Learning about 2D and 3D shapes is not only FUN, but also hands on! We can take this idea of geometry and transform the concepts, vocabulary, and ideas of our little learners into great mathematicians. Need 2D & 3D Shapes Fun for Little Learners? Just read below.
Start with a book
The best way to teach about shapes is the way that little learners learn… through play and engaging activities. Let’s break down some fun ways to bring 2D shapes and using them to create 3D shapes to life in your classroom for your students.
You can use shape books to help drive the terminology home. There are tons of options on Amazon and through Scholastic Book Clubs.
I like these books:
Author Jennifer Boothroyd has this collection of 3D books:
Cube, Cone, Cylinder, Sphere, Pyramid, Rectangular Prism,
Nathan Olson has also authored a series of books on this topic;
Cube, Cone, Cylinder, Sphere
I also found some on flat shapes, but specifically this book on Hexagons.
We are blessed to give a basic assessment at the start of the year that includes identifying flat and solid shapes. I use this data to drive my initial instruction since I want to build on my students prior knowledge. If you can, give your students a basic shape assessment to see what shapes they already know. I have found that many students can see shapes, but they can not always remember the name of those specific shapes. It is very important to use the correct math language during this time so that you are working with their brains to teach them these terms.
Once we learn about the shape, we work on finding the shape. This allows my students to work on the specific parts of each shape and the term we call that shape.
I use these I Can statements with mats to help them find the shapes. This is especially helpful for tricky shapes like the example below, the circle and the oval.
I laminate the mats and allow my students to write on them with a dry erase marker. There is also a printable version if you would like for your students to color or circle with a pencil.
We also love to make graphs! Since we start with flat shapes, I put one shape on each side of a die in a different color. We take the die and roll it, graphing the shape that lands on the top.
Although drawing the shapes could be difficult for some of your learners, you can differentiate by allowing students to simply graph the shape on the spot instead. It is also important for the learner to state the name of the shape as they roll it, try to ask them how many sides and points it has as well. I have found that by doing this and encouraging my learners to place that many vertices on the paper and using those “dots” to draw the lines, I am helping them form the shapes and remember the aspects of that shape.
Now that we are getting better at identifying shapes, this is a great time to sort our shapes. While sorting shapes, we are also sorting out minds! Don’t ever miss a chance to sort with little learners.
I took the attribute blocks from our classroom, you can find some on Amazon here if you don’t have any, and I gave my students black construction paper. They started this my just sorting the shapes how they wanted to. Perhaps they chose by color or size or even by their shape. I am actually just giving them a chance to play with the manipulatives.
Next, I give them specific things to sort by. For example, you can ask them to sort by the shapes with no straight sides or sort all the shapes with four sides. Keep giving them different attributes to sort by and see that they can do. The paper did help to make these shapes pop, but it also gave each student boundaries.
Although students have been using shapes for a little bit now, drawing shapes can be a struggle. That is okay! As little learners improve their fine motor skills, their ability to draw in general will get better and better.
One thing I created was this simple printable with shape given in the box for students to try to copy. Although it looks simple, it was not easy for my students to create on their own at the start of the year.
They needed more support with writing. Therefore I created these shape drawing activities to encourage their practice.
After giving them the vertices for their shapes, drawing them was easier.
By encouraging them using the correct terminology like vertices, straight sides, curved sides, ect., my students started using the correct terms as they were creating their shapes as well.
Breaking Down Parts of a Shape
One of my students FAVORITE activities was this shape breakdown activity. Each card has a shape on it and as students to tell you how many points/vertices, straight sides, and curved sides each shape has.
Here are some of our examples of the work we completed in small groups.
Here are even more examples.
Here is an activity we love to create 2D and 3D shapes. This set is called Dive into Shapes and it is made by Learning Resources.
We have used it for years and we love it. It is extremely durable.
You can use it as a structured activity as shown above. Student can use the card provided to create specific flat and solid shapes.
This activity can also be open ended at a sensory table.
We also love using these geometry nets to turn flat shapes into solid shapes.
The package comes with pieces that look like this below.
Students fold the pieces of the flat shapes to create a solid shape.
The best part of this activity is the price and the storage. You can easily use these nets again and again. They also store flat in a folder year after year.
I also love to use marshmallows to build shapes as well. (This price point also encourages teachers who can’t purchase the Dive into Shapes set.) This year I accidentally forgot to get the pretzels! I searched my cabinets and found pasta. It worked BETTER than the pretzels. I was very impressed. I used angel hair, because that is what we had on hand, but I would suggest trying for the regular spaghetti if you could.
Practicing With 2D & 3D Shapes
Some other games with play with shapes include:
20 Questions: We use those Headband game headbands and this 20 questions back to play 20 questions. It is FUN and so interesting to hear the types of questions the students come up with to discover their shape.
CandyLand Shapes made by Mel D: I use an old Candy Land game board and these learning cards from Mel D as a fun review game. Most kids know how to play Candy Land, so this is a total win. I also assess my students while playing to see which shapes they know. Post assessment and they don’t even know it! That is another teaching win.
I was so scared to try out math journals, but once I did, I fell in love. My students are not scared of word problems at all because they are so use to seeing them, breaking them down, and learning with them.
Here is one prompt I gave my students about flat shapes.
You can see that two different students drew their shapes completely different! That is perfect.
Using 3d geometry with journals did require me to get a little creative. I knew drawing three dimensional shapes was not going to work for all my little learners, but I knew I wanted to include 3D shapes into my journal lessons.
I found these 3-D shape Stamps that saved the day!
Check out this journal using 3D shapes.
Looking for these 2D & 3D Shape Fun Activities?
You can check out my Shapes in the Classroom Activities here: