Library Activities for 5th Grade

I’m so excited to share how I used my library skills challenge with my 5th graders. I created this challenge to get students up and moving about while reviewing skills we’ve learned over the years in the library.

There are 4 challenges for students to complete. These challenges lead to a final code word. This is much like an escape room game but it doesn’t require boxes or locks. You can add a box easily if you choose. I did so with one of my classes. I had a 4 letter lock, so I underlined the last four letters of the code word and that was the combination to the lock. Inside the box was candy and bookmarks to color.

I love to use card stock because it seems to last longer and it just feels nice and sturdy, so I printed all the challenges on card stock and laminated them, then placed each one in a large manila envelope. I made four sets of each challenge and grouped my students in pairs. When a pair finished a puzzle, they returned it and took another one. Each pair of students had a recording sheet on a clipboard and they could come to me if they needed a hint.

Reference Materials

Challenge #1- Reference Materials: Students must answer 8 questions about reference materials. They answer the question by placing the answer in the space next to it. When all questions are answered, they decode the emojis in order from question 1 to question 8 and write this answer on the recording sheet. The reference materials questions cover the following: almanac, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, and encyclopedia.

Call Numbers

Challenge #2 – Call Numbers: For this challenge, students locate a book on the shelf by using their knowledge of call numbers, then answer one question that is tucked away in the book. I chose 4 chapter books ahead of time, wrote the titles and call numbers on the challenge 2 sheet (see photo below). I pulled these books off the shelf until it was time for the class to come in to ensure they would still be there for this activity. This file is editable so that you can choose which books you want your students to locate. You can write the title or use the editable PowerPoint file that is included.

Mystery Message

Challenge #3 – Students use a code to solve a mystery message.

Dewey Decimal System

Challenge #4 – Dewey Decimal System: There are 6 questions for students to answer, for example:
You would look for a book about your favorite football team in the….
g. 400s      h. 600s     i. 700s

Final code word: Seven spaces on the recording sheet are shaded. After all 4 challenges have been completed, students unscramble the letters from the shaded boxes to make a word.

My hard-to-please 5th graders actually told me that this was really fun! One student said, “That almost made my brain explode,” which I would assume means that it was a little challenging. Yay for me!

One thing I  realized is that I definitely should have reviewed reference materials prior to the challenge, so now all my classes are being taught and re-taught this skill.


Helpful hint: I have been doing a lot of challenges and escape games lately which means I’ve been needing a lot of large manila envelopes. I also wanted enough clipboards for every group. I found these on Amazon for a good price (not affiliated). I’m so glad I ordered them. Now I’m ready to create more!

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