How to Teach 2D and 3D Shapes

2D and 3D shapes blog with shapes in background

This blog post is all about 2nd grade 2D and 3D shapes activities. These activities build on 1st grade common core geometry standards and prepare students for 3rd grade standards. This blog post will focus on how to use these activities in your study of the 2nd grade standard 2.G.1. Your students will learn a variety of strategies for reasoning with shapes and their attributes.

Standards for geometry:

2nd Grade 2.G.1: Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.

Introduce Terminology

2D and 3D shape attributes anchor chart

Introducing your geometry unit with an anchor chart that reviews key terminology and provides visuals is highly effective. This serves as a spiral review of previous 2D and 3D shapes skills they have learned as well as a strong visual for this unit. In 1st grade, students learn how to distinguish defining shape attributes. Reviewing these attributes is a great warm-up for students. This anchor chart provides a visual for students as they study 2D and 3D shapes and their attributes. This is a strong foundation for them to build knowledge on in 2nd grade.

2D shapes anchor chart describing polygons and their attributes

An essential 2D shapes activity used is this anchor chart which describes 2D shape attributes. It is essential that students connect the defining attributes to the name and suffix of the shape word. This will help them understand the number of sides, vertices, and angles more concretely. Showing examples of different ways to make that shape is also important. This allows the students to think beyond the basic version of each 2D shape.

3D shapes anchor chart describing the attributes of solids

Much like the 2D shapes activity above, this 3D shape attributes anchor chart serves a similar purpose. This chart breaks down each 3D shape figure and shows the number of faces, edges, and vertices. The examples of each shape help students connect the term “solid” to the defining attributes. They are also able to see the differences between 2D polygons and 3D solids.

BrainPop Jr video about cubes

These interactive videos from BrainPop Jr  are a fun way for students to practice recognizing and defining 2D and 3D shapes.

Identifying Shapes

Hands-on matching activity for 2D shapes

When focusing on 2D and 3D shapes, it is helpful to start by focusing on one type of shape at a time. This gives the students time to understand each type of shape separately before comparing them. One day of the unit will solely be about 2D shapes. After the whole group lesson, students will work in partners, small groups, and individually to study these shapes and their attributes. Hands-on activities, interactive notebook prompts, and leveled 2D shapes activities are included for this lesson.

My book of 3D shapes activity

Once the students are showing mastery of the 2D shapes, the next step is to study the 3D shapes and their attributes. Similarly, students will have a whole group lesson featuring an anchor chart and posters. Then, they will work in partners, small groups, and individually to show what they know about 3D shapes and their attributes. This 3D shapes book is one of my favorite activities in this unit as it serves as a great “go-to guide” for the students as they move through this study.

Describing Attributes

Describing 2D and 3D shapes dry-erase activity

Now that the students have studied both 2D and 3D shapes in depth, it is time to start describing them. These 2D and 3D shapes activities will help students describe the attributes of different shapes. The 2D and 3D shape cards can be mixed up for an added challenge or separated into 2D and 3D shapes. Having the students describe the attributes and then sort them independently encourages critical thinking skills.

Drawing Shapes

Drawing shapes dry-erase task cards

As they continue to build on the prior 2D and 3D shapes activities, the students are now ready to draw shapes. Using their knowledge of the shapes and their attributes, the students get to show what they know by drawing 2D and 3D shapes. I love how the cards in this activity have the students trace the shape first. This allows them to think about all of the attributes and get a feel for what that shape looks like and feels like to draw. This is great for our kinesthetic learners. After that, the students draw their own shape beside it. This helps our visual learners as well by allowing them to see how close their drawing is to the original.

Differentiating Small Group Activities

Differentiated shapes activities and games

Just like with any concept, not all students will learn at the same pace or in the same way. I have included 3 levels of 2D and 3D shapes activities in this unit. Students in the remediation group will benefit from a simple review activity and matching practice. On-level students may work more on defining the attributes of the shapes while the students in the enrichment group are ready for drawing shapes activities and more challenging games. As always, it is crucial for the teacher to meet the students where they are at and progress from there. Building those foundational skills before moving on is key.

Give Lots of Time for Mixed Review and Hands-On Practice

2D shape attributes and drawing 2D shapes activities

Like anything, practice makes perfect! Giving the students multiple opportunities to work with these 2D and 3D shapes activities is essential. Using a variety of hands-on and mixed review activities included in this unit allows the students to practice these concepts and become more fluent. They will begin to define, draw, and recognize the different shapes and their attributes with more precision as they work towards mastery. This unit makes differentiation a breeze, giving your students the support they need.

2nd Grade Teaching Suggestions…

2D and 3D Shape Attributes unit activities

This unit breaks down the 2nd grade standard, 2.G.1, teaching students how to recognize and draw 2D and 3D shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Students will also learn how to identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes. All of the images you see throughout this blog post come from the 2D and 3D Shape Attributes unit.

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