Descriptive Shape Vocabulary

Free Shape Vocabulary Poster Set
Free Shape Vocabulary Poster Set
Free Shape Vocabulary Poster Set
Guess My Shape Game

Last fall I saw a Facebook post asking if anyone had a shapes vocabulary poster that included the adjective, as well as the noun form, of each shape name. I realized that I had no such poster, the value of such a thing, and decided to make one. The one turned into a three page set (tabloid size, 11 x 17 inches) as I decided to include some 3D shapes, as well as 2D. The posters are free to download, simply click one of the pictures or links.

Shape vocabulary isn’t something I think about much anymore, but it is something I’ve had to teach quite a bit in the past. I spent a lot of time with it when I was teaching a middle school self-contained class of newcomers and we had to do a geometry unit (geometry is my math nemesis). I tried everything that semester from a very basic shape book for my newest arrivals (it’s actually something I developed and used the year I taught kindergarten, first, and second grade beginning ELLs) to a version of shape quotations that I read about on another blog. I had a shape vocabulary poster, of course, and my students all had shape vocabulary stickers in their math notebooks, but the idea of including the adjective form of the words never occurred to me. Looking back on it, I wish I’d thought of it then, but it’s going to have to be one for the “better late than never” pile and I’ll do it from now on.

When I was teaching that dreaded geometry unit, my students’ favorite game to practice the various vocabulary they were learning was Guess My Shape Game. The game was inspired as I was watching students play Guess Who to practice their vocabulary for describing people. They were doing a great job, using a lot of the vocabulary we’d been learning for body parts and clothing, and it got me thinking about the shape vocabulary we’d been learning. My students were doing fairly well with basic shape names, but were struggling with vocabulary for shape attributes, such as edge, vertices, etc. I thought, “This would be the perfect game to practice such vocabulary, they’d have to ask questions that use the vocabulary words to guess the correct shape.”

That night I went home and started work on my first ever Cover Up Game. The game was created by making a game board for each student with twelve different 2D shapes on it. Since students would be choosing different shapes to be the “mystery shape” from a pile of cards, both boards could be identical and had no need of the numbers my other cover up boards have (this also means the game doesn’t require the 12-sided dice the other cover up games do). The shape cards were just a slightly larger version of the shapes on the game board and without the name labels. I printed everything on cardstock and laminated the boards and cards for durability. (Side note: as much as possible I use cold lamination for my games and activities. It is thicker than hot and never peels, even as it ages or after you cut through it. I have some games that I laminated, cut, and have been using for over two decades. The students have bent the pieces and I’ve wiped them down with disinfecting wipes and they still look brand new!)

The game is simple to play:

  1. The students each draw a shape card, keeping it secret from their opponent.
  2. Students take turns asking yes or no questions about the mystery shape’s attributes.
  3. Students use the information gained from their questions to mark off shapes that don’t fit the criteria. (example: If the mystery shape has four edges, it cannot be a circle or a triangle, so those shapes would be marked off.)
  4. When a student thinks he/she knows what the mystery shape is, he/she asks, “Is your shape a _________?” If correct, he/she is the winner. If not, the game continues.

Since students can draw multiple cards, the game can be played over and over with the same partners. Sometimes we’d have a tournament and students would change partners every round based on if they won or lost.

Marking off the shapes that don’t fit the given criteria can be done in different ways. I suggest either using dry erase markers to X them out or some type of cover. Favorite covers in my class include milk jug lids, mini erasers, and plastic counters. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you use as a cover, but since there is the potential for needing as many as 11 covers per student, you want something that is cheap and easy to replace when lost or damaged.

I can’t remember who posted that question about a shape vocabulary poster on Facebook, but I wish I could. I’d like to thank him or her for inspiring me to create something new and starting my trip down memory lane. It’s been years since I thought about that geometry unit! Whoever that might have been, if you read this post, thank you! Happy teaching, everyone!