Making Dewey Fun! A Roundup of Ideas, Games and Activities

The Dewey Decimal System – vital to keeping the library organized. However, it is not the most interesting topic to teach. Over the years I have tried countless ways of teaching my students how nonfiction books are organized in the library without putting them to sleep! Some of my ideas have been successful and others I would rather forget about.

In my store, I have quite a few Dewey Decimal products from PowerPoint introductions, bingo games, worksheets, and my best-selling task card sets. But today I want to share with you some free ideas (minus a few supplies). They are activities that are sure to spice up your lessons on Dewey. I want to be totally honest and let you know that some of these are not my original ideas but ones I have picked up from Pinterest and social media at one time or another. 

1. Word clouds

Word clouds are an image made up of words related to a specific topic or subject. They work wonderfully for the Dewey Decimal system. You can do these with almost any grade level. One way is to assign a team or group of students to a Dewey category. Give them time to look through the books and come up with a list of subjects and topics that can be found in the category. Then they can create their word cloud. You can create word clouds on any device that you have access to. Below are some of the apps and sites that I like to use for creating word clouds.

  • has a simple word cloud creator
  • provides a ton of features and options
  • is one of the more well known
  • There is an add-on to create word clouds in google docs

2. Dewey Relay Race

This activity will definitely get your students up and moving around. Come up with a list of call numbers and write them on index cards. Divide the class into teams. Have each team form a line. Give the first student in each line a call number to find. When you say “go” the students will race to the shelves to find a book that matches that call number. Once they find it they will race back and the next student goes. Play until time is up or all the students have had a chance to go. If you have the students bring the book to you to verify it is correct, you might want to plan on taking a few minutes at the end of the lesson to have the students help you re-shelve the books and straighten the shelves.

3. Dewey Blocks

I don’t have a catchy name for this activity, maybe you can come up with one. Basically, take a set of blocks (Duplo blocks work really well for this because of their size) but you can use any kind. On the blocks tape a piece of paper with book titles or book topics/subjects. Then have the students put only the blocks together that belong in the same Dewey category. You could also do this with call numbers, especially if you want students to practice putting call numbers in order to the second or third decimal point.

4. Popcorn Dewey

This activity will work best as a center activity. Print out the popcorn bag template. On the popcorn, label write the Dewey category you want to review. Then cut out the popcorn pieces. On each piece write a book title. The students will sort the popcorn pieces into the correct Dewey bag. You could also use this for genres and have students sort books by genre.

To make it easier to create your own activity, I added an editable PowerPoint template to the resource library. All you have to do is type and print. There is a color and black and white version.

5. Ring Toss

Borrow a bunch of cones from your P.E. teacher or buy some cheap ones at the Dollar store or Oriental Trading. Set them up and tape the categories of the Dewey Decimal System to each cone. Then have the students take turns throwing a ring onto the cones. Whichever cone the ring goes on they have to come up with a book title or subject in that Dewey category. 

6. Pictionary and Charades

For these games, you will need to write book titles or subjects onto slips of paper. Put them into a bag or an envelope. Divide the class into teams. Have one student pull out a slip of paper. If you are playing Pictionary the student will have to try and draw what is on the paper and the students have to guess the Dewey category the book or topic goes in (not just what they are trying to draw). So if they are drawing a church the answer will be the 200’s category or Religion. For charades, the student will have to act out what is on the paper and other students will try to guess the Dewey category. Of course, students will likely get very excited and boisterous while playing these games, so plan accordingly! 

7. Sorting

Take a large piece of poster board and create pockets or slots on it. Label each pocket or slot with a Dewey category going in order from 000 – 999. Then write book titles on pieces of paper and have the students sort the titles into the correct Dewey category. You can also create book spines and have students put them in order as well.

Hopefully, you found a new idea you can use with your students to make learning about Mr. Dewey and his system just a little more interesting.