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The Tibrarian's Corner | Sorting Out Our Knowledge of DDS
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I was so excited to go to work last week because I was planning to finish up my fourth grade Dewey Decimal System unit with a new activity I just created.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do this because we were out of school for the ENTIRE WEEK due to snow and “Polar Vortex” temperatures!  Luckily, there is always next week, but I thought I would share the activity with my fellow Tibrarians in advance.

I have been teaching my fourth graders all about the Dewey Decimal System for the past several weeks, and now it is time to see what they have learned.  If you would like more lesson plans and information about teaching DDS, check out pages 53, 56-59, and 132-133 in The Tibrarian Handbook.  I usually like to do some sort of project with students at the end of my Dewey unit, but this year has been so crazy with snow days and cancelled classes that I wanted to do something more compact instead.  I thought about it for awhile and as I was thinking, I asked myself “What new knowledge/skills do I want students to have acquired by the end of this unit?”  I decided that I really wanted students to be able to use their knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System to quickly and efficiently locate materials within the library.  Coming to this conclusion allowed me to create the following activity:

The Dewey Decimal Sort


  • 10 baskets, boxes, paper bags, or other containers labeled with the 10 Dewey categories (000’s-900’s)
  • Dewey Sorting Cards (MS Word)
  • Answer Key (attached to sorting card document above)


  • Prior to the activity, label each container with a different Dewey category.  Make enough copies of the sorting cards so that there is one set for each of your groups.  Cut the cards apart and bundle them into piles for each group.  Make sure to label the card sets so that you know which cards belongs to each group (i.e. write a 1 on the back of each card in group #1, and a 2 on the back of each card in group #2, etc.) You can also laminate the cards at this point, if you would like to use them from year to year.
  • Right before students arrive, set out the labeled containers in a row where all students will be able to reach them.
  • When students arrive, separate them into groups (I will use 6 groups) and send each group to a table or separate location in the library.
  • Explain to students that you will be giving each group a set of “task cards”.  Tell them that each card describes a task that someone wants to complete.  Give the example “John is visiting Italy this summer and he wants to learn about the notable sites in each of the different cities which he will visit.  You would send John to the 900’s for books about a place (geography).”  Tell students that it is their jobs to decide which of the 10 Dewey categories each person should visit in order to accomplish their goal.
  • Encourage students to read through each card carefully and to discuss each one as a group before sending a representative to place the card in the corresponding “Category Basket”.  You can decide if you want students to sort all of their cards first and then place them in the baskets at the end, or if you want them to visit the baskets throughout the activity (as they decide on where to put each card).  I plan to use the later method, as I feel it will be more exciting for students to keep them moving back and forth from the baskets to the tables.
  • Give students a time limit and then set them to work.  Once the time has expired, you can use the answer key and the numbers on the backs of the cards to check how each group did.  If you have time, go through each task card and tell students where it belonged so that they hear the correct answers.
  • It’s always fun to award a prize to the group who placed the most cards in the correct baskets.  I am thinking of creating a poster that lists the names of the students from the winning teams and hanging it in a prominent place in the library.  I will title the poster “Dewey Decimal All-Stars” or something cheesy like that!  Students always love to brag!

Let me know if you use this activity and any suggestions you have to improve it!  Stay warm, Tibrarians!

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