Monday, February 20, 2012

Organizing Objects into Categories

L and E are almost 31 months old.  This week we started going through the lessons in the K-2 curriculum Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Bernard Nebel (BFSU for short).  We started with lesson A/B-1, which is the concept of organizing things into categories.  Sorting is an activity I've been doing with the girls for a long time (sorting various items by shape and color, cleaning up room and putting toys in specific locations by type, etc..).  So I wanted to reinforce the concepts they already know about grouping objects by attributes, introduce the terminology "organization" and "category", and also challenge them to think about different ways that the same objects can be organized.

We have a collection of foam magnets representing different objects.  I decided to use these magnet representations of objects rather than the actual objects because I think it adds a bit of additional difficulty since the girls have to think about the properties of the real object (for example, in real life a feather is soft, but the magnet representation is not).

The way we played this game, is I would put a collection of approximately 10 magnets at a time on a cookie sheet and then ask the girls if they see some objects that have things in common that we could use to categorize them.  Sometimes the girls had good suggestions (like organizing based on whether an object was an animal or not, or whether it was a toy, or by color), and other times I came up with the category to give them ideas of the different ways we can look at these objects.  Once we decided on categories, the girls picked out the objects that fit into each category and transferred them to the smaller magnetic boards.  Here are some of the ideas that we came up with:

It would be really easy to use clipart, photos, or web images to create flashcards to serve the same purpose as these magnets.  I have an open request to my husband to get me a large oil drip pan the next time he is at the hardware store, which we can use as a giant magnet board (I've seen the idea all over Pinterest).  Once we have that larger magnet board, I want to repeat the idea and create some Venn diagrams, so the girls can see that the same object can exist in multiple categories (a chicken is a bird, but also lives on the farm, etc..). 

L and E really liked the categorization activity and we played a long time.  We also played a memory game where I put some objects on the cookie sheet and then turned it around and asked the girls to recall the objects.  L has amazing (almost photographic) memory.  I did show them that it is even easier to remember the objects if they put them into categories in their mind and then recall them based on the categories.  They did really well if I reviewed the categories and objects with them, but didn't quite grasp the concept of employing that technique in their head on their own (which is fine - they are only 2.5 years old, after all).

I peeked ahead at the lessons we'll be doing later on in the BFSU curriculum, and I think the girls are going to love the categorizing in future activities (solid/liquid/gas, living/nonliving, animal classifications, etc..).

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed playing "IQ games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!


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