Saturday, May 17, 2014

Loving this Volume Lesson!

I am linking up with The Teacher Studio for her new Loved that Lesson linky to share a lesson I absolutely loved!

This week, I introduced volume with my class, and instead of  "teaching" them what it is and how to find it, I gave them time to explore. I started by giving them a basic definition of what volume is. Then we used a fabulous activity from A New Day of Learning's TPT Store, her Hands-On Math Center on Volume of a Rectangular Prism.

Inside are 26 cards with the dimensions of different rectangular prisms. (Ex: Build a prism that has these measurements: height of 3, width of 6, & length of 4) I gave each student a card and some unifix cubes, and sent them off to build their prism. Some of them had trouble even knowing how to get started (which is just one reason lessons like this are so important!), but with a little coaching, they all got to work building their prisms.
{By the way, it was "Outside Day" on our A to Z Countdown to Summer, so that's why we did this lesson was fun to get out of the classroom for a while!}

Once their prism is built, they are to determine the volume of the shape, initially, by counting the cubes used to build it. They recorded their answers on an answer sheet., so I could check them later, and switched in their card for a different one. Since there are 26 in all, there were enough for each student to work independently and get plenty of practice.

Before our 50 minute lesson was over, I had three students approach me and say "Mrs. Doyle,  I found a way to get the volume without building the shapes and counting them." They had all figured out that if they multiplied the three measurements, they could find the volume of the shape! Score one for the teacher!

We then had some great math conversations about how and why the formula works. I reminded these little smarties that they needed to check a few more shapes to be sure this will *always* work, which they did. Then they started secretly multiplying instead of building the shapes, and trying so hard not to let their friends know what they are doing.

Word leaked out that there's a "secret" way to get the answers faster, and everyone started looking closely at the numbers to try and figure it out. I decided to work on this lesson for three days, not telling the "secret" until the very last day. I ended up only having to teach the formula to a couple of students. Letting them construct the knowledge themselves means they will (hopefully) really understand this concept and why the formula works!

Things I heard kids saying during/at the end of this lesson that made me so proud:
"I think I found the secret, but I just want to check one more."
"This is so cool!"
"What about the cubes in the middle {of the prisms, the ones that aren't visible}...oh wait, if you multiply, it's counting all of them. Like if there's 12 in one layer, and you have 5 layers, it's 12x5."
and best of all... "Do we have to stop doing math?"

I am so excited to see them learning when I am not "teaching." Sometimes, with all of the content we have to cram in before testing, and the pressure to get it all covered, I think we rush straight past opportunities like this one. Next year, it is my goal to slow down, and give my students time to explore and build knowledge for themselves, rather than spoon-feeding it to them and speeding along through the curriculum.

PS - Check back Monday for a special blog announcement!!! I've been keeping a secret from you guys, and I can't wait to share it!


  1. True constructivist learning is THE BEST! Thanks for linking up!

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  3. What a powerful lesson! This is one of those activities that someone will probably mention next year when they get to the concept of volume!!

  4. I love this lesson idea! No doubt that they'll forever remember volume :) I will definitely be checking that out for next year. Thanks!!

    XO, Kelly Anne


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