Monday, March 14, 2011

Teaching the Dewey

During the last number of  years of teaching library, I have really flip flopped on how much Dewey teaching I do. I hate teaching skills out of context or outside of real life situations. It just seems to make the skills irrelevant and boring.  In hindsight, I think it is also reflective of me not having very many exciting ways to teach the concepts. 

I realize that I have unconsciously relegated Dewey just to a retrieval system of physical addresses. I want kids using the OPAC as soon as possible and look for the books they like by keyword or subject searches.  This has not really served the needs of my younger patrons.  My K to 3 students are essentially shelf browsers.  They are browsers by necessity since the use of the OPAC is onerous and not very productive.  These patrons have limited success in locating the  exact call number on the shelves.

I have put some signage up in the library regarding popular Dewey sections and used smallish icons that  represent the section.  I have matched these icons to the icons I use in the visual search queries I have created in Destiny Library Manager. I now see that I need to vastly increase the number of signs I have and perhaps make the pictures on those signs larger.  The subject terms seem to resonate less with younger patrons than do the pictures.

I think reading through the Dewey and pre-selecting books for younger grades out of these sections is very productive and necessary.  I have just been doing this with my Grade 1s over the last few weeks.  Some kids are resistant to having their book choices limited to about forty books just laid out on the library tables.  However, once they have gotten over this, they are finding much better and exciting reads.  I certainly have a lot to learn about what appeals.  This pre-selection of books and comparing and contrasting them with much more difficult books from these sections has also been productive.  Students are becoming slightly more skilled at examining nonfiction books and identifying what will make them a "just right read."  Previously, I just had grade 1s whoe were picture browsers. These were students who only consumedd nonfiction for pictures and reading of any of the text was totally irrelevant.  Now they are thinking about whether they can read it themselves or whether or not it would be a good book to have read to them (they realize that some books just don't lend themselves to having an adult read them to their child--too long, too complicated-etc).

I think the more time I spend on guiding students through the subjects of Dewey and promoting informed shelf browsing, it will help my nonfiction section to better utilized. I have many great books that just don't circulate.  There are Dewey sections that students just don't visit.  Overt and systematic study of each Dewey category will help overcome this.

I think I am going to reinstitute some of my flash card and library mapping activities.  I also think that having students create posters or advertisements for the Dewey categories would be a useful project.  I don't have a lot of wall space for such posters but I think the activity itself and a little show and tell would be valuable.

I have used some websites and games to help with the Dewey.  I have been using Order in the Library for years and some of the thinkquests.  I am really surprised a truly professionally produced game package or subscription website has not yet been developed for teaching the Dewey.  Maybe this is a moneymaker idea for some librarian/programmer out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment