Friday, September 26, 2008

Hexagon Happenings

During the last two weeks, I presented a couple of hexagon projects to the class. As I wrote in an earlier post, I am focusing on hexagons this year. When I am looking for new ideas and resources (ie., definitions, explanations or links), I often go to high school or college level geometry sites for teachers. I find that this information is so simplified and broken down that it easy for me to pick and choose components of the work rather than the entire project. I often find that on-line elementary lesson plans - especially, early elementary - either include cartoon characters or need to be done on a computer utilizing interactive software. As neither of these appeal to me or are appropriate for a Montessori classroom, I seek out college lesson plans for my 3-6 year old students.

After placing several hexagons on the center rug, I began positioning coffee stir sticks. I told the children that the sticks should be placed in such a way as to touch one point or angle of two hexagons. The children were very involved, including some of my youngest. After all of the stir sticks were placed, I stood up and invited the children to do so also. We walked around the hexagon construction. I asked what larger shape could now be seen. This was when the parallelogram was recognized and the hexagon geometry card (thin outline only) was positioned on the rug below the hexagon shape.

I left this work out for a couple of days for the children to observe. Then I introduced hexagon tessellations. I showed the children a hexagon template that my assistant Cristina made for the lesson. I made a point of comparing it to the metal insets. Next, I placed the hexagon template or “frame” (that is the term I use with the metal insets – the frame and the inset) over a magazine page looking for a green area that was suitable for my green tessellations. Tessellations are constructed from one non-overlapping pattern of the same color. It is similar to tiling.

When my hexagon frame was positioned over a green area, I traced the interior rim – again as one does with the metal insets. I removed the frame and cut out the hexagon. Next, using a prepared pattern sheet, I glued the hexagon into one of the spaces on the sheet. After all of the spaces were filled, my tessellation was finished. It came out quite nice.

Cristina and I put together a folder of magazine pages that had large color spaces. These were sorted into specific color piles. Each child was given a pile with the color that they were using. As a means of eliminating the competition for favored colors like pink and purple, I asked Cristina to have a child choose a color tablet from color box II and that color was matched to that specific pile of magazine pages. It worked like a charm.

Observing the children working on their projects, the most interesting moments where when an individual child used the frame as a sort of isolation, editing and selecting device. It seemed very mathematical, as well as creative. They rejected some areas that filled the frame for others. They constructed their work with a critical eye. The results were stunning.


The next hexagon project involved a lot of sampling and pre-assessment before it was prepared for the children. Cristina and I tried several ideas with hexagons, selected one and then had to figure out the most efficient way for 3-6 year olds to successfully make them and have them work. We changed the materials a couple of times and now they are ready to be presented next week. The image below – on the lower right hand side – shows a spinning hexagon top. To its left are several prepared tops with short crayons inserted in their centers. We tried pencils and other objects, but these worked best. The children will glue three triangles on the top of a prepared, hexagon cut from blue paper. Therefore, every other triangle will be blue. When the hexagon top is spun and you look down at it – a very obvious circle emerges. But it is a circle with six small triangles appearing at its edge or circumference. This is a lead in to fractions for the older students, which was touched on at the end of last spring. See the third image below.

Also, I placed one of the hexagon templates/frames in a tray with a felt mat and a puncher kept in a red, retangular box. The younger children are doing this work as prelimary work the more advanced punching used to make continent maps.

My fellow staff members, including the head of my school have joined my class’s hunt for hexagons. I received a hexagon tile from the head of my school’s bathroom along with an accompanying photo, as well as several photos taken by a another teacher of hexagons she found in her home - including one on the base of her hair blower. Geometry – it is everywhere!

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