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NumberFix: Math/Writing Lesson based on the Scaredy Squirrel Series

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from NumberFix
Math Topic: polygons Students Write: a story about a "shape monster"

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Shape "Monsters"
at Night

creating an illustrated book inspired by shapes

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by NumberFix Coordinator, Holly Young, who designed it for first grade learners. Check out Holly's Making Mathematicians website.

This lesson was proposed to NumberFix using this template. If you have a math/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Holly Young, our NumberFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview & Objective:

This lesson uses Scaredy Squirrel’s night time adventures and fears as a model for students to create their own books that review recognizing polygons and their properties as well as introducing the concept of area and practicing sums. The lesson should be spread out over several days, taking approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to completely teach.

Essential Understandings for this Lesson:

  • I can use, draw, and name many different polygons.
  • I can add up numbers to show how much space a shape takes up.
  • I can write interesting words to help make a story.

Writing skills to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Organization (beginning the writing with a strong introduction; ending the writing with a satisfying conclusion by linking the conclusion back to the introduction)
  • Word Choice (using precise nouns to assist the reader’s understanding; incorporating interesting adjectives into the writing; using strong verbs to keep the sentences interesting)

Materials List:

Setting the Stage:

Students should have been introduced to polygons (all the pattern block shapes) and have had instruction on adding numbers.

Teacher Instructions:

  • Have students read the "I Can..." Poster/Overhead together. I like to have them discuss what words they already know in the "I Can..." statements. Briefly review the word polygon.
  • Show the cover of the mentor text. Ask students to talk with a partner about what they think Scaredy will be afraid of at night. Ask them to give some predictions and reasons why they predict that particular fear.
  • Read Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Mélanie Watt to the students, stopping and examining the pages where Scaredy sees his scary monsters at night and then turns on the lights.
  • Ask the students to discuss in partners what they are afraid of at night. When they are finished, I handed the students page two of the scaredy book template and had them write their ideas down encouraging them to choose interesting words to finish the sentence. They shared their writing with a partner.

  • I handed out page four of the scaredy book template to the students. Each student was given two of each shape of pattern block. We reviewed and discussed each shape as a class. I showed them the pages from Scaredy Squirrel at Night again where he pictures monsters’ outlines in the dark. I asked the students to use any combination of their pattern blocks to create a shape inside one of the boxes on page four of their book. I asked them to then trace around the outside of the shape that they made. They then moved their blocks off to the side (keeping the same shape that they just traced). We looked at the traced shape and decorated it to look like a monster. If students finished before others, I asked them to use their left-over pattern blocks to create another monster in the other box on the page, trace it, move the shapes, and decorate the outlined shape. Below is first-grader Rhiannon's page four from her book.
  • When students had created at least one monster, I handed them page three of the scaredy book template and encouraged them to draw a picture in each box of what they would do to stay awake. They had to go back and write words for each picture. I allowed students to complete as many boxes as they wanted which allowed for students moving more quickly to complete more and not have to wait for others.
  • Once students had completed a few boxes on what to do when trying to stay awake, I handed out page five from scaredy book template. Students had to re-create their first outlined monster with the pattern blocks in the first box. This time, I modeled tracing around each individual shape, which I asked them to do. They were also asked to label each shape in their drawing from the polygon names I had written on the board. Once again, students could complete their second monster if they finished more quickly than the rest of the class. Students shared their labeled drawings with a partner, checking to see if they had labeled the shapes correctly. Below is first-grader Rhiannon's shape monster.

  • At this point, I gently introduced the concept of area and how much space an object takes up. I handed out page 6 to the students and told them that a triangle takes up 1 space. I showed them, that by cutting 2 triangles, I can show that a square would take 2 spaces. Also, I told them that the tan rhombus took up 1 space (in reality the square and skinny rhomus don’t measure exactly 2 and 1 respectively, but they are close enough for this age level and discussion). Armed with this knowledge, I asked the students to work in groups to decide how much space the blue parallelogram, trapezoid, and hexagon would take up. They were to write their answers on the paper. I then asked for volunteers to come up and show with overhead pattern blocks how they decided the area of each space. The blue parallelogram is 2, the trapezoid is 3 and the hexagon is 6. I encouraged students to find other ways to describe how they came up with the areas of each of the shapes. (For example, 6 triangles make the hexagon 1+1+1+1+1+1 or two trapezoids 3+3).
  • I asked students to estimate the area of their own monster without doing any calculations. We discussed reasonable estimations.
  • Next, I passed out page seven of the template and had students make their monster with pattern blocks again. Then I showed them how to pull them apart and write the area of each shape and add them up. Most students chose to use calculators to check their work. We discussed if our answers were close to our estimates. I asked students to think about what shapes they would need to have in their monster if they wanted a big area and discuss their thinking in a group. We discussed their answers as a whole class group. Below is Rhiannon's calculation from her book.

  • Students were then given page eight of the book. I asked them to think of an interesting way to finish the book. I pointed out how the conclusion tied to the introduction and provided a satisfying ending to the book. Below is first-grader Caleb's conclusion from his book.


  • When students were finished writing, I gave them page one and asked them to design a cover for their book. Here is first-grader Carson's cover.


A Complete Student Sample:

Caleb, a first grader, shares his complete book below. If you click on the images, you can see the pages in larger form.


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