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)


 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!

How I Organize My Guided Reading Supplies using an IKEA Raskog cart

When I saw the Raskog cart at IKEA a few years ago, I told myself I HAD to have it... if I could come up with a reason to use it!  Finally, I came up with a great reason to use it- to store my guided reading supplies!

First of all, let me just tell you how well made this cart is.  It was easy to put together, and it is very sturdy.  It doesn't wobble at all.  And the wheels are very smooth, so it is easy to pull it out to use it and roll back when I'm finished.  So I'm 100% thrilled that I purchased it, and I'm looking for a reason to purchase a second one.

The Raskog cart has 3 tiers, and they hold a ton of stuff!  The only things I don't have on my cart are my Guided Reading books and my big container of magnetic letters.   I have a separate bookshelf for my Guided Reading books.

So... on to the cart!  The top tier holds the stuff I tend to use the most often.  It has my Guided Reading binder which contains my Running Records, letter ID assessment forms, and group information.  In the toolbag, which used to sit on my desk, I have various other supplies for teaching reading.  (This toolbag is seriously the best- I have one at home for my tools too!  It comes in several other colors, including pink, if you're into that.)

1.  Guided Reading Binder- I keep my Guided Reading plans in a binder, separate from my regular lesson plans.  Each group has their own tab with their lessons.  I also keep running record sheets, letter ID assessments, and other stuff there as well.  It tucks there nicely next to the toolbox.

2.  Phonics Dance song- We use a program called the Phonics Dance, and I use my Guided Reading time to practice the Phonics Dance.  At the beginning of the year, I do it with all the students, and later in the year, I use it with my struggling students who need extra practice with their sounds.  This is also something they can do independently while I do a running record.

3.  Timer/Clock- My classroom clock is behind where I sit, so having a clock is handy.  I also use the timer to make sure I keep my groups within 15-20 minutes each.  And yes, I took that picture at 7:31pm. 

4.  Dry Erase Markers- I use these to let the students practice writing words on my dry erase boards.  

5.  Magnifying Glasses- We use these for finding words, sounds, or chunks in our books.  It makes it much more fun because they feel like detectives.  

6.  Sight Word Flashcards- I keep these handy on a ring.  We practice our sight words first whenever we come to the table.  

7.  Pointers- I have a variety of fun pointers that we use for finding words, sounds, or chunks.  I like to mix it up.  The kids love the different ways they can look through their books for different things.  

Inside the toolbox, I have some other items that I like to keep handy.  

1. and 5. Dry Erase Boards and Erasers- I love the smaller dry erase boards.  They came from the Target Dollar Spot several years ago, but I've seen them since I purchased these.  The dry erase erasers also came from Target.  They are usually available around back to school.

  2.  Reading Strategy cards.  These have a different reading strategy on each card that I can display when I am teaching them a new strategy.  I printed these 4 to a page so they are small.  

3.  Alphabet Flashcards-  I keep these handy for all students at the beginning of the year, and I taper them off as we go.  We use them to practice letter recognition and sound recognition.  

4.  Pointer fingers- These are especially helpful at the beginning of the year, because it helps the students remember to use their finger and point to each word.  

6.  We use Slinkies for breaking and stretching out words.  We s-t-r-e-t-c-h out those words and use the Slinkies to help.  

My toolbox has little side pockets that are great for holding cards. 

1.  Oddity Task Cards- These are a quick and easy way to help my students with phonemic awareness and sound discrimination.  The ones you see are Beginning Sounds, but I also have Rhyming Words, Middle Sounds, and Ending Sounds as well.  I switch them out as needed throughout the year.  

2.  Word Attack Strategy bookmarks- Once we've learned a few strategies, I use these with my students so they can try using more than one strategy.  We go over which strategies we've already learned and they can reference it while reading.

3.  Elkonin boxes-  These are great for breaking and segmenting sounds.

The BEST thing about the Raskog cart is that it has 2 more tiers for lots of Guided Reading materials!

1.  Glue Sticks- I use these if we do printable sorts, sight word scramble pages, etc...  

2.  Retelling gloves and strings- We use these for retelling stories after we've read them.  

3.  Timers- I use these to do quick activities.  One activity my students love is where they have one minute to write as many words as they can.  

4.  Cookie Sheets- I bought these small cookie sheets at Ollie's.  They are great for doing a sight word mix and fix activity.  I can put the letters they need on the cookie sheet and hand it to the student.  The magnetic letters stay on the cookie sheet and can be passed back to me easily.

5.  Smarties- I give Smarties as a treat when a student does a great job.  I call them "Smarties for my Smarties" and I hand out a few whenever a student or a group does a great job.  

