Standard Lesson

Teaching Shapes Using Read-Alouds, Visualization, and Sketch to Stretch

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


This lesson encourages strategic reading and real-world math connections using a variety of techniques. Three interactive read-alouds of winter-themed books guide students through the concepts of shape and pattern. During the read-alouds, students are encouraged to use a visualization strategy to synthesize information. Students then use illustrations to interpret texts visually. This will help them connect the reading to their world, as well as demonstrate their comprehension of the math concepts. In the final session, students apply what they have learned by choosing from a variety of learning center activities.

From Theory to Practice

  • Books provide a useful tool for encouraging children to think and talk about math in real-world contexts.

  • By choosing high-quality, math-related literature, teachers can seamlessly integrate the learning of math concepts and the development of language.

  • Recognizing, interpreting, and creating patterns are important aspects of developing math skills.
  • Read-alouds encourage students to read, build their knowledge about specific subjects, improve their vocabulary, and develop their concepts of print and story structure.

  • There are specific strategies teachers can use to make read-alouds more effective (see Preparation, 1).
  • The sketch-to-stretch strategy allows students to demonstrate what they have learned from the read-aloud text and to make text-to-self connections.

  • Students expand their knowledge by listening to each other and sharing what they have learned.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan (Scholastic, 1987)

  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert (Voyager Books, 1999)

  • There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Lucille Colandro (Cartwheel Books, 2003)

  • Additional Books about Snow

  • Arts and craft materials for making snowman creations (see Preparation, 4)

  • Two- and three-dimensional geometric models

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Digital camera (optional)




1. Obtain and review copies of Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan, Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, and There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Lucille Colandro. According to Fisher, Flood, Lapp, & Frey (2004), there are several steps you can take to prepare for an interactive read-aloud:
  • Preview the text carefully. Read each text several times, taking note of good places to pause and prompt students to discuss shapes and patterns. Jot down some of these prompts on sticky notes and attach them to the appropriate pages.

  • Practice reading the story aloud. You want to model fluent reading and to use animation and expression to engage your students. This can involve changing the tone of your voice to denote emotions or using movements or props.

  • Prepare to discuss the text. Write down some questions you can ask during and after reading. These questions should provide students with the opportunity to share their thoughts, reactions, expectations, or predictions.
Another read-aloud resource that you might review before this lesson is Catching the Bug for Reading Through Interactive Read-Alouds.

2. Familiarize yourself with the sketch-to-stretch strategy and how it has been modified for this lesson. This strategy involves the use of a visual activity, and is used to make students think more deeply about the characters, theme, and story structure. In this case of "reading for information," the strategy has been adapted to discuss shapes and patterns in the real world. The steps you will use in this lesson include:
  • Reading a story interactively and discussing the shapes and patterns students notice in the story

  • Encouraging students to look around the classroom for shapes and patterns they see in real-world objects

  • Having students draw sketches of snowmen in small groups or individually using different shapes and patterns

  • Asking students to share their sketches in small groups and to talk about their use of shapes and patterns
Another sketch-to-stretch resource that you might review before this lesson is Guided Comprehension: Visualizing Using the Sketch-to-Stretch Strategy.

3. Have two- and three-dimensional models of shapes on hand for the lesson. These can be purchased from a teacher-supply store or created by you. Real-world objects such as balls, food boxes, or cans can be used as well.

4. Prepare large pieces of blue construction paper (if you can't find large sheets of blue paper, tape together smaller sheets) for a background, and white paper shapes for students to create their snowmen creations. Collect a variety of arts and craft materials as well; the book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert provides some great examples. These could include, but are not limited to, buttons; ribbons; shape stickers; colored paper; cutouts from magazines, catalogues, or grocery flyers; objects found in nature such as nuts, seeds, branches, leaves, stones, shells, or dried flowers; twine; fabric scraps; or plastic utensils. Have glue and tape ready as well.

5. Make a copy of Make a Shapely Snowman and the Visualizing poster for each student in the class.

6. Prepare materials for the activity centers you will use in Session 3. You can use any combination of the centers outlined below or create your own that relate to the lesson's theme of shapes and patterns.
  • Writing Center. Make a blank storyboard for each student following the pattern of There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow. Leave blanks for students to fill in, for example, "There was a cold lady who swallowed a ____." Depending on their skill level, students can fill in the blanks with either words or pictures.

  • Math Center. Gather a box of real-world objects for students to sort according to their shape. Household items, such as food cartons, work really well for this activity. Prepare some sorting mats (you might make some in the shape of snowmen) with areas where students can place objects that have matching shapes.

  • Reading Center. Choose books from Additional Books About Snow and Themed Reviews: Snow, Snowflakes and Snowmen and have them available for students to read. You should also have sticky notes available in this center.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify the math concepts of shape and pattern in texts and the real world

  • Synthesize information from a variety of texts to make their own creations using shapes and patterns

  • Compare their use of shape and pattern in classroom discussions

  • Connect with math concepts using reading, writing, art, science, and computers

Session 1

Before Reading

1. Activate the students' prior knowledge about making snowmen. Discuss various materials they might use and list the shapes that are usually associated with snowmen. Ask students if there are any patterns involved in making a snowman, for example, big, medium, and small snowballs or patterns on a scarf, a pair of mittens, or a hat. Encourage students to share the patterns on their own hats, mittens, and scarves.

2. Place the geometric shape models and some of the materials you have collected on a table where students can see them. Talk to students about the different shapes, asking them questions such as:
  • What shapes can be used in making a snowman?

  • What shapes, other than a sphere, can be used to make the body?

