Teaching Activities for Dewey Decimal

Updated July 20, 2017

The Dewey Decimal System (DDS) is a library classification system that organises books by genre, such as fiction, mathematics, languages and history, in numerical classes from 0 to 1000. It was invented by American librarian Melvil Dewey in the 1870s and continues to be the forefront library classification systems in the United States. There are a number of ways to approach teaching the complicated system to young readers.

WebQuest Activity

One way to teach the Dewey Decimal System is using the Internet as a resource. Introduce your students to the activity by stating that the library at their school has been knocked over by a construction team and the books were subsequently disorganised. They are to design a handbook that will help the construction team put the library back together in order. Using the Internet and a word processor, student teams will create a book that describes each of the 10 main DDS classes in two or more paragraphs (see Resources for suggestions). Students should mention at last five subjects that fall under each class. This student-led Internet activity is appropriate for older elementary school students.

Huey and Louie

Another approach to teaching the DDS is through stories about other children. Meet Huey and Louie. They are two elementary school students who accidentally knock over a cart of new books in the library. As penance, the librarian assigns them to shelve the books properly using the DDS. Print out the worksheet (see Resource 3), which asks your students to help Huey and Louie by ranking the 10 listed books in number from 0 to 1000. Have the students work individually or in pairs. This activity is appropriate for Grades 3 and up.

Dewey Decimal Bingo

Dewey Decimal Bingo is a fun way for lower elementary grades to approach the DDS, which can seem formidable to younger students. Create a 3 by 3 square grid and make two copies for each student. Then, have the students pick 9 of 10 of the following main Dewey classes (you can write them on the board): Reference Books, Philosophy, Religion, Social Sciences, Language, Natural Science, Technology, Fine Arts, Literature and History. Tell the students to write each of the nine classes in one of the squares on their grid.

Instruct the students to cut out the square for a total of nine individual cards, mix them up and then reglue them onto the second grid paper in random order. Draw the categories from a hat and have students place a dried bean on the category on their paper. Whoever gets three in a row wins.

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About the Author

Hayley Smith is a freelance documentary filmmaker and writer with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies. She has contributed written work to various websites, specializing in topics on the outdoors and Utah skiing.