This week I was able to learn a tremendous amount from the first graders about how to best structure a lesson on symmetry. As a librarian, my first tool is usually a book. I started this lesson by sharing the book, Let’s Fly a Kite by Stuart Murphy and illustrated by Brian Floca. This sweet book introduces, without even mentioning the mathematical term, symmetry. A brother and sister discover it as they make a kite, drive to the beach and enjoy a picnic lunch. Their stealthy babysitter teaches them about dividing things in half and how different lines can make equal and unequal parts.
After reading the book, we quickly viewed some images on the screen to talk about the ‘big’ mathematical word, symmetry and how things can be symmetrical.
Next, I explained that I had a challenge for them today. Using ONLY 2 x 4 and 4 x 4 Legos in a variety of colors, they needed to build one half of a design with their partner. (Our Lego wall is over 28′ long, so each student could effectively have their own blue ’tile’ to build on. You could do the same thing with baseplates. Because my laptop has a Brick Book Cover, I actually used my laptop case to ‘build’ an example.
As I taught the lesson throughout the day, I constantly tweaked it. At first I had students building with dozens of Lego bricks and it became far too abstract for their partner to try to re-create. There were some students who used a ‘different’ line of symmetry than the one that I had ‘intended’ for them to use.
For example, my own initial example was WAY TOO hard for first graders.
By the end of the day, I had decided that the central concept, symmetry, was being polluted by the massive amount of bricks the kids had at their disposal. So, I quickly sorted the Lego bricks and put 12 bricks of the same shape and color in two different bags. Then, each ‘group’ got a corresponding bag. Then the challenge became, with the same 12 bricks, can you make half a design and then have your partner mirror it? This was far more successful and a whole lot more fun for both the kids and I. In the end, the kids connected to the work they had done in art around the same concept and that was the goal all along!