Exploring shape; categorizing shapes

The children have been exploring shape. I begin this session by asking the children what a shape is. They call out their own theories and add to and challenge each other’s theories.

  • Ryan: It’s lines
  • Nia: Not only lines, because it’s curves too.
  • Hal: Yes, lines and curvey shapes
  • Nikhil: Like circle because circle is shape
  • Trenton: But they is lines, straight ones and curve one is all lines
  • Rika: Yes because Mr Welk say that
  • Trenton: But shape is in the lines
  • Olivia: When the lines come together and cross over then it makes a shape inside.

The children like Olivia’s definition. I write the definition up on chart paper and display it so that we can revisit it in future sessions.

The children go off to explore the shape materials and continue their own inquiries. I decide to leave the inquiry open, but suggest to the children that they might like to explore ways of sorting the shapes. As I expect, some children prefer to follow their own ideas while others are interested in pursuing my suggestion and set to work sorting and categorizing.

At the end of the session, we gather on the carpet and children share their discoveries. It seems that after a varied start, many children have ended up sorting shapes. As the children explain what they did, a pattern emerges:

  • Maya: I know this sort! It’s with how many sides
  • Nia: Yes, I guessed that too. I knowed it is three and four and six (sides)
  • Olivia: That’s just what we did! That’s how we sorted our shapes too!

I ask the children what we could name the sets. Ryan suggests that we call the sets threesters, foursters, fivesters etc, according to the number of sides. “That’s great idea!” says Hal and the other children agree.

I decide that this is a good time to introduce the children to Greek and Latin prefixes. To start with we focus on tri and quad. We have come up with lists of words that have these prefixes

tri
tricycle
triangle
tripod
triple
triplets
triathlon

quad
quad bike
quadrangle
quadrilateral
quadruple
quadruplets

Perhaps you can think of some more? Over the next weeks, we shall continue with our inquiry into sorting and categorizing shapes, and into shape names. Please join in at home!

Exploring shape; the beginning

We have begun a collaborative inquiry into shape. The central idea is that the paths and boundaries of natural space can be described by shape, which helps us to understand and explain our world. We want the children to develop their understanding that shapes have characteristics that can be described and compared, and to begin to develop a common language to describe paths, boundaries and shapes in their immediate environment.

I begin by explaining that we are going to start a new math inquiry; an inquiry into shape. The children respond enthusiastically, and begin to share the wealth of knowledge that they bring to the inquiry:

  • That’s a great idea! I know lots about shape!
  • Me too, because I have shapes in my home, so many.
  • Diamond is a shape.
  • And there is even shapes in this class room.
  • And square and rectangle and egg is shape.
  • But not egg.
  • Yes, because my mummy tell me!
  • I can do all different shapes
  • I am a shape expert.
  • And me, I am a shape expert
  • Yes, we can all be shape experts!

I am delighted that the children are so willing to leap on board the shape inquiry; I constantly struggle to find a balance between child initiated inquiries, driven by the children’s interests and passions, and my inquiries which are driven by curriculum. I am pleased that, once again, we have found overlap.

I am interested to find out more about what the children know already. I set out several tubs containing a variety of 2D and 3D shapes, including logi-blocks, power blocks, pattern blocks, clixi, lego and mini wooden building blocks. I ask the children to explore the materials in any way they like. I do not set parameters or guide-lines, but simply remind the children that we are engaging in a shape inquiry. I observe the children and take notes as they go about their inquiry.

At the end of the session, we come together on the carpet and I ask the children to share their inquiries. Some children have combined shapes to make pictures. Others have combined shapes to make new shapes. Yet others have sorted and categorized the shapes. As the children share their thinking, I listen carefully and gain an insight into both the understandings of individual children and the collective understanding of the group. This will inform my planning for the next session.

Paper bag inquiry

In Japan, Shichi-Go-San is a special festival for children who are three, five or seven years. Children of these ages dress in traditional clothes and go to the shrine to pray for long life. They get special, very long candy called Chitose Ame symbolizing healthy growing and a long life.


Today, at our meeting, Yuri talked about the festival with the children. Some of the children had celebrated the festival in the ELC when they were three, and were happy to share their memories. Yuri showed the children the long candy and explained that the children would need to a special bag to carry the candy. After some discussion about what kind of bag they would need, the children decided to make their own bags. For the next hour the children were deeply engaged in personal and collaborative inquiries into how to make a paper bag that was the right size for the candy, strong enough to hold the candy and designed in such a way that the candy would not fall out.

In that hour the children were engaged in:

  • thinking about elements of design
  • planning which materials and techniques to use
  • following their plans to create the bags
  • testing their designs
  • problem solving and adapting the designs

Throughout the process the children collaborated, reflected, analyzed, predicted, hypothesized, encouraged, reflected and rejoiced! The finished bags are unique and each one reflects it’s designer’s personality!

Searching for Nature’s Treasures

Throughout the school year, we shall be visiting the park opposite school to observe the changing seasons. As part of our Japanese Culture program, we will be celebrating the coming of Autumn (Aki). Colorful leaves (koyo) are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring. Throughout the month of October, we shall be visiting the park frequently to look for signs of Aki. Today we gave the children special sketch-books and pencils and headed off the the park to see what we could find.

Searching For Nature’s Treasures on PhotoPeach

KC Math Investigations

Today during free inquiry time, I asked the children to use the time to find out more about numbers or patterns, the two mathematics strands we have been working on this term. Together we brainstormed some of the possibilities, and then the children went off to conduct their investigations. The children purposefully selected materials and got to work. The adults moved about the room observing and recording the children’s discussions.

It was wonderful to see how deeply engaged the children were, and how they were able to come up with investigations all by themselves.

Math Investigations on PhotoPeach

Free inquiry times provide an opportunity for children to practice skills and deepen understanding introduced in guided inquiry times.

Hunting for Japanese Writing around YIS

The children have been comparing different writing systems in Japanese and English. We have been talking about the difference between alphabets like the English (Roman) alphabet, katakana and hiragana, and symbol/concept based writing systems such as kanji.

We went on a hunt around YIS to search for Japanese writing. The children discovered many different kinds of alphabets, symbols and pictures. We took photographs. Over the next week we will be discussing the photographs and the children will record their comments on the VoiceThread below. Please feel free to add your own comments to the VoiceThread. Your children can teach you how to do this.

You can help your children to make connections to their Mother Tongue or other languages by discussing writing systems used in your family.