Categorizing Grid (ALC)

Using Categorizing Grid activity to facilitate critical thinking skills in Active Learning Classrooms
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 limited 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

  • Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
  • Classroom with campus wireless connection


The following workflow is meant to guide you on how you can facilitate categorizing grid learning activity within an active learning 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.
  • Create a Google Slide doc and type that word or phrase at the top of the slide as a heading of related terms critical to understanding that topic.
  • Duplicate the slide so there is one for each table.
  • Determine when you will have students engage in this activity (beginning, middle, end, or outside of class).


  • At their tables, have students work at their table to complete the activity and refer to their table's slide within the Google Slide document.
  • At each table, have students assign someone to be a scribe and add the students' names at the top of the slide.
  • Give students a time limit for their responses.
  • Explain the activity, and leave time for students to ask questions about the activity and clarify items on the list.
  • To ensure everyone at the table participates, direct students to spend one to two minutes working independently on their lists. When ready, take turns around the table and have each student share his/her list for the scribe to record.
  • Upon completing the activity, call on one or two tables to present their findings. Ask the rest of the class if they had items not represented by the reporting groups.
  • Use results to guide another activity in response.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity in the Google Slides from each table.
  • Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation


Example 1

An Introduction to Management Theory professor wanted to understand how well her students understood the distinctions between Theory X and Theory Y management (MacGregor, 1960). She used the Categorizing 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 Google Slide document with the concepts 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 had students work at their tables and gave them five minutes to sort the terms into the appropriate boxes and document their results on their slides. 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. Still, they did less well with those items related to applications (Modified from 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 shared Google Slide document 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. 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 significant 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 (Modified from Angelo 161).


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

Keywordscategories, sort, analyze, critical thinkingDoc ID118475
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 14:54:28Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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