Venn Diagrams for Small People

With the Holidays quickly approaching, we naturally think more about family and those we love.  In Pre-K this means many conversations pertaining to family members suffuse the day.  We take the opportunity each fall to direct this curiosity into a classifying challenge.  The set up starts like this:

We have two unidentified circles laying in  the middle of the room, surrounded by dolls.  The number of dolls is determined by the number of students in the class.  We make sure that each child has an array to pick from to represent his or herself.  After choosing a representative doll, the children must decide where their doll fits in our now labeled “brother” and “sister” circles.

Someone always discovers that we have two conundrums.  Where do you put your doll if you don’t have any brothers or sisters? What do you do if you have both?  Here we have a problem to be solved.

This year, a few children suggested that we should make a third circle to represent those with both brothers and sisters.  While we discussed the advantages and disadvantages to that solution, another child suggested we could just put them in both circles.  Of course our response was, “How?”

Following some childrens’ advice about yarn placement, we quickly adjusted the circles so that they overlapped.  (Note: All I’m doing in this photograph is moving the string.)  Once the overlap was established, it was easy to see how those with both brothers and sisters might be represented.

Data Analysts in Pre-K?

Bet you didn’t know your child was a data analyst.  Sure they are!  But don’t start a bank account to collect all that lovely income yet….  Data analysis in Pre-K refers to the ways young children collect, represent, analyze, and visualize the information they encounter.  It sounds a bit complicated, but really we do it all the time.  Anytime we take a quick poll to find out how many children like cats better than dogs or who’s got mittens vs. who’s brought gloves we are collecting information and analyzing it.  We can then use that data to compare which is more or less and even which might be equal.

One of the ways we organize data is by sorting and classifying it.  To help support these skills, teachers provide children with easily identifiable attributes such as colors, shapes, or obvious group relationships.  This past week, I introduced the class to a single loop Venn diagram.  Our first experience with it was on the morning message.  The question of the day was, “Do you have an “Aa” in your name?”  Children who did have an “Aa” wrote their name inside the circle while those who didn’t, wrote outside.  Later we compared how many names had “Aa”s and how many did not.

At center time, I provided a group with a single Venn loop and a box full sorting materials.  Although I did suggest the first set (“Put everything with wheels in the circle.”), the group came up with many more of their own categories.  This early in the year, all of them used only one attribute to distinguish a set.  “Put all of the fish inside.”  “Put everything that is orange inside.”  This is wonderful experience for them to both follow another child’s attribute choice and for them to define their own.  As we progress through the year, we’ll practice classifying using more than one attribute, adding another loop to our diagram.