Working with Shapes: Hands on with 2 and 3-d Shapes



We've been working on shapes.  And I spent tons of time planning lots of fun, engaging learning activities to help them practice identifying shapes, finding shapes in the environment, and making things with shapes.  Well, this year, I threw caution to the wind and did two things I've never done before:  I let my kids build flat shapes with geoboards, using geoboard task cards.  Usually we build shapes on the geoboard while I model the shape or tell them what to build.  This year, I actually let them build shapes.  I also did something I've never done at all before: I let my kids build 3-d shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks!

First, we practiced building shapes with the geoboards.  I got these geoboard cards from my friend Susan from My Happy Place!  They worked out great- I pulled out the cards I wanted to use, and I laminated them and put them out on the table.  The kids really loved being able to use the geoboards to make different shapes.  I was really impressed at how focused they stayed.  Believe it or not, there weren't any rubber bands flying around the classroom!  We had practiced making different shapes as a guided whole group lesson before, so they had some experience with the rubber bands and geoboards before I set them loose.



I like these geoboard cards because they allow them to make different objects using shapes.  For example, this umbrella is a trapezoid.

And this butterfly is made of triangles!  

You can find these Geoblock cards here.

Then, we practiced making both flat and solid shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks.  I've never done this in the past, because I've always imagined toothpick sword fights and kids building things they aren't supposed to!  But this year, I went ahead and tried it.  And I'm so glad I did!

I created both flat and solid Shape Building cards.  I laminated them and cut them out.  I had 2 of each card at the table, so multiple kids could build the same shape at the same time.  I color coded the cards:  red for flat shapes, and blue for solid shapes.


I modeled how to create the different shapes with the toothpicks and marshmallows.  I showed them how to build the flat shapes first, before graduating to the solid shapes once they felt comfortable building the flat shapes.

Then, I just let them build!

I love how this little sweetie is studying that card, trying to figure out how to make this 3-d shape.

They took different approaches. 

I put plates on the tables to help contain any stickiness, but clearly the kids didn't even bother to use them!

The best part is, they were all successful!
I was so surprised and impressed with how well they did.  Even with the solid shapes, which I expected they would have some trouble with.



And VOILA!



 I like how she created 2 shapes and put them together to make a house.


I will definitely be doing this again next year!   I was so impressed with how well they did with the shapes, and they had a great time!

What is your favorite way to teach shapes?












How to Begin a Fact Fluency Program in your Classroom... in 4 steps!




Setting up a fact fluency program in a classroom can be daunting- where do I store it all?  How do I keep track?  How do I determine if students are successful?  What do I do if they aren't making progress?

I have set up and run a fact fluency program in my classroom for a few years now, and while I was overwhelmed at first, I found that it's not as hard as you think to help students become fluent in math!  It just takes 4 simple steps to get your fact fluency program up and running.

Get Organized:


I find that everything goes so much more smoothly if I am organized before I begin anything, and that's especially important when running a fact fluency program.  Having assessments ready, keeping track of student data... it can be really overwhelming.  I personally use a two part system for keeping myself organized, and I find that it really works.

First, I printed out all of the testing originals for both addition and subtraction.  I like having the originals all in one place because then I don't have to find the file on my computer, print out the page I need, run down to the copy room to make copies... I just grab my binder when I need more copies and take it to the copy room, make all the copies I need, and put the originals back in the sleeve when I'm finished!  I hate trying to find things on my slow computer, so this works for me.

I used to keep the student assessments in the binder as well, but I found that having all those extra pages in there was a little less organized than I would like it to be.  So I decided to use hanging file folders in a crate to organize assessments.  And since I really love it when things are color coded, particularly in color order, I created tabs that matched the color of each level.  Inside the files for each level are the different assessments, the flash cards for that level, and copies of the reward certificate ready to go.  When a student passes a level, I can easily grab the next set of flash cards and the reward certificate, staple them to their completed assessment, and send it home!  It is also really easy to see how many more copies I may need of a particular assessment, and it's easy to slide them down in there once I've copied them.



It is also important for you to determine what fluency looks like in your classroom.  How long do they have to complete the assessment?  Do they need to get them all correct?  How many problems do they need to do- 25 or 15?  3 seconds per problem is considered "fluency" based on what I've heard.  I give my students the 25 problem sheet.  If a student does not complete 2-3 problems but gets the rest correct, I usually consider that "fluent" since it's above 80% mastery and let them move on.  However, if the student is making computation mistakes, I don't.  Of course, you will have to choose what works in your classroom!


