3 Effective Ways to Teach Geometry Vocabulary

See how I teach the geometry vocabulary through hands-on manipulatives, kinesthetic moves and technology use.

Do you remember sitting in your high school geometry class, looking through your notes and textbook, trying to remember which theorem or postulate to use? If you asked me today about theorems and postulates, I only remember that there were a lot of them!

In high school, I was an A student- even in math. I made the honor roll many times. But heck, if I remember those theorems and postulates today!

Geometry is one of the domains in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics from Kindergarten through fifth grade – so it should NOT be given short shrift. But now, think about all the geometry vocabulary for shape names, line types, angle types, and 3D solid shapes!

Elementary students can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of words to learn and keep straight in their heads! Yet, they NEED this vocabulary to think and reason about geometry just as we needed all those theorems and postulates to do the work back then!

So, as you build a conceptual understanding in geometry, you simultaneously develop the geometry vocabulary.

Let me explain three ways I try to ensure the vocabulary is accessible to my students – but also get it to stick!

I’ll show you how I teach the geometry vocabulary with

• some hands-on materials
• use technology
• and play games

#1 – Make the Geometry Vocabulary Hands-on

No flap books or mini books of all the geometry terms this time. They’re fine to learn the terms, but they take a long time to put together, and they’re not quite enough.  So instead, I wanted to find ways to represent the geometry vocabulary and be manipulative visually.  So I made cards that the students cut apart to use for instruction.

On the back of each card, the student wrote the academic term but also a real-life connection.  For example, railroad tracks can help you remember parallel lines; a street intersection can help you remember perpendicular lines, etc.

For young children, using these more academic terms takes time to develop. Once the vocabulary is introduced, the cards can be manipulated in many ways.

How can the cards be used?

The cards can be sorted, classified, compared and contrasted, and even alphabetized.  The point is to get the students to talk and remember the vocabulary as they manipulate the cards. Later, the cards would be used for the review period or as a resource for independent practice or technology integration.

If you need a manipulative to teach angles, here’s an inexpensive one. With just one box from the 99 Cents or Dollar Store, you have 100 bendable straws which can be used to show angles!

• Just cut the longer side in half
• cut a slit on the shorter side
• then stick the cut half into it
• now you have a straw that bends at the vertex to show the different angles!
• use them the next day for review

Don’t forget the kinesthetic approach!

Another hands-on approach involved an oldie-but-goodie kinesthetic movement approach to show the different types of lines and angles. Students used their arms to show parallel lines, right angles, intersecting lines, etc.

We made up our chants (rather than me giving them one), so they had more ownership and would be easier to remember.  Again, the next day we did this as the review.  A review doesn’t always have to be a paper and pencil-task!

#2 – Utilize Technology to Learn the Geometry Vocabulary

As I’ve blogged about many times before, in a 1:1 classroom, I have found many uses for Google Slides.  My favorite is to create digital interactive notebooks for whatever we happen to learn at the time.  I created several digital notebooks to practice the vocabulary.

In the Polygons Interactive Notebook I created, students had to use the drawing tools to show the shape, name the shape, number the sides, trace the sides, tell how many angles and sides, etc.

Not only did it reinforce the vocabulary, but they also practiced the attributes (which of course, involves all the previous geometry vocabulary). The students worked on their interactive notebooks as independent practice in place of their math book.

Because the digital notebooks were successful with my students, I created a total of 6 digital interactive notebooks for geometry.  They cover plane figures, lines, angles, polygons, quadrilaterals, and triangles

Digital Notebooks for Geometry

The digital notebooks are structured in a way that can replace traditional workbooks or math book exercises.  But digital notebooks are more than just digital versions of math books.  They are enhanced.  My digital notebooks come with web and video links the students use to learn and gather information.

These digital notebooks also include

• animation to illustrate the mathematical vocabulary
• vocabulary reference slide
• definition slide
• practice slides

Check out the six separate digital notebooks for geometry instruction. They are also available as bundles for extra savings!

Update July 2020!

This has been a year to remember! As teachers (and parents), we have had to build the plane as we fly it!

Teachers have had to research, learn and implement distance learning lessons. To teach a lesson in a virtual setting is difficult! It takes time to learn how to use the technology, discover ways to keep students engaged, and to create digital resources for students.

But if you’re looking for digital resources which can be used for in-class instruction, a hybrid model or distance learning, I have completed another digital notebook for geometry which focuses on the attributes of three-dimensional shapes.

If you teach 2nd or 3rd grade, this digital notebook supports your lessons in the Common Core for Math, TEKS, VSOL standards for mathematics and the new Ontario Math Curriculum, Grade 3.

Check out the preview video below, then head on over to my TpT store to see the more in-depth description and preview.

P. S. Not sure how to go about how to teach a math lesson virtually? Then check out this blog post about how to teach a math lesson online!

More Technology to Reinforce Geometry Vocabulary

If you’ve never used Learnzillion, I recommend it!  It has FREE resources (including instructional videos), which you can assign DIRECTLY to Google Classroom.  When you hit the share button, there is a Google Classroom link.  Then click on it and follow the screen instructions. It opens your Google Classroom in another window, and you proceed as usual to create an assignment.

It’s easy and much appreciated.  I like assigning instructional videos as homework or for review. What I find valuable about Learnzillion is I can search Common Core standards which is a huge time saver for me.  Since my students can also access Google Classroom at home, Learnzillion resources can also be used as a tutor when the teacher is not there, or the parent is unable to help with homework.

#3 Use Games to Learn the Geometry Vocabulary

Finally, since repetition is one of the keys to learning all this vocabulary, why not have it be fun?  This is a game I have used for many years to review all the vocabulary.  This is helpful before a test and before standardized testing.  It is available in my STORE.

GEOMETRY GAMES  includes five game boards that cover:  plane shapes, solid shapes, lines and angles, quadrilaterals, and triangles.

This resource is updated with a new look and now comes with black-and-white versions of the game boards.  The games can be played with 2 to 6 players.  Here are some pictures of my students using the game boards BEFORE the update.

Each game comes with its own set of cards to use.  Add game markers and a die or penny. Additionally, each game also has a resource poster and answer key.  I’ve laminated my copies and put them in baggies for easy access and storage.

Don’t Go Yet!

Finally, you might be interested in following these Pinterest boards I created for Geometry in the Elementary Grades and Google in the Classroom.  They have dozens of wonderful tips, resources, ideas, and links to teach geometry and use technology.  Check them out!

I hope you’ve picked up some valuable tips for teaching geometry vocabulary. But don’t ask me about the theorems and postulates!

Get your copy of the vocabulary cards I used for this lesson. They include words and pictures for both plane shapes and 3D shapes.

Sign up for my newsletter to receive the FREE Vocabulary Geometry Cards for the plane and solid figures.

Share some of your great tips for teaching geometry in the comments below.

What are your great tips?

2 thoughts on “3 Effective Ways to Teach Geometry Vocabulary”

1. Nothing in email or junk mail.

And before the geometry link worked, I had to sign up for the multiplication — which I do not need.

If I ever receive the geometry cards – I may be interested in purchasing more.