Top Tips for Teaching Shape

Today we're talking about SHAPES!

It's probably the second biggest Mathematics unit in your term after Number. Children are usually exposed to the basic 2D shapes well before they start school (quite often thanks to the Play School windows), but it's so important that we as Junior Primary teachers give them a good foundation of both 2D and 3D shapes. As I was planning this post, and how to incorporate some Teach Starter resources, I came up with four key points to keep in mind when planning learning experiences for young children.

  • Make it hands on
  • Make it real life
  • Make it purposeful
  • and make it fun.

This is a sponsored post as part of my Brand Ambassadorship with Teach Starter

Make it Hands On

To gain a deep understanding of shape - children need to hold them, explore them, feel, touch and use their senses. This is particularly important when they are learning the difference between 2D and 3D shape (I always say to my class "A 2D shape is flat like a piece of paper, and a 3D shape is something you can hold in your hand, like a ball or a box").

My class are always drawn to the play dough table when I put it out, so I'm sure they'll love these 2D shape play dough mats. In this resource comes circle, square, triangle, star, pentagon and hexagon with one large shape and three small shapes. Some cookie cutters added to this activity would give children the option of creating the shapes in different ways and further provoke their thinking.

Notice how Miss M has matched the coloured play dough to the coloured mats? So like her #teachermum ;)

I would also like to try providing a variety of loose parts with these mats instead of the play dough. By ensuring that the loose parts you provide are a variety of different shapes and sizes themselves, the children can experiment with which materials work best for each shape (e.g. a long straight peg would work for the edge of a square, where as small pebbles would work better for a circle).

Another fantastic STEM idea is to combine the play dough with your loose parts, like this...

Make it Real Life

Another really great starting point when you are introducing a unit for work on shapes is to look for shapes that occur in your environment; whether it be in the home, the classroom, the school yard or the wider community. Use these handy posters from Teach Starter attached to a clip board, and tick off or record (depending on the age of the child) the shapes you see around you. We like to call this a "shape walk" or a "shape hunt"... If your kids are a fan of We're going on a bear hunt, simply replace the word 'bear' with the word 'shape' as you are walking around and exploring.

Make it Purposeful

I attended a Maths professional development day last year, and the number one thing I took away from it was to make maths purposeful for young children. Meaning; give them a job to do. Make them feel important, useful and helpful. Let them see the relevance in the task you have assigned to them.

This is why I love this design a cubby house idea! I believe it's intended for Year 1/2s but younger ones could certainly attempt it on a simpler level. What kid wouldn't want to design their own cubby house? The students are asked to design it using 2D shapes, and colour the shapes in according to the instructions. They are then required to present their design to their classmates and complete a self reflection.

Make it Fun!

Above all, the wise words of Reggio Emilia educators "Nothing without joy" is always at the back of my mind, and your shape unit should be filled with fun! Even something as simple as a rotation lesson where the children spend 10 minutes at each activity can work really well. Perhaps one group is tracing and labelling 2D shapes on paper, one group is constructing a tower with building blocks, one group can sort objects by their shape, another group is creating larger shapes with pattern blocks while the last group is working collaboratively to build a castle with magnetic tiles. These are my favourite types of lessons where every learning minute is maximised! And the kids love it too!

How do you approach teaching shape to your students? I've love to hear your ideas.



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  5. Teaching shapes can be lots of fun! Here are some top tips to make it easy and enjoyable:
    Use Everyday Objects, Play Shape Games, Sing Shape Songs, Compare and Contrast

  6. Discover essential top tips for teaching shape concepts effectively. Whether you're an educator or a parent helping your child with homework, these tips will enhance your teaching approach.


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