Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Fish Eyes Sort

Lore Davis
Alachua County Schools


This is a small group instructional lesson in which students sort, classify and write about what characteristics they used to sort fish counters.


The student describes a wide variety of classification schemes and patterns related to physical characteristics and sensory attributes, such as rhythm, sound, shapes, colors, numbers, similar objects, similar events.


-FISH EYES:A BOOK YOU CAN COUNT ON by Lois Ehlert, Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, San Diego, CA '90
-4 containers of toy fish to be sorted
-4 sorting trays or mats
-1 record sheet (8 1/2x11 white paper) for each child (Have a couple of extra sheets in case extras are needed.)
-7 boxes of crayons


1. Have five containers of toy fish available for students to sort by a variety of characteristics. Toy fish can be purchased through teacher learning catalogs such as Lakeshore Learning Materials, 1-800-421-5354, 2695 E. Dominguez St., P.O. Box 6261 Carson, CA 90749 or Childcraft.

2. Have available 3-4 sorting trays, paper for records, pencil, crayons or markers.


This is a small group learning activity. While the teacher is working with one group of 4-7 children, the rest of the children in class are divided equally into small groups of 4-7 children (depending on class size) and are working independently at one of three other learning centers.
1. Read FISH EYES by Lois Ehlert during small group instruction. As you read, discuss how the fish are sorted or grouped on the counting pages (Ex. green fish, jumping fish, smiling fish, striped fish, etc.). Discuss how the fish in each group are alike and different.

2. Next, tell the children that today they will be sorting toy fish. Have the group of 4-7 children sit around you on the floor or at a table. Pour a small container of toy fish out on the work surface. Tell the children that you want them to look very closely at the fish to decide how the fish could be sorted or grouped. Have one child choose how he/she will begin the sort. One child might choose to sort by color and start sorting all the blue fish into the sorting tray or onto the sorting mat. Give each child a chance to take part in the sorting activity. Three other ways the fish could also be sorted is by type, size or texture. Make sure to model sorting by a variety of characteristics while doing this as a small group.

3. After all the fish have been sorted from the container, ask the following questions.

a. How did you sort your fish?
b. Which group has the most in it?
c. Which group has the least in it?
d. How many more or less are in compared groups?
e. How many are in each group?
f. How are the fish alike/different?

Group Work

1. Give some instructions concerning working cooperatively. Tell students that cooperative workers are good listeners when others are talking, are patient when others are completing their part of the activity and take turns. They are also positive and supportive in their comments to their peers. Give examples of ways they can praise their peers (You did a good job sorting all the blue fish!). Give them ideas of ways to help their peers if they've sorted incorrectly. (That was a good try but remember that you were going to sort all the yellow fish.)

2. Have students work in cooperative groups of two or three to sort a container of toy fish. They should take turns choosing how to sort the fish. (Ex. One student might decide to sort by fish size. He would then sort all one size fish. Next, the other student would choose and sort the next size fish, etc. After all the fish are sorted by size, the other child in the cooperative group would choose a different way to sort. They would then take turns sorting by that characteristic.) As students work, the teacher should encourage them to answer the same questions as they did during the lesson.

3. Students should also record the results of one sort on a record sheet. The record sheet would be a piece of copy paper or construction paper folded into four or more equal parts. The students work together to draw pictures of each group they sorted. Students could also write how many of each item they have, what they have the most/least of and the total number of objects sorted.

4. Student records should be turned in for the teacher to use as a formative assessment. Provide feedback to the student by advising the student if he/she completed the work accurately and by advising the student of mistakes and how to correct them.


1. Have students return to the group.

2. Have each group share their record sheets. The groups discuss their classification scheme and the attribute by which they sorted the fish. The groups could compare their record sheets to show which group had the most/least/same number of various colors of fish.


The student demonstrates his/her knowledge of sorting and classifying by using at least 3 characteristics (kind, color, size, texture) to sort fish counters. Formative assessment should occur until learning has taken place, then the activity could be used as a summative assessment. (Specific feedback examples have been included in the procedures.)

During this time the teacher will be observing the groups to see if they are working cooperatively (being a good listener for peers, waiting patiently as peer completes his/her part of the activity, waiting his/her turn, being positive and supportive by offering praise or positive feedback or suggestions to peers).


1. Following this lesson, students could complete graphs to show the results of their sort. This is not the record the student made during the cooperative group activity. The teacher could use a pre-printed graph for this or make his/her own graph. This graph is not an attachement to this lesson. Blank graphs are available in the resource sections of most math teacher editions.

2. Students could also create patterns with the fish they sorted.

3. Provide students with a variety of fish stickers and paper. Students can fold their paper into equal parts and sort the fish stickers on the paper by a characteristic of their choice.

4. Sorting trays and containers with a variety of sorting items could be placed at a center for students to sort during math centers or free time.

5. Fish sorts could be copied by other children. Students could record their sort. Their recorded sort could be laminated and placed at a center for others to sort by the same characteristic.

Attached Files

File Attachment.     File Extension: pdf

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