Call Number Relays

Presented by: Mary Dixon

Subject Area(s):

Grade Level(s):


After reviewing the sections in the library (Easy, Fiction, and Non-fiction) and the components of a call number, this activity helps students practice using call numbers to locate books on library shelves.

Goals & Objectives:

Students will know that books have specific addresses and locations in the library and will be able to locate books using the address.


An interesting looking box ( I used my recipe box that looks like a house) containing a street map, an envelope with an address written on it, a URL address, and a paper with a call number written on it.

2 pages of the same call numbers but in different order

Reward pencils for the team(s) with 100% accuracy (if desired)


Prior to the class, the librarian will prepare a sheet of call numbers that students will use to locate book titles. The game works best if the call numbers selected are "one of a kind" call numbers in the library and if they are written exactly as they appear on the book.

Depending on the class dynamics,it may be advisable to prepare the teams prior to the arrival of the class to ensure that teams work well together.

1. Greet students and ask them to sit at the tables.

2. The librarian will begin the anticipatory set by bringing out the "house" recipe box (or other interesting box) with the map, street address, URL, and call number on it. The librarian will pull an item out and ask the student to tell how the item is used. After the first three items have been pulled out and discussed, the librarian will ask what the three have in common. Then the librarian will pull the call number out of the box and ask how it is used. Students will realize that call numbers tell where the book is located in the library in the same way that house addresses tell us where people live and URL's tell us where a webpage can be found.

This correlation should help students understand the purpose and importance of the call number by relating it to something of previous knowledge. This helps students feel more comfortable with the material presented.

3. The librarian will then review with students what they have learned in the previous class about call numbers. ( The three sections of the library, Dewey Decimal numbers, and shelving books using alphabetical order of author's last names).

4. The call number relay game will then be described to students. It will be explained that students will be placed in two relay teams. Each team will receive a page of call numbers and a pencil. The team will line up in a straight line and when told to begin, the first two teammates in line will work together to locate the book using the first call number on their sheet. Without removing the book, the team will write the title of the book on the page, return to the remaining members of the team, and pass the paper and pencil to the next two members of the team. They will then go to the end of the line and sit down while the next two members search for their book using the next call number on their paper.

5. The librarian will provide close supervision of pairs to ensure that students are on the right track and will provide hints as needed. This will ensure that students don't become unmotivated due to difficulty in mastering the task.

6. When all pairs have found their books and have written their book titles on the paper, the paper will be given to the librarian to correct and all members will be seated on the floor.

Although each team will want to finish first, the main objective is to obtain 100% accuracy. This will be stressed to the teams before the beginning of the relay.

7. Students will be encouraged to cheer their teammates in a respectful manner.

If using this game with a class that is a bit "antsy", you might want to alter the the game so that pairs are given strips of paper that have the call number written on them. In this way, the pairs could be given their call number prior to their turn and could have time to discuss their strategy for locating the book. This might help keep these students busy as the others are locating their books.

8. If all titles on the page are correct, each team member will receive a reward pencil.

9. Students will be praised for their effort and achievement. This praise should be specific to the team and their method of completing the task.


The librarian will be able to assess students' ability to locate books using call numbers by observing their strategy during the relay game. In addition, correction of the completed paper will also help the librarian to determine the students' level of understanding.

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