Every program for how to teach a child to read or how to teach a child to spell that I’ve ever used in my classroom included word sort activities of some kind. Students need to know how to categorize for ideas or spelling patterns and sorts allow us to work on that skill. However often times the sorts are word cards, which mean little or nothing to my English Language Learners. So in an effort to help these students be successful I created picture word sorts, which ended up helping all of my students!
Why we should do picture sorts instead of word sorts?
When I worked in Morocco, my students were almost all English Language Learners. Many of them could sound out a word like nobody’s business, but they had no idea what they were reading. So while I was teaching them digraphs (which are particularly tricky for French speakers since CH says SH in French) I started doing picture word sorts. We would name each word first, building their vocabulary. Then we would sort the picture cards based on those challenging digraph sounds. Finally we would label the words by sounding out each word, bringing their vocabulary and their phonics together.
How do picture word sorts support kinesthetic learners?
The year I created these sorts I had 25 first graders and only 7 were girls. Most of my boys were very active and squirmy, so we needed as many kinesthetic activities as possible to keep their attention. Sorts were a great activity for them because they got to cut, move, glue and generally “do” phonics instead of just talking about it. These sorts made a great phonics center or reteaching small group activity.