My school is very focused on improving our students’ math vocabulary. When I created my 2D Geometry Unit, I strived to create activities that would provide ample opportunities for the students to practice and use the related vocabulary words throughout our daily Guided Math Workshop. I did this by creating 2D shape activities and games that students could play with partners or as a small group. This facilitated academic conversations surrounding the games where students practiced using math vocabulary, while having fun and being engaged in their learning. Check out these 2D shape activities and games below!
6 2D Shape Activities and Games
Below are 2D shape activities and games from my 2D Geometry Unit.
1. Pick a Polygon
During my small group instruction time, I introduced a game called Pick a Polygon. I printed out 2 sets of figure cards (you could use one, but I doubled it because I was using it with a small group instead of the usual 2-4 players). I then decorated a bag label and placed the cards inside.
Pick a Polygon is a great game for increasing the use of math vocabulary. I had small groups of students join me to play. I placed all of the cards into a paper bag (you can also use a bowl, Pringles can, or box). The students took turns drawing a card and showing it to the group.
If the card was a polygon they kept it. I asked them questions about the number of sides, vertices, and angles. Before moving on, I engaged the group in discussions about the figure on the card. I had some students determine if there were parallel or perpendicular lines. I had others talk about right, acute and obtuse angles. Sometimes I asked them to prove it was a polygon.
If the card was not a polygon they explained why, kept that card out of the bag and returned all of their previously drawn cards to the bag. This was a fun activity that provided me with a chance to informally assess their knowledge and allowed the students to learn from each other while they played. I was thrilled with the language they were using to talk about the figures. The repeated exposure to the cards really provided a fun way for them to reinforce both the vocabulary and the criteria for polygons.
After that Math Workshop, I added it to future workshops as a game for them to play without my direct supervision. As I listened in I noted that they continued to use lots of vocabulary when playing on their own.
2. The Polygon Trail
I also created a geometry trivia game called The Polygon Trail, which got kids thinking and talking about polygons. I had an adult stay at this station during Math Workshop and facilitate the game. We broke the math group into two teams and had them place a marker (e.g. unifix cubes) onto the starting square and select one of the cards. The teachers shuffled the cards and placed them face down on the table. The two teams took turns drawing a card. Each card contains “trivia” questions about polygons and informs the players how many spaces to move. The cards include images of polygons that the students are asked to name as well, as questions such as, “How many sides are on an octagon?” and “What do we call a polygon with 5 sides?”. This was a fun way to reinforce previously-taught skills and informally assess student knowledge.
3. Polygon Collages
The third on the list of 2D shape activities and games is this Polygon Collage activity. I had my students work with a partner to complete this activity. I provided each student a blank frame to create their collage. The packet includes 3 different styles to select from. I also gave each partnership a single die to share. One child would roll the number cube, look at the guide and pick up the corresponding pattern block. The partners then discussed the attributes of the block and then traced it onto their mat using a pencil.
If you are concerned your students will rush through the discussion to get to the drawing, you may opt to challenge them to “have the last word”. To do so, tell them that the person who rolls makes the first statement about the block (e.g. It is a trapezoid). Next, the partner makes a single statement (e.g. It has four sides). Then the original student makes another statement (e.g. There are 4 vertices). They should go back and forth like this until there is nothing left to discuss. Make their goal be to be the last one to think of something to say about it’s attributes. This added bit of “competition” motivates them to really get their minds going.
When they traced the figures, I encouraged them to overlap the shapes. This provides a really nice look to the collage. Afterwards, each student traced their pencil outlines in black marker and colored in the sections in bold colors to create a collage. I later had them “show what they know” about polygons using words. I was able to get a good sense of their understanding of polygons through their writing.
I paired their writing with their collage and mounted them onto varied colors of construction paper. I used the writing paper from my packet. The packet includes 5 different versions of the writing paper. I had them color the polygons around the edge to give it some extra flair. I’m so proud of their finished products and have stashed them away to display at our Spring Open House in a few months.
4. Build a Polygon
I used popsicle sticks for the Build a Polygon center in my classroom, but any of the following would work as well: unsharpened pencils, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, etc. I copied the building guide onto colored paper and folded it over to form a table tent at the center. Students used the hands-on manipulatives to construct various polygons. They then drew them onto paper and labeled the diagram with details about the shape.
5. Polygon Sort
We used the Polygon Sort activity to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the attributes of a polygon. I had my friends make notes about the figures on each of the cards before cutting them out. Some chose to color the shapes in. Next I had them prepare their sorting foldables and place the cards into the correct pocket. To differentiate you could have them simply sort the cards into the two pockets or have them write full explanations of why the shape is or is not a polygon.
6. Polygons with Personality
The last on the list of 2D shape activities and games is Polygons with Personality. It is a fun geometry craft that looks great on a bulletin board. I displayed the cover of The Greedy Triangle to create a colorful bulletin board title in no time without damaging the book.
I simply took the book jacket off and slid paperclips over each of the four corners. Next, I used pushpins to secure the jacket to the board by putting them into the board through the paperclip.
I love having my students complete writing projects that are inspired by books. This bulletin board is a great way to let passersby know what the display is all about without needing to cut and hang a bunch of letters to form a title.
Math Resources for 1st-5th Grade Teachers
If you need more printable and digital math resources for your classroom, then check out my time and money-saving math collections below!
Free Elementary Math Resources
We would love for you to try these elementary math resources with your students. It offers them opportunities to practice grade level concepts and skills in fun and engaging ways. You can download math worksheets specific to your grade level in our free printable math resources bundle using this link: free printable math activities for elementary teachers.
In closing, I had an absolute blast teaching 2D Geometry to my third graders recently. It’s a concept that lends itself to lots of hands on and creative projects. I was really impressed with how quickly they demonstrated proficiency in the Common Core standards. Admittedly, I was also a bit bummed because I would have happily continued on with this for a lot longer. Alas, we are on to fractions (which is equally fun… Corny pun intended). If you found this post about 2D shape activities and games helpful, then you may also be interested in these posts:
- Elementary Math Center Ideas for Elementary Teachers
- How to Launch Guided Math Workshop in Your Classroom
- 200+ Math Picture Books for Elementary Teachers