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The Art of Shapes — A Geometry Unit in Photos, Part 2

By Alycia Zimmerman on May 9, 2012
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

I use our annual geometry unit as an excuse to transform our classroom into an art gallery. Colorful shapes dance across our walls, and my students use digital cameras to snap paparazzi photos of angles. Last week, I wrote about some creative activities to explore symmetry and geometric solids. Read on for ideas about classifying quadrilaterals, painting congruent and similar shapes, and more.


Around Every Corner, Another Angle . . . 

After my students learned about acute, obtuse, and right angles by building the angles with straws and pipe cleaners, they were ready to go on an angle hunt. Students walked around the school in groups, equipped with a digital camera and the task to each photograph something in our school that demonstrated at least two of our new geometry terms.

After we printed out the students' photos, they labeled them with geometric vocabulary. It's interesting to see what children notice through the lens of a camera.


Dress Like a Shape Day!

Elementary students love dress-up days — hat day, backwards day, and pajama day are all highlights at my school. I decided that we needed a dress-up day to celebrate the wonderful geometric learning in my class. I was very excited to see all the creative ways my students dressed up as their favorite shapes.



Triangles were very popular costume choices among the ladies of my class.


It's Cool to Be Square!

My students often have a difficult time conceptualizing the overlapping classifications that apply to many polygons. We explore several different metaphors to help remember how attributes affect how we classify shapes. Some days we explore the polygon family tree. Other days we talk about the quadrilateral "clubs." Squares, of course, are the coolest polygons of all, since squares have entry to both the rectangle club and the rhombus club. 


My students sort a collection of shapes and paste the shapes into paper clubs, as below. This is the best solution I've found to help my students really understand the classification levels for four-sided shapes.


Getting Abstracted: Exploring the Geometry in Modern Art

The abstract paintings of modern artists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee are perfect for a geometry unit. While studying these two artists, the students continually practiced naming the shapes they saw in these two artists' works. They also learned about the beginnings of abstract art, as well as some basic color theory. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a complete mini-unit about "Geometry in the World of Art."

After viewing and discussing many of Kandinsky's paintings, the students began by outlining geometric shapes onto canvas boards.

Next, the students used acrylic paint to complete their shape art. I limited the students to a single color of paint so the students would have to explore shading and tinting. (Tempera paint with some school glue mixed in works well as an inexpensive acrylic substitute.) 

The students' finished projects became a colorful border along the front of the classroom, and a constant reminder of their geometry learning.


Additional Ideas for Geometry Fun

Several other Scholastic bloggers have written about their creative geometry projects. I’ve found these blog posts incredibly helpful in planning my geometry activities and in defining my approach to teaching math.

Geometry: Let's Get Moving!  I’ve used almost all of Angela Bunyi’s tips to make geometry lessons active fun for our kinesthetic learners.

Teaching Geometry Through Geography  Angela also inspired me to try my hand at green screen moviemaking with this blog post several years ago. A student “standing” in front of the pyramids at Giza talking about square pyramids  enough said!

Geometry Graffiti — Polygons in the Hallways  I love Stacey Burt’s hands-on approach to teaching middle school math, and I adapt a lot of her ideas for my elementary classroom. Here’s a photo of my students doing my version of her masking-tape shape lesson.

Getting Carried Away With Polyhedrons I am itching to try Stacey’s polyhedron kite activity. I’m planning on building one of these kites myself this summer and then trying this lesson next year with my class.


Do you have suggestions for hands-on geometry projects? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And for updates on the latest math projects going on in my classroom, follow me on Twitter or Facebook

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