Shandra Patton is our Seedlings Fellow at Augusta Lewis Troup School in New Haven. She teaches preK and is collaborating with kindergarten teacher Gyna Grant and art teacher Rebecca Looney, both two-time participants at the SEC summer workshop, to integrate curriculum and explore process art at various age levels. Here are some of her thoughts on sorting and classifying in preschool.

Instinctively, as children explore their environment, they begin to notice similarities and differences. Children begin this process by sorting things that have relevance and meaning. An example of this is an infant’s recognition of which sounds bring adult attention, and which sounds do not.


Simple sorting encourages children to experience mathematics as they play.


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In order to sort, children focus on the attributes of the objects. Sorting initiates problem solving and inspires a new way of doing things. One of these children has modified this activity by using the wooden tongs found in our science area.  Without even knowing it, she has come up with a new and fun way to sort.




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Use of different natural materials in all different shapes and sizes will prompt a child to do what they naturally do, which is explore, investigate, and determine the likes and differences of the objects.







Children begin to organize their construction learning center by sorting and classifying boxes, and natural materials that will be used.

Classification is the next step in sorting.  Classification is the grouping of objects because of their characteristics. In our classroom by simply placing baskets and old silverware on a wooden bench children are prompted to make decision about which pieces of silverware can be grouped together.

During this sorting activity children start to develop language and learn new vocabulary by discussing the attributes related to the objects sorted.

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These colored rings that were bought from Eco-Works was a great find that kept these children engaged in a sorting and classifying activity that lasted a good part of morning free play. The children decided to grab magnifying glasses to examine their final product.

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By implementing simple sorting and classifying activities, children eventually become capable of sorting, classifying, and counting. This picture captures the children taking part in a color sorting activity that was later extended by encouraging the children to count the buttons that they have sorted.

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Basic sorting activities can lend a hand to a number of math concepts such as number sense, one to one correspondence, and knowledge of total sum.  These enriching simple activities also reach other domains, strengthening children’s ability to have positive social interactions.  These activities encourage use of language and the acquisition of new vocabulary, fine tuning cognition and building up their fine and gross motor development.   This is the magic of sorting and classifying in preschool.