Shopping for Colors and Shapes

As part of the 3rd grade curriculum in the final YICA lesson plan of the year, kids go shopping for colors and shapes. In the original lesson plan, there’s a bit of a rigid goal in mind. Find these shapes in these colors to build this picture. I much prefer creativity. Here’s my variation on shopping for colors and shapes.

In order to effectively complete this artwork making game, the kids first need to be really secure in their knowledge of colors and shapes. The six shapes I teach are: circle, square, triangle, heart, star, and diamond.

The kids already know heart and star. Diamond is often truncated to just “dia”. The musical instrument the “triangle” is called “triangle” in Japanese, but the shape is called “sankaku” so you might need to draw the comparison between the two for them to get it. Circle and square are the hardest. I pretend to mishear “tsukue” or desk for square to give them a mnemonic device to remember it.  A desk is square-ish, right? That’s another thing. In Japanese square is “shikaku” which just describes the four angles of a square. It can also denote a rectangle so if you’re introducing rectangle along with square be ready for confusion. Circle sounds like cycling, saikoro (dice), and saikou (ultimate) so I mishear those to help them remember the word, too.

shapes base

To practice the shapes, YICA suggests a hand gesture based introduction and game. Introduce the shapes and make a gesture of that shape with your hands as you do. Two peace signs together make a nice diamond. The old camera frame of thumbs and forefingers is a clear square. Three people doing peace signs together can make a star, etc.  Then, quiz the class with your own hand shape gestures.

Last, break the class down into groups and have them quiz each other. I print off a ton of shape cards in playing card size and give a huge deck of them to each group. Like, half a dozen of each shape for each group. That many. The group plays rock paper scissors and the champ gets to go first. They pick a card, put that card face down on the desk in front of them, and then make that shape with their hands. The members of their group have to guess the shape. If a group member gets the shape right, they win that card and get to go next, quizzing the group themselves. Each card you win is a point and the grand champion is the one with the most cards when the deck runs out.

For colors, I try to incorporate the terms “light” and “dark”. Light blue and dark blue paper are usually included in most construction paper sets so this is a useful level up from the normal primary and secondary color lists. I have been using the following papers to demo light and dark colors.

You get to trick them a bit. It’s not “light red” so much as “pink” here and that’s not “light grey” it’s “white”, duh.

The shape game itself can take a lot of prep work, but as it’s the last lesson in the year I always put in the extra elbow grease. It depends on how your construction paper access goes but I tend to print a bunch of random shapes on slightly over-sized B4 paper.

After I’ve printed them, I cut them apart and organize them by color. Eight sets, one for each lunch group.


In class, each lunch group will get one color stack with multiple shapes in each stack. I tell them “This is the pink store.” “This is the blue store.” etc. Then I display the “gallery”.

Oreo Cookie, Strawberry Ice Cream, Diamond Ring

Akamaru the cat, Pizza, Fish

Flower, Christmas Tree, Dumbledore

Strawberry Shortcake, Baskin Robbins 31 Ice Cream, Valentines Chocolates

Kappa, Tropical Flower, Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Candy, Clover, and Sailor Moon items

Dog, Rabbit

I put the gallery of artworks up on the board with one blank page. “Oh no! No color! Let’s go shopping!” I excitedly mime trying to grab papers off the tables, but then say “No, don’t touch… please!” And ask for each colored shape by name. “Red circle, please.” After collecting three shapes I act like I’m going back to my own desk.

I play two rounds. The first round girls go shopping, the second boys do. They can’t grab the shapes themselves, they have to ask the kids at the table to hand them the paper. To keep boys from just leaving their “shops” during the first round, only the girls get the paper with the frame on it at first. Five minutes each round. Remaining time in the lesson is assembling the artwork. So much fun! All my artwork is designed around buying three shapes but you can set any limit.

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  1. I can’t wait to try this with my special needs class!!! I can imagine all the wonderful grammar points now. Thanks always for the great game ideas!!!

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