Quadrilateral Or Parallellogram?

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SWBAT compare and contrast quadrilaterals and parallelograms with items found in the classroom.

Big Idea

Students discover the differences between quadrilaterals and parallelograms with everyday items found in the classroom.


10 minutes

This lesson is heavily focused on understanding the vocabulary and developing an understanding of the meaning of the terms derived from the word parallel and quadrilateral. To help students with the term parallel, I begin with asking them to think about train tracks, and what do know about them.

Accessing this prior knowledge helps me to determine if parallel is a familiar term to them, or if it is something I will need to develop. The Common Core Standards for second grade students includes working with triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.  However, they may not be using the word parallel.  In first grade, students compose 2-dimensional shapes. For many third graders this may be their first experience with the term parallelogram. 

Based on the students' description of train tracks I draw a sketch to project for the class.  I purposely use a ruler to create two parallel lines.  Once the discussion leads to the idea that the two lines will not cross, I label the drawing with the term parallel.  I also sketch a non-example and show lines that would intersect or cross for students to compare and contrast. 

I draw examples of parallelograms including a rectangle, square, and a rhombus, a commonly blue pattern block. (See photo for reference.) 

Teaching the term quadrilateral takes less effort to elicit responses.  Many students are familiar with the recreational vehicle called a "quad" with four wheels.  They describe and connect this reference to a quadrilateral as a shape with four sides.  I add the information it also includes a shape with four angles.  Another reference I used in my class is to multiple births.  I explain that if someone has twins it is two babies; triplets is three babies.  Quadruplets is four babies. I draw rectangles, squares, and a kite shape to show that these are all quadrilaterals but not all are parallelograms. 

I review the two terms of parallelogram and quadrilateral with the students and post definitions that will be used throughout the lesson for the students.

parallelogram - a shape with opposites sides that will not cross, and are parallel

quadrilateral - a shape with four sides and four angles. 


5 minutes

To model some of the shapes, I randomly draw the shapes included in the warm up.  I ask the students to determine if the shape is a quadrilateral, parallelogram, neither, or both.  Providing many different shapes including triangles, hexagons, pentagons, rectangles, squares, circles, and other shapes requires students to compare and contrast the attributes using the definitions we have established for use in this lesson.

I use shape blocks for some of these examples, and then I also use pictures of common items including a stop sign.  I borrow one from the office that is used for the crosswalks before and after school, and this helps students see the real world application of shapes.  I select other non-examples using classroom items including a small round canister to hold paper clips and an oval shaped glasses case.  

Take Photos and Create Videos

30 minutes

I explain to the students that are looking for items within the classroom to find examples of parallelograms and quadrilaterals.  This is also something that could be an outdoor activity, but because we are using technology, I choose to keep the students in the classroom.  

Additionally, moving throughout the school would be another option.  Our school was completing state testing on this day, and it was best for us to stay in our classroom.  

The students use iPads to take photographs of an item.  I demonstrate for the students how to isolate the item in the frame of the camera so that nothing else was in the background.  This provides greater clarity for comparing and contrasting the item.

Once the teams or partners had taken their photos, they create videos using the Show Me app. The students use a sentence frame and the definitions to explain the item they have photographed.   

This is a _______ because this shape has _____________ . 

The sentence frame is especially helpful when learning new vocabulary for all students not just as a support for ELL students.  

The students in this video discuss a book box in the classroom and debate why they think it is a quadrilateral or it is not a quadrilateral.