Virtually Sorting and Graphing in First Grade

First grader with play dough
Shawnee Mission School District

A lesson that started in Jessica Brockmeier and Lori Judd’s first grade classrooms has expanded well beyond what they first imagined through Continuous Learning.

The Westwood View teachers identified a priority math standard, which required sorting and graphing, to inspire a new way of learning the concept at home.

This first-grade standard includes organizing, representing, and interpreting data with up to three categories: ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, determine how many are in each category, and explain how many more or less are in one category than in another.

During in-person school, first graders read selections about how people classify and organize things. Then the teachers asked students to sort and graph a cup full of buttons as a culminating project, explained Brockmeier.

Students would sort through their cup of buttons, discovering attributes of buttons by which they could sort (color, shape, number of holes, type of hole—hole or loop, etc.). Kids then group and count their collection. Finally, they record the number of buttons on a graphing page. Due to time and space constraints in the classroom, teachers limited the sorting to buttons exclusively.

“During fourth quarter, we have tried to offer a mix of online and offline learning experiences that are engaging and attempt to replicate the in-school experience,” Brockmeier shared. “We asked the kids to begin by looking around their house for objects to sort. We then asked the kids to use their writing skills to generate a list of sorting possibilities.”

In order to introduce the activity virtually, Brockmeier made a video of sorting a box of thread, grouping the spools by color, then counting, and finally graphing.

“The outcome of this lesson was better than we could have ever imagined,” Brockmeier exclaimed. She noted students sorted through much more interesting things than buttons.  They sorted dolls, play dough colors, coins, and more. 

“This project was an example of how the virtual learning experience was richer than the experience the in-person school lesson,” she added. “We have seen this deep, engaged learning over and over again in photos and videos of the work students post.”

The students uploaded videos and photos of their own sorting projects to an app called “SeeSaw” so the class could celebrate their success and receive feedback. Both Brockmeier and Judd offered comments in a way that encouraged continued engagement while coaching students to even higher performance on this standard.

“The student responses were so rich in creativity and wide in variety and it was a joy to see many of our students actively participating in Continuous Learning,” Judd shared.  “They were so eager to share their projects with us in videos or photos, and their enthusiasm and pride was evident in their expressions.”