When we start talking about quadrilaterals, trapezoids and parallel lines many students get lost quickly. There are so many new and uncommon words introduced in this unit and it is especially difficult for English Language Learners. These are some of the ways we build an understanding of shape and space concepts in our classroom.
Shape and Space is Full of Vocabulary
When we talk about shape and space, we mean the different types of two-dimensional shapes, three-dimensional objects and how they related to each other. This includes the different characteristics or attributes of each. With so many words that are not used in daily conversation, we use a variety of ways to include the vocabulary.
Teach Shape and Space Vocabulary Directly
Some math concepts require direct instruction and this is a unit that we tend to teach first and then explore later so that students have the language as they practice.
We use interactive math notebooks in our classroom. To read more about how we use them check out this post: How to Change Math With Interactive Notebooks. Our notebook units come with everything you would need to teach, practice and assess each concept from the shape and space unit. Since we teach in Alberta, we align with the Alberta Program of Studies, but they will work in most Canadian classrooms.
2D Shapes and 3D Objects Interactive Math Notebook for Grade 3 This unit focuses on the vocabulary for polygons and three-dimensional objects (like edges, vertices and faces). We include this unit in our full-year Interactive Notebook Bundle for Grade 3.
Shapes, Objects & Transformations Interactive Math Notebook for Grades 4/5 This unit includes types of lines, nets, congruency, symmetry and continues learning concepts from the earlier grades. It is also included in our full-year Interactive Notebook Bundle for Grade 4/5.
Shapes, Objects & Transformations Interactive Math Notebook for Grades 5/6 This unit explores all the concepts from earlier grades but it includes transformations and the first quadrant of the Cartesian Plane. We include this unit in our full-year Interactive Notebook Bundle for Grade 5/6.
Build a Shape and Space Arcade
What could be more fun than using everything you’ve learned in the shape and space unit to create a cardboard cafe? We were inspired by Caine’s Arcade to have our students make their own arcade games. Before the pandemic, we would have invited students from other classes in to play the games, but this is a great activity no matter what.
This project is messy and takes time, but the payoff is huge and the engagement is off the charts.
Start by watching the video with your students. Talk about the different types of arcade style games that students could make. Brainstorm possibilities. Over the years our students have created so many different styles of games. Sometimes they are inspired by shows like the Price is Right and other times they are inspired more by carnival style games.
Once students know what they want to create, they get to work planning out the materials they will need. In the weeks leading up to build day, students bring in rafts of recyclable materials like cereal boxes, containers, cardboard boxes, paper tubes and so much more. We use materials from our makerspace.
Some materials go in the general build pile which means on build day they are available to all the students. More special or specific materials that will belong to a student are labeled and stored away from the general pile. We stock up on masking tape, hot glue and paint (don’t worry, we don’t paint on build day).
If Project Based Learning is new to you, you should read our post: The Reasons for Project Based Learning. We also have a checklist that you can find in our Resource Library or we can send it to you when you join our mailing list.
On build day we clear space in the classroom and we talk about how we will use the materials to build what we have planned. Students make their creations, problem solve and test out their games. We use the Design Process all day long.
We say that we build all day, but we still attend gym, music or library classes along with recess and lunch breaks. Generally, students are able to build their project in one day and this means we don’t have to get everything out and clean up over and over again. We let our custodians know what we’re up to and give them the day off cleaning our room.
When the students are done building, they help clean up and organize the leftover materials. They clean up the classroom and we store the projects along one side of the room. We respect each other’s work by not touching or playing with the parts without asking first.
This is another messy day, but doing all the painting in one sitting makes it easier. We put down tablecloths to keep paint off the floor. Students use liquid Tempera because it tends to cover well and dries quickly.
We do one coat, take a quick break and then come back to do the finishing touches. Clean-up is a breeze because our students are used to our clean-up routine. You can read more about that here.
Students get the chance to show off their creations. This is where the demonstration of learning comes in. Students are quizzed to show the attributes of their builds. What shapes or objects are included? What types of lines, number of edges or faces does their game include?
Students present their games to the class and show all the different attributes it has.
Once the presentations are done, we invite other classes of students to come to play in our arcade. It’s so much fun!
Worksheets and Worksheet Games
While worksheets are not glamourous, they do serve a purpose. We use worksheets in lots of different ways. You can read more about what we do you can read our post Worksheet Games Your Students Will Love.
Our interactive math notebook sets come with practice pages included.
We are currently writing short sets of practice worksheets. As we create them, more will be added.
Task cards are one of our favourite ways to practice concepts. Some people feel that printing and cutting out task cards is a lot of work, but we’ve overcome some of those challenges. You can read more about that in our post: The Trouble With Task Cards and How to Fix It.
All of our task card sets come with three decks, each with twenty-four questions. That means when you buy one set, you get seventy-two questions. Additionally, each set comes in three formats: paper, Google Slides and Google Forms (the forms are self-grading).
The Grade 4/5 task card sets also come in a big bundle. We will have more sets for this unit soon and we will add them to the bundle as they are created.
Would you like to try a set for free? We made a special shape and space deck just for our ninjas! You can grab the deck by signing up for our email list. We’ll mail it directly to you or you can find it in our Resource Library.
Boom Cards are self-grading task cards that are housed on BoomLearning.com They can be purchased using points on the Boom site or you can find decks on TpT. Either way, you have to use the Boom Learning site to play the cards. You can find more information about it in this post: Explode Your Teaching With Boom Cards.
Polygons Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Polygons Counting Attributes Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Symmetry Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Types of Lines Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Congruent 2D Shapes Boom Cards Grades 4-5 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
3D Objects Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
3D Objects Nets Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Counting Attributes of 3D Objects Boom Cards Grades 4-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Transformations Boom Cards Grades 5-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Cartesian Plane First Quadrant Boom Cards Grades 5-6 on Teachers Pay Teachers or on Boom Learning.
Label the Vocabulary in the Real World
Name the different characteristics in your classroom so they are visual. Have students find edges, vertices or faces on objects around your room. Use a set of sticky notes and have students find different elements. Students love labelling all the things. You could even make more permanent labels by typing and printing them out.
Create Diagrams and Anchor Charts
Students love using smelly markers and big pieces of chart paper. Involve them in making these charts and hang them prominently around the classroom.
Sometimes we will pick a concept from the unit and have students create a chart to teach the rest of the class. Other times, we use anchor charts after we’ve taught the concepts to round them up for review.
Put the information needed for the posters up in one place or let students use their math notebooks so they put the correct information on the posters. Explain that posters will be assessed on their accuracy, but encourage creativity as well.
When students create the anchor charts themselves, they are more likely to connect to information. And frankly, when students create the anchor charts it saves you time and money making them yourself.
What About Other Math Concepts?
We love teaching math, which is odd because it was usually one of the most difficult subjects when we were in school. Your love (or lack of love) will rub off on your students, so let us help you.
These math posts might be helpful to you:
- How to Use Interactive Notebooks to Teach Number Sense
- Conquer Math With These Proven Multiplication Strategies
- How to Change Math With Interactive Notebooks
- How to Teach Students to Analyze Errors in Math
- Ways to Bring Graphing Activities into Your Classroom Daily
- How to Help Your Students Master Decimal Operations
- How to Add Candy to Your Math Lessons
- Ways to Successfully Teach Long Division
What are some of the other ways you encourage reviewing the vocabulary from a shape and space unit? Tell us about it in the comments below.