Shoe Sort

In this lesson, children will identify the attributes of shoes and sort the shoes by these attributes.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Data Analysis and Probability

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize and display relevant data to answer these questions
  • Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Sorting and classifying objects according to their attributes and organizing data about the objects
  • Posing questions and gathering data to answer questions about themselves and their surroundings
  • Representing data using concrete objects, pictures and graphs
  • Describing parts of the data and the set of data as a whole to determine what the data show

Shoe Sort

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Make sure that all of the children are wearing their shoes
  • The book, Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out by Alan Baker

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to talk about objects that go together and why these objects go together.
  2. Introduce the book, Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out. Explain that Gray Rabbit is trying to find his favorite book, but he can’t because his room is too messy. We need to help Gray Rabbit clean his room.
  3. Read the book. Rabbit cleans his room by sorting his toys into categories.
  4. When you get to the part of the book that reads: “Let’s sort out the wooden animals,“ ask: “Can someone come up and point out all of the wooden animals?” State: “All of these wooden animals have the same characteristics/attributes. These toys are all wooden and all animals.”
  5. When you get to the part of the book that reads: “But one thing was not a wooden animal. What was the odd one out?” ask: “Which object does not have the same characteristic/attribute as the wooden animals? What object is not a wooden animal?” The children will respond “spoon.” Turn the page and the book will confirm their response. Ask: “What objects would go with a spoon? Why?”
  6. Explain that we are now going to take a look at the characteristics/attributes of our shoes. We are going to analyze our shoes.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Invite the children to take off their shoes and put them in a big pile. Form a circle around the pile of shoes.
  2. Ask the children what they notice about the pile of shoes. Restate what they observe by classifying the shoes and putting them into categories. “Some of the shoes are blue. Some of the shoes are actually sandals.” You might need to ask leading questions to get the children to start noticing the differences and similarities between the shoes. “Are all of the shoes the same color? Do all of the shoes have laces?”
  3. Ask the children to put the shoes into pairs. After the shoes are properly matched, count the pairs.
  4. Examine the pairs of shoes. Ask: “What characteristics/attributes do the shoes have that make them a pair?” Take a shoe from one pair and another shoe from another pair. Put the mismatched shoes together. Ask the children if these two shoes are a pair of shoes. Ask: “Why or why not? Do these shoes have the same characteristics?”
  5. Place all of the shoes back into a pile in the middle of the circle.
  6. Ask the children to sort the shoes by color. All of the red shoes go into one pile, all of the blue shoes go into another pile and so on. When giving the children the classifications, make sure that there is a classification for every shoe. Once the shoes are sorted, ask the children to look at the various piles. Ask the children what they notice about the piles of shoes. Point out the similarities and differences between the piles of shoes. Ask about the blue pile of shoes: “What characteristics/attributes do all of these shoes have in common? How are these shoes the same? How are these shoes different?”
  7. Place all of the shoes back into a pile in the middle of the circle.
  8. Ask the children to sort out the shoes that are for running. Again, have the children notice the shoes’ similarities and differences. Restate that the common characteristics/attributes of these shoes is that they are shoes for running.
  9. Extend the children’s vocabulary by having the children compare the shoes in the piles. Ask:
    • “What characteristics / attributes do all of these shoes have in common?”
    • “How are these shoes different?”
    • “How are these shoes the same?”

Additional Extensions

  • Without the children’s help, place the shoes into piles and have the children identify the common characteristic of each shoe pile. Ask the children: “Why did I put these shoes together? What do these shoes have in common?”
  • Have the children come up with their own characteristics/attributes by which to sort the shoes. Ask a child if he/she can come up with a way to sort the pile of shoes. Once you have given the children the examples of sorting by color, purpose or design, they should be able to come up with a category. It might be necessary to prompt them by suggesting ideas that haven’t been used yet. “What about sorting by size or shape?”
  • Have a prepared questionnaire that the children can use to collect their data. On the long side of the sheet, list the first names of all of the children. At the top of the sheet, list the various categories (e.g., sneakers, sandals, boots, others). Explain to the children that “others” are shoes that are not sneakers, sandals or boots. Another category could be colors (e.g., red, blue, black, brown and other). Make a grid of each child’s name and the listed category, so that there is a box under each category on the same line that the child’s name is listed. Have the children record their data on their sheets.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Same: Identical in kind or quantity (e.g.,”How are these shoes the same?”)
  • In Common: Sharing equally (e.g.,”What do these shoes have in common?”)
  • Different: Not similar in size, shape, color or other characteristic (e.g.,”How are these shoes different?”)
  • Characteristics/Attributes: A quality or feature of someone or something (e.g.,”What are the characteristics of these shoes? What attributes do these shoes have in common?”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Only be able to focus on one attribute (e.g., color)
Child care providers may:
  • Choose to have children focus on a single attribute for sorting
  • Need to provide prompts to get children to think about a different attribute of shoes
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Easily recognize same and different
  • Be able to group according to more than one attribute at a time
Child care providers may:
  • Have children collect and record data by interviewing their friends
  • Prompt children with more difficult suggestions (e.g., “Who can sort the brown-laced shoes into one pile and the brown velcro shoes in another pile?”)

Suggested Books

  • Gray Rabbit’s Odd One Out by Alan Baker (New York: Kingfisher, 1995)
  • Do Like a Duck Does by Judy Hindley (Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2002)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

The children can collect different types of leaves and then sort and categorize the leaves by shape, size and color.

Web Resources

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