Welcome to a Splash of Math! You’ve come to the right place if you are looking for access to some great resources, experiences, and recommendations for teaching kindergarten aged children about 2-D shapes. As early childhood educators, it is crucial to ensure that every child is provided with the resources and support to attain their full potential, and undergo enriching experiences through free exploration, focused exploration, and guided activity (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011). Learning about shapes is one of the earliest learning experiences children endure. They enter school with an array of experiences with shapes in their worlds, and as educators it is our job to build upon their prior knowledge and extend it.
Picture books are a great resource to use when introducing shapes to children. This website here offers a list of various great shape books.The books range from fun fictional stories, to books incorporating photographs and realistic representations of shapes in the world around us. The Full-Day Kindergarten curriculum stresses how important it is to incorporate mathematical experiences that reflect children’s everyday lives. “Round is a Mooncake” is one that I am familiar with on that list. In the story, a young girl explores the shapes of objects in her home and neighbourhood. The website of various shape books referred to above also shares a few samples pages so that educators can get a better sense of what the story is like, prior to accessing it.
A song would also be great to introduce as well, such as this one by Toddler Tv to help young children learn basic shapes.
Books and songs such as the ones I have presented in these links serve as great resources that can help children make connections with shapes in their everyday lives. In this video clip, we see a child making a connection with the shapes in the environment they are situated in. When identifying circles in a shape selection activity, she was able to make the connection between the circles on the table top task, as well as the circles on the sleeves of her shirt.
Using resources such as books and songs when introducing shapes can branch off into other fun and meaningful activities such as having a shape scavenger hunt in the classroom or neighbourhood. The blog “Frugal Fun 4 Boys” reflects on the success of their shape scavenger hunt experience during a home school lesson.This will foster children’s abilities to form connections to shapes with objects in their everyday lives.
Here you can also access a scavenger hunt checklist!
Having all sorts of manipulative available can lead to an endless amount of activities. The blog “Learning 4 Kids” shows a variety of unique hand-on activities that compliment a constructivist approach in the classroom through expressing child autonomy, and free exploration.
Research surrounding shape recognition in the early year notes that children must have experiences with shapes beyond mere visualization tasks. Instead, they should be encouraged to explore freely, and initiate their own learning. Through the use of manipulatives young children can better gain information about a shape’s attributes, and build on their prior knowledge.
In this video a lesson called “Feel for Shapes” is conducted. It coincides with research centered on Piaget’s constructivist views that favour haptile perception, and exploration using shape manipulatives. It gives children the opportunity to focus more on describing attributes of shapes, rather than just naming them. The educator first reads a book to introduce the topic, and does a shape selection task using shape figures to talk about the number of points and types of lines each shape had. Then, the children were beginning to distinguish between a triangle and its non-prototype. Around the 3:07 mark of the video, the educator presents a mystery bag activity, where they must feel for a specified shape in the bag without looking. The children were able to use touch and their internalized information about the shape’s attributes to undergo the selection process, and could explain their reasoning by acknowledging shape attributes and using shape language they had previously practiced.
This blog “Kindergarten Works”reflects on a similar version of the activity in the video, using a rug to hide shape manipulatives under, rather than a mystery bag. The aim of this activity was also to get children to use touch and their oral skills to describe their selections and their shape’s attributes. This blog also offers other great resources such as a booklet of 2-D shapes with descriptions of their attributes, a shape bingo game, and other great songs to effectively trigger discussion about shapes. They can be accessed here.
These tasks, coincide with the Full Day Kindergarten standards of identifying and describing shapes with common geometric terms, through exploration with concrete materials (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011; G3.2).
Now, lets take a look at some more fun shape activities!
Geoboards have always been a versatile, and fun way to create and identify shapes. It enhances children’s fine motor skills, and can produce many different tasks and learning outcomes such as composing pictures, and building designs using two-dimensional shapes (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011; G3.3). At my past placement site in a kindergarten classroom, we had access to ipads, and the GeoBoard app was quite a hit! For classrooms that do not have iPads, this web app is available to use through any computer browser. You can make your own geoboard tasks for children to follow when constructing shapes, or retrieve some here. This blog “Keen on Kindergarten” gives access to geoboard tasks, as well as various other ideas for geometry-based work stations.
Once children have mastered forming basic shapes, have them create pictures with them! This can encourage children to investigate the relationships between 2-D shapes. They can make connections and verbalize the objects they have made, as well as spatial relations. For instance a child may say “I made a triangle on top of a square to form a house!” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011; G3.5; G 3.6).
Another activity I have implemented at my kingergarten placement is using shape figures on the light table. We explored the shapes on the light table, identified them, and talked about their attributes. Then we used the shape figures to construct some pictures (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2011; G3.3).
We even began to redesign some of our creations using popsicle sticks!
When implementing a dinosaur unit with my kindergarteners, we constructed dinosaurs using different shape cut outs. We extended the activity by identifying the shapes, and counting how many of each were used.
Some great books I used to support all of these activities were Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and Colour Zoo by Lois Ehlert. Both of these books acknowledge how shapes can be put together and used to compose various images and representations of things.
The blog “Teach Preschool” refers to a great activity that facilitates both children’s visualization skills and their ability to identify shape attributes through touch. This sorting activity portrays the endless amount of opportunities that children explore just through the accompaniment of shape outlines using tape. Children were able to sort different shapes by placing them around the tape outlines, filling the inside of the outlines, and even classifying them by the colour of the tape.
Similar to the “Teach Preschool” blog, “Learning 4 Kids” presents a variety of concrete materials to engage in similar hands-on tasks through using tape and outlines of shapes. Aside from just putting objects inside or around the shape outlines, a great alternative idea the blog provides is ‘driving’ a car around the outline of the shape. This can allow the child to interpret the connection of where the shape’s lines meet. They can also use a different car for each side of the square, and then count each car to see how many sides the shape has. This activity can also help children visualize the shape’s formation of lines when wanting to draw and construct their own shapes.
It is important to create physical and social environments that promote mathematical thinking and authentic experiences that reflect a constructivist approach. This can be done through mathematical invitations consisting of a wide range of ‘loose parts’. In these images below, you can take a look at the mathematical invitation my group and I formed.
Although it was geared more towards number sense, it offered many extensions and opportunities that touched on geometry through the wide range of materials from our everyday lives. For instance, shapes can be formed through using popsicle sticks and can be drawn in the salt tray. The rectangular frames could be filled with nature objects, leading educators to prompt children through asking questions such as “how many pinecones did it take to fill the rectangle?”. Nature objects such as rocks can also be used to construct shapes, as we can see on the blog “Racheous”. Here we see the use of line art as well, making it more challenging to construct the shape as the placement of the corners must be acknowledged. This can be geared towards children who have mastered basic shape construction without the line art.
I highly suggest that all educators try forming mathematical invitations as all of these open-ended materials can result in fascinating and creative play experiences that trigger mathematical thought.