Reference Book Wednesday!

One of the biggest obstacles I encountered while teaching 4th grade was the lack of knowledge about the use of various reference books.  I have no idea why (as I *know* in 3rd grade they teach about the use of a dictionary and thesaurus for sure!), but these little books were always such a sticking point for my students.  So I decided that every Wednesday we would have <insert big booming voice here> REFERENCE BOOK WEDNESDAY!

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

What actually was exciting about it was that by the end of 6 weeks, the students actually knew what each reference book was, what it was used for, and a bit about how to actually use them!

I choose to focus my lessons on the following: a dictionary, an atlas, a thesaurus, an index, a table of contents, and an encyclopedia.  (now I know that an index and table of contents aren't actually books, but they were key in the standards, so I just overlooked that minor detail ;) )  Using Thinking Maps, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE, the students worked in groups digging in to the books for about 45 minutes each week.

Week 1:  Using a Circle Map, the students looked through one reference book, listing all of the things they noticed in the book.  After 5 minutes, student switch to the next book.  They leave the Circle Map there for the next group to continue.  In the second station, the students need to find DIFFERENT things in the book that the previous group didn't find.  Then, after a few minutes, they switch again, and again and again until all of the book stations have been visited.

 Week 2:  With the completed Circle Maps and reference book available, the students are broken into 6 groups again.  This time, they create a Tree Map with just the important things for each reference book.  Each child has their own Tree Map at the end of this activity.

Week 3:  Double Bubble Maps are created using the Tree Maps from the week before.  All of the reference materials are compared to all of the others!

 Week 4:  This time, a Bridge Map with the relating factor of is used to is created for each map.  This is where they get down to the main point of each reference book.

Week 5/6:  Now we get into the writing portion.  I read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown to the students.  Then they need to create their own book, one page for each Reference Book.

That is the basic overview of REFERENCE BOOK WEDNESDAY.  Here are the actual lessons I used (they are a bit more detailed then what I typed above.)


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! I find the same thing with my 4th graders! I think I will try REFERENCE BOOK WEDNESDAY when we get back. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I also love this idea. My teaching partner and I are trying to prep our nuggets for CST tests and know they need to be familiar with reference books. We've been brainstorming ideas but your idea, using thinking maps, is way better than anything we've come up with so far. THANK YOU!

  3. This is great! Thanks for sharing! BTW, I pretty much own your whole tpt store. The other day one of my kiddos commented, "You sure have a lot of stuff from S. Morman". Hahaha Your kinda a celebrity around my parts!
    Lattes and Laughter


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