Shape Sorting Games

Classifying Shapes, Sorting 2D Shapes

UDL 2.5

In Shape Sorting Games, students sort two-dimensional shapes in a variety of ways in order to develop their classification skills. Once students develop proficiency identifying basic shapes, the teacher introduces shape sorting games in which students sort tactile objects (e.g. die-cut paper shapes, pattern blocks, magnetic shape tiles) into groups based on their characteristics (e.g. size, color, number of sides). First, the teacher introduces the concept of grouping and sorting shapes by engaging the class in interactive classification activities and games (e.g. taking turns sorting die-cut shapes into a labeled pocket chart). As students grasp the concept of shape classification, the teacher integrates shape sorting games into small group practice and learning centers. This hands-on approach is particularly effective for young students, as they are often strong kinesthetic and visual learners.

Implementation Tips

Prerequisite Knowledge
Ensure students are able to identify the basic shapes before introducing shape sorting games. Practice identifying shapes during daily calendar time and go on shape hunts around the classroom. Once students can proficiently identify two-dimensional shapes, introduce the strategy.
Introducing Shape Sorting
Introduce shape sorting to the whole-class. Use a pocket chart and colorful shapes made from construction paper or card stock. Include labels of characteristics (e.g. size, shape, color) at the top of the chart. Model sorting the shapes prior to engaging students in guided practice.
Using Picture Books
Use an engaging shape or sorting book (e.g. [[|Sort It Out]], [[|Shapes, Shapes, Shapes]] prior to practicing shape sorting games. Picture books engage young learners in the content and reinforce critical concepts.
Graphic Organizers
Use a shape sorting [[ | tree diagram]] to reinforce students’ sorting skills. Label the diagram with shape characteristics (e.g. rounds shapes, shapes with four sides). Have students illustrate shaped-objects (e.g. a triangle pizza slice) and glue them under the correct categories.
Reinforcing Critical Thinking
Play “What’s My Rule?” to reinforce sorting shapes and to develop students’ critical thinking skills. In a small group, sort shapes onto a mat and ask, “What’s my rule? How did I sort the shapes?” Once students determine the rule, continue playing by sorting the shapes in different ways.
Game Variety
Offer students a fun variety of shape sorting games to maintain student interest. Games are widely available for purchase (e.g. [[|Shape Sorting Presents]], [[|Shape & Color Sorter]]), and many free resources and ideas exist online (e.g. [[|SImple Shape Sort]], [[|Sorting Containers]]).
Organizing Learning Centers
Organize games into labeled containers and model playing the game and putting away the materials. Introduce one game per week so that students learn how to play each game well prior to adding additional games.
Integrating Throughout the School Day
Integrate the shape sorting games throughout the school day. Use sorting games as an interactive, whole class warm-up (e.g. “What’s My Rule?”), a small group math lesson (e.g. sorting two-dimensional shapes on a sorting mat) or a learning center or preferred choice time activity.


Whole Group Sorting
Mid-year, a teacher observes that most students can identify two-dimensional shapes. The teacher gathers the class at the rug and quickly reviews the basic shapes and their characteristics. Next, the teacher gives each student a laminated construction paper shape and says, “We have been doing a great job learning about shapes. Each of you have a special shape. Today, we are going to play a game where we practice sorting our shapes by size, shape and color. We will start with size. When the music starts, everyone with a small shape will move to the front of the class and everyone with a large shape will move to the back. I will demonstrate with my shape before we begin.” The teacher then models orally identifying the shape size and moving to the designated area of the classroom. Once students have sorted themselves by the attributes of their shape, the teacher checks to see that everyone sorted correctly and then asks follow-up questions (e.g. “How many shapes are in each group?”). The class continues the game, sorting the shapes by shape and color.
Differentiated Small Group
After introducing sorting shapes by attribute, a teacher notices that some students are struggling to grasp the concept of sorting shapes. While the rest of the class is participating in learning centers, the teacher pulls the small group aside and facilitates a highly-engaging shape sorting game. First, the teacher gives each student a sorting mat and a ziploc bag filled with crackers that are a variety of shapes. The teacher then leads the students through identifying attributes of each cracker in a natural, non-threatening manner (e.g. “Let’s take a look at this round cracker. It looks delicious. What else do you notice about it? How many sides does it have?”). Next, the teacher guides students through sorting the crackers on their shape sorting mats, providing verbal feedback and assistance throughout the activity. Once each student in the small group has sorted all of their crackers, the teacher leads students through sharing their results.

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