At the high school level, activities have to be meaningful and engaging at the same time. A card sorting activity can be a great way to achieve this goal.
For some topics, a hands-on card sort can offer quite a bit more than a basic worksheet could. Don't worry; the prep work is minimal. A few minutes with the paper cutter can be more than worth it when you see your students really thinking critically and differentiating between categories.
If you allow students to work with a partner and discuss, you can incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles all into one activity. You may hear some great conversations as students determine how to sort each card.
Card sorts are versatile - you can assign one as homework, set up a learning station, or do a full-class, partner, or group structure. Here are three different ways that you can implement a card sorting activity in your high school math classroom.
I've listed three great ways to use card sorts, and each is great in different situations, which I will describe, but my favorite is the pocket style (#2). This setup is amazing for maximizing all the benefits of a card sort. They get the critical thinking going with a variety of information, but can also be re-used as a study guide later on. Everything, including the answer key, fits right inside the pocket for re-working or studying later on.
You can even layer the pockets to make sub-groups! I show this tip in the video (link below).
1. Station or Group
Try groups of 2 or 3 students. Set up your card sort at the table. Have students work together to sort the cards into the correct category.
2. Interactive Notebook: Sorting Pockets
Card sorting activities are a great addition to your interactive notebook. You can make a very simple "quick-fold pocket" out of a rectangular paper. Students can then sort cards directly into their notebook. If you prefer not to type and print these, students can just write labels themselves, cut the rectangles, and make the pockets in a couple minutes. Limit yourself to three or four categories for the best card sorting results.
Be sure to include as much variety in the given information as possible. In the Congruent vs. Similar sort, I use written explanations about all different situations to get students thinking (perimeters, diagonals, lengths, etc.). I also include diagrams with missing information. Students must use properties to find some angle measures before they can even determine whether the figures are similar or congruent. I also include transformed figures on the coordinate plane. These are amazing for critical thinking if you really get creative with your input information on each card.
3. Whole Class Activity
Another option is to have your entire class work together to sort a set of cards. This is easiest for you to prep.
Hand out one card to each student. Write the labels for your categories on the board. Have them come up one at a time and read the card aloud, then stick it to the board in the appropriate category.
Give the entire class a chance to think and dispute. Offer some challenging cards and get a discussion going. An "Always, Sometimes, Never" card sort works really well for a full-class card sort. Get your students thinking critically. Click here to purchase "Always, Sometimes, Never" Card sets to use. Encourage students to offer examples and counterexamples. Have them test cases and prove why they chose the category that they did.
"Always, Sometimes, or Never True" ?? (Click images for link)
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