Practice, practice, practice!

An important part of fact fluency is giving your students time to practice!  I always begin our program with a letter to parents letting them know that we are going to be using the program this year.  Attached to the letter is a copy of the 0s facts for them to practice with their child.  I usually give them a few days or so to practice their facts at home and in the classroom before we do the first assessment.  In the classroom, I like to integrate our fact fluency practice into our Fast Finisher activities, as well as math centers when appropriate.  Several of our Fast Finisher activities involve some sort of fact practice.

Flash cards: We began with the option of flash cards first- they are easy and since mine are color coded, the kids could just grab the color that matches the level they are working on.

Fact Fluency Flip Books: A second option for my students are Fact Fluency Flip books.  These are little books that students can grab and work on.  Each book contains 8 pages with 11 different activities for practicing facts.  For example, there is a page of number bonds, a page of number lines, etc... These are probably best for saving to use after you've taught addition strategies.  I have 4 different books for each level, so students can grab a different book each time they use one.





Games: I use lots of addition and subtraction games with my students that help to build fluency.  Most of these games are simple as well!  Games like Bump or Roll and Cover give students fluency practice while making it fun.  War is another fun game, where students choose two cards, add the numbers together, and decide who has the higher sum.  Other games where students are practicing adding together or subtracting two numbers are perfect for increasing fluency and providing students with practice!



Boom Cards: My students LOVE Boom Cards, and if you haven't checked them out, you should!  There are a ton of both free and paid options available both on the Boom website and Teachers Pay Teachers.



Hot Dots: Hot Dots are something my students love to use.  Power Pens are another similar option and the pens can be used interchangeably with the different card sets.  I got mine through Donors Choose, so if this is something your school allows, it's definitely an engaging option to check out!  There are addition and subtraction and Power Pens addition and subtraction sets that you can purchase.  There are also Power Pen stickers that you can purchase to create your own.

I find that having lots of choices increases student engagement and keeps them from getting bored using just one method to practice their facts.  If they're tired of Boom Cards, they can use Hot Dots that day.


Track Progress

Of course, tracking your students progress is important to continuing to increase fluency!  There are so many ways to track student progress.  You can do a whole class board where students move their name to the level they are on, or write their name on each level once they've passed it.  Or you can choose to make it a bit more private.  Or you can choose not to track at all!  In my Growing Fact Fluency pack, I've included tracking sheets for the teacher to use, as well as fun tracking sheets that the students can use to track their own progress.  I also have included sticker charts, reward tags, and certificates to both track and celebrate student progress!




Tracking also helps alert you to any difficulties a student may be having.  When I realized that two of my students were really struggling with making it past their 1s facts, I knew that I needed to work with them and give them more opportunities to increase their fluency.  I downloaded Boom Card games that just practiced adding one.  One student was not actually adding one and did not understand the concept, so I taught a small group lesson on how adding one is just counting up one more.  I have also included options for differentiating, so struggling students can be given the page with only 15 problems while everybody else has 25.  By keeping track of their progress, I was able to identify those difficulties and work on those particular skills.




Reap the Rewards

I am not usually one for extrinsic rewards, and generally my Fact Fluency program operates in that same manner.  For most students, knowing they've passed that level and are moving on to the next level is enough for them to be motivated.  That being said, I do think it's very important to acknowledge their progress.  I send home a certificate with the students once they've passed a level.  If possible, I send it home that day.  Attached to that certificate is the next set of fluency flashcards to begin working on.  I also move their clip to the next level on our bulletin board so they can see their progress.  They also get to move to the next set of Fact Fluency Flip Books, which they seem to find exciting.




You can choose to do any sort of rewards you want to do with this program, and that's one thing I love about it.  I've used this program different ways with different classes.  I have options for different ways to track and reward, including sticker charts and reward tags, along with the certificates.

Also, you can take the pressure off your students and not worry about levels, or tracking, or time, and just have fun with learning facts!  Play the games, randomly use the fact fluency assessments for fun, or don't.  All that matters is that your students become more fluent with their math facts and use them to become better and faster at math in general.  How you choose to approach that is up to you and what works best for your students.










