Library Activities to Make Check-Out Time Run Smoothly

It’s library check-out time, and you’re wishing you had six more arms and three sets of eyes. Between checking out books, figuring out overdue books, and managing other students in the library – it can feel like a full-time job for at least three people. And yet, it’s just you. 

I wanted to share some library activities that can help check-out time run smoothly. These activities are meant to keep other students busy and on task, while you man the check-out counter. I’ll also give some library activities for students with overdue books, who are unable to check out a new book.

#1 Keep a Box of Weeded Out Books

When you go through and weed out old books, instead of tossing them or leaving them in the hallway, keep them in a box. During check-out time, allow students to search through the box and find a book they like. You can even scatter them on a table and let students peruse them.

The idea is that students will be busy searching for another book, and they now have a bonus book to take home! That is definitely a win-win!

You might want to put colored tape on the spines of the book, so students don’t confuse their borrowed books with the weeded-out books. 

#2 Play Boggle

This is a really fun literacy-based game, and I promise it will capture your students’ attention. Essentially, boggle is a small board with six dice on it. Each side of the dice has a different letter. You put the plastic cap on top, shake the dice, and then begin hunting for words.

You find words by connecting letters. You can move up, down, left, right, or diagonally. As long as the letters are next to each other, you can connect them! Then, students write down all the words they can find.

You can even have students then take the words they find and create a story out of it, to add on an extra challenge.

#3 Look at Almanac and Encyclopedias

In the age of digital media, paper text has become a lot more interesting. I’m always shocked by how much my students enjoy looking at old almanacs and encyclopedias. You can let students simply flip through and look at anything that interests them, or have a little bowl with words and topics they can draw and then find that topic.

Again, you can go a step further with this activity by having students summarize or write facts about what they learn in the resources. 

#4 Puzzles and Coloring Pages

Another easy library activity is having puzzles and coloring pages ready to go. I would print out several coloring pages in advance, just in case you need a quick activity. You can have students color mandalas or even bookmarks.

I have noticed that my older students tend to take longer to complete these activities, but it’s still a great option for younger students.

#5 Logic Puzzles

If you are in a brain-twister type of mood, then this library activity is perfect. You can give students word searches, logic puzzles, riddles, mazes, and more to solve. You can even have some rubix cubes! 

If you are using printable logic puzzles, I suggest putting them in a dry-erase pocket, so you can wipe them off and use them again. This will save you time and save a few trees along the way.

#6 Create a Joke or Riddle

This is a fun library activity that will also get your students working together. Set out some note cards and something to write with. On one side of the notecard, students will write a joke or riddle, on the opposite side, they will write the answer.

Then, have students put the finished notecards into an index card file or box. Students can pull out random jokes and riddles, and try to solve them.

#7 Makerspace

If you have the space in your library, consider putting in a makerspace. This works great as an early finisher activity. For instance, if a student has already completed their logic puzzle, then they can move to the makerspace next.

At your makerspace, you can have all sorts of materials and tasks for students. You might include LEGOS, tanagrams, origami paper, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and more. You can let students create random items or give them specific instructions.

Now, what about the students who can’t check out a book before they have an overdue library book? There are a few library activities you can set up specifically for these students, so they aren’t running haywire in the library!

#1 Select a Temporary Book

You can let the student still explore the library and select a book. Then, they can spend time reading while they are in the library and leave the book behind when they leave. 

Or you can give them the book for 24 hrs. If they don’t return the overdue book the next day, they return the temporary book.

#2 Write about the Lesson

While other students are checking out books, have your overdue book kiddos write about the lesson for the day. This isn’t a punishment, so don’t make it seem like it is! Instead, you’re just extending the lesson for these particular students, so they have an activity while others checkout.

Give them a question or two, similar to an exit ticket, to complete. This can be a 3-2-1 of the library lesson or a summary of what they learned.

#3 Make a Postcard

Have students make a postcard for themselves. They will go home with it to help them remember their overdue book. The hope is that they remember to return the book, so they can check out something new the next time they visit the library.

Keep an eye on students who avoid checking out a book because they want to complete the library activities or because their friend isn’t checking out. Typically, I limit the activities to students who have checked out (or can’t check out due to overdue books).

I hope these library activities will help make your next check-out time seamless!

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