Ideas at Work: Three bears sort in a dual language classroom

Wanda Ocasio of Inter-American School saw the opportunity to use a Three Bears sorting lesson to investigate her preschoolers’ understanding of sorting, as well as explore this Big Idea in the context of a multilingual environment. Ms. Ocasio teaches in a dual language class – 80 percent of her instruction is in Spanish and 20 percent in English. She hoped to use the familiarity of the Three Bears story to examine her students’ use of language, problem solving skills, and teamwork.

Ms. Ocasio had two primary goals. In the large group setting, she wanted to see if the children could sort a collection of household objects by the attributes of type of object and size. In the small group setting, Ms. Ocasio wanted to analyze the children’s ability to follow directions and identify the objects in English. It is important to help dual language learners understand math language in both their home language and in English. She hoped that the small group setting would give the children the opportunity to express themselves more freely as they think about expressing math vocabulary in English.

“I want to allow different groups of children to work together,” Ms. Ocasio said. “[I want to] mix the group of children that normally do not play together – boy, girl, English-dominant, Spanish-dominant, more expressive with less expressive.”

Two things Ms. Ocasio would add for future uses of the activity would be encouraging the children to sort sets by a third attribute and including the materials in the dramatic play area for further exploration.

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