The favorite shared was a sorting activity based on concept formation. This type of activity appeals to my meticulous nature and need to have everything organized. Even better, they tend to unearth students’ prior knowledge and understanding of a concept or idea! You can catch the presentation here (advance to 21:30), or scroll down to view the slides from the presentation.
- Create sets of index cards based on a particular concept, such as algebraic expressions or polygons. When printing the cards, consider using different color card stock to keep track of the different decks and numbers to make sure that you have all the cards in the deck.
- Distribute the cards and give these simple instructions. “Organize the cards into groups. Be prepared to explain how you sorted your cards!” Initially, my students demonstrated great discomfort with such open-ended instructions. They wanted more explicit directions and more specific objectives (i.e. How many groups? How many cards should be in each group?). My response to the students – “Read/study the cards”.
- While students are engaged in the activity, the teacher’s role is that of facilitator. Move through the classroom and observe the students at work. Question students during the process. Have them share their decision making process. Should groups need more guidance or support, ask prompting questions or select cards to compare. Ask the students: What do you notice? How are the cards similar, or how are they different?
- At the conclusion of the sort, debrief. This prompts great discussion as students share their groupings and rationales. Or, rather than jumping into discussion, provide students the opportunity to rotate to another table and study the categories created by others. The benefits include positive reinforcement, the identification of misconceptions, ways to improve the system and the establishment of connections between the cards (particularly for those struggling to do so themselves).
How might you use sorting activities in your classroom?
(Shout out to PamJWilson for helping me show my slides!)