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Thanks for all the great ideas.  Here are all the responses that I received. 
  I will try many of these in my library.

Connect the center to content and skills. For example,
I have a lms friend who does this for all her classes. One idea is to try 
and make some discovery centers. She has a box with different rocks and 
those packing peanuts along with a book on rock identification. Students 
find a rock and then try to identify it using the books provided and 
answering some questions etc.
I have used centers with the kinds of writing authors use by making pockets 
holding examples of persuasive, explanatory etc and students then select a 
sample and record the type on an answer sheet with why they selected the 
You could make centers for abc order and guide words to the 3rd letter etc. 
Use display boards and Velcro to make them interactive. You could put a self 
check on the back of the display or have students come to the desk to find 
the ans sheet. Another idea is to do centers with your card catalog. Make 
search questions for the kids to follow and once they identify the item and 
its call letters/numbers have them look for the book on the shelf. When I 
have done this within a class period it is successful and the students enjoy 
the challenges.

You could collaborate with their teachers and find out what they're 
studying, then use this for topics of centers. Ideas for centers are:

puzzles (real puzzles, crossword, word search, etc.)
art projects
games (jeopardy, etc based on topics)
create a song, rap, poem, etc on topic
group reads picture book about topic and do short answer and question
have group choose parts and read short play on topic

I agree that checkout is really important for this group.  Particularly if 
this is the only time they come to the library.  You could split your time 
between book talks and checkout...or OPAC instruction and checkout.  The 
fourth graders are the same group you taught last year as third 
it might be easier to start with them.  Just pick up where you left off and 
keep going.

I do whole class activities with my fourth and fifth graders (25-30 per
class).  I know that's not what you're looking for...but they LOVE using the 
World Almanac for Kids and all of the reference books.  Activities with 
these books could be turned into centers.  Centers are just short activities 
that students can complete and check independently.  Each center is 
different.  All of the instructions, materials, etc. are at the center for 
each child.  After a certain length of time, students can rotate centers 
(have a plan for switching or it will be chaos) and complete a different 
center.  If you have eye spy books, put them at a center.  Kids love them 
and will appreciate the break if the other centers are more scholarly. ;)
You can make anything into a center.  Creating them is a lot of work, but 
they can be used over and over again.  Lamented manila folders work well for 
the instructions.  And, big manila envelopes can help you keep everything 
organized.  There are lots of elementary ed books about using centers.  If 
you can find some of them, they will help you a lot!

I usually make everything into some sort of game and let the kids compete 
against each other.  They like anything that seems like BINGO or Jeopardy.
Sometimes I do biographies with them.  I do the state award books with them 
(most of them are picture books and can be read and a few shared in a class 
period).  I don't usually read to them because I see them irregularly.  So, 
when I do read to them, I use picture books.  For a lot of them it's a real 
treat because they don't read picture books on their own any more...and 
there are a lot of great ones out there.  I can read 4 or 5 short ones and 
then play a battle of the books type game.  I teach OPAC and DDC in 3rd 
grade, but I use scavenger hunt games to review both for 4th and 5th 

Fifth graders can be a tough group.  I think it takes time to get used to 
them...they aren't eager like the little ones.  Good luck. :)

Centers are small group or individual learning activities that students can 
cycle through.  Perhaps they switch activities every week, perhaps every 
10-20 minutes. They usually benefit from working at the center more than 
once.  My library has 8 tables for students to work at.  They are all 
clustered together so they are somewhat separate from the shelves.   You 
might have half the class at the centers while half are browsing for books, 
or you might count book selection as a "center" to rotate through.  I don't 
exactly have centers, but I do have self-selected quiet activities students 
should do once they have selected a book or if they aren't checking out a 
book that day.  Here are some small group/table activities I use in my 
library with students in grades 4 and 5:

Sustained silent reading could be one "center".  For younger students, I 
have big books available that they can read with a friend.  If their
behavior is good, I let them sprawl out all over the library.  Classes that 
need more structure must sit at assigned seats, but it might make the 
activity more attractive if their center was a beanbag chair or a window 

Put cut-up letters that form a library or book-related word in an envelope. 
The students then un-jumble the letters to figure out the word.  The list of 
possible words is on my word wall.  Some students go through several words 
in a sitting.

Do you have computer catalogs the students can access?  I also have a
mini-scavenger hunt that small teams of students can do on the catalog.  I 
only have five computers and classes of around 24 kids, so if they work in 
groups of two or three, everyone can have a chance on the computer every 
other week.

Lots of cut-and-paste newspaper activities might lend themselves to a
center.  One of my favorites is to find a small news article.  It must be 
news, not opinion or an advertisement.  It must fit on a sheet of paper.  
Students have a very hard time with this one.  They learn to find where the 
article is continued, to recognize where it starts. They have some 
difficulty understanding what is news and what is other stuff in the 
newspaper.  Then they write three informational questions.  The questions 
should be answered in the article. Another challenge! They write the answers 
on the back.  Then they trade their article with another student's.  This is 
an activity that they can definitely do several times before they get really 
good at it!

Once we get into internet research, a within-a-website scavenger hunt is 
also a possibility.

You could have a stump-the-chumps table with almanacs and atlases and
dictionaries.  Students write questions for other students to answer.  The 
other students must be able to use indexes or tables of contents to figure 
out the answers.  Keep good questions in a basket in the middle of the table 
to serve as examples and also to make sure they don't run out of questions.

I Spy books are hugely popular at our school.  I keep the ones that fall 
apart and laminate any double-page spreads that I can salvage.  Some kids 
peruse these endlessly.  I bet that's a great activity for ELL students.  
It's not exactly a center, but it's one of my self-selected quiet activities 
that are very appealing to our less motivated students.

Judy Cole, librarian
MD Fox Elementary
Hartford, CT

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