Teaching Tip #49 Word Sorts

By: Nicole McCormack

What is it?

Students categorize words based on things like meaning, graphophonemic clues, similarities or spelling patterns.

Some categories the teacher might choose are:

-rhyming words

-consonant sounds

-number of syllables

-root words and affixes


-Helps students learn and practice concepts like spelling, phonics and vocabulary.

-It can be used in any subject.

-Students get to collaborate in small groups.

-Helps ELL students discover how english is different than their native language.

How to Use Word Sorts

1. Teacher chooses a topic. The teacher chooses a skill or content area for the word sort. The teacher decides whether it will be an open or closed word sort.

-Open Word Sort: students are given words that they must

sort in order to figure out what the categories are.

-Closed Word Sort: Students are given the categories and a list of words to sort into

those categories.

2. Make a list of words. Teacher comes up with a list of 6-20 words and puts each word on a small card.

3. Introduce Word Sort. If it is a closed sort the teacher will present the categories and allow the students to work in groups to arrange and rearrange within those categories. If it is an open sort the students will categorize the words in the list they are given and try to determine what the categories are.

4. Make a permanent record. Students glue their cards onto a large poster board/piece of paper. They could also just write their words on a sheet of paper.

5. Share Word Sorts. For open sorts the students will share with the class the categories they chose and why.

Connection to Literacy Standards

Informational Text, Foundational Skills and Language

-Students apply phonics and word-analysis skills

-students recognize word relationships

-students understand meanings of vocabulary words