Lesson plan

Shapes Inside Shapes

Look all around! We can find 2D shapes inside 3D shapes wherever we go! In this lesson, students will sort shapes and recognize the 2D components of common 3D shapes.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Outer Space Shapes pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Outer Space Shapes pre-lesson.

Students will relate 2D shapes to 3D shapes, while understanding differences between the types of shapes. Students will name 3D shapes such as cubes, cones, cylinders, and spheres. Students will sort 2D shapes from 3D shapes.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Introduce the students to similarities by displaying the 3-Dimensional Shapes worksheet on the board.
  • Ask the students to find two objects that are alike and point to them.
  • Have the students take turns pointing to objects that are similar.
  • Using the objects on the page, explain that 3D shapes are not flat and have a special form and that these objects are examples of 3D shapes.
  • Next, tell the students that they will be looking at how 2D, or flat, shapes are similar and different from 3D shapes.
  • Explain to your students that sometimes they can find flat 2D shapes on 3D shapes.
(5 minutes)
  • Using the SMART Board 3D Shape Poster or a printed PDF version, direct students to each shape and then provide an example, thinking aloud and explaining how you know that it is that shape.
  • As you describe each shape, take out a large model shape to compare it to the real life example shape. For example, show dice to represent cubes.
  • Using different objects around the classroom, provide examples of each of the following shapes: cubes, spheres, cones, and cubes.
(5 minutes)
  • Take out a prepared piece of chart paper or use the SMART Board file for the guided practice part of the lesson.
  • Using Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, and Spheres, guide the students in identifying two-dimensional shapes on three-dimensional shapes (and the names of 3D shapes), as well as examples of only two dimensional shapes.
  • Record observations and examples on the chart.
  • Use other objects in the classroom as desired.
(10 minutes)
  • Give each student a copy of the 3-Dimensional Shapes worksheet and a pair of scissors.
  • Have the students complete the 3-Dimensional Shapes worksheet, cutting and gluing the shapes under the appropriate column.
  • Circulate around the room and question students about why they chose to put the shapes in the chosen columns.
  • Ask the students to justify their thinking.


  • For students who may be overwhelmed with a large number of pieces during the independent work activity, cut out their pieces ahead of time, and limit the number of pieces that they are given to include one of each shape.


  • Give the students a choice of making a 3D shape book or slide show. Have students go on a scavenger hunt around the classroom to take pictures with a digital camera or draw pictures of the objects. Ask the students to type the name of the shape under the picture, if it is uploaded. For drawings, have students write the name of the shape. Alternatively, have your students work on the Shape Match worksheet.
  • Direct your students to use digital cameras to take pictures of shapes around the classroom to use in creating books or slideshows.
(10 minutes)
  • Work with students individually, and conduct a brief assessment of shape identification.
  • Use the checklist to record which 3D shapes students can identify and which 2D shapes they can locate on the 3D shapes.
(5 minutes)
  • End the lesson by having your students point to different objects in the room. Make sure they are pointing to different ones from the beginning of the lesson.
  • Have them identify whether the objects are 2D or 3D. If they are 3D, ask your students to name which 2D shapes are inside.

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