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Signs and Symbols #1: Signs and Symbols in the Library

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students “tune in” to their new unit on signs and symbols.  Since libraries have so many signs, there is a great real-world connection.  To start the unit, I like to have kids look for signs and symbols they can find.  However, it is also important for them to think about and design new signs/symbols that could be used to improve the library!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Identify and sketch four signs or symbols in the library.  Also, design four new signs and symbols that could be used to provide signage for the nonfiction collection.  (AASL 3.3.4, “Create products that apply to authentic, real-world contexts.”)

Suggested Time:

30-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete eight simple sketches, four of existing signs or symbols and four original symbols.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask students to tell you a little bit about what they have been learning.  What is a sign or symbol?  What purposes do they serve?  Where can they be found?

2. Main:

Explain that signs and symbols are an important part of every library.  They probably have walked by dozens of signs and symbols in the library and never even thought about them before!

Part 1:  Make simple drawings of four signs or symbols you see in the library.

Part 2:  Return to the lesson area, review the slide with nonfiction topics, and design four new symbols.  Be firm about developing symbols and not signs.  Signs in which the kids only spell what they are thinking requires much less effort.  They’ll have to do more thinking to design symbols.

3. Conclusion:

Ask a few students to share their work with a partner.  Ask for a few to share their findings with the class.  Wrap up by encouraging the students to be aware of signs and symbols in the library.

  1. Student Handout/Worksheet (attached).
  2. Slide showing nonfiction categories that could use improved signage.  (See attached Topic Guide.)
  3. Sample completed student worksheet (attached).

This is an easy and effective lesson.  A Grade 2 teacher and I came up with this one on the fly when discussing a new Unit of Inquiry that didn’t have many lessons developed for it yet.  Librarians think about “signage” and there is no reason why the students can do a bit of thinking and inquiry on this as well.

I like to give students a small gift when it is their birthday.  I have a sign in my library that says, “Is today your birthday?  Please see Miss Betty for a birthday surprise.”  Between the two sentences is an enormous, colorful birthday cake.  Usually children do not pay any attention to this sign/symbol!  Once we have this lesson, I usually have many more requests for birthday presents.  This is my primary example for how much you can miss if you are not reading the signs and looking for symbols!

I have included a student work sample so that you can see a bit of what my students came up with.

Recommended Books for this Lesson:


Key Words:

Signs, Symbols, Libraries, Signage

Student Handout, Signs and Symbols in the Library

Signs and Symbols Topic Guide

Sample Completed Worksheet, New Symbols