I Have to Teach Geometry...Now What?

Geometry can be a fickle thing to teach.  In some ways, it is super simple.  I mean, it IS just shapes!!  However, in others it can be very difficult.  First of all, how in depth should you get? What do your kids need to know?  Secondly, oh the VOCABULARY!  GAH! SO.MANY.TERMS.

Let's dive in and take a closer look at 2D (plane) shapes.  Next post will focus on 3D shapes!

What Do the Standards Expect?

Georgia has developed a set of frameworks that reviews each standard and gives ideas and resources for each math concept.  It also breaks the standard down so that teachers can be sure they are addressing what the standard expects from students. I liked this version because I thought it was very user friendly for teachers.

I cut and paste student expectations into a "prettier" and easier to read document.  You are more than welcome to download it here, free.

The list of end of unit expectations looks long, but many of them piggy back on each other. It is very clear that students need to be able to understand and use the attributes of plane and solid shapes...which is a whole lotta vocabulary!

So how can you help teach concepts and solidify understanding of vocabulary?  Let's about the lessons.

What Should I Be Teaching?

While the standard may not explicitly mention polygons, it is embedded in the standard. Students will have to know what a polygon is to even begin understanding 2D shapes.  A polygon is a 2D shapes made of straight lines and is closed. A sort is a simple, but meaningful way to help students understand and differentiate between a polygon and not a polygon.

Then, students can apply their learning to plane shapes and begin to learn the basic plane shapes and the attributes (sides, corners, and angles). A great book to introduce plane shapes is the book The Greedy Triangle.

This is a longer book, and I usually do not read longer books as part of my math mini lesson during math workshop.  You can read more about that here.  However, this was a book I ALWAYS made time for.  I usually read this book aloud on Fridays, when I did not follow the math workshop model. 

Students were each given a geoboard and rubber bands. While I was reading, the geoboards has to stay on the floor, and students kept their hands in their laps so they could listen. In the book, the main character (The Greedy Triangle) is bored and wishes to change shapes.  He changes into different plane shapes.  As the character adds new angles and changes into a new polygon, students make the polygon on their geoboards and record it on the anchor chart.

These anchor charts may not be pinterest perfect, but it was the real world in my classroom! These are the charts we made as we read the book.  I tried to call multiple students up to draw their shapes so other students could see that a hexagon, for example, could look different!

Students can practice novel ways of creating and identifying 2D shapes. Some ideas are:
  • Creating plane shapes with playdoh and Popsicle sticks
  • Gluing toothpicks in 2D shapes
  • Sorting and graphing shapes
  • Finding 2D shapes in the real world magazine pictures

After students become comfortable with the terms sides, corners, angles, you can introduce the concept that several plane shapes are quadrilaterals. This is another activity that is great for sorting. 

It also leads well in to composing and decomposing 2D shapes.  This is just a fancy way of saying what shapes make a hexagon or an octagon. Pattern blocks are wonderful for teaching composing and decomposing plane shapes. A fantastic (and hands-on) way to teach this is by having students stack the pattern blocks on top of each other.  This way they can see that the shapes are exactly made by the blocks on top.

How Can I Deepen Student Thinking?

One of my favorite activities to challenge students is a riddle sort of activities.  My school had a large pack of plastic polygons.  If you don't have access the plastic polygons, you can get a printable set of polygons here from John Van De Walle (as well as a million other blacklines). Please note that all the 5 sided polygons are on the same page if you choose to use different color copy paper when printing.  The colors might give the shape away ;)!

Lay the shapes out and sit the class in a circle around the shapes.  Students will play a guessing game. Mentally choose a a shape and give students clues.  For example, "My magic shape has more than 4 sides." Call on students to get rid of the shapes that don't fit the magic shape rules (triangles and quadrilaterals). You can use all kinds of clues to sharpen math thinking in general ("It has the same number of angles as the value of a nickel."). My kids loved this game.  Make sure that when you pick the magic shape, there is only one like it (in this example, only one pentagon)! LOL

How can I apply this in my classroom?

