Teaching about shapes is one of my favorite math topics all year! I love all the fun activities I can do with my students. I introduce 2D shapes towards the beginning of the year so that all students understand the basic vocabulary. Also, I try to extend their knowledge to deeper understandings of shapes and geometry.
As with any new topic, it is important to first let your students explore with materials and understandings. The best tools to start exploring with shapes are pattern blocks. Because these are such an important tool, I introduce them in the first weeks of school. So when we start studying shapes, this tool is already familiar to them. I like to have students create images, copy images, and sort the pattern blocks. I also love to have students create the shapes with playdough. This will be a great foundation for talking about how many sides each shape has.
Also, I love to have my students do a shape hunt and explore for examples of the shapes in our classroom. This is a big leap in understandings for students.- that shapes are found in the objects around us, not just alone in their own form. But before I do these shape hunts, I want to do some explicit teaching too.
Explicit Teaching of Shapes
After having some time to explore and create with shapes, I want to make sure that all of my students, regardless of background knowledge and experience, understand the names of the shapes and how many sides each shape has. I use vocabulary cards and books to explicitly teach the names of shapes and how many sides each shape has. Check out this free emergent reader I use with my students!
I also like to use songs and videos to introduce the shape names in a fun way. Check out these videos from Harry Kindergarten, Jack Hartmann, and BrainPop Jr:
Harry kindergarten: https://youtu.be/UDQDyx59QY4
Jack Hartmann: https://youtu.be/24Uv8Cl5hvI
Brain pop jr: (you do need a subscription to this) https://jr.brainpop.com/math/geometry/planeshapes/
Extensions to Further Understand Shapes
As with all learning in my classroom, I like to find ways whenever I can to extend the learning throughout the day or to other curriculum areas.
Read Alouds for understanding shapes
Books are another wonderful way to transfer the understanding of shapes to everyday objects. These are three of my favorite books. You can use my affiliate link to see them on Amazon. I love to read them to my class either in this unit or in my 3D shape unit later in the year. And then, of course, I love to extend the read aloud into making a class book. I love seeing what designs and shapes my students can create.
I love to use cards to have my students find their partners to greet during morning meeting. I created these cards so that my students could match the symbol of the shape to a real-life object version.
I also will ask students to draw shapes for our morning message question and will have them do a shape hunt as a morning meeting activity as well. Another fun activity, either for morning meeting or as a brain break, is to tell students a shape to make with their bodies. They can either make the shape themselves or work with others to make the shape. They have so much fun making the different shapes!
An important lesson that I like to include in my introductory shape unit is the idea of irregular shapes. The only shapes our students ever really see are the regular shapes, especially including the equilateral triangle. They almost never see isosceles or scalene triangles. So, one lesson that can really help push their understanding is to draw the different types of triangles and ask what they notice and what they wonder.
Some students always say that some of the shapes are not triangles, because they had different size lines. After much discussion I told them that they were actually all triangles. So, then I drew some non-triangles in a different color and asked if these are not triangles, then what is the rule to be a triangle. This pushes their understanding and is way more meaningful than if I just came out and told them that triangles must have 3 sides and 3 corners.
I love teaching my students about shapes! I love to have them do fun activities during math and throughout the day. Also, I love helping them push their understanding of shapes to support their growing understanding of geometry!
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