If you’re looking for fun ways to teach volume to 5th graders, look no further! There are so many engaging, hands-on activities and lessons that you can easily use to help your students understand volume. Having hands-on manipulatives and tools available will help your students with spatial reasoning and I’m sharing ways to use these tools while teaching how to solve for volume. Plus, I’ve created a free, hands-on activity to help your students practice solving for the volume of a rectangular cube!
Review Calculating Area
When you’re getting ready to teach volume, you’ll want to do a quick review to ensure your students understand area and how to calculate it using the formula length x width = area. Mastering the concept of area is key before moving on to calculating volume. Students will need to understand that the area of an object is the space occupied by a flat object or 2D shape. If you need to help students brush up on measurements and conversions, be sure to check out this post!
You can grab this fun spin and solve game for a quick refresher on calculating area!
Once students have mastered the concept of area and can easily calculate the area of a shape or object, you can introduce the concept of volume. Volume is simply adding another dimension to the calculation of area. Now you’re ready to teach volume!
Introducing the Concept of Volume
A great interactive activity to link these two concepts is to tell your students to pretend that they must assist in measuring to have new flooring installed in your classroom. Flooring will be applied to just one surface of the classroom – your floor. Have your students work in small groups to calculate the area of your classroom. (This works really well if your room has 12×12 floor tiles!). Once they have successfully calculated the area you can move on to calculating the volume.
I like to introduce volume as the amount of space something takes up or the amount that an object can hold. You’re ready to ask your students to calculate the volume of the room – you could create any type of silly scenario like you want to fill the entire classroom with slime. How many cubic feet of slime will be needed in order to fill the entire room?
Now you can introduce the volume formula to your students. Volume is simply the measure of how much space an object takes up. It is measured in cubic units, such as cubic inches, cubic feet, or cubic meters. You can use the length and width of the room from your flooring activity and then show them how you will also need to multiply those figures by the height of the room to find the volume.
This anchor chart provides a great visual with the empty rectangular prism and the cube. Creating something similar to have visible while students are learning the volume formula will help them stay confident as they work.
Tools For Teaching Volume
If you’re ready to let your students work on their own or with small groups to calculate volume, it would be a great time to give them some hands-on activities. Hands-on is a great instruction method for teaching how to find the volume of an object. When students are able to put their hands on the units of measure and actually count the units within an object, it can help tremendously with their understanding of the concept of volume.
One of the simplest ways for students to understand volume in a hands-on application is by using cubes. You probably have some type of learning cube in your classroom. Try using centimeter cubes, unifix cubes, or any other cube manipulative you have on hand. Any type of cube will work as long as students can physically count the cubes as they build their shape.
You can start with drawings of images and then allow students to create those 3D objects using the cubes. This helps them understand the terms “length, width, and height” as they physically construct the item and build out those measurements. This activity works well as a whole group activity so that you can guide students through creating each object.
If you don’t have access to cubes or would like another option for hands-on practice, consider using clay or molding dough. Give students specific measurements for a cube or rectangular prism. After they have created their object, ask them to calculate the volume of the object.
Free Inquiry-Based Volume Activity
Once the concept has been introduced and you’ve practiced with some hands-on exercises, it’s time for some independent and small group work! I’ve created a really simple, but engaging inquiry activity to give students plenty of practice in finding volume. This activity is easy to implement by simply allowing students to calculate the volume of rectangular prisms in your classroom. You can either build these ahead of time using your manipulatives or choose items around the classroom. Some suggestions for items to use:
- Different sized books
- Whiteboard eraser
- Storage containers
- Bookshelves/cubby shelves
- Boxes of supplies (paperclips, staples, etc)
Once you have objects selected, allow students to work independently or with partners to solve for the volume of each object. You can use this as a center activity or “solve the room” exercise and have students rotate to different objects.
Why Volume is an Important Concept to Teach
One of the most important reasons for students to learn how to calculate volume is so that they can understand volume in real-world situations. Once students can calculate volume, they can solve for variables as well. For example, if a student is given the volume of a rectangular prism, they would be able to solve for the dimensions of the prism if they are given only two out of three dimensions. This is an important skill for students to have when working with volume problems.
Another real-world application for volume is when dealing with liquids. Students need to know how much space a certain volume of liquid will take up in order to figure out how many containers they will need and what size those containers should be. By understanding volume, students will be able to measure accurately and easily solve for variables.
As your students progress in their understanding of volume, ask them to solve real-world problems. You could ask them to help calculate how much would fit into a moving box. Ask them how much water would be needed to fill a swimming pool. These types of problems will really challenge your students and help them see the importance of calculating volume.
There are so many fun ways to teach volume, and these are just a few suggestions for hands-on practice. Be sure to explore what works best for your students and have fun with it! Volume is an important skill that all students should be able to understand. With a little creativity, you can make it a fun and engaging topic for your class.
Be sure to grab the free inquiry activity above! You can let me know in the comments how it was helpful to your students!