Thursday, April 26, 2012

First Graders See Symmetry!

Two hundred 1st graders came to the annual Young Authors Conference at the University of Central Florida today to share the books they had written and illustrated…always a delightful type of event. I was fortunate enough to be the featured author this year so was able to speak to all the participants.
My newest picture book Seeing Symmetry was the main focus of my presentation, though I wasn't sure how much the kiddos would know about the topic. In Florida it’s taught in 3rd and 4th grade. 

We looked at the cover of the book and I used my Super Simple LOS Locator…

…(a barbeque skewer with the point cut off) to show how the tiger and butterfly image can be divided into equal mirror image halves. (A high-res version of the above poster plus quite a few related printables can be found in the Activity pack for the book on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.)

Though the kiddos weren't very familiar with the word symmetry, they had no trouble making great guesses about what various shapes folded in half would turn out to be. I held up folded cutouts of various items from the book such as a butterfly, teddy bear, and star, which they could readily guess.
The trickiest ones were the number 3 and the letter Z (which has rotational symmetry for those of you who haven't thought about this subject recently.) The red construction paper Z has a button in the middle…in its collapsed state it looked like a 7 or a 1, but once the parts were rotated into their proper position, the Z revealed itself.
I drew a symmetrical butterfly, then asked for ideas from the students to draw a symmetrical alien, which turned out perfectly silly, as intended! Copies of the aliens will be sent to the schools later for the kids to color or otherwise embellish upon. In addition, each child received a copy of the book for his or her very own! They were very excited about that and kept asking when they would get their book.

Another highlight was a Symmetry Chant that had its world premiere (ha!)…since I've never tried writing or leading one before, it was hard to predict how it would go. The kids acted like they do call and response chants every day and had no trouble following me. The specific items mentioned in the verses were the various shapes I had shown earlier. We practiced first with me saying 1-2-3; they repeat 1-2-3; A-B-C; A-B-C; and so on a few times. Then on to the real deal:

Seeing SYMMETRY Chant

Here and there       Here and there
And everywhere     And everywhere
We can see            We can see
Symmetry!              Symmetry!
Our two eyes          Our two eyes
See butterflies        See butterflies
A perfect square     A perfect square
A teddy bear           A teddy bear
The number 3         The number 3
The letter Z             The letter Z
Most any car           Most any car
A shiny star             A shiny star
Up and down           Up and down
And all around         And all around
We can see             We can see
Symmetry!               Symmetry!

I held up the various cutouts as we went along. It worked really well in a spontaneous situation like this, and would certainly be awesome with a little rehearsal. If anyone would like to use this chant for educational purposes, by all means feel free. If you'd like to include it in a blog post or article, please credit me as author and give a link if possible.

For those teachers who are incorporating the Common Core Standards in their classroom, the applicable one is 4.G.3:
Recognize a line of symmetry for a two-dimensional figure as a line across the figure such that the figure can be folded along the line into matching parts. Identify line-symmetric figures and draw lines of symmetry.

Many thanks to Penny Leggett and Taylar Clements for inviting me and making this event run so smoothly with the help of a small army of UCF students. The tech set-up was great and special thanks go to the guy who found me a clip-on mike instead of the big handheld one! We were discussing afterwards how visiting a college campus can make such a big impression on young students and hopefully will inspire many of them to think “I can go to college, too” when the time comes.
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