Saturday, January 26, 2019

Shapes Preschool Lesson

Shapes! What a wonderful topic for a preschool lesson, right? I was excited about this one. After browsing the internet for ideas (as I always do), my interest was piqued by the plastic tiles in various shapes used to make mosaic-like pictures. Have you seen them? I thought the idea was great: a fine-motor activity showing how different shapes fit together to form a beautiful picture. I was a little skeptical that they would keep the kids attention, however. Still, reading all the glowing reviews, I took a chance and bought a pattern block set by Learning Resources and some accompanying activity cards.

I had the tiles and cards out while the kids arrived, along with basic wooden blocks and Magformers (your family knows and loves Magformers as much as mine, right?) I was so thrilled; the kids loved the cards. The first thirty minutes of preschool saw five little preschoolers excitedly putting together pattern after pattern (two of the kids preferred blocks and Magformers. Either way, all the children were engaged creating with shapes!) What a great, fine motor activity as well as tactile geometry lesson.

As a few of the kids grew restless with the tiles, we cleaned up and did our usual circle time, reviewing our letter and number of the week. I could tell we needed some large motor movement, so we watched and danced to this "dancing shapes" video. It's not great, but the kids just needed something lively, and it did the job.

After asking the kids to name all the shapes they could think of, I read Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald. It's a delightful book that slowly builds a dinosaur, well, shape by shape. I have to say, I was a little worried that these kids, many of whom are five, would already know all the typical two-dimensional shapes. I was surprised to find several  needed reminders on the most basic of shapes.

Then, I handed the kids a pile of Q-tips and began reading The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. As the triangle added more sides and angles in each stage of the book, the children created each new shape with their q-tips. This was a nice, natural way to talk through many of the basic shapes. After the book, we made all the shapes again, this time using our bodies! Again, it showed me how much the kids like being involved and doing large motor activities.

Next, we talked about how shapes are all around us. To demonstrate, we took turns playing "I Spy," shape style. Each child had a chance to say he or she spied a certain shape in the room (usually with the color, too, to make it easier.) The kids enjoyed the game, and it again highlighted how several of the kids could not quite tell different shapes apart and gave us a chance to teach the correct name: "That is actually an oval, not a circle. See how it is more egg shaped and longer across this way than across that way?"

We briefly dipped into the world of three-dimensional shapes with our wooden blocks, identifying some of the more common ones. We played "Which shape is missing?" where three differently shaped blocks were put in front of a child. Then, after covering up the shapes, one was removed, and the kids had to see if they could remember what shape was now missing.

Our last book was Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh. I thought it put a nice cap on the end of our activities. We began the day by using shapes to make predetermined pictures on cards. Now, we read about mice creating their own pictures with shapes and afterwards went to do just that ourselves. I was delighted that the kids really engaged in making their own pictures using various shapes cut out of construction paper. I love open-ended art projects that really allow the kids to create rather than merely copy.

To wrap things up, we did a "snack sort" where they had to sort a medley of crackers, cereal, and chips into groups by shape before eating them. In hindsight I should have found more nutritious options. . . there are whole grain Triscuit crackers, at least!

Thanks for another fun preschool, kids! I'm grateful we have a chance to learn together.