Venn Diagrams and Early Childhood Teachers

My guess is most people probably wouldn’t say “Venn diagrams” and “preschool” in the same sentence. Here at AIMS, where the early math team has partnered with Head Start, I am working at a preschool site that has an amazing staff and loves implementing new math lessons and activities. The focus of the lesson this past week was to “classify peers and family members by gender.” Through collaborative work and discussion, teachers planned a whole class math lesson using a Venn diagram. Research has shown that through the implementation of Venn diagrams, young children search for patterns to make connections between new information and their own background knowledge and therefore process thoughts more deeply.

Two teachers taught a lesson implementing the Venn diagrams. They adjusted the lesson to fit their teaching style and to teach to their students’ needs. The goal of the lesson was for the students to classify their family peers by gender. The teachers also integrated multiple mathematical concepts into the lesson.

One teacher has 20 students ages 4-5. She introduced her lesson by having a whole group conversation and asked the students if they had any siblings. The teacher then demonstrated where the students would place the dot sticker they had been given according to whether they had a brother, a sister, or neither. What was thought-provoking was that the majority of students were able to tell their peers how many siblings they had and that the students knew where to place their sticker without the teacher redirecting them. This demonstrated the children’s ability to recognize the pattern, clarifying if they had a brother, a sister, or both. At the end of the lesson, the students counted how many students had only brothers, only sisters, both brother and sister, or neither. One highlight of the lesson was when the teacher described to the students that she did not have a brother or sister. Rather, she had zero siblings and zero means “none.” This teacher’s lessons implementing a Venn diagram introduced children to classification, 1-1 counting, oral counting, vocabulary (Venn diagram, siblings) and the clarification of the concept of zero.

The second teacher has 16 students, all 3 years old. Due to the age and developmental level of her students, she adjusted the lesson and its components to fit their specific needs. In this case, the students had picture cards of either a boy or girl, and they then classified themselves and told the class if they had any siblings. They then placed their card on the Venn diagram. The teacher helped any children who needed support in where to put their card. The most effective element of the lesson was the closure. The teacher re-presented the findings from the Venn diagram through the use of blocks. She demonstrated how many brothers the class had and then stacked the same amount of blocks. Through the use of re-presenting the quantities with different objects, the teacher reiterated re-presentation of the students’ number of siblings.

The highlights of these two lessons were that the teachers adjusted the lesson to fit the needs of their students because of their developing knowledge about the children in their classes. Even though they had discussed specific goals, these teachers had the ability to adapt to their students’ needs. The lessons were engaging, interactive, and integrated multiple mathematical ideas.


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