Hi, friends! Haley S., a subscriber to the Library Learners Journal, told me that she found fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students to be impossible and a constant discipline issue. Are the “big kids” a struggle for you, too? If so, read on!
I began implementing library centers when I was the librarian at a 4th and 5th grade campus. The combination of movement and choice really engaged students who had to sit still in a classroom for most of the day. I taught a short library lesson, then dismissed students to either check out books or participate in a library center.
Here are several centers that work well for upper elementary students:
- Rubik’s Cubes
- I Spy books
- coding board games like Coder Bunnyz
- Origami books and paper squares
- Pipe Cleaner animals (use pipe cleaners to create an animal you would like for a pet or an animal from the picture book we read together)
- Building structures with small plastic Solo cups (available at Dollar Tree)
- Build with pool noodles (also available at Dollar Tree) cut into rings, and toothpicks
- Magnetic tiles
- Pattern blocks
- Rory’s Story Cubes: roll 7 cubes and tell/write/Flipgrid a story with all 7 components
- Scramble Squares Puzzles
- Happy Cube foam puzzles
- marble runs
- word searches
- word scrambles
- crossword puzzles
- Connect four (regular or giant)
- Suspend balancing game
- Even Steven’s Odd dice rolling game
- Drawing books
- Blank comic strip templates to draw in
Of course, the 2020-21 school year may involve distance learning and blended learning. If so, here are some ideas to engage those upper grade students as you are connecting online, rather than in person.
- Kahoot research skills lessons (share your screen with students, and they either join on another device or write their answer on paper or think about it in their head)
- Brainpop (some content requires a paid subscription, but some content is available free)
- Have students write 6-word memoirs (biography genre) and create a photo collage on Canva (copyright lesson) to insert in Google Slides presentation
- Typing Club
- Dance Mat Typing
- Have students collaboratively create an ABC google slide show: ABCs of your city, state, school, a research topic
- Have students write encouraging notes to future readers. You can print them and place them in books.
- Safe Online Surfing games at sos.fbi.gov
- Create book reviews on Flipgrid, Padlet, Animoto, or Google Slides to share
- Watch video of Thank You, Mr. Falker and write a thank you note to a teacher.
- Read Black? White! Day? Night and have students draw opposite optical illusions in Google Draw
- Read the first chapter of a book to them, to get them hooked on an author or series or your state award list
- Hour of Code
- Common Sense Media digital citizenship lessons
- Stop motion animation with Google Slides
- Interland Game: Be Internet Awesome with Google
Build Reading Community at your School
If all of our students enjoyed reading as much as we do, all of the behavior issues would disappear, right? I believe that part of our librarian job description is to grow the reading culture at our campus. We want to encourage every adult and student in the building to enjoy reading. How can we do that?
If your students are able to visit the library in person next year, make sure that everyone walks out with a book including the teacher. Make a big deal out of handing the teacher a book every time and having a conversation about how much that teacher will enjoy the library book.
In this guest blog post, Ashley Gordon shared her terrific teacher book club idea. Although we may be gathering in a Google Classroom next year rather than at a restaurant, it is still so important to encourage your teachers to nurture their love of reading.
Consider co-sponsoring a book club (online or in person) with some of your teachers and any students who want to participate. You might read state award books together, and then discuss the books and do activities, like create book trailers, participate in digital escaper rooms, or write an email to the author.
You’ve Got This!
I hope this blog post gives you hope AND strategies for engaging the big kids in your school library. Please let us know with a comment if you’ve got other great ideas that worked for you!
By the way, this blog post does include Amazon affiliate links, which means that I earn a few cents if you purchase, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that have been tested and approved in school libraries, with real students.