Ready to turn around and try some of the of these activities? Grab your supplies and get ready!

Want the activities shared in this post and even MORE printables?  Check out my Geometry Unit- Everything You Need and More!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Engaging Earth Day Fun and FREEBIES

Do you celebrate Earth Day in your classroom?  When I was in third grade, we tied it into our science standard of recycling.  In second grade, it was not part of our science standards, so instead we tied it into our math and reading.

So let's talk about integration!

One of the easiest ways to integrate science concepts will simply be during the reading block. This is a great, and meaningful way, to tie in nonfiction text.  Are you looking for a few great fiction and nonfiction mentor texts about earth day?

(Please note that these books are affiliate links.  If you chose to purchase through these links I will receive a small commission.)

I think my most favorite of that bunch is the Gail Gibbons text. Her books are always to the point and informative with really engaging illustrations.

If you would like text that is accessible for all students, check out this science short about earth day. It is one nonfiction article that has been written on multiple levels. The pack includes tons of main idea and text features practice!


Poetry is a genre that can be really hard to tie into science concepts. I wanted a simple poem that could be used not only as a mentor text, but also as a model for simple poetry writing.  This freebie includes a poem, lesson plan for a whole group mini lesson, comprehension questions, and a writing project that is super simple!

Earth day can translate into some graphing practice as well. Your students can walk around the school grounds collecting trash and litter and graph the results. Does this sound a bit too gross for you? I created this graphing freebie based on the same scenario! Simply pass out the litter cards instead of, well real litter!

I also wanted to review some other math concepts, so I created these earth day math centers.

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Let's Read Aloud...Or Not....

A few months ago I did a Facebook Live discussing the Do's and Don'ts and guided reading.  You can check that video out here:

I think one of the things that surprised me most, and apparently many of my viewers, were my comments on whisper phones and round robin reading. I suggested that students do not read aloud the text all at the same time when it is time for them to read independently. I want to focus on this a bit more, and go into some more detail.

Subvocalizing, or vocalizing, is when students read out loud when reading.  Some students may whisper, and others may simply move their lips. 

Many young and beginning readers tend to vocalize when reading. You may notice that during guided reading, you may ask students to read the text independently, and suddenly everyone is reading aloud and it is hard to hear each student!

One of my most favorite professional books is the book Yardsticks by Chip Wood.

(Please note that this is an affiliate link.  I may make a commission when anything is purchased through this link.)

 I used to read it each year before the school year started. I found it put me in the right "mind set" to prepare for what was developmentally appropriate from my students each year. This book breaks down what is developmentally appropriate for kids, each year, from ages 4-14. According to Wood, for seven year olds, "'Silent reading' is not yet silent- lots of whispering (vocalization) as children read."

I generally start to encourage silent reading about mid-second grade.  I do not make a make deal of it. I found that by preparing kids that were reading on grade level at the mid point of the year, they easily made the transfer by the end of the school year.  This followed the Chip Wood's advice, as many mid-second graders are still 7 years old. This way I could support them as they became more mature readers.

When I am reading a difficult recipe or a technical text, the first thing I do is turn off the radio or TV (I need total silence to concentrate! LOL! Am I alone???).  Then, I usually read aloud the passage or text a few times until I am sure I "get" it. 

So if I do this as an adult, why is subvocalizing such a big deal? 

The biggest issue is that subvocalizing when reading slows the reader down.  The reader literally will read at a slower pace.  There is a lot of research supporting the correlation between a fluency and comprehension.  Basically, when a reader is fluent, their brain can focus more on understanding the story, instead of decoding the words. Subvocalizing can prevent the reader from reading fluently.

The next reason is a sad one, but a necessary evil.  When standardized tests are given, students must read the passages "silently." By scaffolding students to do this, they are not stunned when they must read that entire test silently.

