Three-Dimensional Shapes Activities

by Trisha Dawe

Cylinders, cones, pyramids, spheres and cubes are simple three-dimensional shapes often taught to elementary school students beginning their study of the subject. The concept of a third dimension can be a challenge for some children to understand. Include hands-on activities that are relevant to real life for students to compare two- and three-dimensional shapes, thus deepening the level of understanding.

Group Activities

Divide the students into groups of three or four and devise a scavenger hunt for three-dimensional shapes within the classroom and in nature. In the dramatic play area, if applicable, a princess hat may alleviate the need to find a cone and in physical education, a kick ball can be written down for the sphere section. Another idea is to ask the groups of students to construct a castle using only three-dimensional shapes. A cube may be its base while piling a cylinder and a cone over it appears as a tower.

Whole-Class Activities

The teacher may devise a set of riddles that encourage the class of students to guess which three-dimensional shape she may be describing. For example, "I have one point. I contain a circular shape. What am I?" Students in the class may win a prize of an extra five minutes at recess for their combined efforts. Play a game of three-dimensional shape Bingo. The teacher gives students a blank bingo sheet and instructs each of them to randomly sketch the studied three-dimensional shapes to fill the squares on the card. When the teacher calls out the names of the shapes, without showing the class what it looks like, each may place a bingo chip over her drawn shapes. The first player with five in a row wins a prize.

Individual Projects

Instruct students to find an object at home that appears as a common three-dimensional shape and ask each to bring it in for homework. An oatmeal container is one example of a cylinder while a melon may be shown as a sphere. Challenge the students in another activity to write a fictional story or poem as if the world only consisted of two-dimensional items. Students may write about playing soccer with a circular disc instead of a spherical ball, as one example.

Artistic Expression

Students can form bits of play dough or clay into three-dimensional shapes, such as rolling dough between their two palms to create a sphere. Children can use tools such as wooden craft sticks to form the straight edges of a cube or pyramid. Rolling the dough and pressing each end of the roll creates a cylinder while a cone may be formed by hand and pressed onto the table at one end. Encourage students to paint images of three dimensional shapes using various shades of colors. Darker colors may be used as a shadowed depth while lighter hues are used to draw the front-facing edges. This activity may be suitable for more advanced students as drawing a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane may be a bit challenging for younger students.

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