Lesson: Sort & Predict Activities

Explicit Support & Scaffolding for English Learners:

The strategy of Sort & Predict supports English Learners by requiring students to draw connections between known and unknown ideas. Students are also being asked to predict what words mean and place them into categories. This requires students to think both conceptually and practically. For example, students are presented with a list of words such as:

rocks, migration, water, minerals, soil, culture, tradition

First students have to grapple with the meanings of these words. Simultaneously, they have to decide how the words are related, sort the words into distinct categories, and predict the meanings of unknown words. Finally, students have to ask themselves if these categories make sense.

This is a cognitively challenging exercise that involves delving into the nuances of language. It requires students to become word conscious. What do the words mean? How do they fit together? How are they related to each other?


Sort & Predict activities are intended to support students in:

  • stimulating and extending their prior knowledge and understandings
  • making connections between what they already know and the new information
  • building connections between words and concepts
  • comparing, contrasting, and classifying words

In its simplest form, students predict the meanings of words and then sort them into categories.

Common Core Standards


  1. Teacher-selected vocabulary words from the lists of words under each topic.  Since the goal is identification and categorization,  you can use the pre-selected words for the topic, or you may want to combine words from different lists for this activity. Each will need  approximately 20 words.
  2. The teacher can download both the list of words and the Word Sort Cards under each topic. Students can cut out the words or copy the words onto cards for sorting.
  3. Scissors
  4. Student reference materials such as student dictionaries, thesauruses, and other curricular resource materials that list words, their definitions, morphology, syllabication, synonyms, and antonyms.

Brief Description:

Sort & Predict lessons are often done at the beginning of the unit before students have been introduced to the words and concepts. It provides a preview of what is to come. It also helps students become familiar with the language of the unit.  Students have the opportunity to access background knowledge and use their critical thinking skills to begin to explore the concepts of the unit of study.


Teaching Tip

  • Sort & Predict activities are most effective when students work in pairs or small groups of 3 or 4. In this activity, students use each other as springboards for generating predictions, making connections, and classifying words into categories.


  • There are two situations where it might be necessary to give students the categories.
    • First, if this is the first time students have done this strategy, they will most likely be more successful if they are given the categories.
    • Secondly, if the content matter is highly challenging, it might also help students to have pre-selected categories.

Sort & Predict Lesson

  1. The teacher first must identify a group of 10-20 vocabulary words and terms that are both from a specific unit of study and not completely obvious as categories.  You may want to add some multiple meanings words to the list too (see Multiple Meaning Word lists for Math and Science).
  2. The teacher gives students the words and key terms.
  3. Working with a partner or in small groups, students discuss the terms and think about different ways the words can be categorized.
  4. Then students create categories and sort the words with a prediction about what the unit will be covering..
  5.  Students can use a Sort & Predict  Frame to help organize and record the words. (Link )
  6. Once the students have finished  categorizing the words and making a prediction, the teacher can ask various groups to share their ideas. This can be done in several ways.
    a.)  Each group or pair of students can assign a “reporter” to report out   to the whole group.
    b.)  The teacher can have students do a Gallery Walk. This is where the different groups post their Sort & Predict Frames around the room. Then the class rotates around the room viewing how different groups sorted the words. The teacher then leads a discussion about how the groups sorted the words. Did the students sort the words in a similar manner? If not, how did they sort them? What were the different, unique categories?
  7. The teacher reveals the unit and talks about how the various words fit, or don’t fit, into it. Unknown or unfamiliar words are briefly discussed and defined.
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