Developing Categorical Thinking and Expressive Language
Stage of Literacy Development:
Stage 0: Foundation for Literacy
Primary: Knowledge Building, Oral Language & ELL
Compile sets of pictures or photographs that can be sorted into two or more categories
Try to choose pictures that will be familiar to students or be ready to teach them explicitly
Create one set of 5-10 pictures for each pair or small group of students
Choose one set of pictures to use for demonstration
Display the pictures on a blackboard or easel
Create copies of the graphic organizer for your students to use (optional)
Identify each picture with the whole class to ensure that students recognize the items
Model a think-aloud strategy to explain your thinking for organization of the pictures and ask for student input.
For example: "Hmm, I know that horses and cows both live on a farm, so I will put those two pictures together. This crocodile, though, it doesn't live on a farm. I'll put that picture in a different group."
If you are providing your students with the graphic organizer, model its use at this time
Allow students to work independently or in pairs to sort their own set of pictures
When a student or pair of students have finished sorting, ask them to explain their thinking of how they sorted the pictures
Ask questions and make comments to extend language learning
English Language Learners/ESL:
- During modeling, use basic language and emphasize use of the pictures - Engage in dialogue with students
LD/Reading & Writing Difficulties:
- Provide a graphic organizer for students to use while sorting - Prompt regularly and ensure interaction with students regularly
Cultural Appropriateness & Diversity:
- Ensure the pictures are representative and accurate (for example, sort foods from around the world rather than North American foods)
- Students may work in heterogenous, flexible pairs and discuss with one another how to categorically sort the items - Use concrete manipulatives for sorting rather than pictures.
Source: Trehearne, M. P., Healy, L. H., Cantalini-Williams, M., Moore, J. L. (2000). Kindergarten Teacher's Resource Book. Scarborough, ON: Nelson Education.
Evidence: McGuinness, C. (1999). Research Report No 115: From Thinking Skills to Thinking Classrooms: A Review and Evaluation of Approaches for Developing Pupils Thinking. Department of Education and Employment, Crown Copyright: Norwich, England.
The goal of Concept Sorts: Developing Categorical Thinking and Expressive Language is to develop students' expressive language by explaining problem solving strategies and reasoning through catgorical sorting of pictures of familiar items.
What You Need
20-40 minutes (one time) - Compile sets of pictures
25 minutes - Teacher models sorting - Students begin to sort their own sets of pictures - Teacher consults with each student and students' explain the reasoning they used to sort the pictures
Teacher: - 1 set of pictures (identical to students' set) - Tape/magnets Students: - Sets of pictures of familiar items that can be sorted into different categories Optional: - Graphic organizer
What You Do
Modeling: - modeling how to categorically sort the items Consultant: - during conferences with students to gather information about students' language use and conceptual reasonings
Whole Class: - during teacher modelling Individual: - during student sorting and during student-teacher conferences when explaining their choice of categorie
- Record students explanations for each set of pictures and the date that they completed it
- This will track the complexity of each explanation a student provides, to keep a record of how their oral language and reasoning skills progress over time
- Create sets of pictures that relate to themes or topics you are studying in class
- Ask students if they can think of another way to sort the pictures
- Ask students to draw additional items that could be added to the categories
- Ask students to label the pictures using their inventive spelling
- After implementing this activity a few times, encourage students to determine the categories themselves as this will allow them to build problem-solving skills.
- To limit the number of sets made, have a small group of students completing a set independently or in pairs, while other students work on different activities at other centres.
- Having students explain their thinking regarding their sorting helps develop expressive language related to early scientific and mathematical reasoning.