Having students sort materials to show their mastery of a concept is not new to education. As a heavy user of Words Their Way, I used word sorts in my classroom each week. I am being honest when I say I came to loathe the day we started our new sorts. My main pain points were having the students use class time to cut their sorts out and the number of words that would go missing from each sort when a piece of paper fluttered to the ground or when a student lost the entire bag or envelope that contained their sort. Sort activities were not my favorite! I finally had the brilliant idea to use GSuite tools to attack these sorting activities and make them more manageable for students (and me, of course!) By digitizing sorts and assigning them through Google Classroom, I cut out the biggest pain points and made life easier for everybody.
Using a Google tool to create a digital sort is a lot easier than you might think. The two tools that work best for this type of activity are Drawings or Slides. Drawings will function more like a one-and-done type of sort whereas Slides will allow you to create multiple activities housed within the same Slide presentation.
The idea is simple. Use the white space (or canvas) in the middle of your screen to create sort topics and use the gray space around the slide or drawing to place items for sorting. These items can be text boxes or images.
Here are some examples of sorts that I have created:
To create the sorts, follow these simple directions: (I like to create within a folder in my Drive so that I always know where my items are)
- Go to your Google Drive and navigate to the folder where you want your sort to be housed.
- Click New, mouse over More and select Google Drawings (or Slides)
- Give it a name!
- Click “Insert” and select “Table” from the drop-down.
- Create a table by mousing over the squares until you have the columns you want for your sort.
- Click and drag the corners of the table until it covers the entire white space in my Drawing.
- Using the traditional formatting tools, I can then add titles to each box of my sort.
- Click on the text box icon in the menu and draw a text box in the gray space
- Change your font style and size to what you want and type in your first word.
- Copy the text box (ctrl c on the keyboard) and then paste it (ctrl v) the number of times equal to the number of text boxes that you need.
- Separate out the text boxes you have created by dragging them around into the gray space around your drawing.
- Change the text to the words you need for your sort.
- When you are finished, assign the sort through Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” for each student option.
If you are more of a visual learner, here is a video that shows how this is done.
This particular sort that I created is a word sort, but you could easily make it a concept sort by putting images instead of text boxes in the gray space around your drawing. You can also create this same activity with Slides, you just have a little less gray space to work with. The nice thing about creating with Slides is that you can have multiple sorts all housed within the same file.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Insert a table for your background if you are using columns. That way, kids won’t accidentally click and drag individual lines out of the way. They can always use ctrl z if they accidentally move the entire table.
- If you have a more complicated background that is not just going to be using columns, create the background using Drawings. Then, publish it to the web and then insert it as a picture. Here is a video.
- Create one template and then duplicate it/copy it/reuse it often
- Copy and paste will be your best friend.