Silly Circles

In this lesson, children will identify, draw and describe the attributes of a circle.

Math Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships
  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Recognizing, naming, building, drawing, comparing and sorting two- and three-dimensional shapes
  • Describing an object by its shape and location
  • Composing simple shapes to form larger shapes

Silly Circles

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book, Round is a Pancake by Joan Baranski.
  • Circles (Pre-cut circles of all different colors and sizes. The smallest should be about the size of a bottle cap and the largest should be the size of a small plate.)
  • Glue sticks and one 12”x18” sheet of white paper
  • Markers
  • Circle snack (Oreos, banana or cucumber slices, dried apple slices or any other food that comes in circle form or can be made into circles.)

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to be talking about circles. Ask: “Who can look around the room and point out a circle? Can you describe the circle?”
  2. Ask the children, using their pointing fingers, to make a circle in the air. Say: “Who can describe what they are doing with their fingers?”
  3. Model making a circle in the air. State: “We start at a point, go around and end at the same point that we started at.”
  4. Introduce the book, Round is a Pancake. Explain that the children will be going on a circle hunt. Say: “Our job, while reading this book, is to not only identify all of the objects in this book that are circles, but also to point out all of the circle objects in the book.”
  5. Say: “Let’s start by looking at the cover. Can you point out the objects that are circles?” The children will name the balloons, the balls and the wheels on the wagons, but they might need some prompting to recognize the round shapes of the children’s faces, the polka dots on the dress and the round shape that the dog’s curled tail forms.
  6. Read the book. The text is printed in half circles and curves. Say: “I am noticing that even the words are forming round shapes and curving on the page.” The book also provides opportunities to identify spheres, cylinders and circles that exhibit the concept of roundness. On the last few pages of the book, complex scenes filled with different objects encourage children to search for additional round objects.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Create a picture with circles. Give the children the paper, glue sticks, markers and circles and explain that they are going to create their own pictures that contain many circle objects, just like the book. Use the book as an example when brainstorming the objects that the children could include in their pictures. Set expectations for the pictures. Say: “I am thinking that your pictures should have at least four circle objects of any color or size that you want. It can have more, but you want to have at least four.”
  2. Support the children who are having a difficult time getting started or even visualizing a picture with circle objects. Encourage them to look around the room and notice all of the circled objects. Use the illustrations in the book to help them with their thought processes. Some children will be able to create a scene with various circle objects included in the scene and other children will have isolated round objects on their pages.
  3. Have the children share their artwork with one another and ask them to point out the circles in their friends’ pictures.
  4. Eat the “circle” snack. Again, point out that there are circles in the food that we eat. Enjoy the circle snack!

Additional Extensions

  • Encourage the children to talk about the attributes of a circle: round, never-ending and made up of a closed curved line. Explain that a circle is a type of line. Say: “Imagine a line that is bent all the way around until its ends join.” Give the children pieces of yarn that they can manipulate from a line into a circle.
  • Have the children go on a “circle hunt” around the classroom, identify the various circles in and around the room, write down what the objects are and where they are located and then share their findings.

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Point: An exact position or location (e.g.,”We start at a point and go around and end at the same point that we started at.”)
  • Round: Shaped like a circle (e.g.,”The words are forming round shapes and curving on the page.”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not be able to distinguish circles from ovals
  • Think spheres are also circles
Home child care providers may:
  • Point out differences between ovals and circles, but not press toddlers to distinguish between the two
  • Use vocabulary such as sphere to correct any incorrect use of terminology, but not focus too heavily on toddlers getting it exactly right
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be ready to begin identifying other circular shapes, such as cylinders, spheres, etc.
  • Want to expand their vocabulary by talking about the fact that a circle is never-ending and made up of a closed-line curve
  • Want to compare a circle to other basic shapes (square, triangle, etc.)
  • Be able to write out the word “circle” and words that describe a circle
Home child care providers may:
  • Use the extension activity suggested and have the children glue their yarn circles onto a sheet of paper and then write about their yarn circles
  • Reinforce vocabulary by engaging the children in a dialogue that describes not only circles, but cylinders, spheres and other round/roundish shapes.
  • Have the children compare circles to other basic shapes and construct a  “comparison guide” that allows the children to write or draw the attributes of each shape and then compare attributes

Suggested Books

  • Round Is A Pancake by Joan Baranski (New York: Dutton Juvenile, 2000)
  • Round Is A Mooncake by Roseanne Thong (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000)
  • Circles, Cylinders and Spheres by Peter Patilla (London: Belitha Press Ltd., 1999)

Music and Movement

  • While the children are working on their art projects, play “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell in the background.

Outdoor Connections

Go on a “circle hunt” outdoors. Have the children identify and draw all of the circles that they see in nature.

Web Resources

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