Math Centers - Sorting

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Students will be able to complete sorting activities independently.

Big Idea

In order to pull small groups during math instruction, the rest of the students need engaging activities that they can complete independently. These simple sorting activities help students learn the procedures for completing math centers.

Problem of the Day

5 minutes

I start the lesson with a problem of the day to help students review skills and concepts from prior lessons and develop their ability to problem solve.  I call the students up to the carpet. The students find their spots while saying this chant with me.

Criss cross, applesauce, hands in your lap, eyes on the teacher, you've got to show me that.

I project the Problem of the Day on the SMARTBoard and say to students, "This is our Problem of the Day for today.  Look at shapes.  This says 'Sort by size.  Put the objects in the correct group.'" I point out that each circle has a word in it.  I show the students how to press the sound icon to hear the word.  One circle says big and the other says small.  I call a student up to drag an object into the circle where it belongs.  If the student drags it to the wrong place, it will snap back, so they will know right away if they made a mistake.  If a student does make a mistake, I say, "Remember we are sorting by size.  Make sure the objects are the same size."  I continue to call students up until all of the objects have been correctly sorted.

If you don't have a SMARTBoard, you can use the pdf copy of the slides in a variety of ways to reproduce this activity.

I tell students, "Today we will be learning how to do math centers.  All of our centers this week will be about sorting.  You will learn how to do all of the centers and you will get a chance to work with your group on one of them."

Sorting and classifying are important mathematical skills for kindergarten students to learn.  They will use these skills in many aspects of their academic and home life.  Practicing sorting and classifying is a great way to start center activities since there are many sorting and classifying activities that students can do independently even when they are just starting to develop these skills. 

Introduction to Math Centers

25 minutes

I follow up my daily math lessons with center time every day.  The centers are usually directly related to what we are learning about in the unit.  These centers give students a chance to practice what we have been learning independently with engaging hands on activities.  Later in the year, I also include some review centers that review prior units.  This gives students an opportunity to review concepts and skills throughout the year.  Center time also gives me the opportunity to work with small groups of students.  I select the groups based on the students' needs.

I ask students, "What have we been doing when we finish a math paper each day?"  Answers could include: Put it in the basket, sort things, play with buttons, etc.  "When we finish our math papers from now on, we are still going to clean up and put them in the basket, but instead of coming back to your seat and putting your head down, you will be able to get your math center."  I have the students turn and face the back of the classroom where our math centers are stored.  "These are our math centers.  They are in trays just like you have been using.  You will take the tray that is sitting on the same number and picture as your table.  When you are finished with the center, you will put it back in the same place."

I have the students move into a circle.  I remind students to sit on the hard floor so that there is space for everyone.  I bring up all of the center trays.  I explain and model how to complete each center.  This week's Math Centers are:

Sorting counters in Sorting Circles
Sorting Fruit Loops in Sorting Boxes
Sorting Beans in Cups
Sorting Apples in Sorting Baskets (from
SMART Board- Lakeshore Sorting Adventures Interactive Activities

Each center is explained in the video located in the next section.


20 minutes

Once I have introduced all of the centers, I have the students go back to their seats.  I remind students that the rules that we have been following during other sorting activities still apply.  We need to share the materials, work quietly, and keep the materials in the tray until they are being used.  I call up one student from each table to come back and get their center.  I circulate through the room to make sure that all of the centers are being done correctly.  I do not pull a group or any students for testing during this first day of centers.  I take the first day (or first few days, if needed) to monitor centers and ensure that the students are staying at their seats, working on the task and using their inside voices.  Making sure that students understand how to work in centers independently at the beginning of the year saves a lot of time later in the year.  After about ten minutes, I count down from 5 and say "Freeze."  When I say this, all students stop what they are doing, put their hands on their heads and look at me.  This is a procedure that we use throughout the day.  I say to students, "You have about five minutes left.  Remember when the clean up song comes on, you need to quietly put all of your materials back in your tray and return it to the math center table.  It needs to be on top of your table number.  If you are sorting apples, you can put your paper on the drying rack to dry."  I let the students work for five more minutes and then turn on Tidy Up by Dr. Jean.  Students clean up and return to their seats.