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Categorizing Grid

Using Categorizing Grid active to facilitate critical thinking in a classroom

Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low


Categorizing Grid involves the sorting of ideas into categories. Students receive a grid containing two or three categories along with a scrambled list of terms, images, equations, or other items that belong in those categories. Learners have a limited amount of time to sort the concepts into the correct categories.


Use it when you want...

  • To determine whether, how, and to what extent students understand what goes with what,
  • To have students reveal the implicit rules they are using to categorize information or
  • To examine gaps and misperceptions in students’ understanding of content.

What students will need

  • There are no special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant to guide you on how you can facilitate Categorizing Grid learning activity within a classroom.


  • Select two or three related categories for organizing the information presented in class.
  • Make a list of examples of items within each category.
  • Review the list to ensure that all items belong to only one category and are familiar to students.
  • Make a grid with the categories on the top row and items to be placed in categories on the side.
  • Determine when you will have students engage in this activity (beginning, middle, end, or outside of class).
  • Decide how you will form student groups.


  • Set up students into groups.
  • Hand out and display the grid.
  • Explain the activity.
  • Leave time for students to ask questions about the activity and clarify items on the list.
  • Let students know how much time they have to complete the activity.
  • Collect the completed grids and let students know when and how you will use the results.


  • Collect grids.
  • Review grids and provide feedback/grades based on the quality of the grids.
  • Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

An Introduction to Management Theory professor wanted to know how well her students understood the distinctions between Theory X and Theory Y management (MacGregor, 1960). She used the Categorized Grid technique and began to create a list of a dozen terms and short phrases she associated with each concept.  She made sure that each item related to one theory or another and discarded those that could be categorized in either. She made a handout with Theory X and Theory Y in large letters on the top row. Below the table, she listed all concepts in random order.  In class, she divided students into groups of four, gave students five minutes to sort the terms into the appropriate boxes, and then collected the results. Reviewing the results later, she realized that students had focused almost entirely on these two theories' human nature and motivational aspects, neglecting the managerial and organizational consequences. Students had little trouble categorizing the terms related directly to Theory X or Theory Y in the abstract, but they did less well with those related to applications (Angelo 161-162).

Example 2

At the end of the second week of Comparative Animal Physiology, the instructor assessed the class's skill at categorizing mammals visually. He structured the assignment in two stages: projecting numbered slides and directing students to write the numbers in the correct boxes on a handout he prepared. For the first assessment, he used a grid divided into boxes for three mammalian subclasses: Prototheria, Metatheria, and Eutheria. He projected 30 slides of animals, with examples more or less divided among subclasses. The students' performance in the activity was strong, with only a few confusions here and there. At the next class meeting, he asked students to categorize 35 slides of members of subclass Eutheria into seven of its major orders. The results here were uneven. The instructor reviewed the results and suggested the most critical areas for review, reminding students that the midterm would include questions requiring exactly this sort of categorizing (Angelo 161).


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teacher/em>. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 160-163.

Keywordscategorizing grid, analysis, critical thinking, active learning, classroomDoc ID104107
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-17 12:08:31Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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