3rd & 4th grade shots of working with tangrams & perceptual puzzles

For the entire month of December, all K-5 classes have been working with tangrams (try out your skills at http://pbskids.org/sagwa/games/tangrams/index.html) and other perceptual puzzles. This was a change in direction of my plans for all of my classes… The decision came after collaborating with the 1st grade teachers. They are working on quilts, with math as the content area, and thought it would be great to do a special project with each of their classes tying it the math concepts to art concepts. I thought it was a great idea and began working with model magic with one of the first grade classes. Each student was to create a quilt pattern – one they had each colored on many worksheets in their classroom. I quickly realized that they were incapable of reproducing the basics of each square and/or the shapes and patterns that could be created within each square. This led me to try out simply drawing/reproducing various quilt patterns with EVERY grade level… the results rather alarmed me. Basically it’s easy for them to color in a pattern on a copied sheet of paper, but to create their own – whether in 2D or 3D form – most students struggled. After speaking with many of my colleagues & gathering their wisdom & materials, I decided to introduce tangrams & other perceptual puzzles to the kids. The kids absolutely love them and I’m glad I took this route… I learned something in the process too – about what helps kids think & perceive – and that even I, the art teacher, struggled to make the square with the 7 tangram pieces!