3D Shapes are Here and There, 3D Shapes are Everywhere!
By Beth Brett (Chatsworth East International School)
Why do young children love to inquire into shapes? Because shapes are all around us! From the time children begin discovering their environment, they are familiarising themselves with all sorts of shapes. When we tap into our students’ interests, learning enhances a path they are already walking on. Teachers should guide students’ inquiries, provide appropriate materials for exploration and foster the natural curiosity of each individual. At my school, we have created a Shape and Space Unit of Inquiry integrated with our Mathematics curriculum in Year One (5-6 year olds) and Two (6-7 year olds) to help foster this curiosity and allow students to inquire into shapes.
Under the transdisciplinary theme of ‘How the World Works’ students explored the central idea ‘There are connections between shapes and symmetry in the world around us’. The lines of inquiry were: Shapes in the world around us and 2D and 3D shapes and the relationships between them.
The Shape and Space strand can often be easily connected with a unit of inquiry that you already teach! We linked this unit to our How We Express Ourselves unit as students are already exploring shapes in pieces of artwork and using those shapes to express themselves in their own artwork.
The Shape and Space unit of inquiry is launched by having students bring in a variety of 2D and 3D shapes they find independently in their home. Students are paired strategically to explore and inquire into the shapes and generate questions. We create a ‘Wonder Wall’ that is re-visited throughout the unit. This inquiry drives the unit as students are enthusiastic about finding answers to their own questions.
Because this unit of inquiry spans two year levels, it is important to collaborate and ensure students prior knowledge is built on throughout the second year of the unit. We have added more shapes with a focus on symmetry within the second year to ensure students are challenged at their level.
We love teaching in Inquiry Centers/ Small Groups! These are great ways for students to inquire and explore, learning at their own pace and seeking out areas of interest. Here are some ideas for Shape and Space Inquiry Centers:
1. Building 3D shapes with clay and toothpicks
2. 3D Shape Bingo
3. Using Geoboards and rubber bands to create shapes
4. Shape Sudoku
5. Stamping shapes and matching a word to the picture
6. Shape Puzzles
7. Creating a Shape book by tracing and cutting shapes from paper
8. Sorting shapes by attribute
9. Tracing 3D shapes to discover what 2D shapes make them up
10. Shapes Poems
Integrating into a Shape and Space unit of inquiry is simple to do. Here are some links that have worked for us:
Technology: Provide students with a map of the school, pencil and an iPads. Allow students to explore the school, searching for 2D and 3D shapes. As they find them, they can take a photo of the shape on the iPad and draw it onto their map. Depending on the age of your students, this activity works well with older buddy classes.
Art: Allow students to explore shapes by creating a paper collage inspired by Henri Matisse or a cubist self portrait inspired by Pablo Picasso.
Literacy: Allow students to write stories using shapes as characters. Students can also write and perform a puppet show or skit using the same idea.
Students have the opportunity during the summative assessment to show their understanding of shape and space in a hands-on activity. Students use a variety of 2D and 3D shapes to build a robot. Students present their robot to the class, identifying the shapes they have used. After that, in small groups, students work collaboratively to create a robot using different shapes. This allows for social and communication skills to play into the creation of the robot. We do a Gallery Walk where everyone walks around the classroom like it’s an Art Gallery, finding out about one another’s robots, highlighting the different shapes used.
2D and 3D shapes can easily be taught as a straightforward Mathematics unit or as an inquiry. Having now taught it both ways, the rich, detailed and authentic inquiries students engage in and explore, for me it’s an easy choice. I encourage you to give it a try, think outside the (3D!) box and let your students guide the inquiry.
By Beth Brett