can add a few drops of vegetable oil

Rub butter on your {clean} hands and roll into 1″ balls

Immediately roll in crushed hazelnuts (the butter from your hands helps the nuts stick)

That’s it!  Doesn’t need refrigerating because there is no cream.