Find what you need fast!  Type in your keyword and search.

The Shape Detectives

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 
School or Organization: 

GRADE LEVEL: Kindergarten

GENERAL TOPIC: Shapes/Composing Shapes

FOCUS QUESTIONS: How do we identify shapes? What are the characteristics of shapes? How can we use context clues to tell us what kind of shape is missing? How can we make shapes out of other shapes?

MATERIALS: Length of string tied at the ends, Missing shape pictures and the accompanying shapes, Magnets or Tape, Shape Journal Log, Detective Hats, 2 or more Case File Folders, Detective Badges and/or Certificates, Briefcase (optional)

TARGETED OBJECTIVES MATH: §111.2 Kindergarten, Adopted 2012. (6) Geometry and measurement. The student applies mathematical process standards to analyze attributes of two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional solids to develop generalizations about their properties. The student is expected to: (A) Identify two-dimensional shapes, including circles, triangles, rectangles, and squares as special rectangles; (D) Identify attributes of two-dimensional shapes using informal and formal geometric language interchangeably; (F) Create 2-D shapes using a variety of materials and drawings.

TARGETED OBJECTIVES THEATRE: §117 Theatre TEKS Kindergarten (1) Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to: (D) imitate and recreate objects in dramatic play. (2) Creative expression: performance. The student interprets characters using the voice and body expressively and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to: (A) demonstrate safe use of movement and voice; (B) assume roles through imitation and recreation. 



Objective: Practice/Review prior knowledge about shapes

Students begin in a seated circle. Introduce a length of string tied at both ends. "Today, we are going to make some shapes using this piece of string." Discuss the ways we’re going to hold the string and make the shapes.

  • How might we might make the shapes using the string?
  • How can we make sure to make shapes safely?
  • What are some ways we can do this successfully?

Demonstrate with the string. If there are two teachers present, show students how to make a line by holding the string at their waists, and then place it on the ground and step back so everyone can see.

In order to identify how many students needed to make the shape, count the corners of the shape as a class. The number of corners = the number of hands (holding the string) we need to make the shape. After the number of hands is determined, select selected to come up and make the shape using the string, encouraging them work together to make a basic shape. Ask the rest of the participants to give the students a chance to make the shape. If edits need to be made or help needs to be offered, let that happen after the students making the shape have been given adequate time to think about how to make it. 

Side Coaching: "Let’s let them make the shape first, and we’ll watch silently, and if we want to help them revise it later we can!"

Transition: "Wow! It really looks like you are shape experts! I think I know some people who could really use the help of a bunch of shape experts like you. Why doesn’t everyone take a seat in their spot so I can tell you all about a special group of people called the Shape Detectives."



Now that the students are “shape experts,” it’s time for them to become “shape detectives.”

"In a moment, we are going to put on these hats. When we do, we will become inspectors for the 'Shape Detective Agency.' But in order to fully become these Shape Detectives, we need your help! I have a special magic way to help us get into character, and it works like this. Start by rubbing your hands together slowly, then go faster, and faster, and faster, and when the hats are on our heads, pop your hands apart! Now it’s time for us to get into character."

Engage in the “character creation ritual,” finishing by putting on detective hats. As soon as the hats are on, launch into the Shape Detectives Drama.

Detective Trapezoid: "Hello all. My name is Detective Trapezoid." 

Detective Rhombus: "And I’m detective Rhombus."

Detective Trapezoid: "We're here today, because word on the street is that you all are experts on shapes, and quite frankly, we need your help."

Detective Rhombus: "We are investigators for the Shape Detective Agency, and it is our job to look for and find missing shapes. You see, there have been some shape thieves running wild, stealing shapes from pictures! While we’ve been able to crack some of the cases and replace the missing shapes, some of the cases have been too hard to solve, so we need your help." 

Detective Trapezoid: "That’s right. But before we begin, let’s hear what you know about shapes!"

Detective Rhombus: "Right! What shapes have you been studying? (pause for answer) How many points does that have? (Gather/review information about shapes) I think it might be ready to start."

Detective Trapezoid: "But we have to have to initiate our new detectives!!"

