Middle school students aren't too old to enjoy library activities, and some exercises can help students prepare for harder research projects and writing assignments that they'll encounter in high school and college. The purpose of a middle school library is to help preteens appreciate reading while they're also exploring databases, reference materials and a wide variety of fictional and nonfictional materials. Activities should accommodate strong readers as well as those who are still working to improve their reading skills.
Middle school children need to learn how to use library catalogues to find the books, periodicals, reference materials and literary works they need. Organize catalogue races where you give each student, or team of students, a list of books, reference materials or topics to research or locate. Make several unique lists, so the students aren't all hunting for the same book or reference materials. Show students how they can access the school library catalogue on library computers. You might review how the Dewey Decimal System works, so students can quickly locate nonfiction materials. Include fiction, nonfiction and non-circulating reference materials on each list, so students get familiar with all of the different library materials. Enforce quiet library voices, so the catalogue races don't get too noisy.
Organize a library treasure hunt. Give each student an individual typed clue on a small note card, such as "I have fangs, but I love to eat fruit," or "I love lightning because it's electrifying." Students must find a book or a library resource that fits the description, even though there's no particular correct answer. For example, you might accept a book on bats, wolves or vampires for the first clue. You might accept a biography on Benjamin Franklin or a book on the weather for the second example. Once the student shows you the reference she found, give her another clue until she successfully completes 10 clues. You might give a small prize, such a bookmark, to everyone who finds books for their 10 clues.
Place a single book at each seat in the library. You might include couches, lounge chairs and desk chairs as part of the game. Select a variety of books, including nonfiction, fiction, periodicals, newspapers, magazines, young adult fiction, biographies and reference materials. Ask each student to spend three minutes, until your timer rings, reading the book in front of them. Once the three minutes are up, students must leave the book in place and rotate to a new seat. After playing the book sampling game for 30 to 45 minutes, give students the opportunity to select one of the books they sampled to finish reading or check out.
Host a study hall, after school or weekend book club where students can discuss different types of literary works. You might poll or survey students to see what types of books they enjoy reading and discussing. Present the book club idea to the English teachers at your school to see if they might give students extra credit for participating in your book club. Consider books that have been made into motion pictures and host an outdoor movie night, with popcorn, after book club readers finish the book.
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