Learning Dewey Decimal

Dewey Decimal ClassificationsThis is an activity to help students understand why books are shelved in certain areas and have certain call numbers.  Separate students in groups of 3-6.  Provide each group with a bag of library books labeled with the Dewey Decimal system, with varying numbers throughout the classification system.

Ask students about their own collections of books; how do they organize their books at home? Ask for a few responses and then ask students in groups to arrange the books in an order that makes sense to them (this might take 5-7 minutes).  Have each group explain how they organized the books.  Answers might include by size, by color, or alphabetical by author.

Now explain the Dewey Decimal system as a way to help organize so many books in a library.  Identify each section of the classification system, and ask students to hold up books when they find one that fits that section.

This is a great activity that makes the organization system in the library understandable for younger students.  The opening activity makes the content relevant for students by them how they organize their own books at home.  Students engage in a hands-on activity that asks them to manipulate items they might look for themselves in the library.  The activity provides concrete context for a system that is unique and sometimes confusing.

For older students, this activity can be taken a step further by providing some books without call numbers and having students figure out what section each book should be in, providing reasons why.  Older students could consider new classification systems with different topics.

This activity can also be adapted for the Library of Congress classification system.

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