Friday, September 23, 2011


I recently had a conversation with a friend about the value of preschoolers learning the skill of SORTING.  Our conversation got me thinking about different ways we could sort items around our home, without buying anything special.  So, we gathered up some coins and an empty egg carton...

Both kids emptied out their piggy (but not shaped like piggies) banks.  I cut an egg carton in half and asked each of them to sort their coins.

Eli's Sorting:
It was interesting to see how Eli interpreted the directions to "sort the coins."  In my head, it was obvious that there would be four piles:  quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.  But, Eli had two piles to start:  a silver pile and a copper pile.  Once I asked him if we could sort the silver pile by size ALSO, he was able to split that pile into three groups.

Abby's Sorting:
Hmmm...ok then.  With Abby, I realized after-the-fact, that I should have given her just two kinds of coins...maybe quarters and pennies.  At two years old, she needed a bit more of a concrete place to start and sorting JUST quarters and pennies would have been much more achievable for her.  She could not even begin to comprehend sorting the silver into groups based on size.  Actually, she had a hard time comprehending sorting in the first place.  The fact that Eli could sort and she could not, leads me to believe that this is a learned skill.  Or...Eli got all of the mathematical genes.  As the children of a statistician and math teacher, I would have thought that we would have more than enough math genes to go around.  Time will tell, I suppose...

Just to make sure that sorting was as important of a skill as I thought, I did a quick reference to the Michigan Department of Education's Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten.  Mind you, this is only the second time that I have referred to this document, but I think I will be spending some more time with it!

Mathematics Early Learning Expectation #2: 
Children begin to develop skills of comparing and classifying objects, relationships and events in their environment. 
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Children typically:
1. Can describe, match, and sort.
2. Identify likenesses and differences.
3. Can place objects or events in order, according to a given criterion; e.g.,
    color, shape, size, time.
4. Recognize that the same group can be sorted and classified in more than
    one way.
5. Can describe why they group or sequence in a particular way.
( Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten, page 112)

YAY!  What a great skill to be able to sort!  After all, isn't that how we process sorting it?  As adults, in our own thought processes, we are always classifying, comparing similarities and differences, and putting things in order.  We sort.  All the time.  So...let's sort!

When folding laundry, children can:
  • Sort by type of clothing:  socks, pants, shirts, etc.
  • Sort by the wearer of the clothing:  An Abby pile, an Eli pile, a Mommy pile, etc.
  • Sort by color

When putting away groceries after shopping, children can:
  • Sort by temperature:  cold into the fridge or freezer, not-cold into the pantry.
  • Sort by food group:  fruit, veggies, dairy, etc.
  • Sort by meal:  we eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
  • Sort by color
  • Sort by size:  rectangle, square, circle

I really like the idea of sorting the same group of items in multiple ways.  Laundry would work so well for this, plus my kids love to jump in the big pile of clothes.  Though I would have to grit my teeth a bit while doing this with CLEAN clothes, my kids would be so excited to sort out the laundry and then re-pile it up AGAIN to jump in it AGAIN.  I also like the idea of giving a child a pile of stuff and saying, "Can you sort this?"  How fun to see how their little minds work as they explain how they have sorted the items!  Don't we sort ALL THE TIME when working around the home?  Putting away toys, unloading the dishwasher, organizing a closet....

How about sorting these household items??
  • Save tops from milk jugs to later sort by color.
  • Sort pictures of family members.
  • Little girl accessories...sort barrettes and ribbons and necklaces by color or by type of accessory.
  • Cut pictures out of the weekly grocery story advertisement and then sort by color or food group.  What about an "I like this food" pile and an "I don't like this food" pile?
  • Put a few types of cereal in a bowl and then sort...then have it as a snack.
  • Crayons:  sort by color, or, if your crayons are anything like ours, sort by broken and not-broken.
  • Sort the items for recycling.

We can even sort without even moving items around.  The other day, Eli called to me from the dining table and said, "Mom, I see some coupons."  We had this conversation:
Me:  Can you tell what kind of coupons they are?
E:  No
Me:  Well, does it look like a restaurant or a store?
E:  Restaurant
Me:  Can you tell what kind of food they serve?
E:  (looking for a minute)  Fish
Just by looking at an advertisement, we could sort through the information to determine that it was coupons for a seafood restaurant, without having to read a single word.  This is one thing I love about preschool education, our days are FULL of opportunities to learn, if we are on the lookout for them.

I could keep going...I have gotten really excited about sorting, once again showing my mathematical nerdiness.  I just can't keep it hidden for long.

Happy Sorting.

1 comment:

  1. Wish I'd known you about 15 years ago! Such great ideas!