Controversy Corner: 5 Reasons Why “Card Sorts” Are a Waste of Time

Ok, this is Controversy Corner so here we go; Card Sorts. We’ve all them but how effective are they really? Not very is my answer. Here’s five reasons why…

1. They take ages to prepare: Typing up the information is not too bad but then photocopying it 32 times (and that’s just one class set), cutting them precisely before laminating, then collating them can take hours. Literally.

Card sort 1

Four down, only 28 to go

2. Hours to prepare and….5 mins to complete. The balance of preparation time versus task time is way out. A bit like cooking paella.

Long to prepare, quick to eat

3. Do pupils actually think about the activity? Or do they simply read the first few words, spot a date or key term, or line up the uneven cutting  and line them up without actually thinking about what is we want them to learn.

4. “Sir, I’ve only got 11 cards!” No matter how hard you try, one card will always escape every lesson and before you know it, half of the sets are missing a vital piece of information.

Missing card2

“Sir, I’ve only got 11 cards!”

5. And finally, when it’s time to dig out the card sort to use again you realise that whoever used it last didn’t group them all back together properly, leaving you with hundreds or laminated cards, dozen of elastic bands and only 10 minutes till the class arrive.

card chaos

Card Chaos

So that’s what’s in my Controversial Corner. Any thoughts?

James Wise


One Thing You Should Try… Infographics

Literacy and numeracy, literacy and numeracy, literacy and numeracy. Not a day goes by without hearing those words, often followed by a word that begins with “F” – framework.



We all know what is meant by literacy and numeracy, and we could all reel off a list of ways in which we now incorporate the LNF into our lessons. However, two questions we might want to consider before we claim to have successfully embedded the LNF are:

  • Am I using literacy and numeracy to improve pupil learning of my actual subject?
  • Am I challenging pupils accordingly in their use of literacy and numeracy?

Marrying those two things together is the key making the LNF work for the pupils, rather than it simply being a shoe-horned, lip-service paying exercise.

Infographics are one thing you should try as a way of using literacy and numeracy to improve learning of your subject in way that challenges all pupils. Here’s an example of how we use them in History but can easily be adapted for many other subjects:

1. Pupils are given a page of statistics (or even collect their own stats) about the topic, in this case the two armies before the Battle of Hastings.

Infograpg Stats

2. Pupils are then provided with a numeracy worksheet based on the stats. The worksheet increases in difficulty, providing real challenge for all pupils.

Infograph Worksheet

3. One the worksheet is complete, pupils then turn their answers into actual infographics. This example has bar graphs, pie charts, ratios as well as use of simple addition and division.


4. Here comes the literacy. Using this planning grid below, which looks at reasons why William won the battle….

Hastings Grid

…pupils give their evidence as to why William won and explain that evidence’s importance. Pupils can use the infograph to cite real evidence as to why William had the advantage, as these two images show:

Hastings Grid Complete 1

Hastings Grid Complete 2

5. In this case, pupils then had to write an essay explaining why William won, citing some numerical evidence from the infograph.

In this example, not only have a large number of the LNF strands been hit, but crucially, two things can be said about the activity;

  • Learning of the subject was enhanced through use of literacy and numeracy
  • Through the use of the worksheets, all pupils were challenged to use literacy and numeracy according to their ability

As this activity could be easily transferable to other topics and subject, I feel it is certainly one thing you should try.

James Wise