Social Distancing in the Classroom: Keeping Literacy Meaningful and Engaging During a Pandemic



Though my district is going back using distance learning for the first 6 weeks, I know that I was very worried and nervous about how I could still "do" school where the kids can still do fun activities while keeping their distance.  So things like laminated centers, bins of materials, and things like that were probably going to be a no-no for at least most of this school year.  And I panicked, like I'm sure so many teachers out there are!  I want to be prepared for when we return to school in person with some great ideas that I can use, especially if they are things that I already have!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about things that I already use that are no or low touch, so I wanted to share some center ideas and things that you might be able to use as well.  These are activities that will help keep your students engaged, learning, and having fun while not sharing germs!  While these are great for a pandemic, they might also be useful during flu season as well.

I do so much hands on with shared materials during my literacy centers, whether it's laminated sorts, or word building activities with magnetic letters and stamps.  I know that it will be so difficult to do these activities safely without having to do a ton of disinfecting- and I know that disinfecting wooden word tiles and magnetic letters will be a nightmare!

One way around this is to use cardstock to create sets of letters for your students.  Then you can laminate a set for each child and keep them in a personal container for that child.  I love Dollar Tree's snack boxes for individual items.  I love them so much, I have a whole post on how to use them!  Of course, any small box or even a baggie will do.  With the individual boxes and letter sets, my students can still practice building sight words and making words.  It may not be nearly as fun as stamping sight words and building them out of play doh, but at least it's still hands-on.  You could also add a few small rings or links to their individual containers and punch holes in the cards so they can still build the words by linking them together.


If you had enough sets of magnetic letters, you could create letter boxes for each child and label them with each child's name.  Then they could pull out their box when they were doing a making words or building words center.  I would have students keep this in their book box as well.  


Individual book boxes are going to be a huge part of how I stay organized this year.  I have used individual book boxes for several years now.  I've used both plastic and cardboard book boxes throughout the years, but now I have a nice set of plastic ones that are easy to wipe down with a wipe to clean off if necessary.  My students keep their books they are reading, poetry notebooks, reading notebooks, and their independent books in their book boxes.  I may also add things like individual clipboards, dry erase pockets, and sets of magnetic letters or laminated letters in their book boxes as well.  That way, all their materials are on hand and easy to grab.

Numbering items that you don't normally assign to your students individually might be a great way to make sure each student is using their own "stuff" while not writing student names all over it.  I assign my students a number for their mailboxes, lockers, etc... anyway so it wouldn't be too much extra work to write numbers 1-24 on the back of my class set of clipboards or in the corner of my dry erase pockets.

If you don't have individual items like clipboards, book boxes, and dry erase pockets for each student, and you don't want to purchase them yourself, or simply can't afford to, you could use Donors Choose or even an Amazon wishlist to ask friends and family (or total strangers) for help!

For literacy centers, activities that are printable, or something I can slip in a dry erase pouch and easily be disinfected are the way to go.  I hate using so much paper, but I simply don't think I'll be able to constantly disinfect laminated items like I usually use.  So anything that can be printed in black and white for individual student use will definitely be my go-to once we return to the classroom!

One of my favorite activities to do with my students are sight word stories.  These sight word stories give my students practice with a sight word they are learning or need extra practice with, and when they are finished creating their book, they have something they can read over and over again.  I have them keep them in a pouch in their book boxes to read whenever they have independent reading time.  You can grab a freebie of my sight word story, "I Get Ready"in my TPT store.

The pouches I use were donated to our school several years ago and look like the bags that sheets or pillowcases come in, but you could use something like cosmetics pouches or even the mesh zipper pouches you can find really inexpensively on Amazon.  Even ziplock bags could work, though they might not be quite as durable.


I also love phonemic awareness and phonics sorts.  They are easy, and they really show me how my students are doing with beginning sounds, or hearing middle vowel sounds, or whichever phonics skill we are working on.  Best of all, because these sorts are printable, they are really easy to differentiate.  I give different students sorts based on their levels, so that students who are struggling with a skill can get extra practice while students who are ready to move on can.


I really like center games like this Spin a Word Family game.  All students need is a spinner (which should be easy to keep disinfected if you have plastic ones, or they can just use a paper clip and their pencil.)  Their work is their recording sheet, so you don't have to worry about reusing any laminated items with another child.  You could also place this in a dry erase pouch and they could use their dry erase marker to write the words.  You can grab a free Word Family pack for the -ing word family in my TPT store.


Alphabet and word family books are something I used a lot in Kindergarten.  I've used these both as a center and for practice when I'm teaching a certain letter or word family.  Like the sight word stories, when they are finished with their books, they put them in their plastic pouches in their book boxes to read again and again.


