Shapes All Around

Young learners often are exposed to basic shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles. The ability to identify, describe, and construct different shapes, and to identify and label positions in space are skills that students will need for future geometry lessons. In this unit, students engage in lessons that explore shapes in different capacities such as designing a living space with shapes or solving a shape puzzle without leaving white space between the shapes. These different lessons will provide students with the skills needed to master identifying, describing, and constructing different shapes in natural settings.

The unit includes six lessons that help students explore concepts individually before applying their learning to a final project:  

Lesson One : Self -Reflection: Building an image of themselves using shapes.

Lesson Two: What shape is it? : Explore the environment for items that have shapes and identify  that are all around.

Lesson Three: We’re going on a shape hunt. : Recognize shapes different orientations.

Lesson Four: Grab Bag: Describes differences and similarities between them several shapes.  

Lesson Five: Puzzle Space: Solve a puzzle that uses all available space.  

Lesson Six: Design Challenge: My Living Space : Create a living space model using shapes.

In collaboration with:

Junior League of San Jose - Women Building Better Communities

A Make Build Play project, part of a collaboration between the Junior League of San Jose and RAFT.

Unit Materials

  • different types of foam
  • tubes (small, medium, large)
  • pipette plates
  • spoons
  • jumbo paper clip
  • clean corks or caps of different sizes
  • shape journal
  • pencils
  • camera or iPad (optional)
  • different size wood pieces
  • different size boxes
  • game board (provided)
  • six-sided die with whole numbers
  • black construction paper
  • poster board white paper
  • bags or containers
  • puzzle pieces
  • masking tape
  • balls
  • plastic spoons
  • felt
  • small plastic mirror
  • paper
  • crayons
  • markers
  • colored pencils

Design Thinking Process

Our design thinking units have five phases based on the’s model. Each phase can be repeated to allow students to re-work and iterate while developing deeper understanding of the core concepts. These are the five phases of the design thinking model:

EMPATHIZE: Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing.  Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.

DEFINE: Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.

IDEATE: Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.

PROTOTYPE: Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.

TEST: Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view.

The Design Thinking Process | ReDesigning Theater. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2016, from


Lesson Overview: In this lesson student will use shapes to build an image of their face.

Prior Knowledge:

  • Before this lesson have small circle time to discuss faces.You can also read a book We are all alike…We are all different…by the cheltenham Elemantary School Kindergartens.
  • Have a discuss about the similarities  we have with each other and the differences we have… (We all have faces but are faces have different shapes).
  • In the circle have each student look at themselves in a mirror.

Question to ask: What do you see in the mirror? What kind of shapes to you see in the mirror?

Materials:  Varies items, puzzles pieces, form pieces, balls, plastic spoons, different sized tops, felt, small plastic mirror, paper, crayons, markers and color pencil.  


  • Round, square, oval, wide, long, face, eyes, nose, ears

Professional preparation: (not sure this is going to be separate page or same page)

  1. Make sure you have enough mirrors or have big mirror for students to see themselves.
  2. Have different shape pieces available for students to retrieve when they are ready.
  3. Place about items in the middle of the table.


  1. Have each student look at their face in a mirror.
  2. Give each student a paper.
  3. Have each student pull 5 to 10  shape like objects from the pile in the middle.
  4. After students collect items. Have each student make a picture of their face using the 5 shape like objects.
  5. Then have them trace the objects and color the objects to make a face.

Have a discussion/Reflection time:

While students create their faces, ask them open-ended questions.
  1. Tell us what do you see in the mirror?


While students are engaging in activities take observations notes for Desired Results Developmental profile measurement:

  • DRDP(2015) COG 9: Shapes: Child shows an increasing knowledge of shapes and their characteristics.
  • DRDP(2015) VPA 1:Virtual Art: Child engages, develops skills, and expresses self with increasing creativity, complexity, and depth through two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual art.
  • Please see observation sheet…

Define: Grab Bag

Lesson Overview: Grab bag is a game that will test students knowledge of basic shapes and their characteristics in a fun and engaging way. Students work together to guess what items are in the bag using descriptive cues.

Time: Time depends on how many students you have or  how many turns you want the students to have.

Prior Knowledge: Student should have knowledge of common names of the basic shapes (Circle,triangle,square,rectangle, diamond, and heart).


  1. Give one student in the pair the paper bag with items.
  2. One student puts his or her hand in the bag and picks an item.
  3. Before pulling out the item the student describes it, ask, “It has rounded sides and smooth edges.  What shape do you think it is?”
  4. The other student takes a turn to guess what the item’s shape is.


  • different types of foam
  • tubes
  • pipette plates
  • spoons
  • jumbo paper clip
  • corks or caps of different sizes.

Professional Preparation

  • Create a set of bags with different mixtures of the listed material.
  • Pair up students.
  • Get a timer, stopwatch, or equivalent device.
  • Have each student use the shape journal.


  • Use the Early education rubric.
  • Take pictures of students playing the game.
  • Use a shape journal for each student.

Define: Space Free Puzzle

Lesson Overview:  Students will build shapes without any white space using puzzle pieces. This lesson prepare students to think about using all space available with the materials they have or given.  

