Standard Lesson

Going on a Shape Hunt: Integrating Math and Literacy

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 40- to 60-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


Integrating mathematics and literacy allows students to develop an understanding of the place of mathematics in their world. Students are introduced to the idea of shapes through a read-aloud session with an appropriate book. They then use models to learn the names of shapes, work together and individually to locate shapes in their real-world environment, practice spelling out the names of shapes they locate, and reflect in writing on the process. This lesson provides opportunities to engage students using many different learning modalities.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Literacy and mathematics require development of many of the same skills, including pattern recognition, classifying, organizing thoughts, and solving problems.

  • Literature can provide a means for mathematics and literacy skills to develop simultaneously as students read, write, listen, and talk about math.

  • Engagement with literature allows students to connect the abstract language of mathematics to their personal world in a natural way.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns (Scholastic, 1995)

  • Round Trip by Ann Jonas (Greenwillow, 1983)

  • Eight Hands Round by Ann Whitford Paul (HarperCollins, 1991)

  • Chart paper or overhead projector

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Cardstock cut to 1" x 6"

  • Clipboards or other portable writing surface

  • Two- and three-dimensional geometric models




1. Obtain a copy of The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns, Round Trip by Ann Jonas, or Eight Hands Round by Ann Whitford Paul. The first book tells the story of a triangle who wants to experience life as other shapes and is transformed into various ones. The second tells the story of a trip into the city and then back home again, encouraging readers to look at shapes in the scenery. The third book uses quilt patterns (one for each letter of the alphabet) to illustrate facts about pioneer life.

These three books are recommended by Hunsader (2004). You may wish to substitute one of your own favorite read-aloud stories that address the lesson objectives.

2. Create a chart or overhead of the Shape Hunt Chant.

3. Have two- and three-dimensional models of shapes selected for the lesson. These can be purchased from a teacher-supply store or created by you. If you are using empty containers as teaching examples, cover them with plain paper so that students can focus on the shape as opposed to the contents. For example, cover a soup can with plain paper to use as a cylinder.

4. Pick out some classroom items that are shapes you will use in the lesson such as the door, windows, shelves, or the clock. Create labels on cardstock that can be easily read from a distance naming the items and place these labels next to them.

5. Review the Sammy's Shapes website and bookmark it on the classroom computers.

6. If the student handouts are appropriate for your class, make two copies of the Two-Dimensional Task Sheet and the Three-Dimensional Task Sheet and one copy of the Shape Hunt Reflection Sheet for each student. You can also modify the handouts as necessary to make them more appropriate.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify specific two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometric shapes appropriate for their grade level

  • Practice pattern recognition and classification by locating shapes in their environment

  • Develop literacy and critical-thinking skills by using words and pictures to describe the location of shapes

  • Use a variety of strategies to spell and write words

  • Synthesize what they have learned using a written reflection sheet

Session 1

1. Gather students in a large group on the carpet. Review the names of the geometric shapes that they have been learning to activate their prior knowledge. You might choose to focus solely on two-dimensional shapes or solely on three-dimensional shapes, depending on what you have been talking about in class.

2. Read aloud the book that you have selected. The story should be read aloud in its entirety, pausing only to allow students to predict upcoming events. Predicting allows students to focus attention on reasoning, patterns, and problem solving while incorporating what they already know about geometric shapes with the ideas presented in the book.

It is important for this first reading to focus on enjoyment of the story and not on the mathematical content in order to take full advantage of literature's motivating influence on students.

3. Following the story, have students pair up and visit the Sammy's Shapes website where they can identify specific shapes appropriate for their grade level and locate and describe the shapes.

Session 2

1. Reread the book from Session 1, focusing attention on the shapes. Stop and allow students to comment on the geometry that they notice in the illustrations.

2. Discuss the idea that shapes are not just in books but are all around us.

3. Introduce the Shape Hunt Chant. As you say the chant, hold up the model of a circle you have prepared for student reference. When you reach the line that says, "Do you see a circle?" ask students to point to a circle in the classroom. Finish the song.

You may wish to have students get up and move to the object they have selected instead of sitting on the carpet pointing. For example, when you say, "Do you see a circle?" pause and allow them to move to a location in the classroom where a circle is located. Once almost everyone is sitting by something, go on with "Yes, we see a circle." This is especially beneficial for students who are kinesthetic learners.

