Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tip Tuesday! Ways to target categories for PK kiddos!

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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); 
    1. 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.  
    2. 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.
  3. 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)
Sorting subcategories:
  • 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?

Happy Talking!


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