While eating out with her family one night, 3-year-old Morgan glances up at the light fixture above the table and repeats a rhyme she learned in preschool: “I’m Timmy Triangle, look at me! Count my sides: One, two three.” She suddenly notices that other tables have light fixtures with different shapes, and she enthusiastically names those as well. Although her parents don’t yet realize it, Morgan is well on her way to building future skills in reading, writing, and math.
Shape recognition is an essential skill for preschoolers to possess as they prepare to enter kindergarten. Take a look at the letters of the alphabet – some are round, some have angles, and others have curves. Children learn sight words such as and, the, and it, by recognizing the “shape” of the word. Later, they become fluent readers by identifying the “shape” of the word as a whole (rather than sounding out individual letters) as they read. Understanding the shapes that make up letters and numbers actually paves the way for early literacy in both reading and math – a vital part of school success for every child!
What follows are some fun ideas for learning shapes with preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Make Snack Time Educational
Purchase one bag each of Chex Traditional Snack Mix and Chex Ceddar Snack Mix. By pulling out a handful of snacks from each bag, you’ll be able to give your students practice with squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, and ovals. Ask them to sort the snack into groups of each shape, making sure they can tell you the name of each group. For added fun, ask parents to donate food for a “shape lunch.” Serve an “Uncrustables” sandwich, cottage cheese, and blueberries for a Circle Lunch Day; a regular sandwich, cheese cubes, and melon cubes for Square Lunch Day. Ask the kids for more ideas!
Go on a Shape Scavenger Hunt
Challenge students to locate as many circles around the school as they can. They can draw and color a picture of each one they find, using a separate piece of paper for other shape “hunts.” If your budget allows, purchase a disposable camera for teams of children and let them photograph each shape. Once the photos are developed, they can be sorted into groups and used to create a classroom scrapbook of shapes.
Create an Art Project with Shapes
Using colored construction paper, cut out different shapes of varying sizes. If your students already have a good grasp of basic shapes, try providing other shapes like a trapezoid, rhombus (diamond), oval, octagon, and hexagon. Ask them to create a picture using only the shape cutouts, naming those they use. For example, a large rectangle might be used for a body, smaller rectangles for arms and legs, a circle for a head, and a triangle for a hat.
Construction paper shapes can be used to make mosaic art projects. Cut out small squares and rectangles in several different colors, and ask students to create a simple picture by putting them together. For example, a flower can be made by gluing green squares in the shape of a stem, followed by red rectangles jutting out from a yellow center square at the top. Fill in the rest of the picture with blue squares, and you’ll have some beautiful art projects to hang around the room!
While understanding shapes is a precursor to early literacy, it’s also important for developing spatial awareness. Tangrams are ancient Chinese puzzle patterns consisting of seven pieces: a square, a parallelogram, and five triangles of varying sizes. Purchase or make your own set by using a tangram template, and team up with your child to create some objects. To increase the challenge, allow students to watch you creating an object with your own set of tangrams, then ask them to make the same thing with their set. Once they have the hang of it, you can move on to bigger challenges with actual tangram puzzles. A word of warning: these puzzles are highly addictive for children and adults alike! For other ideas related to teaching shapes, try one of the following lesson plans.
Fun With Shapes Lesson Plans:
Polygon, Polyhedron: Are You Planely or Solidly Shaped?
In this lesson students look at a variety of shapes and discuss their differences. This lesson incorporates technology as students learn about shapes with video, and web research. There are also hands-on activities which result in 3-d shapes.
Students learn about shapes in this lesson and create their own models. Students use geoboards, yarn, shaving cream, and a variety of hands-on methods to learn about shapes. There is also an assessment to check how well students follow directions.
Getting in Shape Again
This lesson is a great way to provide students a creative way to explore shapes. Students create rocket shapes with pattern blocks. They draw a rocket, build a pattern following the instructions, and graph which shapes they used.