In the Box: Rectangular Prisms and Cubes

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Students will be able to identify and describe characteristics of cubes and rectangular prisms.

Big Idea

Students will have fun learning about 3-D shapes when they explore rectangular prisms and cubes in this interactive lesson.


10 minutes

You will two sets of the Cube and Rectangle Cards included as a PDF with this lesson. I laminate the cards and then cut them out.  The students will be looking for someone with the same card as theirs, so make sure to distribute them accordingly.

The opening of this lesson has some constructivist tenets.  I pass the cards out to the students and I tell them, These cards have different items on them. You will be looking for someone who has a card that matches yours.  I want you to circulate around the room until you find your partner.  When you find your partner, I want you to talk about what  you notice about the shape of the object on your card.

The students begin to move about the room.  When they find their partners, I prompt them if they cannot come up with observations about the shape of the object by saying things like, What shape is that side?  Are all the sides the same shape?

After all the students have found their partner and shared their observations.  I now tell the students, Now, I want you to get into a group with all the people who have the same color cards as you.  Now move around and find your classmates that have the same color cards as you. 

Once the students are in their color groups, I ask them, What do you notice about all the shapes on your cards?  How are they alike?  Show your cards to each other and come up with how they are alike.

The students begin talking.  The one group comes up with their things all have squares.  The other groups decides their cards all show things that have rectangles.  I focus their attention and tell them, We are going to

Direct Instruction

15 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use my SMART Board.  If you have a SMART Board, the file Rectangular Prisms and Cubes can easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson.  

I gather my students in front of the SMART Board.  I have cards with each student's name printed on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the SMART Board.

I open the first slide (SMART Board Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques  I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can identify cubes and rectangular prisms and characteristics of each.

Language Objective
I can tell a friend whether a shape is a cube or rectangular prism and why.

We progress then progress through the rest of the slides. 

Slide 2: This is a rectangular prism.  Why do you think it is called a rectangular prism?  I gather answers from the students.  They immediately identify that the shape has rectangles.

Slide 3:  A rectangular prism has 6 sides.  We call the sides "faces".  The faces are shaped like rectangles.  The opposite faces are equal.  What does it mean if something is equal? Again I call on students to respond.   So the opposite faces are exactly the same. 

Slide 4: This is a cube.  It has 6 faces.  Every face is a square.  Is a cube a rectangular prism?  Why or why not?  We discuss that squares are special rectangles, so a cube is really covered with rectangles, so just like a square is a special kind of rectangle, a cube is a special kind of rectangular prism.  

Slide 5: Is this shape a rectangular prism?  Why or why not?  The students share how it is not because it has triangles.  

Slide 6: Is this shape a rectangular prism?  Why or why not?  The students share that it has circles on the ends, not rectangles.  

Slide 7: Let's sort some shapes.  I call students up to the Smartboard to drag shapes into the appropriate category.  The students tell why they are placing the shape where they are.  

Slide 8:   It is now Turn and Talk Time.  This is a designated time for my students to practice their English Language Skills.   This is especially important for my English Language Learners.  I have the students hold hands in the air with their designated Turn and Talk partner.  I then ask them the question, What shape are these alphabet blocks?  How do you know?  The students are talking.  I hear them saying cube.  Some are saying rectangular prism.  I prompt the students to remember to talk about why it is that type of shape.  When the students are done talking, I call on a student to share with the class.  She tell everyone that the block is a cube because it has squares on every side.  I ask her if it is another kind of shape.  She can't come up with the answer, so I call on another student who shares that it is a rectangular prism too because all cubes are rectangular prisms.   I repeat the responses, This is a cube because every face is a square.  It is also a rectangular prism because all cubes are rectangular prisms.  

We move back to our seats to begin guided practice.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, you will need the Rectangular Prism and Cube Sorting Mats included as a PDF with this lesson.  I print one set of mats for each of my table groups.  I laminate the mats for durability.  I also have a collection of solid shapes that I have accumulated.  Some are instructional shapes and others are boxes (pasta, cereal, etc.), packages, dice, blocks, balls, etc. Make sure that there are plenty of rectangular prisms and cubes in the group.

I tell the students, We are going to sort some real world shapes right now.  You will get a basket of shapes.  I want you to work as a team to sort the shapes and put them on the correct sorting mat.  Some of the shapes will cubes.  They go on this mat with the picture of the cube on it.   Some will be other types of rectangular prisms and they go on the mat with the rectangular prism.  Some will not be either one.  They go on this mat.  When you have all of the shapes sorted, raise your hand and I will come and check your work. 

The students begin sorting and I circulate around the room to check their work and answer questions as needed.  When the groups are done, I check their work.  I ask them why they placed a few of the shapes where they did to give them more practice using their academic vocabulary.

Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

For this part of the activity, you will need the Rectangular Prism Cube Sorting Activity, one sorting mat per student.  The items print two per sheet.

I pass the sorting mat and shapes out to the students and have them put their name at the top of their mats.  I then explain to the students, You will be sorting some things that we find in our world.  You need to decide if they are cubes or other rectangular prisms.  Put the cubes on this side of the mat and the other rectangular prisms on this side of the mat.  When you are all done sorting the items raise your hand and I will check them before you glue them down.

The students begin working and I move about the room to observe their work.  See video.  I check their work and help them make any corrections.  I ask them specific questions about some of the shapes to help them think aloud about why they sorted them a certain way.  They then put the activity sheet in their mailboxes.