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Card Sort


Students make connections by classifying/categorizing important terms, concepts, visuals, manipulatives, or assessment items.


  • Set of cards or manipulatives to sort (or students can create their own cards using sticky notes)
  • Card Sort template (English/Spanish)


  1. Give students (or have them create) a set of cards reflecting various terms, concepts, visuals, genre demands, or assessment items. (Manipulatives can also be sorted.)
  2. Students work cooperatively to sort the cards or items into various categories such as the following:
    • + (know it)      ✓ (kind of know it)      – (don’t know it)
    • Always true      Sometimes true      Never true
    • Closed Sort: Teacher-provided content/concept categories
    • Think it Up: How can we explain and justify our answer?
    • Open Sort: Student-created categories
  3. Observe students’ thinking and clarify/verify as appropriate.


Vocabulary Journal Variation

  1. Have each student create a set of vocabulary cards and tape them onto 3 pages in their notebooks:
    • Page #1: minus (word cards you don’t know yet)
    • Page #2: check (word cards you kind of know)
    • Page #3: plus (word cards you know and can teach others)
  2. Throughout the unit, students move cards forward from minus to check to plus pages.
  3. To move a card to the plus page, students must complete a “flip up” by drawing a sketch and writing a description on the back of the vocabulary card.
  4. At the end of the unit, notice which words most students still have on the minus page (loopback review for all) and which words a few students still have on the minus page (intervention for a few).

Classroom Management

  • Time Saver: Write words on the board and have students use sticky notes or ripped paper to create word cards.
  • Model the strategy using a think-aloud to verbalize the metacognitive thinking associated with the activity.
  • Consider using the strategy at the beginning, middle, and end of a lesson to determine which words require loopback review for all or small group intervention.


  • Promote access by providing visuals, descriptions, and anchor charts associated with the concepts.
  • Promote access by allowing students to partner with a supportive peer or allowing peers to read text aloud.
  • Provide response support by creating digital cards that can be read using text-to-speech support.

Think It Up!

  • Have students think more deeply about the concept by responding to a Think It Up prompt as an exit ticket or journal entry:
    • Sequence the cards from those you know best to those you know least.
    • What generalization can you make about all the cards?
  • Encourage students to use lead4ward’s Thinking Stems (English/Spanish) to frame their responses, if needed.