Using Sorting Mats to Engage Students (and FREEBIE)

We try to make learning as fun as possible for kids, but the hard truth sometimes they just need multiple opportunities for practice to master skills.  It can be a challenge to present the same skill in different formats, so the kids don't get bored AND see the skill over and over.

I wanted to share how to make the foldable sorting mats, since you can use them a million different ways in your own classroom! They are perfect for practicing skills that can boring after a bit! I made a short video clip on how to make each mat.  You can show these to your students so they can see all the folds larger than life! LOL! I also included a video (at the very bottom) for all you visual learners (like me!) on how to make each mat in one LOOONNNG video of all the clips combined.  The videos are ...well, special.  I am certainly NO spokesperson! LOL!  

This is one of the most basic sorting mats.  Super simple and anyone can do it!

How to Make It:

How to Use It:

Here is a short video clip you can show student son how to create it.

Here is another one I used all the time in my classroom.

You can cut tabs in each of the window sides and use it for A MILLION different things!

How to Make It:

How to Use It:

I used this folding mat most often for vocabulary.  Students would cut tabs on each side and write the vocabulary word on the outside and the a definition and example on the inside.  I have also used it as a "word collector." Students could collect words with different patterns by writing the pattern on the outside of the tab and the words that follow the pattern inside the tab.

Here is a short video clip you can show your kids on how to make it!

I actually wrote a post about using this awhile ago.  Kids created "plot wallets" to retell the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

How to Make It:

How to Use It:

So many ways to use this one!  Especially if you use it for examples and nonexamples- examples of fractions, sentences used correctly, past tense and present tense verbs!  The ideas go on and on!

Here is a short clip showing how to make this one!

I think out of all the sorting mats, this is the one I sued most.  It is simple to make, but engaging for kids and can be used a so many ways!

How to Make It:

In the example above there are only two tabs, but you can just cut more to create multiple tabs.

How to Use It:

These are great in science and social studies to sequence events or life cycles.  The can be used for vocabulary (word on outside and definition and example on the inside).  I even used them as story organizers in how to writing with one tab for first, another for next and so on.

Here is a short clip explaining how to make this one!

I wanted to make a video to show how to make all the mats like I mentioned above.  It is a hot mess!  At first I wanted to make it so you could just show your kids the video on how to make the mat so everyone could see it easily. So, for the most parts, I sound like I am talking to students.  I know you aren't a kid! LOL Then, suddenly I switched to adult mode to explain something to the teacher.  Forgive me.  My TV skills are pitiful! LOL!

If you like these mats and want them ready to go, like what is pictured in the video, check out my latest pack!!!

One skill kids need lots of practice with is adding and subtracting.  I had a friend ask me if I had anything new for adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers.  I was SURE I had tons of stuff.  Oppsies.  Not so much!! I know we practiced it a ton...I just have no idea what we did! LOL!

So I decided to create a new pack! I made a pack of math sorts of addition and subtraction where kids can sort of addition or subtraction or regrouping or no regrouping. I wanted to make it a little more hands on and fun than a regular cut and paste, so each of the sorts are on foldable sorting mats!  They are perfect for interactive notebooks. I made sure to make each of the problems horizontal since subtracting using the algorithm isn't until 4th grade according to the CCS. I also left a work area for each problem so students can choose and record their own strategy. The pack includes two-digit problems and three-digit problems, as well as single step word problems.

You can see some examples in this short video clip.

Want to try it out in your own classroom?  Check out this sampler with two sorts!  Enjoy!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!



10 Things Your Students MUST Know Before Playing Math Games

I posted earlier about using using cheap Dollar Store materials to create math games. Which is all fine and dandy, but how can you really prepare your kids to play the math games in the first place?  SO much classroom management must be in place for students to work independently and successfully before you ever break out the games.

So how can you prepare kids?

1.) Kids need to know what to do when something goes wrong. Because somethings ALWAYS goes wrong, right.  I don't know about you but Murphy and his pesky Laws LOVVVED my classroom! You can create an anchor chart of solutions to common, possible problems.
This is a great example found on Kathy Griffin's blog.
This is another great one I found on Jen Jones' blog, Hello Literacy.

2.)  Students need a clear understanding who they will be playing with, if partners are being used.  Does the teacher choose them?  Are students able to select partners?  Will they be working independently?  What will happen if there is an odd number of students?  Can they play in groups of three?

Some years, my students were able to find a partner within a specific group.  I had a few games that were perfect for 3 players set out in case their was an odd number.   Other years, centers were all independent :(.  This was not my favorite at all.

3.) Where in the room will kids complete math games or centers?  Can they work on the floor?  Where?  How close (or far) can it be from the small group table? How close can partners work to other groups?

My kids could play on the whole group rugs and on the tile- all were in view of the teacher's table. They could not play anywhere near each other.  Period.  I found any amount of closeness was trouble.  Too much temptation when you are only 7!!!! They pretty much worked in all corners of the room.  Since only part of the class was working in centers and games, we had plenty of room to spread out. Kids working independently worked at their seat.

4.) So, how do you play the game again?  Will instructions be provided?  Will they play whole group before playing independently?

All my games had directions with the game.  We also played the game whole group BEFORE ever playing independently. I also had directions for how to play math games all over the room! LOL!  You can see the charts above and below!

This was an anchor chart I had posted to explain the different parts of our M.A.T.H. block.

5.) What about materials?  What if there are lost or missing pieces?  Do you have a central place for missing pieces? I

 had a little, blue box for missing pieces.  Sorry the picture is so blurry.  It made finding pieces and cleaning up MUCH easier! I kept it with all our math centers (the numbered drawers).

So now we have a basic plan, so let's get to the nitty gritty.  These are the crazy little things you have to teach before kids can play the game (without driving you crazy).

6.) Do your kids play lots of card games with either number cards or actual decks of cards? Do they know how to shuffle cards without making a mess?  I am not talking Las Vegas dealer shenanigans, just being able to mix the cards without them flying everywhere.  For some butterfingers, the struggle is real....not that I would know about that!

I explicitly showed students how to mix a stack by taking small stacks and "cutting" them together.  No fancy bridge or anything here!

7.) How do you roll dice?  It sounds crazy, until you have watched relatively young kids roll die.  Suddenly dice are flying all over the room!  One little shake and dice can scatter SEVERAL feet over carpet, let alone tile.

I always taught my kids to cup their hands close with the dice inside.  Then, students shook their closed hands (with the dice inside).  Students then carefully opened their hands just a few inches off the ground.  This prevents the scattering.

8.) How do you use the spinner?  Is it a homemade one with a pencil tip and paperclip?

 I liked the jumbo paperclips because I felt like it was easier for small hands.  They also make these awesome clear spinners (affiliate link) which are great because they can just lay over the spinner.  No paperclip needed!  We actually had some of these as part of a past math adoption at my school.

9.) How do the kids decide who goes first?

  I don't know about you, but turns were always a source of crabbiness.  This may not be a solution for everyone, but my kids always played Paper, Rock, Scissors.  By second grade, most kids know how to play it. We used it to solve all disputes in our classrooms!  LOL!

10.) How do you clean up?  It may seem obvious that the game should be put back the way it looked, but if the previous players didn't clean up properly.....well, that won't work either.

Make sure to have all small pieces contained in baggies.  I liked to store them in gallon size baggies or even large clasp envelopes. Then, the large baggies went in the drawers.

I love math games and used tons of them in my classroom!  Are you looking for some EASY and low prep math activities?  These all use dice, playing cards, or a paperclip for a spinner- and that is it!

Looking for more guided math posts? Check these out?



Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

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