The Great Spoon Challenge: Form and Function

By Nancy Katz, February 14, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One fifty-minute class period


This game is designed to help students understand the nature of form and function in everyday objects. Through the initial game of classifying spoons in terms of their form and function, students will observe and record the wide array of forms of spoons and how these forms relate to their distinct functions. By using a very tangible, everyday object, students will understand the basics of form and function leading to a broader understanding of architecture and other aspects of design. The hands-on game style of this lesson engages students directly as they can touch each spoon and answer their own questions about the particulars of form and function.

National Standards


Students will:
  • transfer their knowledge about the form and function of a group of objects studied in class (spoons) to other objects around their homes, in school, as well as larger designed structures and spaces
  • be introduced to form and function
  • learn how the use of particular materials influence the form and function of an object or designed structures


Students will search their home for a series of objects that are connected through function, but possibly different in form. This is self-generated research and can be complied into a document through drawings and photographs. The idea of animal and plant classification studied in science will be a connection to the form and function of man made everyday objects.


  • a collection of at least twenty-five spoons of different forms with different functions--students can bring in spoons from home
  • large paper to annotate the results of the spoon challenge game
  • markers


form, function, materials, casting, design, designer, carving, variation


  • Introduce students to the concept of form and function. Show examples of different objects and buildings, and as a class, describe how the objects' forms affect/help their function.
  • Gather the class around a large table where the spoons are set out on a large piece of paper in a pile in no apparent order.
  • Have the students take turns organizing the spoons in terms of form and/or function. For instance, they may organize them in terms of size, material, color, luster, ornamentation, function or any other way that might be suggested by the spoon's design.
  • Each student must organize the spoons in a new way, different from the students that have preceded them.
  • One student has the job of recording how each student solves this problem of organizing and classifying. The game gets more and more difficult and challenging as more students have had their chance.


The student responses as they play the game will be one way of knowing if they understand the concept. The lesson can be extended so that the students make an inventory of a group of objects outside of school. Their documentation would serve as an assessment. The documentation could include writing, photographs, and drawings. It could be a straight document or it might be an object itself that has a particular form and function relating to the object/structure studied. The students could work individually or in groups.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students could make an inventory or collection of objects at home. They could work individually or with another student. Their documentation could be in the form of photographs, writing, and drawings. They might want to include interviews with people who use the objects. The same project could extend beyond the home and school to include buildings and structures within the community. Remind the students to detail the form and of the object/building and show how it relates to its function.

Teacher Reflection

The students were very successful in this game. Most of them accepted the challenge of looking and thinking to try to figure out how the spoons could function according to their form. They took into consideration the materials that were used to make the spoons, their size, shape, surface decoration, color, and luster and were able to connect those characteristics with function. The assessment in this lesson was in the actual process as the students verbalized their reasoning for organizing the spoons as they did. We really did stretch the limit for having 20-24 students organize 25 spoons in 25 different ways. What made this successful was the tension and competition the students felt to figure out another way to organize the spoons. We constantly referred back to the ideas of form and function. I would not change this lesson the next time I do it unless I thought the students I was working with could not sustain the interest and concentration by being observers for much of the class. This could be done with small groups, each group having their own set of objects and them traveling around the room to a new set of objects. There could be a sheet of paper at each station notating the form and function as each student decided upon. At the end of the class this could all be shared.
  1. What a unique way to have students problem solving! The idea of using form and function to group everyday items can help them look at any situation with a different lens. Something that I found very interesting in the lesson is having students problem solve in real time. As one student describes the group he/she would create for the spoons (using form or function) other students have to modify their own ideas, as to not repeat the descriptions that have already been made. Students have to be courageous enough to present ideas that are creative and “out of the box”. The problem solving skills developed in this lesson can help build students confidence and logic in any class.

  2. Using the spoon as a catalyst for further form and function connections seems quite useful. I would suggest incorporating aesthetics into the game as well.

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