Introducing Attributes in Guided Math


We’re in the final countdown, folks. 39 instructional days until Summer Break and only 9 more instructional days until SPRING BREAK! It’s that time of year when first graders really start to take off!

Because we worked them so hard on double digit addition and subtraction these last few weeks, we were ready to take a break and move into a different type of thinking: geometry. In first grade, we are expected to be able to identify and describe shapes based on their attributes. What better way to introduce this than with some math disguised as some sneaky fun?!

Last year, I read this post on the Crazy for First Grade blog and immediately tried it with my first graders. It was such a hit that I could not wait to try it again this year. Keep reading to see how we did it in my classroom!

To begin, I introduced our text:


The book is full of many short stories but you will only need A Lost Button. Don’t have the book? No problem. One of my colleagues just pulled it up on YouTube…as we do with ANY book we are too broke to buy. 🙂 #teacherbudget

To introduce the book, I explained that we were ready to begin our geometry unit by talking about attributes. Attributes are used to help our students talk about shapes in an academic way. I did not explain what attributes were when we started. Instead, I repeated it over and over and had them echo it for me a few times. With any new vocabulary word, I call it a “college word.” This immediately makes their ears perk up and stand at attention! I explained that sometimes books do an even better job at teaching us math than TEACHERS!

We read the story and paused on a few pages. My question was always, “What attribute did Frog and Toad use to describe his lost button?” Surely enough, the kids were able to explain what attributes were by the end of the story.

When we broke into groups, I pulled out our anchor chart:


We again reviewed the attributes used in the text and then…the coveted buttons made their arrival.


We dumped the buttons onto the carpet and brainstormed some ways we could sort.


They are always expected to answer some key questions. The ones most frequently asked in this lesson were:

  1. How did you know this button belonged in this group?
  2. How did you know this button did NOT belong in this group?
  3. What was trickier/easier about sorting by this attribute

After each group had a chance to sort buttons in a variety of ways, we always referred back to the chart to discuss the attributes we used.

When we returned to whole group, we played Guess My Attribute.


To play, the students chose 3 buttons from the jar and displayed them on the document camera. From here, they did exactly as the name of the game suggests. The kids were thinking, “What is the same about these shapes?” in order to guess the attribute!

This led us PERFECTLY into our brain check for the day. Each student was given two buttons and challenged to identify key attributes and identify ways in which the buttons were similar and different. Last year, I modified this page to work for buttons and shapes but it is still completely Crazy in First Grade’s idea. Because of this, you will need to go to her page in order to download the worksheet.

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How do you introduce attributes and shapes?


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