Searching for Shapes

Searching for Shapes

As a green mystery bag made its way around the circle of Kindergartners on the rug, each student took a turn dipping her hand inside. “Don’t say anything,” Head Teacher Jenn Ellis reminded them.

Despite a few giggles and lots of bottled-up excitement, they kept their guesses to themselves.

“Is it a 2-D or 3-D shape in our bag?” Ms. Ellis asked at last.

“3-D!” the girls responded in exuberant voices.

“How do you know?” their teacher prompted.

“I felt it, and it wasn’t flat,” one student commented. “It’s bigger and thicker,” another added.

Emphasizing that 3-D stands for “three-dimensional,” Ms. Ellis revealed the item everyone had felt, a chunky wooden block. “Who wants to name this shape?”

“Cylinder!” several students answered correctly.

In earlier Math lessons, our youngest students learned the difference between 2-D and 3-D and investigated a host of enchanting 3-D shapes, including cones, spheres, rectangular prisms and cylinders. In this class, they had the chance to apply this knowledge to the real world. “We’re going on a shape hunt!” announced Ms. Ellis. (The two other Kindergarten homerooms participated in this activity at other times).

In addition to identifying shapes inside 100 East End Avenue, the students were required to photograph their discoveries. To prepare, Associate Teacher Erin Hearne demonstrated how to use the iPad’s camera function. After a few minutes of practice, the class split into two groups, one led by each teacher.

With their iPads in both hands, Ms. Ellis’ section marched out of Room 21, laser-focused on their mission. They didn’t have to go far to spot their first shape: the fire-alarm box in the hall outside their classroom. “Is this a rectangular prism?” Ms. Ellis wondered.

The girls held up their iPads, snapping plenty of pictures, then followed their teacher to Gym 1, where Middle School students were enjoying Recess. Shapes abounded here, much to the Kindergartners’ delight. Like detectives, they examined every corner and crevice for possibilities and decided together which ones fit the 3-D criteria such as the bright-orange cones along the wall and the basketball an older student bounced on the floor.

Next, they filed into the Gordon Room, spreading out around the servery and salad bar, eyes peeled. What about these bowls of apples and clementines? How about the coffee carafes or the ceramic container of raisins? Snap, snap, snap went their iPads as they carefully documented their findings, eliciting smiles from the Food Services staff and the Professional Community members filling up their lunch plates.

The shape-searchers slowly ascended the stairs and ambled along a corridor looking for more objects before returning to their homeroom, iPads bursting with images. Joining Ms. Hearne’s group, they settled into their seats and began to compare notes with their neighbors.

“How many of you were able to find shapes?” Ms. Ellis asked the girls. When all hands shot up, she told them, “Mathematicians always record their work.”

To help accomplish this task, the teachers distributed a worksheet for an exercise that connected multiple skills. First, the students flipped through their photos and selected their favorite. In pencil, they drew the shape, using their photograph as a guide (the iPads’ built-in stands made this easier). Above their drawing, they circled the shape they were spotlighting and wrote a short description. Students who finished early were encouraged to pick a second photo and repeat the steps on a new worksheet.

For the final minutes of this lively class, the students returned to the rug to share. As they talked proudly about finding shapes throughout the building, it was obvious that this hands-on adventure had made an impact. The girls’ grasp of shapes and dimensionality will no doubt pave the way for deeper learning (and more fun!) in Kindergarten Math.