following activity ideas are written as either teacher-centered or
small group/pair activities. All activities could be adapted to be
either type. Depending on student knowledge, there are certainly
sections that can be repeated and others than can be skipped. You can
choose a flexible path through the instructional plan to best meet the
needs of your students.
Students are to work in pairs or small groups. In some cases,
the pair will need to have 2 sets of shapes. In others, the pair will
need to have 1 set of shapes. If you are photocopying sets of shapes
from the Shape Up Shapes
activity sheet, a suggestion is to copy them onto a variety of colors
of paper so that sets within the same pair of students are different so
they can maintain their own set without getting mixed up. Students can
cut their own set of shapes out.
Begin by modeling at least one activity for the class. Figure
out a way that you can display one set of sorting shapes at the front
of the room. The easiest way to accomplish this is by displaying the Shape Sorter tool for all the students to see. Alternatively, this could be done with sticky tack, tape, magnets, tacks, or magnetic clips.
While the games are being played, keep a word wall of geometry
terms that will grow throughout the activities that students
participate in. These terms should also be recorded on the Shape Up activity sheet.
Yes and No
Choose one characteristic that you will use to classify all of
the shapes. This could be one of the characteristics listed on the Shape Up Characteristics
activity sheet. Set up a yes-and-no sorting mat or T chart at the front
of the room. Silently sort the shapes onto the Yes and No mats. Have
students try to guess what the characteristic is that you used to sort
Here is an example:
The characteristic used to classify shapes is: At least one angle is a reflex angle
Students may describe the shape using its characteristics, such
as "All the Yes shapes have corners that go in." If this is the case,
it is an opportunity for you to introduce the term reflex angle, which
is an angle whose measure is greater than 180°.
All students will need their own set of sorting shapes. Secretly
hide one of the shapes (put it into a drawer or envelope). Your
students will now ask you yes or no questions. When a question is
asked, write it at the front of the room or on an overhead. Answer the
question. Students are to remove all of the shapes that do not satisfy
the answer you gave them. This continues until one student guesses the
Here’s an example: You have chosen an equilateral triangle as
your secret shape. One student asks, "Does it have 4 sides?" You
answer, "No." The entire class removes all shapes with 4 sides from
their sets of shapes. The next student asks, "Are all of the sides
congruent?” You answer, "Yes," and the entire class removes all shapes
with non-congruent sides from their sets. This continues until someone
correctly guesses the secret shape.
If after the game, there are some students that did not have
the correct shape still on their desks, go back through the questions
on the board and have them figure out what characteristic they did not
At Their Desks
The following are games that could be played by pairs or small
groups using their sorting shapes. They can be played in any order for
a length of time determined by the teacher. A suggestion is to play
games for one class period, and then have them play one game as a
lesson opener at various times throughout the year or unit. In any
game, students are to write down new terms on the Shape Up activity sheet. These terms will then be added to the word wall near the end of the class.
I Am a...
- played in groups of 4 split into 2 teams of 2
- one set of sorting shapes per large group
Each team will take turns playing. Each group should spread out all
the shapes on the table. The first team will choose one person who will
be the describer. That person will choose a secret shape from the set
of sorting shape. The describer can state up to three clear statements
that describe the shape they have chosen. Encourage students to use
geometry vocabulary, but also use more common wording if they don’t
know if their partner is familiar with a given term. For instance, if
the describes chooses a regular pentagon, then the statements might be:
- It is a pentagon.
- It has five sides.
- All of the sides have equal lengths.
The describer's partner can then try to guess what shape the
describer has chosen. If they guess regular pentagon correctly, that
team gets to keep that sorting shape. If they guessed another shape,
the opponent team has a chance to steal the shape by guessing. If they
also choose incorrectly, the shape stays on the table. It is now the
other team’s turn. Play continues until all of the shapes are gone.
Sometimes, Always, Never
- Played in pairs
- One set of sorting shapes per pair
- Each pair should have a Shape Up Sorting Chart activity sheet
Have each pair of students choose a type of polygon (e.g.,
rectangle, parallelogram, or triangle). These can be customized to the
types of polygons relevant to your class. Students will then identify
all of the sorting shapes that fall into their category. From there,
students are to identify characteristics that are always true and
sometimes true for the type of polygon they have chosen. They can then
look at those shapes that do not.
- Played in pairs
- One set of sorting shapes per pair
- One computer with Internet access per pair
- Shape Sorter tool
Each pair will choose 2 rules at the bottom of the online tool. As a
team, players should decide whether they're going to sort all the
shapes for that pair of rules or a predetermined number (e.g., 5 turns
each). Players play the game by taking turns moving a single shape into
the correct area of the board. When they are finished, they can click
the check mark to check their answers. Correctly sorted shapes will be
highlighted in blue. Incorrectly sorted shapes will be highlighted in
pink. The player with the most shapes highlighted in blue wins.
Reflecting on What They Have Learned
After your class has had an opportunity to play one or more of
the Shape Up games, they should reflect on the geometry vocabulary that
they used and learned from their peers. This can be done by having
students add terms to a geometry word wall.
Have the class brainstorm all new words that don’t already
exist on the word wall. This will be particularly easy the first time
students go through this process, as the word wall will be blank. The
challenge for students in subsequent classes would be to make sure that
they think of at least one new word that is not on the word wall so
that they can keep adding to it.
If you would prefer, you could have students add to the
geometry word wall by assigning or having students volunteer to create
the new entries for the wall. Each entry should have the word, a
definition, and a sketch. This is similar information to what students
have completed on their student activity sheet.
When your word wall has a few words added, you can use it as an
extra challenge in subsequent games. For instance, if one of the words
on the word wall is parallel, then teams can keep score of how many
times they use the word parallel correctly while playing the game.
These scores could be shared during their reflection time.