Kindergartners love shapes!

For most children, learning about shapes is one of their earliest learning experiences--their preschool years are filled with shape games, puzzles and sorting toys. Hence, they come to school with a great deal of background knowledge already. As kindergarten teachers, it is our job to build upon and extend that knowledge.

I really want my kids to explore and think about shapes in ways they never have before. So we spend time manipulating concrete models, and then we talk about them--a lot!

I'm not overly concerned that kids memorize facts about shapes and then regurgitate them on command. I have found that this happens naturally as we explore shapes through hands-on learning and problem-solving.

I'm not afraid to talk about/explore things that are beyond traditional kindergarten expectations--especially if the kids are the driving force behind it. I just try to frame it in a way that kindergartners will understand by connecting it to things they already know.

I use math vocabulary and everyday language interchangeably. I want my students to have something to relate new knowledge to, but at the same time, I would like them to be exposed to formal math language. A great example of this is corners/vertices. Kindergartners know what corners are and can easily identify them on a shape--but the correct word (and the word they will be using as they move through school) is vertex. Although I may use this language, I don't expect my students to memorize it.

Here is an anchor chart we created in my class this year. It took us several days to create. We talk about what the shapes look like, how many sides/corners they have and where we might see them in the real world.

I also have the kids fill out their own shape table and put it in their math journals for future reference:

Here is another anchor chart that my kids helped create (I'm trying to put up more kid-created and less store-bought reference materials. The kids have a greater connection to them, and they save me a lot of money!)

We spend a lot of time comparing shapes--How are they the same? How are they different? We generally do one of these charts per day (it only takes about five minutes and can usually be done at the beginning of math or during calendar).

We also do shape sorts. We usually do these whole group so we can talk about it. But you could also do them in math notebooks. I like to do a triangle/not triangle sort so that kids understand that triangles can look different--they can be long and skinny or short and fat--as long as they have 3 straight sides!

I also do a rectangle/square sort (even though a square is actually a rectangle!)

Here are a few other activities we do in my classroom to learn about shapes:

- We free explore with pattern blocks and other shape manipulatives. I talk to the kids and ask lots of questions as they "play." I challenge them to create shapes from the pattern blocks.

- We look for shapes in the real world and record them in our math notebooks. We also make class books about shapes.

- We make shapes. One of the best ways for kids to understand the attributes of shapes is by creating shapes themselves. For example, they are going to need 3 popsicle sticks to make a triangle...or 2 short sides and 2 long sides to make a rectangle. We use popsicle sticks, geoboards and Wikki Stix. I also like to give them a piece of string tied in a loop to see what shapes they can make from it.

- We draw shapes. Again--when drawing shapes, kids really have to think about them. Will they need straight lines or curved lines? Are the sides all the same length or different lengths?

- We use shapes to make pictures (we like robots!). I keep a good supply of die-cut and punched shapes in the art center for my kids to create masterpieces with. You can extencd this activity by having the kids record how many of each shape they used in a graph.

And, if you want to spend some money, here are some products I love:

Learning Resources Shape Stencils

(I love all their stuff!)

Next up-- Geometric Solids. Check back soon!