Another reason is that is makes the guided reading setting very distracting for your older students.  Also, some of your kids who have developed some pretty slick coping strategies to hide their reading struggles, can simply mimic the person beside them.

Like I mentioned above, I do not make a terribly big deal about it.  I tell the kids, " Good readers read silently and think about the story in their brains.  This helps them read more smoothly and helps them understand the story better. When we read everything out loud, our reading slows down and can make it hard to remember the story."

Most kids will naturally make this jump when switching from a transitional to fluent reader.  To support kids reading on about a beginning to mid-second grade level, I will provide whisper phones.

(Please note that this is an affiliate link.  I may make a commission when anything is purchased through this link.)

You can also make your own from PVC pipe from Home Depot or Lowes. Students can whisper into the phones.  The sound will travel (like a telephone) to their ears, but will not be as loud or distracting to all the kids around them.

By about mid-second grade, I will stop using the whisper phones because I don't want students to over rely on them.  Then, I gently remind kids to read silently when reading.

Often, kids will naturally make the progression by the end of second to middle of third grade. Students that are still reading aloud by this point, are generally reading below grade level and there may be bigger issues to tackle than subvocalization.

So, if kids are not reading out loud, all at the same time during guided reading, when do I hear and monitor them? My students read silently, or using the whisper phones, until I "tap in" with them.  This means I literally touch their hand and ask them to read aloud a paragraph of two and then discuss it briefly with them. I am able to tap in with 2-3 kids per guided reading session.  I take notes, so that the next session, I make sure to listen to the students I missed. I also can use these notes to help guide my teaching point. 

Some may ask, "How can you make sure that the other kids are actually reading?" Easy!  After students read the text and it is time to discuss the text as a group, I make sure to ask the students I didn't tap in on targeted questions to get a feel for their comprehension level! Want to more more about tapping in or how to promote fluency in guided reading (since kids aren't reading aloud), just let me know in the comments and I will write another post since this is getting so long!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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Opinion Writing Tips and Tricks

Opinion writing can be so hard for kids, partly because it requires such a strong structure to make sense.

How can you make it easier?  Check out these tips, tricks, and mentor texts suggestions!

Find a topic that truly motivates kids.  Think about what your students like.  We have done favorite kinds of cookies or candies, complete with a taste test. My favorite was taste testing the different kinds of M&M's such as the dark chocolate, peanut butter, and plain! Then, we wrote about or favorite and least favorite! Yum!

However, students can also tackle opinions on bigger topics such as a 4 day school week. I would suggest these more complex topics after writing about some simpler topics.

Allow students to get to know their topics very well.  Invite students to brainstorm the "pros" and "cons" of the topic.  That will give students a chance to really cement their opinion, and provide reasoning for their opinion.

Once students are able to provide reasons, they can back their opinion up with useful facts.  In order to do this, students need to feel confident differentiating between fact and opinions. This can be a difficult concept for some and they may need many exposures to fact and opinion.  I love using sorts to identify fact and opinion.

I know that format such as OREO (opinion, reason, explanation, opinion) are popular for teaching opinion writing.  I have used them myself.  However, I would caution against using this as the ONLY format for teaching opinion writing.  Students need to realize that expository writing has a format across all purposes (writing to inform, describe, or explain). Before using OREO consider, discuss and participating the simpler format of topic sentence, details, closing sentence and THEN relating this format to the OREO method. OREO only works for one purpose of writing, but the other works across purposes.

After reviewing the text structure, students can  order opinion paragraphs so that they make sense. This allows students to analyze a small portion of text (a handful of sentences) to  identify topic, details and a closing before applying it to their own writing.

Like all these activities?  You can snag them in my Exploring the Opinion Paragarph Pack here!

Are you looking for some mentor text suggestions?  Check these out! These book suggestions are affiliate links which means that if you clicked on a link and made a purchase I may receive a small commission.  THANK YOU!!!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!

If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

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