Really? I never did that in elementary school but I think it's a great idea and I can start doing it now in my classroom!
When I got up this morning, I was first thinking about cutting lots of little squares of colored cardstock but then I realized something even better... BUTTONS!
I have a ton of buttons and a lot of them are matches to one another. All I would need to do is to make up a little set for each of my first graders and then we could play.
When any of the older women in my family pass away, like great-aunts and grandmothers, I always ask for their handkerchiefs and their sewing things. I absolutely love old fashioned sewing boxes full of little paper packets of needles, hooks & eyes, and snaps. I love all sort of curious sewing notions, knitting needles and crochet hooks of different sizes and materials, wooden spools of silk and cotton thread in beautiful colors, and fascinating vintage BUTTONS!
My Grandmommy and Auntie always used thread to attach together all of the buttons that are the same as one another. I think that's so that if you are making your own clothing (which I don't, but since I'm in my Waldorf Handwork teacher training, I may yet) you have all of the matching buttons close at hand. I was also taught to remove the buttons from any piece of clothing that was so ruined it was headed for the trash. I have been doing this all my life, so I knew that I'd have lots of button duplicates. Since Zac has cut some of those threads over the years, I just turned out the entire button collection -- which I keep in a trifle dish because I like to see all the colors and textures -- and sorted through to see what all I could find.
As it turns out, this activity is a great way to find a use for some of the cool buttons that you have that you'll probably never use for anything. Since I don't make clothing, we usually use buttons in craft projects, like the eyes of the finger-knitted snake, or I use them for repairing store bought clothing that has lost a button. I have so many buttons and I love the feeling of them sifting through my fingers. But beyond getting them out to look at them and enjoy them, I'm not using most of them. So this project is perfect.
It's also a wonderful use for the cool little boxes that my seed packets come in (search for Botanical Interests gift box on Amazon). I religiously keep the little green boxes, including the gold tie closure, because I always think I'll reuse them for something. I was assuming it would be gift packaging for Christmas presents, but this works too! They are adorable stacked on the shelf, and make you immediately want to open them and see what's inside.
Since I teach three first graders, I only need four of any particular button in order to play this game (one for each of them and one for me). I will make the button arrangement and then they will copy it. We can do all kinds of fun things with this, like showing the arrangement for a few seconds and then covering it. Or letting them be the ones to make the arrangement that we then all have to duplicate. I think this will be a wonderful way to strengthen memory before we get into learning our math facts later in the year.
When I was first envisioning this, I was going to call it Button Patterns, but then I realized that we aren't really making patterns. We are making arrangements. A pattern has a Rule and it Repeats. That doesn't apply here. Besides, Patterns show up in second grade in Waldorf Math, in the Shapes & Number Patterns block. So we will get into that formally next year.
Calling it "The Button Game" seems to make the most sense. And, of course, the perfect book to introduce it is The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid!
Helping kids to appreciate things from long ago is important. I have the buttons from my dad's 13 button blues when he was in the Navy in the 70's. I have lovely old leather and shell buttons, textured glass buttons and soft velvet buttons, carved wooden buttons, buttons decorated with rhinestones in them, and more! They are just so beautiful. I can't wait to introduce this work to my students. I think that they will love it! And I didn't spend any money putting it together. Just a peaceful hour on a quiet morning.
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