4. Start a list of objects that are circles in the classroom on chart paper. Model various strategies for spelling words. For example, "Maria is pointing at the clock. Can you all point to the word clock in our classroom? Right, it's on a red card beside the clock. You read the letters while I print them on the chart. Jose is pointing at a plate in our house center. I don't see that word anywhere in our classroom. Let's try to write it together. P-p-plate. What letter do I need to print at the beginning of the word plate?" Another strategy is to point out words that are on the classroom word wall or located on posters or in other environmental print.

5. Repeat the shape hunt chant. You can use the same shape and ask them to choose different objects. Or you can change the shape. If you do this, start a new list on another piece of chart paper.

You may want to limit the number of shapes to four or five, depending on how long each "hunt" takes the students. You might also choose to focus only on two-dimensional or only on three-dimensional shapes.

6. When you have gone through four or five shapes, you may choose to have students complete either the Two-Dimensional Task Sheet or the Three-Dimensional Task Sheet, depending on what is most appropriate. Remind them to use classroom labels, the word wall, personal dictionaries, the charts just created, and their ability to sound out words to help them complete their work.

Session 3

Note: This session will take at least 60 minutes.

1. Review the charts that you created with your students in Session 2.

2. Inform students that they will be going on a shape hunt outside the classroom. Have them brainstorm some other areas in the school where they could look for shapes such as the office, the library, the gymnasium, the cafeteria, or the hallways.

3. You may choose to give each student a clipboard or portable writing surface, a pencil, and either the Two-Dimensional Task Sheet or the Three-Dimensional Task Sheet or both, depending on what they used in Session 2. Review with them how to complete the sheets.

Ask students to choose different objects on this shape hunt than they chose during Session 2. Bring along the models of the shapes you used in Session 2.

Note: As a courtesy, you may wish to send an e-mail or note to teachers and other staff to let them know about the timing and objective of this lesson. Some teachers will close their doors so you don't disturb them, while others will welcome you to visit their classrooms. Office and custodial staff usually enjoy these visits by students but will appreciate the advance warning.

4. At each location, choose one shape for students to look for. Show them the model of the shape. If they are completing the task sheets, they should complete the appropriate section. Review with them various strategies they can use to write the words on their sheet-they can sound it out, think about words they know that are similar, or look for environmental print.

5. When you return to the classroom, allow students a few minutes at their seats to complete their task sheets. Remind them that they may want to check the word wall for words that they were uncertain how to spell correctly.

6. If it is appropriate for your class, have students complete the Shape Hunt Reflection Sheet, which you can then discuss as a group. You might also choose to simply gather students together and complete the reflection sheet orally, recording some of their responses on a piece of chart paper or on an overhead copy of the reflection sheet.


  • Send home copies of the Two-Dimensional Task Sheet or the Three-Dimensional Task Sheet and have students go on a shape hunt at home.

  • Use geometric cutouts to create pictures.

  • Use a digital camera to take pictures of all the shapes found in your classroom or your school and create a book of shapes. The book could have a section for each shape and each student could be responsible for writing the text for one page of the book.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe students during all sessions. You want to see if they:
    • Can correctly identify shapes in the story you read

    • Understand the connection between the shapes in the book and the real-life shapes in the classroom

    • Can correctly match the shapes you model with objects in the classroom

    • Are able to apply the spelling strategies you model
  • Review any handouts you had students fill out. You will want to check not only their spelling, but also whether they have selected appropriate objects for each shape.

  • File the Shape Hunt Reflection Sheets in each student's portfolio for use in assessing math objectives as well as evidence of his or her ability to use a variety of strategies to spell and write words. You may wish to have a conference with each student to review the strategies he or she used.

K-12 Teacher
The lesson was very effective. It was the first time incorporating literacy and mathematics in one lesson. I would definitely be using this strategy again.
K-12 Teacher
The lesson was very effective. It was the first time incorporating literacy and mathematics in one lesson. I would definitely be using this strategy again.
K-12 Teacher
The lesson was very effective. It was the first time incorporating literacy and mathematics in one lesson. I would definitely be using this strategy again.

Add new comment