Detective Rhombus: Right! I almost forgot. First everyone put on your (imaginary) detective jackets, and your (imaginary) detective hats, and show me your best expert detective faces! Excellent! Now everyone gather round and put your hand on this Shape Detectives Case File, and repeat after me. I promise, (I promise) to use my knowledge about shapes (to use my knowledge about shapes) to help the Shape Detectives (to help the Shape Detectives). I will be respectful to the other shape detectives (i will be respectful to the other shape detectives) and listen to the other Shape Detectives (and listen to the other Shape Detectives) so we can crack the case (so we can crack the case).

Detective Trapezoid: "Excellent! We’ve set up our temporary Shape Detective Agency headquarters right here at ________ Elementary. Come with us and we can get started with our work."


The Shape Detectives pull out their first hard case file. They have found some of the missing shapes, but the shapes are all mixed up and need to be put back in their pictures!! Provide an example of a “solved case” by placing a shape into its proper empty space in a photograph. Then teach the following “case closed ritual”

Detective Rhombus: "Now after each case we solve here at the Shape Detective Agency, we Shape Detectives do something special. First, we put our hands out like we’re holding a folder. Then, on my count of three, we say “Case Closed!” and as we say that, we pretend to close that case folder! Lets try that all together."

As a class or one by one, students look through shapes to find the right shape to fit the white space in the picture. The first round features some easier simple shapes (circles, squares, rhombuses, triangles) Some possible missing shapes can include (but are not limited to):

  • Clock face of Big Ben
  • One of the Pyramids
  • Slice of Pizza
  • Traffic Cone
  • Sailboat Sail
  • Lemon Wedge
  • The Sun
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Baseball
  • Window from a House
  • Shelf of a Bookcase
  • Brownie
  • Street Sign
  • Skyscraper
  • Pillow
  • Pumpkin
  • iPad Screen
  • Refrigerator 

After each “case” is solved, repeat the “Case Closed” ritual.


Detective Rhombus: "Wow! You solved those shape cases in record time! Do you think we should open up the hex(agon) files?"

Detective Trapezoid: "The Hex files?!?! But no one has ever been able to crack those cases!"

Detective Rhombus: "Detective Trapezoid, we’ve got a talented group on our hands, they just might be the detectives we need to finally close them.

Detective Trapezoid: "Alright. We’re going to show you some of the toughest cases we’ve ever seen. Let’s see if you experts can help us out.


In this activity, each file corresponds to one picture. The picture is clearly missing certain shapes, but this time instead of one shape filling the empty space, there are many shapes that students must use to reconstruct the picture. Thus, these are complex shapes that must be reconstructed using smaller shapes! Students work together as a class or in groups to put the pictures back together. 

These complex shapes can include (but are not limited to):

  • A house (made out of triangles)
  • A stop sign (made of triangles and/or trapezoids)
  • A piece of a soccer ball (made out of triangles and/or trapezoids)
  • A robot (made of rectangles, triangles, and trapezoids)
  • A snowman (made out of circles, or half circles)
  • A castle (made out of squares, rectangles, and triangles) 

As each picture is filled in, repeat the “Case Closed Ritual” and praise the students for their excellent sleuthing.

Once the drama is complete, transition out of the drama the same way you get in - through the "character creation ritual" listed above.  




  • What did we just do in that activity?
  • What kinds of shapes did we find?
  • What kind of shapes did we make?
  • What shapes did we use when making other shapes?


  • Which shape do you think was the most difficult to make, using other shapes? Why?


  • What types of jobs (other than shape detectives) might use shapes like this?

Transition Back into the drama:  Rub hands to help with character creation, then:

Detective Rhombus: "Thank you all for your help today, we couldn’t have cracked these cases without you!"

Detective Trapezoid: "As a token of our appreciation, we’d like to present you with these certificates and/or official shape detective badges!"

Complete a brief award ceremony.

Transition: Detective Rhombus: "Now we your math journals here for you. After a day like today we bet you have a lot to write about!"


Students return to their desks and have time to reflect on the experience/what they learned in their Math Journals.

Extensions/Applications : 

STRING SHAPES - EXTEND: If you want to extend this activity, you can introduce a second piece of string and make two shapes at a time. Then encourage students join the shapes to make complex shapes. 

SHAPE DETECTIVES - EXTEND:  As you move into three-dimensional-solids, the "Shape Detective" characters can return with more shape cases to solve.