Flashback: the school was in Far Rockaway, the decade was the ‘80s, and the librarian was Mrs. Antosofsky… Our class visited the library once a week, sat in assigned seats, and learned the Dewey Decimal System and how to use the card catalog. It was a sunny room on the third floor, and it was my source for Nancy Drew and various other yellowing hardcover titles. However, half of my memories of the time I spent in Mrs. Antosofsky’s room had nothing to do with novels. I sat next to Juan, and Juan was my source for Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. My parents wouldn’t let me see any Freddy or Jason movies, so, over the years, Juan gave me a (whispered) play by play of every film, in delicious gory detail – he made faces and used a lot of hand gestures to describe the scenes. Storytime with Juan allowed my imagination to fill in the gaps, just like a book!
This month is School Library Month, and the official theme chosen by the American Association of School Librarians is Lives change @ your library®, so I would like to share an ‘about me’ lesson that I did a few years ago. The lesson is called ‘My Dui Bio’, it is good for the middle grades, and it gives students a text-to-self connection to the Dewey Decimal System. Modify as you see fit!
For the intro, or hook, explain that Melville Dewey was all about efficiency, to the point that he was into spelling reform and even went by ‘Melvil Dui’. Have students make their names more efficient, by cutting out extraneous letters and consonants, and then have them share these with the class. Have the students put their new, efficient name at the top of a piece of paper (or a bookmark sized piece of cardstock, for a fun takeaway).
For your mini-lesson, explain the logic and basic structure for the Dewey Decimal System. Tell them to imagine themselves as newborn babes in the world, becoming gradually more aware. For each of the Dewey categories, show the students a book that represents part of your ‘My Dui Bio’, and ask them to think about their answer to the question. They can also share their answers with a partner (for a think-pair-share activity).
100s – Who am I? Philosophy and psychology books.
200s – Where did I come from? Religion books.
300s – Who is that person over there? Social Science books.
400s – How do I communicate with them? Language books (if your first language wasn’t English, or you grew up in another country, show a book for that foreign language).
500s – What kind of environment is this we’re in? Science books.
600s – How can we make our lives easier? Technology books.
700s – What can we create to pass time and have fun? Arts and recreation books.
800s – How can we use words for creativity and fun? Literature books (at this point, explain to students that fiction is 813, but there is so much of it that it is shelved separately, with an assumed 813 – efficiency! Mention that poetry is 811).
900s – How can we use words to record our existence? History and geography books (explain that biographies are 920, and they are sometimes separated like fiction).
Next, you will send the students to the shelves and give them 10 minutes to find at least 6 books from different categories that will represent their ‘My Dui Bio’.
Once they get back to their seats, have them share the books they chose with a partner or with a group, and then have your students write down the call numbers for their books below their name on their paper or bookmark – no titles, just call numbers! Have 2-3 students share their list of call numbers and representative books with the class.
Summary – explain that the Dewey Decimal System helps organize ideas, and it also helps organize location! Have your students reshelf their books; otherwise this lesson will lead to piles of books everywhere after teaching it 20 times in a week!
If you have to write a formal lesson plan, take a look at the Common Core standard [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9] and these AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner: [1.1.4], [2.2.4], [4.1.6], and [4.4.2].
Try this lesson out in your school library and let me know how it goes! And thank you for all you do to inspire our next generation.