“Hello, friends!” I begin, as we enter the room from lunch. “Today, we are going to decorate our room for the holidays, and we are going to practice our 2D shapes!
“We will make ornaments that we decorate with shapes, and we will hang them in our classroom!” I announce.
“Yay!” kiddos cheer. (I just love kindergarten! Like 5th graders would cheer when they get an assignment! Ha!)
“You will get to pick a color—red or green—and take a tracer like this,” I continue. I show them on the document camera how I trace around a large ornament shape, and then I cut out my line, as they watch in kindergarten awe. My captivated audience!
As I cut, I drop a few tips here and there, like, “Find the line, and stay on it!” For a couple little kiddos who struggle with cutting skills, I say, “Thumbs up when you cut!” to remind them how their hands should “fit” with the scissors.
Then I choose some brightly cut shapes that my one and only volunteer, who is simply AMAZING, cut out on the Ellison die cut machine earlier in the week.
Now, I am a lunatic about Common Core. I really love that I only have a handful of concepts to teach, and I do my best to teach them really well. I was totally fine with dropping patterning as a beginning of kindergarten math focus. Some of my K teacher buddies really didn’t like the idea and still squeeze it in to their curriculum, but not me! It’s in calendar every day, but this is honestly the first time I sneak patterning in a math lesson!
“Okay, so I have my big ornament shape… I need to decorate it! I’m going to get a couple of shapes, and I am going to make a pattern—like we have our patterns at calendar—across the ornament, from left to right! Hmm… I will get some of these…”
“Hexagons!” the kids say.
“I will get some of these, too…” I say as I show rhombuses.
The kids declare, “Rhombuses!”
“I will make a pattern: hexagon, rhombus, hexagon…”
“Rhombus!” kids fill in.
“Exactly! I will keep going with my ‘hexagon-rhombus’ pattern, all the way across the ornament, like this,” I explain, as I complete the pattern. “Hey—what kind of pattern is this?”
“David! Tell me the pattern!” I say, before someone else can blurt out. (I like blurting out—or choral response—most times, because it helps keep most kids involved, but sometimes, it’s fun to see if a specific student knows what I’m asking.)
David says, “A-B!” Hey! I guess we can sneak in some good “unofficial” math instruction at calendar! This is good news!
“Yes, sir!” I announce.
“Girls and boys, you will get to make your own patterns using these shapes. Let’s go over the shapes we have to choose from. We know hexagon & rhombus…. How about this one?” I ask, holding up a square.
“Square!” students shout.
Now, our super volunteer made a bunch of trapazoids when she used the die cuts. If it were up to me, I would’ve selected rectangles instead, but hey! We have one super-amazing volunteer in my class—I appreciate everything she does for us! (If you can choose, though, I would recommend rectangles as one of your shapes, as opposed to trapazoids.)
“Hmm… I always say, ‘The first thing I do is always the same…” but I didn’t write my name here, did I?!” I say with mock surprise.
Students exclaim, “No—you forgot your name, Ms. Novelli!”
“Ahh… I didn’t forget,” I say with a devious smile. “There’s more! On the back, I have this “My Ornament” to fill out! That’s where I write my name. See?” I say, as I point to the line on the paper that I’m projecting on the big screen.
“Hmm… There’s some work to do here! When you are done with all your patterns and the front of your ornament is all decorated, you can look at it and count how many of each shape you used! You will write the numbers right here! So, pretending that my ornament is all decorated up, how many hexagons did I use? Let’s count!”
“1-2-3-4-5!” we count together.
“I will write a 5 in the spot right here by the hexagon shape! How many rhombuses will I write?” I continue.
I let the kiddos count the rhombuses, and I call on a girl who is not expecting me to call on her. (She’s playing with her shoestrings, which lets me know I need to focus her energy!)
She responds, “4?” with a question tone.
I do what my favorite college professor has taught me, and say, “Are you telling or asking?”
“4!” she restates, with more certainty.
“Absolutely! So I write a ‘4’ right by the rhombus shape!” I say as I write. (I could have a student come up and right the numbers also, but it’s really close to our holiday break, and we are getting restless, so I do what I can to expedite matters!)
“I made one row of a pattern—you will get to make lots of rows…. And different patterns! Then, you will count them all up and write how many of each you use!” I declare with enthusiasm. The students look excited to begin.
I dismiss the students by work groups to their tables. On each table, I have 4 red papers and 4 green papers, knowing that there are only 6 students at each table, so hopefully every kiddo will get to use a color that he or she likes. There are a few tag board “tracers” in a round shape and a more teardrop shape, as well. The kiddos get busy right away.
Containers of die cut shapes are also on each table, so students can use the shapes to create their patterns. Glue sticks and “scrap cans” are on the tables as well, so students can clean up their scraps from cutting their large ornament without having to waste time walking all over the classroom.
As students get working, I move around the room like crazy, drawing attention to excellent patterns as they appear. It sounds terrible, but I know the kids who tend to struggle with shape names, and I tend to get them talking about the shapes they’re using in their patterns. It’s totally nonchalant, but I’m trying to get the most practice out of our practice!
Most students are doing really well with their patterns on the ornaments, and I am relieved that my lack of formal instruction with patterns hasn’t seemed to affect the students’ abilities. (So… sneaking curriculum into calendar time can work!)
As pleased as I am that students can make patterns on their ornaments, my favorite part of the activity is the clearly Common Core aligned counting shapes to get a total. I love the back side! I don’t mind sneaking patterns into a math activity, but I am so much more comfortable with Common Core! Besides, it’s great review for numbers 0-10 and 2D shape names that we’ve practiced.
I encourage the kiddos to color the shapes on the “My Ornament” counting side to make it look “finished.” Kiddos “trim” their ornaments—cutting the decorative shape overhang so that the ornaments really look like ornaments. They take such pride in the work! (It’s fun to watch.)
Students share their ornaments at the end of the lesson. We talk about different types of patterns, shapes utilized, nicely written numbers—all kinds of student accomplishments! We get specific, and it’s fun to bring a bunch of students to the front of the classroom.
I ask the students, as always, about their favorite part of the lesson. They like making stuff. I know this—I think honestly, we all do—but it’s good to hear that straight from the kiddos. Of course, they come up with some crazy “favorites” too—one kiddo likes that he has the exact same amount of hexagons as squares. One girl likes that she got to use her favorite color to decorate her ornament.
“Do the ornaments look festive and fun for the holidays?” I ask to wrap up.
“Yes!” students respond.
“Did you get lots of practice with 2D shapes?” I follow up.
This time, students look puzzled. “Oh yes, remember-- you were making ornaments to practice shapes!” I remind them. “Did you practice hexagon, rhombus, square and trapezoid?” I clarify.
“Oh, yeah!” students say with smiles.