AB Sorting Alternative


This lesson includes a card sort and individual presentations, using scientific vocabulary.


Students will be able to:

  • Use scientific vocabulary to help the sort and categorize objects in an ecosystem.


  • Students explain why they group things in certain categories using the appropriate vocabulary
Age group: 4th-6th
Venue/s: Any space, indoor or outdoor
Materials: bags, cards with PCD or A/B
Time: 20-30 minutes
Set up: Get the bags and cards ready


Vocabulary: Abiotic, Biotic, Producers, Consumers, Decomposers

  1. Intro
  2. Open up with a discussion of PCd’s or ecosystems. Have students provide examples.
  3. Sort PCd’s.
  4. Step 2-3 are optional. If you have already done a lesson on PCd’s, this can be a great review and lead into the larger categories of Abiotic and Biotic. 
  5. Placing the cards on the ground you can challenge students to use their PCd vocabulary to sort the cards. I provide three bags with vocabulary cards (Producer, Consumer, and Decomposer) with definitions inside each bag. While the students sort, they can place the cards inside each of the bags, and use the vocabulary cards to help with definitions if they get stuck. Challenge each student to touch at least three cards, if they seem reluctant.
  6. Presenting cards from bags
  7. Once PCd sorting is complete, have students gather in a circle. Three students should be holding the filled PCd bags. Have the students holding the bag pull out a card. The student is responsible for explaining how that card ended up inside that bag, using the definition on the vocabulary card inside of their bag. Open up sharing to the student who is the most ready. This gives extra think time to the students who may not feel confident. After all three students have shared, have them pass their bags to a different student, who is now responsible for a different card. This activity helps students hear the vocabulary from other students and.
  8. Sort A/B
  9. Introduce the idea that all things so not fit into these narrow categories of PCd. Have student give examples of ones that do not fit.
  10. Introduce A/B vocabulary using vocabulary cards. Have students read the definitions to ensure student voices are the focus.
  11. Repeat the rest of the sorting process from Step 2. Have A/B cards inside of plastic bags, so they can easily sort the cards.
  12. A/B presentation groups
  13. After sorting is complete, separate student into two groups: an Abiotic group and a Biotic group. Give students 2 minutes to draw cards, one for each member of the group, and discuss why that card is in the bag. They will each be responsible for presenting. After time is up, you can draw a line in the dirt and have A/B student groups stand on either side. Have one student from each group come up to the line at a time, alternating between groups until every student has shared. If students decide that a card is in the wrong group, have the student holding the misplaced card move to the other group.


  • Debrief questions can include:
  • “Why do you believe scientists use categories?”
  • “Can you think of examples of objects that could fit in both categories?”
  • You can have students give example of A/B in their journals to help with assessment.

Related lessons, activities and pages:

Leave Comment