Monday, October 17, 2011

Kinesthetic Area, Perimeter, Volume, and Surface Area Activity

This activity would work for grades 3-6

One of the biggest challenges that I've found with middle grade math is making something that is so formulaic (such as surface area) concrete. How can students remember that area covers, perimeter surrounds, volume fills, and surface area covers a three-dimensional figure? Well, here's what I do...

It's like musical chairs. Well, without the chairs. I used this during math (3-5 minute anticipatory set) to get the kids moving. Once we were out of the unit I still got requests to play this "game."
There are four motions that students need to master to be successful at this activity. When I say "area" they are to go down on one knee and spread their arms out as much as possible (like Superman, not Molly Shannon's SuperStar).
***I will interject here that when I first started playing this (with my third grade class) I had them drop all the way to the ground to "lay like carpet" and "become one with the tile" which I must admit was HI-larious to watch. It reminded me of those fainting goats that just fall over when startled. Well, I was informed by the teacher who inhabited the classroom below mine that while we were doing this, it sounded like someone kept dropping refrigerators on their ceiling. Not to be seen as being inconsiderate I modified it to the one knee spread out.  Now that I'm in a classroom with FAR less space (and much bigger 5th grader bodies) it's worked out well for me anyway. I do miss the fainting goats though....***

Now, when I say "perimeter" they must "mall walk" (not run) to one of the walls that serves as a perimeter of our classroom and touch it. When I say "surface area" they must wrap themselves up in the biggest self-hug possible. If I say "volume" they must spread their bodies out as far as possible (like a jumping jack without the jumping), filling up all the space around them.

Surface Area!
 So how does this all work? I put on music and while the music is playing the students must meander and glide throughout the classroom (sometimes I play classical, sometimes I play oldies). When I stop the music I say one of the four words; area, perimeter, volume, or surface area. They must do the appropriate action. The last one to kneel, touch the wall, or hug themselves is "out". Sometimes I like to be a pill and stop the music and say a non-related term like "addition" or "angle" and the students must stay frozen like statues or enjoy the same fate of taking their seat.  

I've really enjoyed watching the kids relate this quick get out of your seat activity to the problem solving we do in class, especially those pesky word problems. We work on picturing a problem and I can cue them with "is it covering, surrounding, filling, or wrapping" and I can see students mimicing the actions from the game at their seat to figure out which one applies. This is a cumulative activitiy. I usually start with just perimeter and area and add on volume and surface area as we cover it.

A few lessons I've learned:
1. I warn students that they must not hover around the walls. If I notice a hover-er I will wait until they are at the center of the room and call "perimeter". It's more a threat than anything because in seven years of playing this very few really test me.
2. Make the SmartBoard portion of your wall OFF LIMITS to be used as perimeter. Nothing like seeing a body hurdling towards your $5,000 piece of technology to make you cringe. (FYI: no harm was done)
3. Set clear expectations for going to the walls. I've had one student dive for the wall and get a nice bump on the chin. I've learned to be VERY clear with my instructions for fear of mama-e-mails claiming I'm abusing my students during math time.

Hopefully you can use this and your students get something from it!

Mrs. J

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