Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Card Sort

K20 Center | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


Cover Image

Card Sort

This strategy is used in a variety of ways to organize prior knowledge about a concept or topic and has students practice argumentative communication by debating their answers with a group or partner.

Card Sort


Students organize their prior knowledge about a concept or topic through sorting lesson-focused cards into categories. As students work together to sort the cards, they justify their own ideas, consider others' ideas, and modify their thinking as new information is presented.


  1. Begin by preparing a set of cards that align with the content goal of the lesson. Create the cards you want participants to sort. You can put text or pictures on the cards.

  2. Have students divide into groups or pairs.

  3. Provide students with category headers under which to sort their cards. Encourage them to lay out each card in a row or column under the category headers so it is easy to see how they sorted each item.

  4. Student groups must come to a common agreement on which category to place each card under before sorting a new one.

  5. Have groups share out where they sorted each card and why.

  6. Consider watching the K20 Center’s "Card Sort" video for more information.

Keeley, P. (2008). Science formative assessment: 75 practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning. Corwin, SAGE.