6.  Scentos Markers, because... why not?  

7.  Pencils and erasers are great for writing activities that we do in my small groups

1-4.  This is something I had brand new this school year, and I absolutely loved it.  I made different cards for each sound that I teach, and organized them in library pockets.  Whenever we are working on a sound, or they need a review, I can pull out the cards I need and we can do an impromptu sort.  

5. M&Ms- I keep these as a treat for a group that does a great job.  They are also great for using with Elkonin boxes.

6.  Erasers- I have a bucket full of small erasers that I keep at my table.  I use these for Elkonin boxes.  They slide the erasers into the boxes to blend the sounds together.  I switch these out with the seasons, so sometimes they are pumpkins, or snowmen, or hearts!

So that's how I organize most of my Guided Reading Materials on one handy cart!

Apparently IKEA doesn't sell the turquoise RASKOG cart anymore (tear), but they do carry it in a beigea redish-brown, and black.  There are also several other carts that would work if you really have your heart set on blue, like I did.  I've also heard that other stores carry similar carts.  Or you could purchase one of the IKEA carts and paint it to whichever color your heart desires.

Here are a few different options from Amazon that aren't too expensive.

And this one from Michaels is also an option!

I hope this post helped any of you who are struggling with keeping your guided reading materials organized and accessible!  Having so much necessary stuff is a struggle, but it helps to have everything at your fingertips so that you can get your groups running and ready to go quickly!

Making a 100th day snack!

I posted about our 100th day of school and some fun activities we did for the 100th day in this post, so you can check out that post if you need more ideas!

The last fun activity we did on the 100th day of school was a 100th day snack.  I had some questions about how I manage the 100th day snack, because it all seems overwhelming, so I wanted to let you know:  IT'S NOT THAT BAD!  I've been doing it for years with both Kindergarten and first graders, and I've never had any problems with it.  If you can get parents to donate items, you'd be even better off.

The key is organization.  I have my students working on another activity while we do their snack bags.  I've had graphing activities, 100th day books, etc... that the students can do independently while I pull a few students at a time to my table.  I usually only pull 2-3 in Kindergarten, because they need a little more supervision.  I try to pull a few independent students so that I can help the ones who need a little bit more help.

We created these placemats with 10 colored circles glued to a piece of black paper and laminated.  The students were instructed to put 10 of each food item in one of those circles.  This works best in Kindergarten because the students can see how many of each item they've counted.  In first grade, I just allowed them to put the items in their baggie.

We had quite a variety of items to make their snack.  The students take 10 of each item and place it on their mat.  Last year, I placed the items on a plate, but I prefer bowls or plastic containers because they take up less space.  

Every year I struggle with which items to use in my 100th day Trail Mix, so I created a list of different items that I can choose from.  I try to choose a variety of options- some candy, some cereal, some snack foods, and some baking goods.

Once the students had 10 of each item in their circles, I checked them and put them into a baggie with their name on it. 

Then they got to take their snack home!

I love the counting mats because I can easily see how many more items each child needs to count out, and they can be picked up easily and the items can just be dumped into their baggies.  

Another way I control the chaos is by telling the students that I will only choose students who are working hard and being quiet.  If I notice a child is out of their seat or not working, then I skip over them- and they know I mean business!  :-)

So that's how I manage the 100th day snack!  

The kids are always so excited about making their own snack, and they can't wait to eat it when they get home.  If I have extra items left (and I usually do!), I throw it all in a bowl or bag, mix it up, and give them a handful to taste at school. 

Have a Happy 100th Day of School!

A Quick Tip: Control Loose Notebook Coils!

I hate notebooks.

There, I said it.  

I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.  Notebooks with coils usually end up tangled and pulled out until half the pages are loose, or the metal is used as a weapon.  Notebooks where the pages can be torn out usually end up with the pages falling out.  It's horrible.  Composition notebooks are great, but they are more expensive than regular notebooks and therefore just not in my budget! 

I've battled this problem because I always use notebooks with my students.  I felt like I spent too much time fixing notebook coils when some student decided to shove their pencil up in the coils even after I told them it was a "no no".

Even after setting down ground rules, including don't put your pencils in your notebook coils, your coils aren't toys, and other such completely worthless directions, I had to come up with a solution.  And finally, one day, I did!

These are actual student notebooks.  The plastic coils are even worse than the metal ones.  

The students even had difficulty opening to the correct page because the coils were in the way.

All you need to fix this problem?  2 plastic beads and a hot glue gun!

One bag of beads will do multiple notebooks and they are cheap!  

You can do it two ways, but I found it easier to put the hot glue inside the bead and slide it onto the coil.  I put one bead on each end of the notebook. 


Even with Kindergarten students using these notebooks, the coils stayed put.  It only took about 15 minutes of my time to do an entire class set, and they would keep the coils from falling out.  I just told my students they were not allowed to pull them off, and miraculously, they didn't!

And that, my friends, is how you get closure on those loose notebook coils!

I hope this was a helpful tip!