Poetry notebooks are an awesome "on your own" center that students can complete fairly easily.  I've used songs we sing in class, greetings we do during morning meeting, and phonics poems as well.  I just type them up so that two poems fit on one sheet of paper.  Students glue the poem in their notebooks.  For phonics poems, we look for words that follow that phonics pattern.  Sometimes we look for sight words, or certain letters, or they just read and illustrate the poem.  Poetry notebooks can be kept in their individual book boxes as well.  Poems are easy to find and students just love reading their poems in their poetry notebooks!  


Read/Write around the Room is another center that is pretty much hands-off and could be used socially-distant in a classroom.  I would hang the cards in places that they wouldn't be near other students- on our lockers, for example, or near the classroom door, by the sink, etc... Then students could go around the room with their clipboard and write the words they found on their recording sheet.  My students love this activity because it gets them up and moving!  

Of course, we can't forget digital centers!  If your school is 1-1, this is an easy center to keep germ free!  If your school is not, you could wipe down devices after each use.  Our students use different online programs and apps during center time.  Boom Learning is one of my favorites but I intend to try to incorporate more Google Classroom activities during our center time this year, since it uses no paper, has very little prep, and the kids enjoy anytime they get to use a tablet or computer.

I plan to use my Digital Sorts for Google Slides during distance learning once again, but I also plan to use them once we are back in the classroom for a quick check in activity for students to do, or as one of their center choices.  I like how I can check their work and provide feedback before I return it to them via Google Classroom.  Now that I've had a chance to use it during NTI, I am excited to use it more to differentiate instruction for my students.


I mentioned above that my students and I love Boom Cards.  I have created digital versions of several of my Sight Word Stories for Boom Cards to assign to my students as well.  If I notice they are struggling with a word, or just want them to have extra practice with a word, I have them complete the sight word story book for that word.  Now that I have digital versions, they can practice them again and again at home or at school.  For a hybrid model, I would assign digital sight words to some students while assigning paper copies to my in-person students.  I also love these Boom Cards because you can assign them to your students and they can practice reading their books on any device!  If you don't use Boom Cards in your classroom yet, you really should!  You can download a free Boom Cards Sight Word Story here.


Going back to school in person this year is going to be difficult and so different, but I am doing my best to find ways to make our literacy centers engaging and meaningful while keeping my students socially distant.  Stay safe and healthy!







12 Uses for Dollar Store Snack Containers in Your Classroom




I absolutely love the dollar store for picking up things for my classroom.  They have so many different things you can use at school.  While there are things to avoid buying at the dollar store, you can grab cheap craft supplies, classroom decor and borders, inexpensive snacks, and a whole bunch of other things you might need at school.  One of my favorite things to buy at the dollar store are containers!  I absolutely love containers, so I get really excited when I find some great ones!

One container that teachers have been (rightfully) going gaga over are the mini snack containers that Dollar Tree carries!  Though you can typically find these year round at some Dollar Tree stores, they are usually in stock during Back to School.  Usually, you get 2 for $1, making these containers 50¢ each, but during BTS, they usually come in a pack of 3, making them about 33¢ each!  Crazy, right?  If for some reason you can't find them at your local store, or you are unlucky enough to be far away from a Dollar Tree store, you can order a case of these online.  A case is 24 packages of 3, so you'll receive 72 of these awesome snack containers.  You might consider splitting a case with a friend if you don't think you'll use that many, but then again, you might want to keep them all for yourself!

I have found so many ways to use these handy containers in my classroom, and I thought I would share a few of the ways I've found with you!  

1. Holding playing cards: I used to use Ziplock baggies to hold the cards I used for math games.   I used to separate sets of cards and put them in Ziplock baggies, but little Kindergarten and first grade hands made quick work of destroying the baggies and getting cards everywhere.  It drove me crazy!  Now, I just place each set of cards into a mini container and snap the lid closed.  The students can keep the cards inside the container to play a game and just pull one card out at a time, which makes everything so much neater!  Lost cards happen so much less frequently that way.



2. Crayon holder: A 24 pack of crayons fits perfectly into a mini snack container.  Throw away those boxes and place your crayons into these handy containers!  You can keep them at centers, or give a box to each student to keep.  I usually have around 24 students, so an entire class set costs me about $8 if I stock up when they are a 3 pack!  You can label the lid with the child's name so they don't get mixed up.

This would also be a great way to store multicultural crayons.  Just place the set of crayons in one of these boxes and have them handy for students to grab during writing time, or whenever they are drawing pictures of people.  I like to keep mine separate just for this purpose.



