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Categorical Thinking

The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. This helps the brain organize and remember information.


When we encourage children to think of categories and patterns, we can increase their ability to make logical connections, draw conclusions, and make predictions.

Categorizing helps children process information. By sorting items into categories, we are helping them develop deeper meanings and understandings.

Even toddlers start to sort their toys! Sorting by color, shape or size are popular activities for the younger set. As they get older, they start to sort more items to help understand their life: numbers, letters, foods, books, and even trash. 

Categorical Thinking: The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. We can help children strengthen these skills.

Once they're in school, they're learning a whole lot more categories in all the different subject areas: math (shapes, numerical systems) science (animals, plants, systems) social studies (countries, history, geography) writing (narrative, expository, persuasive)

And, of course, we all know about the Dewey Decimal system!
Categorical Thinking: The brain automatically wants to sort ideas into patterns and categories. We can help children strengthen these skills.

As we get older, categories help us keep track of our lives, both pleasure and business! Think of the categories involved in sports, TV shows and movies!

And of course, our daily budgets are in categories.


 So, it's pretty clear that our brains need to be able to sort our lives in to categories. Yes, this is a life skill!

How can we help children develop these skills? Well, here are a few suggestions:

1. Be a role model!  When you are organizing something, not only let them watch you, but also let them hear your reasoning. As you're picking up, talk about what you're doing...I'm going to put this paper on these shelves because this is where the writing materials go, or I'll put this book with the other informational books. 

2. Let them join in! At home, let them help you sort laundry, put dishes away or tidy up the playroom. At school, let them suggest ways to organize the books or the math materials. Get them thinking, and value their ideas. It's amazing what they can come up with!

3.  Let them practice sorting! Attribute blocks are a great way to sort by attribute, since each block has several attributes!

The image below has an affiliate link to Amazon (I get a few cents, it doesn't cost you a thing!) 

One of my favorite activities for the kids with these blocks is the "Attribute Train." It works like this:
  • The first person puts down any block.
  • The second person puts a block next to it that is different in only one way.
  • Play continues, with players putting down blocks in a "train", with only one change per block.
  • Keep playing until no more blocks can be played.
The kiddos absolutely LOVE this game, and will play it over and over, keeping them thinking!

Want another way to get them thinking about sorting and categorizing, and think about important vocabulary as well? Try some of these Boom Learning Digital Task Cards!


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The Best Thing We Can Do

Many schools are out for the rest of the school year.

Many teachers are worried about the "summer slide" being much greater than normal.

Because of the current situation, some children are learning online, some are practicing skills with "at home" packets, and some children aren't able to do any of this.

What can we do?
The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

Yes, there will be a big slide this year. Far bigger than the typical summer slide. But as teachers we know that we need to take our students from where they are, and bring them as far as we can bring them. Some students lose less than others. Some lose a lot. It happens. But we do the best we can.

There's not much we can do right now to prevent that slide, especially when we're not in the same room as the children.

But what can we do? 
 Brain research tells us that when children go for a long period of time without practicing skills, they won't remember what they've already learned. Therefore, we need to do a lot of review right now. Give them plenty of practice with the skills they have developed this year. But it's important to make it as fun as possible!

One of my favorite platforms for reviewing skills: Boom Learning! These digital task cards can be used on any device, and gives immediate feedback to the students. The teacher can see exactly what the students have been doing, and they can repeat each task over and over again for frequent review.

One of my favorite collections of Boom Learning Cards:

Here's a link to many more!

Here are some more review activities that are perfect for "end of year" or "summer review."

It's also important that children read frequently, and use their written skills often. I recommend a daily journal (with a gratitude element) and writing letters and emails to loved ones as well as friends. Board games and cooking experiences will give them math practice too!  Squeeze it in when you can, but in a fun way! 


The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

I'm sure you already know how crazy things are, and how many people are dealing with heavy duty anxiety right now. Children are scared. Parents are frustrated. Teachers are trying to learn a whole new job without training and are trying to make it work. It's definitely not a good time to push them academically. They are experiencing history, that's enough! Their brains are overloaded. Don't push, just review! (I'll bet your instincts were saying this, too!)
The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

This is probably the most important thing teachers and parents can do right now: let them know you care.

Elementary teachers know how much they are missed, and how reaching out to the little ones will make their day. Search for ways to make personal contact with each child. Email, call, drive by, or if your district allows, video conference. 

We know those personal connections are what really makes teaching work, and what makes online learning so tough.

But it's also what makes teaching worth it. 


Want to know something that might make you feel a little better? When this is all over, they'll be older. When they're older and emotionally ready to learn, they pick things up quickly. They'll be ok. They'll be more than ok!

Want more information? Here's an informational brochure for parents: Parent Communication Brochure: Social Distancing Edition


The Best Thing We Can Do: Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?
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