Designing Buildings with Shapes


“I looked at lots of buildings on the way home. I saw many semi-circles,” the five year old made sure I noted her use of the word ‘semi-circle.’

The table was set up with different shapes for the next activity on buildings. The previous weekend I had gone armed with my camera, taking pictures of buildings in various neighbourhoods. Aren’t these details just gorgeous?




The children pored over the pictures to identify and compare the shapes on the buildings to the shapes on the table. One kid noted the rhombus on the building. “Hey, look at the diamond in this window! But we don’t have a diamond shape here.” That’s when I introduced the word ‘rhombus’ for the diamond and handed over a square. “Can you find a way to turn this square into a rhombus?” I challenged them. After trying to position the square on different parts of the paper, one child rotated the shape to ‘discover’ a rhombus. The others followed suite and found that the square turned into a ‘rhombus’ every time a vertex pointed down (or up).

The pictures showed the children how shapes fill up other shapes-squares within squares, rectangles within rectangles, rhombuses within rectangles, and trapezoids for walls. They recalled similar features they’d seen on the doors, balcony grills, and windows in their neighbourhood. After the review, the children headed to the table to create their buildings with different shapes.


At the beginning of our sessions, the kids knew the names of the shapes but couldn’t identify them consistently. Listening to their comments, I could hear the language spill over from our observations and discussions. Here they were using the vocabulary meaningfully as they planned and designed buildings using shapes.


“I’m going to use two circles for the water towers. I’ll put the long rectangle this way (flat) to draw the road. I tried to draw a rhombus but it isn’t standing up straight like it is supposed to.”


“I’m making my house. It’s really tall, and I can see the squares (bricks) on the wall. The door is a big rectangle, and the squares are all windows. This pink rhombus is a window upstairs for me to see from inside my house.”


“I’m making a park. It has lots and lots of shapes-circles and semi-circles, trapezoids and triangles. I think I will put a small square for the window. See this long rectangle here? You can walk on it. It is the pavement in the park.”


Amidst all this, the littlest one decided that she wanted only triangles in her picture, never mind what the others did!


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