Group/String Shapes invites students to use their collective group of bodies to create and represent shapes, often with string. This strategy is an exercise in non-verbal communication and group problem-solving.
Designate a playing space. Ask students to work together to silently make a shape (e.g., Make a triangle), as quickly as they can use a length of string or their bodies. A time challenge can also be given. Afterwards, ask the group to explain how they know they’ve made the shape. Next, explore other shapes based on the investigation. For example: explore specific types of triangles (equilateral, isosceles, right); explore the perimeter of a square, then use this measurement to make two right triangles; explore a two dimension shape and turn it into a three-dimensional shape; explore perimeter then area using standard or informal units of measurement. Students may need to talk as they work to solve the challenge, especially when tasks become more difficult. With each shape made, it is important to work collectively to “prove” how students know they have made the requested shape. Students should be encouraged to use academic math vocabulary (angle, height, width, perpendicular lines, vertices, diameter, radius, etc.) whenever possible.
- What was the easiest part of this exercise? What was the most difficult? Why?
- If working silently, what communication strategies did you use? How did your group work together as a team?
- What relationships did we discover between the shapes we made? How can we use these same strategies in other areas of our curriculum or classroom?
- How will you solve the problem without talking?
- Open up your awareness to your group members who may be trying to communicate with you.
- Have students work in small groups to solve the same task and compare strategies and results.
- Give students the answer and have them work backwards: Make a rectangle with the perimeter of 12; pick your own informal unit of measurement. Or, make a scalene triangle with the perimeter of 13.
- Math: Have students use string/yarn to make examples of angles (e.g., acute) or lines (e.g., perpendicular or parallel).
- Reading/Writing: Have individuals or a group use string/yarn to “map a line or shape” which metaphorically represents their experience of something (“What I did over the summer” or “Our work together on the project”). Individuals or groups can also map a representation of a character’s journey and use post-its or other types of labels to map significant moments or events.
Augusto Boal, Michael Rohd, Viola Spolin