3.  Mini eraser storage: I am just as wild about those little mini erasers as most teachers seem to be right now, but storing them has always been an issue!  I've tried a few different ways, but these mini snack containers are a great way of storing mini erasers.  Since these containers are so inexpensive, it's easy to grab a bunch and store all your erasers without breaking the bank!  You can also use them to put in erasers as game pieces or manipulatives for students to use during math or literacy centers.  When they are finished, the students just clip the lid back on and put them away.  It helps eliminate the chance of those little erasers spilling all over the floor too!



4. Math games or centers:  I always try to keep my math centers as contained and neat as possible.  I'm a little neurotic about my math centers being neat with all pieces present and accounted for.  My students know this too!  I keep my math centers in a bin where the students can just go grab what they need and take it to a table to work, so I like to have everything contained to avoid pieces spilling out all over the place or getting mixed up.  These little boxes will hold dice, counters, pennies, erasers, even a few counting bears!  All they need is the game board!



5.  Storing magnetic letters and numbers:  These are a great way to provide your students with magnetic letters for spelling words or magnetic numbers for completing math problems, matching, etc...  When they need a set of magnetic letters, they can just grab them!  These magnetic numbers came from the Target dollar spot, but you can use whatever you have!



6.  Mini reading kits: I just LOVE having things handy, and during Guided Reading is no exception!  Inside these little mini reading kits, I have a pointer finger for 1-1 matching, a Slinky for stretching out words, and erasers to use for sliding sounds in Elkonin boxes.  I can even add the magnetic letters for the word we are learning that day to the box if I'd like.  I just give each student a box when they sit down and they have what they need for a quick phonemic awareness lesson before reading.



7. Making Words: I do a lot of Making Words with my students using the phonics sound we are using for the week.  Sometimes we do it in small group, and sometimes we do it in whole group.  I can put the letters that they will need for our Making Words lesson in these containers and hand one to each student.  By doing this, I make sure they have just the letters they need so there are no distractions, arguments, or somebody saying they can't find something!



8.  Name Boxes:  Do you have a student who is struggling with spelling their name?  Use these handy containers for name boxes!  Just place the letters of their name in the box and tape their name to the lid.  Then they can practice their name using the model on the top of the box, and once they start to get the hang of it, they can try it on their own.  I used to use my assistant or our volunteer Granny to pull students to work with struggling students on their names.



9.  Name Puzzles: This is similar to the name boxes idea, but instead of magnetic letters, you can make a name puzzle for the student.  I have Name Puzzle templates in my Name Game activities pack in my store.  Write down the letters in the child's name, cut it apart, and place the letters inside the box.  Like with the Name Box, tape their name to the lid as a model.  They can take out the puzzle, build it, and use the model to check for accuracy.



10. Letters I know/Letters I don't: As students learn letters, it is suggested that they work in their zone of proximal development- that is, learning a few new letters at a time while continuously practicing the ones they do know.  You can make your students a personal letter box using a snack container.  In each box should be the letters in the child's name as well as letters they already know.  If a child knows less than 10 letters, you should add two of each letter to the box.  Once they have learned at least 10 letters, you can remove the duplicate letters from the box.  When they learn new letters, add those letters to the box until they have learned them all.  



11. Word Work Boxes: These boxes are perfect for mini word work centers!  For this center, I typed up the letters for each word in a box, cut them out, and punched holes on either side.  Then I added links.  The students practiced spelling words- either our sight words for the week or extra practice with our phonics sound for the week.  



12. Mini Fluency Boxes: Grab a sand timer, a set of dice, flash cards, or a spinner and make a mini Fluency box!  Fact fluency is a big deal in my classroom, and I am always giving students time to play fluency games or practice their facts.  These mini fluency boxes are easy for students to grab or just keep in their desk!  They can practice rolling the dice and adding the numbers together or subtracting the smaller number from the bigger number.  The boxes will keep their flash cards handy and safe.  With the sand timer, they can time themselves on practice quizzes or flash cards.  




Does anybody else want to RUN to their nearest Dollar Tree and grab some more of these awesome little boxes?  I know I do!  What is your favorite way to use these handy little boxes?

Don't forget to pin this post so you can easily find it again!

















Categorizing and Sorting in Kindergarten




One of the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten is to classify objects into categories and count the number of objects in each category.  We begin our school year with this standard because it's an easy one that all the students can usually master.

