# What’s a Shape?

Back in February, I came across a blog post from Telanna about shapes.  She saw a Twitter post from Sarah Caban asking a simplistic question.

How would you define the word “shape”?

Not wanting to miss out on the bandwagon, I decided to jump in.  Considering that I have access to such a grade span, I patiently waited for the right time in each grade level’s curriculum to pop in on a few classrooms and have a conversation.    Each teacher that I chatted with was also intrigued with my master plan and wanted to see/hear the results.

Kindergarten

And so my journey of defining shapes began with Mrs. Z’s kindergarten in March.  She was right in the middle of her shapes unit (perfect timing) and so she asked the kiddos the question “What is a shape?”

Here’s a snap-shot of what was discussed….

• Some shapes are big and small.
• sometimes round— circle or oval.
• some are skinny/ thin
• different sizes
• star, heart, rectangle, square, triangle, diamond, hexagon
• shapes have points and angles.  (T asked –do all shapes have points)
• Not all shapes have points.
• shapes you can trace or cut out.
• Everything we color or write or draw is a shape.
• Shapes are everywhere because they are.

The kiddos keep having side conversations asking questions like “are they lines?” and “what about letters?”.  One child proclaimed “the sky is not a shape.”  Upon hearing this, another child replied, “but what’s in the sky?  Sun, Stars and Clouds”.

After the in-depth conversation, Mrs. Z asked them to get up and make shapes with their bodies.  First, they made a circle (or the attempt at a circle) and then a rectangle.  Some students ran up to me to show me the shapes with their fingers/hands.

Fast Forward three weeks—->>>

My next door neighbor, Ms. N, teaches third grade and upon hearing about my shape quest,  invited me in to lead the discussion on shapes.  They were also in the middle of their geometry unit, so the kiddos wanted to impress me with their growing geometry vocabulary.  They also corrected me in that they are discussing POLYGONS, not shapes.

• something that has sides
• has a vertex (corner of a shape)
• has angles—> can be 90 degrees
• has different sides
• could be a quadrilateral
• has to have more than 3 lines
• has to be closed —-> all lines connecting
• can be a polygon
• shapes are all around us
• convex —> shape doesn’t have a cave in it
• can have a concave in it
• rectangle can have opposite sides
• can have parallel sides

OK OK OK.  I have a guilty conscience about this one.  I cheated.  Full admission of guilt.

I didn’t have time to go to a fifth grade classroom.  Time became of the essence for the fifth grade teachers with reviewing for CAASPP testing.

HOWEVER—- I have an a 11 year old son (5th grader) who was happy (** sarcasm**) to have a conversation with me about shapes.  Yes…this is what we do during our commute into work/school.

• shapes are in everything
• there’s no one thing that doesn’t have a shape
• shapes are the building blocks of life. (how philosophical of my son)
• have corners
• they can have an infinite number of sides, but then that might turn into a circle
• the sides are not always the same.
• there are squares, rectangles, hexagons, circles, triangles,
• rectangle has uneven sides
• square has all even sides

I asked what he meant by “uneven” and my son said that it was when one side was larger than the other.

Final Thoughts

Students in the primary grades start by being introduced to their shapes.  It becomes just identification which is the first level of learning.  By third grade, they are being exposed to more specific language and vocabulary.   This third grade wanted to impress me with their knowledge of geometry.  They had been testing out different shapes to see which would pass their definitions.  As for 5th grade, they have a broader view of what shapes are.  They have also explored 3 dimensional shapes as they discover volume.

If I had a chance to follow up with each class, I could ask the question, “what does NOT make a shape?”  It would be a great contrast to their base knowledge.  It would challenge their thinking and we could probably have an in-depth conversation about their comprehension of shapes.

A magnificent exploration.  Much thanks to Sarah Caban & Telannannalet.wordpress.com for the inspiration.

Until next time….

Kristen