Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dewey Decimal Introduction Lesson Idea

This week in the library, I'll be introducing Dewey Decimals to my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I have an easy-to-prep...This week in the library, I'll be introducing Dewey Decimals to my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I have an easy-to-prep and useful lesson I've done with to introduce Dewey to my students, and I wanted to share it with my Pantser friends.

Objective: This is part one of a two-part lesson. I will post part two next week. In groups, students will classify animals into groups and design a zoo map. The purpose of this activity is to help students understand how Melvil Dewey used similar book traits (genre, subject, author) to classify library books.
Download this activity FREE from Teachers Pay Teachers

Time needed: 40-45 minutes
  1. Giving instructions, students get into groups, handing out cards (5 min)
  2. Student groups sorting cards (15 minutes)
  3. Brief discussion of how each group designed their layout (5 minutes)
  4. Dewey PowerPoint (15-20 minutes)

You will need:

  • flat surface for groups to spread out on (table or floor)
  • animal cards, included FREE in the download link above
  • computers or student cell phones, optional
  • Dewey introduction PowerPoint, included below


  • Print and cut out the 36 animal cards. I print them on different colored cardstock so they don't get mixed up. Use a rubber band to keep them together. Each student group will need one stack of 36 cards.
  • You may choose to have a few computers available for students to look up any animals they are not familiar with.
  • Queue the Dewey introduction PowerPoint.

The Lesson:

  1. Students need to be in groups of 3-5. I usually just have them arrange themselves at the library tables, but students could also choose to use the floor. They need room to spread out their cards on a flat surface.
  2. Hand out the card stacks. Each group needs one stack of 36 cards.
  3. Tell students they are part of a design committee for a new zoo. They are working on the layout of the zoo and need to decide where different animals will be located. The groups should keep their visitors in mind and layout the zoo in a way that it will be easy for visitors to find the animals they want to see most easily. I do NOT give my students any guidance on how to group animals. I do not mention anything about animal groups (such as mammals, birds, etc.), and I do not mention anything about keeping habitats together. They are free to lay out the zoo in any way they like.
  4. As students design their zoos, they may use their phones or a library computer to look up any animals they are not familiar with.
  5. While students work, walk around and listen to their conversations. How are they choosing to organize the animals?
  6. After 15 minutes, ask each student group to describe how they laid out their zoos. To save time, ask them to describe their layout in one or two words. For example: "habitat" or "animal classification" or "alphabetical order."
  7. Bring the different classifications together by summarizing all the groups and bringing the lesson back around to Dewey. For example, "I notice that many of the groups organized their animals by animal classification. This is just what Dewey does in the animal section of the 500s." Or, I notice two groups organized their animals alphabetically by name. This is what Dewey does in the Fiction section when he organized titles by author's last name."
  8. Show the Dewey introduction PowerPoint (below). Tell students that next time, you will introduce the 10 main Dewey sections, zombie-style! (I will post that one next week)
Download this activity FREE from Teachers Pay Teachers


  1. Used it yesterday! Kids loved it! Thank you so much!!

  2. This looks great! Thanks for sharing it.


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