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Musical Bookcases


Here’s a fun and easy to set up, book selection activity that you can basically do at the drop of a hat…or beat! (see what I did there?)  I am always looking for ways to beef up our circulation numbers, aka, getting more books into the hands of kids.

I was wanting an activity I could ru before the holidays that was fast and fun with a very little preparation. I’m kind of lazy like that – especially right before the holidays.

I’ve loved doing Speed Dating with Books. I’ve blogged about it here in 2017, the year before in 2016,  and first in 2013.

But that activity takes hours to handpick hundreds of books, arrange on tables by genre or subjects, decorate with props and signage, and then afterwards re-shelve all those not chosen.

This is a LOT easier! You only need 2-3 things:

1. Music (I used a boombox circa 1995)
2. Kids
3. Optional: Scratch & Sniff Bookmarks

The scratch & sniff bookmarks are for the first 5-8 kids checking out books. If I have to see two ELA classes in one period, this gets them moving. I also have a free round where they can go ANYwhere!

This activity was a little crazy, super fun, & very kinesthetic! It was a great way for kids to get up and move into areas of our Fiction section, or library, and examine books they may not have gravitated towards and get to know new titles and genres. AND….check out books!

Some of my kiddos gravitate towards one part of our Library time and time again. They don’t really explore the other parts of our Fiction section, so this activity allowed them to see new nooks and crannies of our collection! Exploration For the Win!

Here are my directions – I wanted to flip the classroom (and save my voice), so I recorded a voiceover with pictures in iMovie after first creating a preso in GSuite Slides.  Feel free to go to FILE > Make a Copy and have fun with it.

———–Musical Bookcases Directions———–

Can I just say I kinda hate iMovie? I have always (since 1992) been an Apple
grrl but man oh man, I sweat and creatively curse whilst making an
iMovie. They say that when editing a movie, each minute of video equals one
hour of editing – but I swan, for me it’s double or treble that!

Here’s what it looked like in action. 

Aside: Don’t you hate when you cringe at hearing your own voice? I think we all do. Except Keith Morisson, he’s a god and his voice is like velvet. Love the Dateline podcast, btw.

Practical Tips: 

My students did the best job when I had them circle the fiction section all the way around about 3 times before I stopped the music the first time. I’m guessing so they could learn the pattern.

Played the music, had the kids move around, didn’t care if they ran a little (they got a kick out of that) and stopped the music when I made sure most of the kids were near a bookcase. I had the kids NOT re-shelve the books on purpose – leave it on the end of the shelf.

For music, if you don’t have a nifty cool boombox and CD’s like me (OK, Boomer!) you can use a Bluetooth speaker or a laptop with YouTube, Amazon music, or Spotify. Make sure it’s either a groanworthy oldie or a clean version of a hip new song. Show them you’re woke.

Yes, the shelves will get messy. But I’d rather straighten the shelves than re-shelve hundreds of books. I would also suggest a shelf read after the activity – just in case.

• Side note: Is it just me or do you HATE when kids push back all the books to the back of the bookcase? I love them to be on the tippy edge of the shelf so they can be seen better, right? I’m always hugging them & pushing them forward. 

From a reader comment: 

What a fantastic idea, this really resonated with me! I am all about a hands-on approach with learning, what a great kinesthetic exercise as well as a learning tool to expose the students to sections of their library they may not have visited. This would go over well at the elementary level with student engagement (less awkward student movement due to being afraid to dance in front of their peers). There are many options to expand this idea with a variety of music genres and possible trivia add-ons and prizes. You might even be able to have the students do some shelf reading to find books that were in the wrong place! I’m impressed with how easy this would be to throw into action. Thanks so much! Kelli

Here’s an anecdote about creating the directions and video with one of my students.

I asked some of my fav & cool kids who hang out with me in the Library for recess, to pose with books telling them it was going to be used in a new activity and that I would be using the pictures in a YouTube video directions with the rest of the school and on this blog— and they gave me consent for that  (some kids did decline – totally cool!) — but when I played the video for the class that one of the kiddos was in, he didn’t like it. At all. He said “I don’t want to be Internet famous!” (if only!) and he asked to be taken out of the video…which, of course, I did! It took some time, and I had to take down the original video on YouTube & put in Darth Vader in his place and reupload it. But I don’t want ANY kid feeling uncomfortable with being in any content I create for the other kiddos.

If you have a shy kid, tell them they can hold the book up covering their whole face. They can recognize their own fingers! 

FACT: Only Lisa Simpson prays for standardized testing. 

Standardized testing has really eaten into our circ
numbers as we spend weeks and months testing.  I am in charge of tech troubleshooting during ALL testing and I proctor ALL the make-up tests. For weeks. Me. Le sigh.

During this time the Library
is periodically closed (I know, the horror!) but it’s necessary to test our kiddos who have
an IEP & require reduced distractions and unlimited time.

Standardized Testing: It’s
not like it’s optional. And I’ve kind of gotten to like my paycheck every two weeks and I DO aspire to my pension someday.

So, when faced with this annoying distraction from teaching and putting books into the hands of kids – remember to be POSITIVE!

It’s easy (and human!) to spiral into griping and moaning about it – because NO ONE REALLY LIKES TESTING. No one. Except the owners of testing companies like Pearson & NWEA celebrating on their yachts.  

I think it was a great activity!  What do you do to bring up your circ numbers….that isn’t a lot of extra work? OK, I’m lazy. LOL

Oh and here’s a few things that I forgot to add – came out whilst  texting with the awesome Jeannie Standal- School Library Consultant  Idaho Commission for Libraries

So excited! I’m going back to Idaho this summer for their Summer
Institute! I was there 5 years ago, very thrilled to get invited back! W00t! (Update: Sadly, this never happened. Covid came – maybe someday!)

Your Turn:  Please share your circ building ideas in the comments below, @GwynethJones on Twitter, or @TheDaringLibrarian on Instagram.

Thanks for reading! 


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