  • Which shapes could be used for other body parts and accessories?
3. Distribute the Visualizing poster. Explain to students that visualizing is when they create a picture of what they are reading in their heads. It may be helpful to describe this activity as "brain TV." Tell students that as they listen to the story you are about to read, they should close their eyes and create images in their heads as if they were watching a television show.

4. Tell students that while they are listening, they should visualize a snowman of their own creation, using items from the story or items of their choice. Remind them to focus on shape and pattern.

During Reading

5. Read Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan. Use the prompts and questions you have prepared to encourage students to look for the use of shapes and patterns in the story. A good way to do this is to compare the items used for eyes, noses, and mouths in the different snowmen Sadie makes throughout the story.

6. You should also communicate mathematically while you are reading. Discuss the number of items used, label shapes and solids with their math names, and identify patterns. An example of how you might do this is to compare the first and second snowmen. Sadie uses circles (cookies) for eyes in the first and squares (crackers) for eyes in the second.

After Reading

7. Discuss the use of color, lines, shapes, symbols, and patterns in the story, asking students questions such as:
  • What colors do you think are happy? Why?

  • What do you think wavy lines mean?

  • How can a shape like a half moon be used?
8. Tell students that they will now draw the snowmen that they visualized while you were reading. Hand out the Make a Shapely Snowman sheet. Talk a little bit about the shapes on it, explaining that they are there to show them some shapes they can use in making their own snowmen. However, they can also use their imagination, remembering the images they made during their visualization.

9. Have students work in small groups while they are drawing their snowmen, encouraging them to talk to each other about the shapes and patterns they are using as they work. Facilitate this discussion as you circulate by asking questions about the shapes students are using and why they have selected them.

Session 2

Before Reading

1. Hang the large pieces of blue paper where students can easily access them. Have the white paper shapes, glue or tape, and arts and craft materials ready for students to use.

2. Have students look at their snowman drawings from Session 1. Choose a few students to show and describe their use of shapes and patterns. Questions you might ask include:
  • What shapes did you use for the eyes (nose, mouth, hat, etc.)?

  • If you were to build this snowman, what objects would you use?
3. Remind students to visualize as you read another story and take mental notes of shapes and patterns.

During Reading

4. Read Snowballs by Lois Ehlert. Use the prompts and questions you have prepared to encourage students to look for the use of shapes and patterns in the story. Some prompts or questions you might use include:
  • What "good stuff" could be saved in the sack?

  • What would you put in your own sack of "good stuff"?
5. While you are reading, talk about the use of found objects to create snowmen. Discuss the number of items used, label shapes and solids with their math names, and identify patterns.

After Reading

6. Discuss the different shapes used to make the snow characters in this book. Ask students if there were any unexpected items or shapes used to make snowmen in the story.

7. Have students make a text-to-self comparison. Have they ever used any of these items in making snowmen? Did they use any of those items in their drawings from Session 1?

8. Make a text-to-text comparison. Ask students to compare Snowballs with Sadie and the Snowman. Questions you might ask include:
  • What shapes were the same in both stories?

  • What shapes were different?

  • Did you notice patterns in either story?
9. Pass out arts and craft materials and have students make their own snow character creations. Tell them that they can use their drawing from the day before as a plan or make up an entirely new creation. When students are done with their snowmen, they can hang them up on the sheets of blue paper for the rest of the class to see.

Session 3

1. Read the story There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Lucille Colandro. Use the prompts and questions you have prepared to encourage students to look for the use of shapes and patterns in the story. Some prompts or questions you might use include:
  • Tell students to pay attention to the box of used hats for sale on the "swallowed a hat" page. Ask them what shapes they see and what other shapes hats might be made of.

  • Ask students to chime in while you read the repeated verses.
2. Discuss your classroom rules for activity centers (e.g., how many students are allowed at each center, how long they will have at each center, and what they should do when they complete an activity).

3. Allow students to choose from the various activity centers you have set up around the classroom. Limit the number of students per center and the length of time they can spend at each one as necessary. (The number of students at each center can be determined by the number of computers and materials you have available.) Circulate while students are working, observing what they are doing and prompting them to discuss their use of shapes and patterns. Activities might include:
  • Writing Center. Students create their own books using the storyboard you provide. Prereaders and emergent readers can be instructed to use pictures instead of words to fill in the blanks.

  • Math Center. Students sort a collection of objects that you have gathered by their shape. Students can also use the objects to create unique shape creatures. If you have a digital camera, use it to take pictures of students' creations.

  • Reading Center. Students select books from those you make available. Prompt students to search for the use of shapes and patterns in the stories as they read. Provide sticky notes for them to mark pages. You might have them make presentations of their findings to the whole group.


  • Sadie and the Snowman and Snowballs both provide excellent material for science activities. Sadie and the Snowman gives real-world examples of states of matter. In addition, at the end of Snowballs, there are many interesting snow facts to use in a science lesson such as, what is snow and what makes it snow? Information is provided and students can also do research to find answers.

  • Have students compare and contrast There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. A copy of the song, including music, is available on the National Institutes of Health website at Lyrics and Music.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe student participation during group sessions and read-alouds and take anecdotal notes. Are students able to identify shapes and patterns correctly? Do they draw connections between the stories and their own experiences making snowmen (text-to-self)? Are they able to see the differences between the books (text-to-text)? Do they extend the identification of shapes and patterns in the stories to their everyday environment (text-to-world)?

  • Collect the students' drawings from Session 1 and their snowman creations from Session 2 to assess their use of shapes and patterns.

  • Observe students while working in the activity centers in Session 3. How many activities do they visit? Are they able to complete the activities?

  • Independent assessment could be used with the two- and three-dimensional shapes, by asking students to provide the names of the shapes, to discuss real-world items that have those shapes, and to make patterns.

Add new comment