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Sorting Activities

Gist: Students analyze words and the relationships between them to determine what categories they have.

Why Do It?  This  makes students actually THINK about your content.  Applicable to ANY content.


-words (vocabulary, facts, people, events, images, etc) from your content that fit into the categories/topics you want them to understand

-or a worksheet

*If using a worksheet, print these number cards on card stock and supply one set for each group.  The numbers on the cards represent an item number on the worksheet. 


Set Up:

1.  Print and cut apart the words for each group OR distribute number cards if using a worksheet.


To Play:

1.  Give each group the words or (number cards and worksheet).  Tell them to consider those words and then sort them however they see fit.  If you feel it's appropriate, they may even use their text book or other resources to help them find out more about each word.

2.  Students will have to consider what each word (or problem) means, how it's used, and how the words (problems) are related to each other to be able to sort them.

3.  When a group feels they have their words (problems) sorted, they give each group a title or description.

4.  Then they explain, either in person or in writing, how they grouped their words (problems) and determined those categories.

5.  If there are different interpretations of the words or categories around the room, discuss.

Caution and Tips:

-Students might try sorting words like, "These are short." Or "I know these and don't know these."  Although we know that's not where we want them to finish, use that as a place to start.  Say things like, "OK, if you don't know these words, here's a resource you can use.  Find out more about them and refine your groups."

-Be present as groups work.  If you notice one partner carrying more of the load than another, ask questions of the partner who is working less to gauge their understanding.  If needed, you can even give them a specific role, like looking up each word in the text or sorting half the words.



-This can be used for virtually any content.  Some ideas:

  • Words that can be sorted into various parts of speech--here's the list I use

  • Sentences and fragments

  • types of sentences

  • different types of rocks (or insects or animals or whatever you're studying)

  • North vs. South, Loyalists vs. Patriots, etc

  • different types of nouns

  • different uses of apostrophes

  • words with different phonetic patterns

-Students can take a gallery walk to look at how other groups categorized their words.  Or you can have each group share a picture of their work.  

-This activity can be used as a Homework Buster as well. 

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