Word Sorting is an extremely powerful, research based method that helps students build on their knowledge of a set vocabulary words. To start a word sort, students are given a set of words to analyze. Then, either the students or the teacher will chose categories (usually 3) to try to place all of the words into. The reason word sorting is so powerful is because it allows students to really analyze the vocabulary using their prior knowledge as well as looking at similarities and differences between the words. It gives students a chance to look at the words a variety of different ways which helps them develop a deep knowledge of the vocabulary that they might not get from just reading the words in a text.
Here is a sample word sorting lesson plan that uses trading cards:
1. Have students make 3 columns on a piece of paper.
2. Next, have them move their trading cards around on their desk until they find a way they can classify them into two or three groups.
3. Ask student to label the tops of the columns with the categories they came up with and write the vocabulary words in each column.
4. Finally, allow students to share how they sorted their words with the class until all the different ways to sort/classify them have been shared. As students share you can make a list of the ways they sorted their words on a piece of chart paper that you can add and refer to each time you do this activity. This is a great activity for students to do with partners and you’ll find that the categories become more and more creative each time you sort words with your class!