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Last week I asked for tips in helping our grade 6 students understand Dewey
better. Here are the responses I received... Thanks for all your ideas!

Kimberly Titus
Library Technician
Pollard Meadows Elementary
Edmonton, AB, Canada


I use the concept of money to explain the decimal relationship.  245.6(0) is
more that 245.087 for example.

Cathy Johnson
Freedom High School
Oakley,  CA  94561


I find if I relate Dewey to money it works the best.  I say that the 001.
are broke and only have one dollar where as the 999.87 are much richer.  The
kids who understand money get this right away.  I usually test them using
some random numbers like 324.56 and 324.20... which comes first.  If they
can answer three questions right, then they can shelve.  If you are confused
as to my high school status, I was a middle
school librarian for years and worked with elementary kids on and hit and
miss process before that.

Anna Brueher
Library Media Specialist
Silver Stage High School
3755 Spruce Ave.
Silver Springs, NV 89429
(775) 577.5071 ext. 25


My bet the problem is not so much Dewey  as decimal.   456.12 comes before
456.2  "but 12 is bigger than 2!"  We really have to work with our 6th grade
assistants, and sometimes with the 7th and 8th.  Try working with them
on  how decimals work

We get new assistants every 12 weeks so we assign them temporarily  some
dewey and some fiction and do training on both.  Then in a week or so, we
review with them, see what they prefer and make assignments for rest of the
term.  It usually works out about ok.  6 periods -2 each period - 2 periods
each 6th, 7th, 8th.

Robert Eiffert
Librarian, Pacific MS  Vancouver WA
Librarian in the Middle Blog:


I correlate it to money.  My high school kids who struggle with shelving can
do it when they think about dollars and cents.

Jaime Jeanne Meadows
St. Helens High School
Library Media Center
2375 Gable Road
St. Helens, OR 97051
503 366-7417

How about having your math teacher help teach Dewey? I had never thought of
it, but my math teacher informed me that the library is set up using math
principles. (This was after I told her I hated math, etc.) What better way
to involve a teacher in authentic learning that will benefit the whole

The real secret to effective shelvers is practice,practice, practice. I have
my students place a bright colored bookmark in everything they shelve. Then,
later, I go behind them and check for accuracy. That lets me know where the
trouble spots are.

Ada G. Kent, Librarian
Ohio School for the Deaf

Have you seen "Do You Know Dewey?" on Thinkquest.  Lots of interactive

Deborah Carson
Coordinator, Library Services
Santa Clara County Office of Education

Would it help to get them thinking of Dewey numbers like money?  And the
smallest amount goes first.  If there are uneven numbers of decimal points,
have them add zeros until the decimals are equal, then put the smallest one

Just a thought -- it works with my HS aides.

Diane Van Gorden, Librarian
Baker Middle School / High School
Baker, MT
dkvg3955 @ yahoo . com
vangordend @ baker . k12 . mt . us


Here are two tutorials on Dewey.

When I worked in an elementary school, I had a test I used for potential
student helpers. I made up sets of about 20 small "books" -- cutouts of
drawings of books, about 2" X 3". I used titles and call numbers from actual
books in my collection, taking from a section that would take a little
thought, for example, the 796s. Simplified drawings of books at an angle
that showed the spines (at this angle: )
I put call numbers on the spines, a set of fiction, a set of nonfiction.

I told the students to put the set of "books" in the correct order. After
the student finished, I would check it and point out and explain any errors
until he/she understood the concept. Once the student could demonstrate an
understanding of how the books were arranged in Dewey order (or for fiction,
in author order) I would allow him/her to shelve for me.

Jan Davies
Laurel High School
Laurel, Maryland

I have students assist me in shelving as well, and I tell them
this:  Shelving non-fiction books is like counting money.  They can all
count money!  If they come across more than one book with the same amount on
the label, then they alphabetize according to the label. They practice by
arranging the books that need to be shelved on a cart.  Once I explain it to
them in this manner, they get it, and I have very few problems.

Amy Young-Buckler
Library Media Specialist/Technology Coordinator
Greenbelt Middle School
Greenbelt, Maryland


I made flash cards of Dewey numbers.  Simple one first, Dewey numbers from
all over, I believe there were 15 or so in that group.  When they could get
those quickly in order then I would pull out the "mean" ones.  These were
796 numbers, with lots of the decimals all over and even out to the author
letters so they would remember the alphabetical order if the whole number
matched.  Again I believe I had 15 or 20 of these.  I believe I had four
sets of the first group and three of the second.  Each table of students was
a group and they would race the other groups to complete the set.  Winning
table would race me.  It was not only a great tool for working with the
shelvers, it was a great activity for teaching Dewey arrangement.

I cut 3X5 cards in half lengthwise, otherwise they were too big.


R. Jean Gustafson
Selah Jr. High
Selah, WA 98942


The most successful thing for me has always been to tell them it's "like
money".  It worked for the metric system when I taught science, and it helps
with shelving.

Sure, there are problems when baseball is 796.357, but sticking a dollar
sign in front of something seems to make things much more meaningful for

Good luck

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