single sense materials

Geometry Cabinet and Cards

The materials introduce two-dimensional shapes, there are fourteen shapes and variations of these.  The third series of cards represents each shape as a thin line, a shape is the space inside the outline.  These materials move from the concrete shape which can be held and felt by the fingers as they run along the interior shape on the back of each card to an abstract inside a drawn line.

Material Description:

A wooden cabinet with six drawers and one demonstration tray, each painted blue inside and containing six wooden squares.  Most of the squares have a figure cut out with a knob in the centre to hold them by.  When the cut out is lifted, the blue background shows the shape of the cut-out

Demonstration Tray: equilateral triangle, circle and square

Drawer 1: six circles, varying from ten to five centimetres
Drawer 2: six rectangles, varying from 10×10 to 10×5 centimetres
Drawer 3: six triangles of different types
Drawer 4: six regular polygons, varying from a pentagon  to a decagon
Drawer 5: four curvilinear forms, an oval, ellipse, curvilinear triangle and a quatrefoil
Drawer 6: four rectilinear forms, a rhombus, parallelogram, right trapezoid and isosceles trapezoid

Three sets of cards for each figure: one with the complete shape filled, one with a thick outline and one with a thin outline

A picture of the demonstration tray
The Demonstration Tray

Preparing Demonstration Tray

This contains three geometric figures in two rows, the top row shows a triangle in the middle, with blank wooden squares at both sides and the bottom row holds a square and a circle with a blank wooden square separating them.

There is a framework on top of the tray to keep the sheets immobile, if the figures are not laid out as above then arrange them like this before presenting

Note: As with the other Sensorial Materials the most visually contrasting figures, in this case the triangle, circle and square, are shown first to make discrimination easier before the child is asked to grade.


Display the cabinet on an open shelf


  • Invite the child, saying, “Let us see some different shapes from the geometry cabinet”
  • Show the cabinet to the child, opening and closing a few drawers
  • Show how to carry the demonstration tray to the working mat and ask the child to carry it and place it on the mat
  • Lift out the circle from the tray, holding the knob with the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand, in sequence
  • Place the circle in front of the child
  • Look at the circle on the mat, pick it up, in the same manner, with the left hand
  • Trace it with the right hand; bending the index and middle fingers, toughing it with the fingertips lightly, show the child the point at which you begin, (at the bottom and close to oneself) and that you follow the shape in a precise, natural, continuous, clockwise movement
  • Trace around the frame anti clockwise with the same two fingers
  • Place the circle in front of the child and let her trace the shape and frame
  • Pick up the circle, place it above the frame, pause and fit it into frame exactly
  • Repeat these movements with the square and triangle
  • Remove al three shapes, place them on the mat in front of the child and let her trace shape, frame and replace the circle, triangle and square
  • Add other shapes to the demonstration tray to introduce her to the other drawers when she is ready

Note: Points to keep in mind while tracing

  • Show the beginning and end of the tracing movement
  • Trace lightly without moving the shape
  • Maintain continuous contact between the fingers and shape
  • Tracing helps the child to exert and recognise the muscular effort required to produce shapes; doing so involves her kinaesthetic and visual senses


Begin when the child knows the material fully

Exercise 1: The child works individually with the demonstration try, using a variety of shapes from different draws, following the adult’s instruction, “Choose shapes from different drawers”, repeat this over a period of time until she knows each inset

Exercise 2: The child uses the drawers independently, beginning at the top drawer and working in sequence

Exercise 3: The child traces insets from any two or three drawers at one time


To be covered in the three-part lesson, giving no more than three names in each lesson, to be taught when the child can discriminate the different dimensions without hesitation and before working with the geometric cards.

  • The names of the geometric figures, especially “circle”, “square” and “rectangle”.  The key to these lessons is the contrast between the shapes and their associated language.
  • Use the nomenclature cards after the child can count to ten

Criteria of Perfection (Control of Error):

  • Control is inbuilt by the material itself; the corresponding inset fits it’s frame

Direct Aim:

  • Discrimination of the shapes to provide ‘Keys’ to orient the child in the world of shapes
  • Enhancement of the visual memory
  • Help to build the child’s awareness of geometric shapes, through the visual and kinaesthetic senses, to abstract this awareness and to apply it to the everyday environment

Indirect Aim:

  • To help to prepare for the study of Mathematics – an appreciation of geometry
  • To prepare the child’s hand for writing by
  • acquiring motor capacity to trace and reproduce well defined shapes in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions
  • developing muscular memory for shapes used later in writing by the fingers and wrist
  • preparing for reading by developing the ability to memorise shapes prior to learning the alphabet

Age at Presentation: Three years, after cylindrical blocks and using rough and smooth boards

Games (Further Exercises)

Game 1: This is also called a ‘memory exercise’ or ‘reverse pairing at random’

The child works with all the drawers of the cabinet, removing all of the insets and placing them at random on the working mat.  Place an indicator on the demonstration tray and ask the child for the corresponding inset.  The child traces the inset before placing it into the frame (bringing together the visual and kinaesthetic senses).  At first choose shapes from Drawers 1-4, later from Drawers 5 and 6.

Game 2

Use the contrasting shapes first, in the above exercise and later similar ones, reflecting the principal with the Sensorial Materials of moving from extremes to grading shapes from Drawers 1-4.


Geometric Cabinet and Cards

For the Presentation and Exercises with Geometric Cards it is not necessary for the Cabinet and Cards to be at a distance from one another as the aim is not to memorise this comes later with the Games



  • First set of cards: ‘Find the Shape’
  • Choose a few cards of contrasting shapes and place them on the working mat.  Look at the first card, leave it on the mat and go to the cabinet to find the corresponding shape
  • Superimpose the shape onto the card
  • Continue till the end of the pile
  • Gradually increase the amount of cards in the pile until the whole set is given
  • Second set of cards: ‘Find the Cards’
  • Choose a few contrasting shapes and place them on an ordinary tray, on a working mat or table at random.  Show the child a shape and invite her to find the corresponding shape from the first set of cards
  • Superimpose the shape onto the card
  • Continue till the end of the pile
  • Gradually increase the amount of shapes on the tray, depending on the child’s ability


  • After the child has worked through the first set of cards introduce the second and third sets

Games (Further Exercises):

Game 1:

  • This requires two floor mats placed at a distance from one another, the cards and the cabinet
  • Lay out the cards from each set which correspond to one shape
  • The drawer with the corresponding shape and other insets is placed on the other mat
  • Take the chosen shape and let the child trace around it and leave it on the mat by the drawer
  • Go to the other mat and bring the card which corresponds
  • Superimpose the shape over the card
  • Replace the cards
  • The Directress chooses the number of different shapes of cards and the extent to which the chosen shapes contrast based on the child’s ability.  This game becomes more challenging as more cards are added, until all the cards and drawers are used.

Game 2: All three sets of cards are laid out at random, all drawers are placed on the mat at a distance.  The Directress hides one card and the child must find out which is missing by superimposing the shapes on the cards

Game 3: Play Game 2 but without the shapes as a control

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