Introducing my 3rd graders to the abstract concepts of plane and solid geometry can be a challenging task. I’ve discovered that the key to teaching my students the basics of geometry is making it memorable by getting them out of their seats to “experience” geometry. As I always tell them, “Why just learn about the line when you can be the line?”
Our geometry unit begins with the introduction of lines, line segments, and rays. After introducing the vocabulary, we use our individual dry erase boards to try our hand at drawing each one properly. After familiarizing my students with the proper terminology and notation, I have everyone stand up to learn all about characters from what I tell them is my favorite math movie, Geometry Story. Watch in the video below as my students learn all about Buzz Lineyear and his little brothers Ray and Segment. Meshing body and mind with a memorable scenario helps my students easily remember the difference between the three.
For years I have used my take on the popular animated film Toy Story to help my students remember the difference between lines, segments, rays, and their written notation. A former student of mine told me in a letter written earlier this year that even though she was a senior in high school, the Buzz Lightyear reference was still going strong with her!
As we introduce more concepts, my students partner up and take to the floor for what we call our math yoga. They laugh and giggle as they become parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines, but most importantly, they remember the difference between them! As we move through the unit, we add angles and right angles, and then progress to triangles. Their brains really go into action as they seek the right-height partners to make isosceles, scalene, and equilateral triangles.
After I began doing regular “math yoga” with the class, I noticed that they found that applying their knowledge to paper was much easier for them when they could recall body positions.
While there are many wonderful math books out there, The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns is one of my favorites and a must-read for 3rd grade geometry. This book is the perfect way to understand how adding one side at a time creates new shapes. After reading this book, my students became shapeshifters, changing shapes by adding and subtracting geometric figures in a chalk talk visible-thinking activity.
In groups of four, students spent three minutes at each poster, including 30 seconds of thinking time, silently writing down their observations and commenting on what others had written. After cycling through all the posters, students did a gallery walk to see each completed poster. I find this sort of activity really helps me see who fully understands the concepts as well as who has misconceptions. I later found students at indoor recess continuing their shapeshifting using templates and blank paper!
Our math activity one day was to take part in a geometry scavenger hunt around the building in search of different geometric lines and shapes. Armed with iPad cameras, students found geometry in places they had never thought of before. Upon returning to the room, each group connected their iPad to the interactive whiteboard and shared their findings with the class.
Click the image above to download the scavenger hunt.
Super Teacher Tools offers a free ready-made Geometry Jeopardy game to use with your class. All you have to do is select the number of teams you would like and press Play! It doesn’t get much easier than that. If you prefer, you can also create your own Jeopardy-style games using their templates for geometry or any other subject you teach.
Click each image to learn more about these books that would make great additions to your classroom library!
If you have never checked out Scholastic Printables, I truly find it an amazing resource. I can always find enrichment materials to match any subject I'm teaching. Here are just a few of the many available for geometry. Click on each image to download and print.