We actually begin by introducing our math manipulatives in exploring centers- I get out the different manipulatives and let the kids explore them.  I've actually covered that here, if you want to see how I introduce math manipulatives and centers to my students. Our first official lesson is  matching socks based on their attributes.  I gathered several socks of different patterns, colors, and sizes.  (Snagging some worn out old socks with holes in them works really well!)  Then I gave each child a sock and they found a partner who had the same sock.

After we played that game a few times, we talked about the socks and how they were the same and different.  We used "These socks are the same because ______" and then they had to fill in the blank with a physical attribute of the socks.  Another fun activity is to find socks that are similar to each other but not exactly the same- like one sock that has blue stripes and one that has black, or one sock with orange cats and one with blue.  Then you can play the "these are the same because ______ but they are different because ______."  Basically, I just like to get my kids noticing how things are the same and different.

The second day, I gathered materials where the objects were similar but had something different- for example, two pencils where one pencil was sharpened, or two crayons but one was blue and one was red.  I just gathered objects from around the classroom.  We used these objects to talk about how they were "the same, but different because this one is ______ and this one is _______."  For example,"they are both markers but they are different because one is blue and one is red."  It really helped them look more closely at the objects to tell why they were the same but different. Then we sorted with attribute blocks.  If you don't have these in your classroom, they are great for sorting!

First, we started talking about how we could sort our attribute blocks.  The first way we decided to sort was by color.  Note:  I didn't use all the attribute blocks to sort, to avoid overwhelming them.  



Then the students decided we needed to sort by shape.  

  We also sorted by thick and thin.

Then we sorted these utensils.  I purchased 4 packs of utensils from the Dollar Tree in 4 different colors.  (The best part- the rest of the utensils were perfect for eating lunch!)  I gave each of my students a utensil, and we talked about how we wanted to sort.  


We sorted by type of utensil first, forks, knives and spoons.  Then I asked them how we could sort them a different way, and they suggested color.  So we lined up on our carpet in rows- blue utensils stood on blue, green stood on green, and so on.  


After switching up our utensils and doing this a few times, we worked on our anchor chart.
We made an anchor chart about all the ways we could sort.  We added to this cart as we sorted more and more objects.  


Then we got to do some sorting in centers!  I purchased or pulled out several different things the students could sort- foam shapes, pom poms, google eyes, buttons, shape buttons, and attribute blocks.  We didn't end up using the google eyes or shape buttons this year, but I saved them for next year- just in case.  The cookie sheets and sorting containers all came from the Dollar Tree.



Our first sorting activity was sorting these foam shapes.  I gave each student in the group a small cupcake pan and foam shapes in a cup.  There were 6 different colors, several different shapes, and different sized shapes.

Sometimes they sorted by color... 


Or by shape... 

And even by size!


When a student was finished sorting, I would ask them "how else can you sort these?" to get their brains thinking about other ways they can be sorted.

I also gave the students the opportunity to sort the attribute blocks.  We used cookie sheets for sorting.  

 Some students sorted by color... 

They lined them up and stacked them.

Some sorted by shape... 



I also had buttons for the students to sort.  They could sort by number of holes, or color, or size.
This student sorted by number of holes (2 holes, 4 holes, and some sets had no holes)


Size (tiny, small, medium, and big)

Color

 As they sorted, I walked around and asked them how they sorted their objects.  This student is explaining that she sorted by how many holes the buttons have.

 

We also sorted pom poms.  They could sort them by size or color.  Once they finished sorting their tray of pom poms, it was easy to switch with somebody else at the table.  Next year, I'd like to add the shiny pom poms to this to give them another attribute to sort by!

Some students sorted by size...


Some sorted by color 


We also did some sorting with other types of attributes.  This is a sort based on whether food is healthy or not healthy.  There are several of these sorts in my Vocabulary Concept sorts, including some cut and paste sorts.

This game is called "What's Missing?" and it's a great way to get students to look at physical attributes and use them to figure out what is missing.  The student takes one object and hides it behind their back, and the other student has to figure out which object is missing.  I used foam shapes, buttons, crayons, red objects, numbers, and erasers for the different "What's Missing?" boards.  I just make sure the objects are related in some way.  



To make the trays, you can just take a plate or aluminum pan and separate it into 9 spaces.  I got fancy and taped straws to mine to make the separate spots, but a permanent marker works as well!  Then collect 9 related objects, put them on the pan or plate, and you've got a game!  

I hope you were able to find some engaging, useful ideas for teaching categorizing and sorting with your students!  Leave a comment with your favorite way to teach these skills!