Last Updated on September 10, 2020 by Laura
Library catalog instruction can be dull and boring. It can be difficult to motivate students to care about library search and location skills when they’d rather be playing a game. Why not make your library catalog search and location practice into a game with additional activities just as fun as playing a game?!
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Challenge and Engage Your Students!
A few years ago I was searching online for engaging library catalog practice activities for my elementary students and couldn’t find anything. So I created some activity pages and a location game that keep my students challenged and engaged. We use these Destiny library catalog activities at different times during the school year. I switch up the themes to match the seasons or to coordinate with classroom learning.
Search engines like Google and most online databases default to a keyword search, and students are used to searching that way. However, what do we do when our default search yields pages and pages of results? Do we really want to fall prey to the “sponsored results” that appear at the top of Google searches? Students need to know how to find the most relevant and reliable information, and that starts with learning how to do a subject search in the library catalog.
Start with a Subject Search
To start with, I give students a subject search activity that asks them to find a book in the library catalog for seasonal topics. I ask students to write down the call number and title of one book for each topic. After they complete the page, I give them a shelf marker and ask them to find the book on the shelf. They leave the shelf marker in place while they show me the book. After I mark their paper with my favorite mini stamper, the student can put the book back on the shelf, and go find the next one.
If you want to make sure your students are doing a subject search, you can ask them to record the “hits,” or number of resources they find for each search. I like to do all of the searches first and record the hits myself. This makes checking the papers quick and easy for me, and students get feedback or intervention from me on the spot.
Move on to a Title Search
I like to give my students practice searching by the title of a book. Often they know the exact book they want, so it makes good sense for them to search by title. I remind them that (at least in our Destiny catalog system) spelling counts. On the pages I create for them, I choose titles that represent various places in the library: fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and biographies if we have some that fit in with the theme. I include the author’s name on the activity page, so they can double check that they’ve found the correct book.
When to Choose Keyword vs. Subject
I like to include a page that guides students to conduct searches on 2 different topics in our library catalog. I ask them to start with a subject search and then try a keyword search, and to record the number of hits for each. Class discussion is super important in this activity. I want my students to come to the conclusion that a subject search can help them narrow their search when they get too many results with a keyword search. On the flip side, they need to know that if a subject search leads to a short list of results, it may be a good idea to broaden the search with a keyword search.
Make it a Game!
By far the favorite activity among my elementary students is when we make our library catalog search and location practice into a game! I create about 24 subject cards around our theme, whether it’s seasons of the year or science topics. Each pair of students gets a subject card and an answer slip that I print on brightly colored card stock. They do a subject search in our Destiny catalog together and choose a book that’s in to fill out the information on the card. I include the title, call number and number of search results. (Again, I keep my list of “hits” nearby so I can give immediate redirection and feedback. If you aren’t worried about the search being a subject search, don’t worry about the “hits.”)
We’ve played this game two ways. In the first, pairs go to the shelves, find the book, and leave their answer card sticking out of the shelf right next to the book. This way I can check their answers while they go on to another subject. (I’ve also done search and location assessments in this way!) The other version has them leaving a regular shelf marker in the book’s spot while they bring the book and their answer card to me. I use my mini stampers again to mark the cards once the book is correctly located. Students can replace the book and then get another subject. Both versions of the game are fun. The first eliminates the problem of a line of students waiting for their points, consequently giving students more practice. I can find the cards and tally points during recess and if I am awarding prizes, that can be done the next week.
If you want to take a closer look at the activities I’ve used with my own classes, download this FREE Summer Subject Search Activity!
AND… If you want to save some time and offer your students library catalog practice for any time of year, take a look at this Destiny Library Catalog Practice: Seasons Bundle. The activities work with any library catalog system. Each of the seasons are also sold separately and you can look at the previews by clicking the image below!
Do you have some fun ways to help your students practice their library catalog search and location skills? Let us know about them below!
Be the light!