Everything Old Is New Again by Donalyn Miller

For the first time since school ended in June, I opened my classroom door today. I admit that I become more lax about getting my classroom ready with each subsequent year. I have put my classroom together for so long, that I no longer panic about whether or not it is perfect. I know we will get it done in time because we always do.

Don, my husband, is a pro at hanging bulletin boards and setting up computers. Our younger daughter, Sarah, has reorganized my student supplies and classroom library for so many years, that she doesn’t need any help or instructions. I devote my efforts to setting up student files and work stations. After a brief planning session that involved the three of us making a to-do list and drawing a furniture map on the whiteboard, we get started. I am looping with my students from fourth to fifth grade and I reflect on what worked and didn’t work as I consider traffic flow and storage areas.

Watching Don move bookcases while I organized my desk, I couldn’t help directing him a bit, “Center those three bookcases under the window, Honey. Destiny likes to wedge herself in that corner.”

He asked, “What about the other side?”

“That’s Jeremy’s corner.”

Don laughed, “Of course it is!”

Determining where to put our class printer and document camera, I wonder if the children can reach it easily. “Hmm. I not sure this will work, but I will ask Josh about it. He has a good eye for these things.”

From furniture placement to supply storage to blank wall displays, I filtered every decision through what I knew about the individual personalities and needs of my returning students. I looked for ways to change seating, rearrange the writing center, and add touches that would delight them and make our lives easier.

Sorting the new books I purchased or read over the summer, I found myself doing the same thing, “Jaryn will love Sidekicked. I think I will put it on his desk as a surprise. Wait until Makinley sees the new penguin books I bought. She’s going to squeal! I wonder what Hailey will think of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. I know she will enjoy those raccoons.” In years past, I fell back on the books that appealed to a lot of kids like Hatchet, The Lightning Thief, and Dork Diaries when making initial book recommendations to new students. This year, I know what each child likes to read and I can make better book suggestions.

Looking for new books to promote and share excites me and offers a challenge. I can’t fall back on my old standbys because the kids already know them. What can we read that we didn’t read last year? Which books will move us like The One and Only Ivan and Wonder did? Which authors can I introduce students to that they didn’t meet last year? I think new reading experiences are the perfect way to keep our classroom community fresh and interesting. Setting aside Crankee Doodle and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library as our first read alouds, I know these books will be a good start. I can imagine their laughter when they meet Crankee’s horse or hear Mr. Lemoncello’s zany book references.

As I look around my classroom, I can imagine them sprawled on the floor, bent over desks, and searching for books in the library. I know that my classroom won’t be ready until my students are in it. I cannot wait to see them in a few days and hear about their summer adventures. I know we will have many adventures together this year—inside and outside of books.

What books, both new titles and treasured favorites, are you looking forward to sharing with children this year? How do these books help you build your classroom or school community and excite your students about reading?

Donalyn Miller is a fifth grade teacher at Peterson Elementary in Fort Worth, TX. She is the author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp), and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.