Monday, July 10, 2023

Shape Talks

Ever since I started to incorporate NUMBER TALKS into my daily classroom routines, I've been thrilled to see the kids deepen their number sense, awaken their mental math tool bag, share their reasoning and strategies, justify their answers, and learn new ideas/strategies from their peers. My students have become better mathematicians because of Number Talks.

So I got to thinking...what about taking these same objectives and applying them to SHAPES? Well I did and Shape Talks was born!

Shape Talks

The nudge for "shape talks" came last year when our new math program (Investigations) featured Quick Images, with shapes. See below. There is a clock you click on. Once you do, an image shows up for 5 seconds then disappears. Kids draw them. You can show it again for those that need it. 

They would feature three-four slides in one or two lessons in each unit. Honestly, the program only skimmed the surface and didn't ask the kids to do any deep thinking. What a wasted opportunity! So I quickly decided to dig deeper into the exploration of shapes and their properties like I did regularly with Number Talks.

Since the book had so few opportunities for the kids to engage in this, I made my own slides and came up with my own twist. After using them I can honestly say my kids can compose and decompose shapes and their understanding of shapes and the relationships between them and their properties was solidified. Way better than previous years. The best part for me? The inclusion of Shape Talks was a natural one since we use pretty much the same format as we do when engaged in Number Talks. 

What are the Benefits of Shape Talks?

  • The discussions are short and easy to incorporate into an already packed schedule. Can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes but most days they fall into a 5-8 minute time frame. 
  • They encourage students to think about the various attributes of shapes in relation to other shapes. Composing and decomposing shapes needs lots of opportunities for them to "see" the possibilities.
  • Offer opportunities for students to strengthen their understanding of shapes through mental math.
  • Kids can share their thinking aloud and can not only verbalize their answers but defend and justify them if questioned.
  • They see, firsthand, how others are making connections and can test-drive their peers ideas.
  • Without even knowing it, they are suddenly working on the seeds of area, perimeter and volume and it's also a stepping stone to part-whole relationships and even fractions.

How Do I Use These Shape Talk Slides?


Pages 6-126 feature each shape (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, rhombus, trapezoid, semi-circle, oval, pentagon, hexagon and octagon) in isolation first. I introduce one shape at a time. This is an example of the intro slide for a square.

I simply ask: "What do you notice about this square?"

The answers always surprise me! Here are some I got:
  • "Square begins with an "s" like Sandy."
  • "Since there is a q there has to be a u next to it."
  • "It has 4 sides."
  • "It has 4 corners and four sides."
  • "The sides are all the same size."
  • "It's not a cube. A cube is 3D. This is a 2D shape."
  • "The lines are straight."
  • "There aren't any curved lines."
  • "It kind of looks like a rectangle but there aren't any short sides." 
  • "There are four vertices."
  • "If you put another square on top of that one, it will become a rectangle."
Can you imagine all the great discussions their observations generated? They steer the boat but I get to elabortae and use their words as small teaching points. A lot of my decisions are based what I think the audience in front of me at the moment needs.  FOr example: When the one student saud, "If you put another square ontop ofthat one, it will become a rectangle." I immediately did just that so my visual learners could understand it. "There are 4 vertices." was quickly met with me marking off each one quickly. It's a great way to reinforce AND introcuce new concepts.

Then I project 3-5 slides to practice subitizing and engage them in Number/Shape Talks. 

I simply project for 5 seconds while asking, "How many squares are there?"

After the shape disappears, I record the answers given on the board: 10, 11, 13, etc. Then I put the slide up again for a few seconds longer and ask, "Does anyone want to change their answer?"  Some do.
Then the all important question: "How did you count the squares?

For the slide above, I had the following answers:
  • "It's 10 because this is like a 5 and a 5 on dice. And there are two of them so 5 + 5 is ten."
  • "I counted by 2s: (Then they proceeded to show me the top 2 in each cluster then the bottoms clusters of 2 and then, finally, the middle two. (It sounded like this as they pointed: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.)"
  • "I counted by 4s and then added on two in the middle: 4, 8, 9, 10."
  • "I counted the diagonals first: 3, 6, and then added on 7, 8, 9, 10."
Since not all kids are sharing out, I then give them 30 seconds to share with a partner before we move on. There are 11 Subitizing slides for each shape.
Here is another example for the square. I do all 11 slides of the new shape over the course of a week. Then it's time to move on to a different shape.

Draw and Label Shape Talks

(Pages 127-213) I've also included slides that have two shapes that kids can draw and label before we talk about what we know. (NOTE: I wouldn't present this slide UNLESS I've already covered circles and pentagons.) You can do this is tandem with the subitizing slides OR complete all of the subitizing slides and move on to these.  That is what I do.
After presenting this, I simply say, "Draw and label the shapes that you see."  Here are two results.

This student did a nice job drawing and this labeling was perfect for her. I like the way she ticked off the sides to count. I noticed how her had to concentrate on drawing the pentagon and it took her a few minutes.

This child, as you can see, is more advanced. She finished in half the time as the above student. One quick glance and I know she can draw the shapes and labels with pretty accurate spelling. Love the carot used and the numbers to count the sides. The "V" is guessed it! VERTICES! 

Two drawing that tell me a lot about the student before they even open their mouths to engage in Shape Talks!

I ask: "Is there anything you want to tell me about these shapes?" and I get such varied answers during the Shape Talk. I do remember one of the students saying the pentagon was the same shape as home base in their baseball game and another said, "My uncle works at the Pentagon in Washington and I bet the building is shaped just like that."  WHOA! Real-life! 

Advanced Draw and Label Shape Talks

(Slides 214-338)  I've also included Draw and Label slides with more then two shapes. Some are quite challenging and I use them in small group instruction. Here are a few examples:

Although harder, I often try subitizing with these: can they draw them after seeing them for only 5 seconds? It gets easier in time! Other times, I leave the shapes on the screen for them to draw, label, and then we discuss what they notice.  Again- it comes from the students!

Create a Shape Picture

(Slides 239-350) Kids love to get their creative juices flowing and Create a Shape Picture is the perfect opportunity for them to show how shapes work together to form new shapes and pictures. Kids love these! I use these as Do-Nows in the morning, for a Morning Meeting Activity or print out and have them complete for homework.

Shape Talks by Bloomabilities

Here are two results:

The above pictures were done as a Math Do-Now. If I had offered this as a Morning Do-Now, I would have had them color it in and most students would have added more details.  I love both these pictures and can see how hard they worked. 

NOTE: I do allow them to use lines in addition to their shapes.

I admit to being totally in love with Number Talks and Shape Talks! The benefits are immediate and it's the one area in math that ALL of my students feel immediate success. 

Have you done Number Talks? DO you love them as much as I do? How about Shape Talks? Let me know! 

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