Prior Knowledge: Students should be familiar with puzzles and  basic shapes (Square, triangle, circle, diamond, star, and heart).  Discuss the following vocabulary words:

  • White spaces- the areas of a page without print or pictures
  • Tessellation- A pattern made of identical shapes:  the shapes must fit together without any gaps,  the shapes should not overlap


  1. Each student or group can get a set of puzzle pieces.
  2. Each student or group then puts the puzzle pieces together without leaving any white space.


  • black construction paper
  • poster board white paper
  • bags or containers
  • puzzle pre-cut (optional)

Professional Preparation

  • Cut the black paper or poster paper into a big shape. Then cut the shape into middle pieces or design pieces. (similar to a puzzle)
  • Place pieces in a labeled bag.
  • Place white paper on working area.


  • Use Early education rubric to take observation on student’s progress.

Define: We’re Going on a Shape Hunt

Lesson Overview: In this lesson student identify shapes on a walk around classroom, school or home. Students will learn how to record information in a form of a journal.  

Prior Knowledge: Student should some practice background knowledge of common names of the five basic shapes (Square, triangle, circle, diamond, Star, heart,).

Procedure: This activity can be for students or a group.

  1. Give each student a shape journal.
  2. Give instruction/ground rules on where students will have the shape hunt….
  3. Students look around the area and draw what they see and what shape they see in the environment.

Discussion/Reflection time:

  1. After the shape walk, have a discussion about their hunt.
  2. Questions to ask:
    1. What shapes did you find on our walk?
    2. What did you find interesting?
    3. What made you happy? Why?
    4. What made you sad? Why?  


  • Shape journal
  • pencils
  • camera or iPad (optional)

Professional Preparation

  • Create journals for each students. (see journal template)
  • Pick a good spot in a safe area for students to have their shape hunt.


  • Use the shape journal as a stored document of what shape they can identify.

Define: What Shape is it?

Lesson Overview:  Student will explore the classroom environment for objects that look like shapes. Students will classify the items based on the similarities of the shapes they recognizes.

Prior Knowledge: Student may have limited background knowledge of common names of the five basic shapes. Put names of basic shapes on a vocabulary board. (Square,triangle, circle,diamond, Star, heart,)

Procedure: This activity can be for students or a group.

  1. Give each student or group a paper bag.
  2. Have student go around the room, collect different items and put them in their bag.
  3. After students collect items, have each student or group place their collected items in the shapes on the floor that best represents the shape they have.

Discussion/Reflection time:

  1. After all items are placed in the shapes on the floor have the class walk around and discuss the items in each shape.
  2. Question to ask: “Jack tell us why you picked this item?” Why did you put it in the triangle?”
  3. Teacher: “triangle has three sides, three points.”


  • various foam pieces
  • different puzzle piece
  • different size wood pieces optional
  • paper bags
  • masking tape.

Professional Preparation

  • Create different shapes on the floor with masking tape (circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, and diamond).
  • Put shape words on a display board  (circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, and diamond).
  • Place different items (puzzle pieces, different wood pieces, items with odd shapes) around the room.


Assessment can be done when class is walking around exploring the items in the shapes. Teacher can ask open-ended questions to gain the information need to score students in standard documents that the teacher is using.

Sample of Open-ended questions:

  • Why did you pick this object?
  • What does the object remind you of? Tell me more about why you choose to put your item here in the  “_______” ?
  • What made you pick this shape?

Use the Rubric page to keep notes of  activity.

Ideate, prototype and test: Living Space

Lesson Overview:  This is a two parts lesson.  Students will start the first lesson as a game. The students will take turns on the board game to win building materials which will be used in lesson two to build a living space. In this game students practice collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication. They will also think about how some people may not have what they want to build if they share what they have they can build a community.

Prior Knowledge: Students should be familiar with basic shapes and how to play simple board games. If students are not familiar with a basic board game, teacher can practice using the board game then play the game.


Part One : Living Space Game (2-4 players)  

  1. Each player rolls the dye.
  2. The player with the higher number goes first.
  3. The first player rolls the dye.
  4. The player counts the dye.
  5. The player moves their represented cork to the number of space they rolled.
  6. If the player lands on a number the player gets to pick that number of raw materials.
  7. The next player takes their turn.

Part Two: Creating Living Space

  1. Brainstorm what type of elements are needed to create a living space.  
  2. Design the living space on paper.  In the design incorporate specific shape as the main focus.  
  3. Examine the building materials that was gather from living space game. .
  4. Create the living space using the building materials received from living space game.
  5. In a group combined the living space to create a community.   
  6. Student prepare a display of their town with a brief  description of their community.

Test: Create a gallery walk of each town. With each rotation around the town, groups points outs difference in shapes, angle, sides.  Students can use the shape journal to take notes.


  • Shape journal
  • pencils
  • camera or iPad (optional)

Professional Preparation

  • Create journals for each students. (see journal template)
  • Pick a good spot in a safe area for students to have their shape hunt.


  • Use the shape journal as a stored document of what shape they can identify.