Blogger Stacy Dillon

C’mon down to the 600s!

It seems that once a year or so, the professional conversation turns to Dewey; specifically the Dewey Decimal System.  “Dewey’s dead!”, they cry.  “It’s an antiquated system.  Folks can’t use it.”

I am here to say that I embrace Dewey, my students are engaged learning the system and at the end of it all, they end up teaching other students and parents how it works.

The DDC is a great way to get kids thinking about systems.  By the time my students reach 3rd and 4th grade when I explicitly teach the system, they have heard me say “Follow me over to the 636s…you’ll find your dog books there”, or “Come over to the 398.2s…the folktales live there” hundreds of times, so the seed is planted.  They already know that non-fiction books are arranged by what they’re about, and now they are going to learn the basic ins and outs of the system.

Over the years I gave found that hands on activities are the way to go.  I have collected various objects and dumped them on the ground and told the students to sort.  I have taped the main categories to the wall, shown the students a picture and asked them to move their bodies to the category they thought suited the picture best (and justify their answer, of course).  And this year, the students were broken up into small groups and asked to develop commercials convincing others to “C’mon down to the 600s!”  Not only are these activities fun, but they get students thinking about DDC as a system, and more importantly talking about it.

Did I come up with all of these ideas on my own?  Of course not.  I found the commercial idea, and sorting book idea online.  I tweaked them to fit my audience and moved on from there.  Fourth graders were treated to the Melvil Dewey Rap (which I found via the ALSC Blog!), and now we have a student who wants to perform it in front of the school.

So no…Dewey is not dead.  Not in my book.


  1. Lisa

    Great ideas. I like the sorting activity – who knows? Maybe you’re creating our future catalogers! 😉

  2. Debbie

    Just showed the Melvil Dewey Rap to my 8th graders, and they loved it.

  3. Stacy Dillon

    The best thing about the DDC in my opinion is that it is a great way to really get kids thinking about systems….how they work, why there is no perfect one, and why we need them. Each year some kid who has not had library at the top of their lists of favorite subjects lights up once they “get” how the books are arranged and can claim a favorite section!

  4. Heather

    I am actually teaching “classification/Dewey” to my 1st grade students.

    I typed up note cards with call numbers on them. I made sure to type ones that I had many copies of like (E Bre) or (E Seu).

    Then on my Smartboard, we created a “map of the Easy/Everyone section”. I related it to a GPS and called it the Easy Neighborhood. We practiced A-Z order and I wrote not he smart board where each new letter started.

    Then, one by one I gave the students a call number card. They had to come up and point to the smart board and name the row they would go down. (I have the aisles numbered). Gave them the call number card, and a shelf marker. If they came back with the correct card I gave them $2 of our school cash. When they came back they either read the book or did a picture walk until everyone was finished. THis gave me time to guide students that got stuck.

    With some of the classes, I was able to move to non-fiction section on the 2nd day of their rotation. Others, we did the “scavenger hunt” again in the Easy/Everyone section.

    I was so surprised at how amazing they did in 1st grade. Can’t wait to see how well they are in 5th grade.

    1. Stacy Dillon

      Wow, Heather! These are great ideas! Getting kids to understand that the books are arranged according to a system is the main idea, and getting them on-board as 1st graders is fantastic. This year I also asked my 4th graders to try to figure out how they would arrange a library if it were up to them. They were studying inventors at the time, and made the connection that a system of organization could be an invention as well.

  5. Pingback: Done with Dewey | ALSC Blog

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