In this lesson plan, children explore how to sort and classify objects according to common attributes. They begin by watching a video in which Curious George has to sort dogs according to certain characteristics. The children then look at a set of small objects and discuss the different ways they could sort them. They then sort and label the objects into categories. Next they play two different games that focus on identifying objects’ common attributes. Finally, children cut out pictures of dogs and discuss how they would sort them according to the dogs’ different attributes. As children go through the activities, they will be using the following science and math skills: asking questions, planning and conducting experiments, making predictions, experimenting, testing and retesting, and making and sharing observations.
- Understand that objects each have certain attributes.
- Understand that objects can be classified by their common attributes.
- Sets of small objects to sort (e.g., multicolored counting cubes, coins, beads, buttons, toy animals, or cars)
- Paper plates, containers, or cups; paper or plastic deli or take-out platters with dividers
- All Sorts of Dogs handout
1. Watch the video.
Explain to children that in the video, Curious George has gone to a dog show and has invited many of the dogs home. When chaos ensues, Curious George decides to sort the dogs according to certain characteristics. As children watch, ask if they can figure out how many dogs have followed George home. Then, play the video Curious George: Sort It Out!
2. Group by a common attribute.
- Display multicolored cubes or counters, coins (pennies, nickels, and dimes), or buttons or beads. Point out that these objects can be sorted in many different ways.
- Ask children to describe the objects in the collection—for example, beads that are big, little, rounds, square, red, yellow, etc. Ask, How do you think Curious George might sort these objects?
- Write children’s responses on the whiteboard or poster paper. Use this attribute list as a resource. Emphasize that there is no one correct method of sorting.
- Introduce sorting circles, mats, or containers such as box tops, paper plates, or deli platters with dividers.
- Help children determine how to label and place each group of objects on the mats or containers. Labels might include “Little Buttons with 2 Holes,” “Big Buttons with 4 Holes,” and so on.
3. Play “Guess My Rule” game.
- Have children watch as you select objects from the collection that share an attribute (perhaps one that the children have not yet used).
- Challenge children to “guess” or figure out your sorting rule.
- After playing several rounds, invite children to be volunteers to lead the game.
4. Play “Mystery Object” game.
- Place a new variety of objects in front of a small group of children.
- Choose one child to select an object and hide it behind his or her back once the others have covered their eyes.
- Others will ask “yes or no” questions to guess the mystery object, such as: Is it blue? Does it have wheels?
5. Complete “All Sorts of Dogs” handout.
- Distribute the “All Sorts of Dogs” handout.
- Have children cut out the dog cards.
- Give directions, focusing on different attributes of the dogs. For example, you could say: Hold up a big dog. Hold up a dog without spots. Then ask: Is everyone holding up the same dog as you are? Why or why not?
- Have children choose a way to sort the dog pictures. Then have them share their reasoning.
Extend with Games
- Invite children to play Everything Must Go. In this game, children help Curious George clean up his room by sorting out clothes, toys, and books. As they continue to play, they will be asked to recycle, compost, or donate the items after they have sorted them.
- For Curious George games designed for classroom whiteboard use, visit Teacher's Guide to Games.
Extend with Books
Encourage children to use these books as they continue to learn about sorting.
- Curious George: The Dog Show by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006). Curious George has to figure out a way to sort all the dogs he brought home from the Dog Show.
- Curious George: Librarian for a Day by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). When Curious George decides to help organize the library, he sorts the books by color, size, and finally by subject.
- Grandma’s Button Box by Linda William Aber (Kane Press, 2002). When she spills her grandmother’s button box, Kelly and her cousins try to sort them by size, color, and shape.
- Hannah’s Collections by Marthe Jocelyn (Tundra Books, 2004). Hannah loves to gather things and sort them by size, shape, and color. Which of her favorite collections should she bring to class?
- Sort It Out! by Barbara Mariconda (Sylvan Dell, 2008). A little rat named Packy must sort through his collection of trinkets so he can put them away.
- Sorting (Math Matters) by Henry Arthur Pluckrose (Children’s Press, 1995). Simple, colorful photographs about everyday items help teach about sorting.