I really enjoy doing card sorts with my students. I don’t know if they enjoy them as much as I do since usually when I hand out some sort of cards I get lots of “really, cards again!” responses.
Card sorts are great beginning of the unit activities. It is a quick and easy way to pre-assess what students already know about a topic and see any misconceptions that they may have. I usually have them sort cards into group and then have them justify their groupings by making a list of “rules” they used to group each card.
A great unit to do this with is Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources. To do the card sort, I give students several cards with pictures of different energy sources on them – coal, nuclear power plant, windmill, etc. Then I ask the students to sort them into renewable and nonrenewable. They have to list at least 4 rules for each category. I also always include a section at the bottom where they can list any discrepancies that they may have with their group. (We know that sometimes one person takes charge in the group.)
This activity is great because in just 15 minutes your students have thought about renewable vs. nonrenewable resources, come up with rules/criteria for renewable and nonrenewable resources, identified different pictures that have to do with renewable and nonrenewable resources, and you can see exactly what they do/don’t understand about renewable and nonrenewable resources.
Again, doing card sorts at the beginning of any unit works great, even units that may not have great pictures to go along with them. Sometime do true/not true sorts. I have students look at statements about a topic and have to sort them into true/not true and then give reasons. Card sorts could also work for just about any grade level and any subject.
Try out doing a card sort in your classroom and let me know how it goes!!