Last week I talked about the steps I use to teach PK kiddos how to understand analogies by focusing on understanding relationships between objects. Today I'd like to just write the several ideas I have done with PK kiddos that have worked to teach them how to understand categories of objects!
If you have other ideas, PLEASE share by commenting below. I know I can always use more ideas!!!!
There are some "rules" (for lack of a better word) I like to follow when teaching categories:
- Always begin with 2 MAXIMALLY different categories: meaning I choose two general categories that have NOTHING in common (animals vs. clothing, OR furniture vs. musical instruments, etc.)
- Make categories as CONCRETE as possible: meaning I use real objects as much as possible, followed by toys, than photographs, pictures, and cartoons (Microsoft clip art has tons of "cartoon" pics you can use);
- NOTE: children who have speech and language deficits with NO OTHER cognitive delays or other co-morbid disorders do NOT require such and elaborate scaffolding system and can move very quickly from objects to pictures.
- Children with OTHER cognitive delays or co-morbid disorders DO BENEFIT from this scaffolding system and in my clinical experience have been able to mastery understanding and verbal identification of categories with less difficulty using this system.
- Teach general categories FIRST followed by subcategories: this means a child will demonstrate understanding of animals before I expect them to master "jungle, farm, ocean" animals; or a child will demonstrate understanding of food first before "fruit, vegetable, meat" subcategories. I teach it this way b/c we know semantic learning is hierarchical in nature (general then subcategories, than sub-subcategories and so on) and we want our students to understand and organize their semantic relationships in a way that supports word retrieval and vocabulary development. (Excuse the very crude visual below but this is just a quick display of the hierarchy of just one general category. Clearly these sub-subcategories could continue and the number of items within them would number more than 3 animals.)
Ok so those are the rules I like to follow when teaching categories. Here are some activities I have done in the past to teach categories: (this list includes ONLY concrete sorting games as I think we are all familiar with file folder type sorting games)
Sorting for maximally different categories:
- Using a big bowl and my Fisher Price farm-sorted food vs. animals
- Using a box and a large serving plate-sorted musical instruments vs. food
- Using a clothes line (yarn and clothes pins) and a doll house-sorted clothing vs. furniture
- Using a box (labeled "Toy Box") and a book shelf-sorted toys vs. books
- Felt board with volcano and felt board with sky on it-sorted $ store dinosaurs and sky transportation
- using peers holding boxes (with picture labels on them)-sorted inside vs. outside items (then took outside times-pine cones, grass, flowers, acorns, leaves, etc. BACK outside)
- Play stroller and clothes line-sorted baby items (baby food jars, rattles, bottles, diapers, etc.) and clothing on opposite sides of the room (when using maximal differences I do NOT add in baby clothing to this sorting activity)
- Using a fish bowl and my Fisher price farm-sorted farm vs. ocean animals
- Using legos (as our fences for a zoo or our jungle) and my farm-sorted zoo/jungle vs. farm animals
- Using a fruit bowl and play refrigerator-sorted fruit vs. meat/vegetables/beverages
- Using butcher paper, drew road, lake and sky-sorted land vs. sky vs. water transportation
- Using a race track and water in my sensory table-sorted water vs. land transportation
- Using my office desk and doll house-sorted school vs. home items
- Using fire station and race track, with road signs and cones-sorted rescue vs. construction vehicles
- While pretending to own book store-sorted books about animals and vehicles into 2 different boxes on either side of the room
- While pretending to own restaurant sorted food categories in various places in my therapy room (refrigerator, table, microwave, fruit bowl, freezer, etc.)
- Refrigerator and sink-sorted empty vs. full containers (empty goes in sink to be washed!)
- Sorting by color and shape-using colored mats, colored cups, colored paper, colored egg cartons, etc.
- Beach bag and box-sorted summer vs. winter clothing
- Desk and kitchen-sorted writing vs. eating utensils
- Tons of sensory table play where we sort various subcategories of objects in play!
Well I think that is a pretty good start. I know I've done so many more different types of sorting games with real objects and toys and as I remember more and more of them I will add them here!
What concrete sorting activities do your students like to do?