Join Corduroy the Bear for Activities and Games on Sorting

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Button Up!

In this first Corduroy book the little bear tries to find his missing button so that someone will buy him. At the end, his new friend and owner Lisa, sews a button on his overalls. Now it’s time for you and your students to enjoy button sorting activities that build thinking skills. Depending on the situation in your classroom, you can ask parents, grandparents and others to send in buttons to keep and use throughout the year. Or you may choose to order a jug of buttons from a teacher supply store. Buttons come in handy for art projects, hands-on math and markers for board games.

Warm Up Those Buttons!

Dump a bucket of buttons in the center of a circle of students. Listen to the “ohhhhs” and “ahhhs”. It’s ideal if you are on some kind of carpeting to cut down on noise and runaway buttons! Allow time for students to play with the buttons before beginning any sorting games. They may become distracted unless they have had some warm up time just playing with any new manipulative you use.

Sorting Practice

Activity 1 - Find four buttons that are alike in some way. At first you may not want to give any further instructions than that. Look around and see who begins right away, who looks at what their neighbor is doing and who just sits there puzzled. This way you will see what your students already know and what you need to teach them.

Share and discuss what each student has done. Did they sort by color? By shape? By size? By number of holes? By placement of holes?

Activity 2 - Find three buttons that are different in shape. Next, find three with that shape which have different colors. Then, find three that have a different number of holes.

Activity 3 - Find three buttons that are all different in at least one way. Are they different shapes or different colors? Do they have a different number of holes?

Activity 4 - Teacher starts a pattern with three or four buttons. Ask students to choose a button that would come next. For example: You may have alternating red, blue, red, blue buttons.

Activity 5 - Find three buttons that are different in EVERY way! This is challenging and may only be used for a few students who are ready for a more difficult task.

Differentiation activities can occur by making the pattern harder/easier depending on how well the students are doing. You may choose a larger/smaller number of buttons depending on the amount of students you have to monitor and the amount of buttons that are available.

Adjusting Your Buttons

As with any games or other activities, you will want to make adjustments according to the number of students in your class, the abilities of your students and the time constraints. It’s a good idea to read the Corduroy book and do only one activity that day. Other sorting activities can be done the next day to follow-up.

Find ways throughout the school day to reinforce the concepts of same and different attributes in other items. Suppose the students are lined up for recess and they are wearing winter coats. Can they find two coats that are alike in some way? Different in some way? Can the students verbalize how the coats are alike and different? Many opportunities throughout the day can be teaching opportunities. Seize the moments!


Source: Author’s twenty-five years of teaching experience.

Freeman, Don. Corduroy. Penguin Group, 1968.

More Corduroy Ideas:

Teaching Economics,

For the Preschool Age,