Spatial Relations

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Inservice: One Session on Shapes

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Support participants to engage young children in understanding triangles, to help them see what it means to understand what makes a triangle a triangle for a young child and more generally what it means to describe the characteristics of any shape. Children often describe characteristics of shapes using their informal out-of-school language. We want to encourage participants to elicit children’s informal knowledge and language around the shapes and move them to being as specific as possible.

Professional Development: 2 Hours

This session (approximately 2 hours) is designed to engage participants around geometric content, with a focus on how young children begin to engage with geometric ideas and how we can support their understanding.

What makes a triangle a triangle?

  • Engage participants in the following components of the Shape Assessment Protocol
    • Appendix A Triangle Sheet  At the bottom of this resource, you'll find Appendix A, a downloadable one-page sheet of figures that asks you to find all of the triangles. Ask participants to 1) mark all the triangles on this sheet and then 2) mark the ones they think young children will choose as triangles.  Have them discuss their thinking with a partner. Then, in groups of four, ask them to list all of the attributes of triangles. Discuss as a whole group and make one list together
    • Analyzing shapes: Name and classify shapes based on their attributes​​​​​​​Select a few of these suggested tasks and complete these tasks with your participants.  These same tasks can also be used with young children.  
  • Watch a selection of video clips of young children reasoning about shapes.  You can watch Sawyer or Patchett.   Ask participants to describe what they notice about what children say and do as they engage with a variety of shapes. 
  • Read the vignette "When is a Triangle a Triangle?" and discuss.
  • As you engage participants be careful to support participants varying understanding of what makes a triangle a triangle. Often as adults we have not fully explored these ideas and may not for instance recognize that the figure has to be closed. In addition remember that you want the way you engage your participants to mirror how you want them to engage their students-- so ask them to explain their ideas and be specific.
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