Fill A Bucket 5th Grade Volume of Prisms

This 5 day mini math unit is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and can be used as an introduction to the study of volume of right rectangular prisms or be used as a culminating activity. Sometimes, teaching volume can be intimidating for teachers and students. Teaching volume is an integral part of the math curriculum for 5th grade - especially volume of right rectangular prisms. Indeed, it is a Common Core State Standard “Critical Area” in math (To find Critical Areas that you should be sure to teach, look at the introduction to your CCSS grade level math standards. There are 3 areas for 5th grade.


Luckily, teaching volume means that we get to see the math with hands-on materials. Making sure that students can touch and manipulate real life materials makes volume come alive and is essential for language learners to make sense of the concept of volume as made up of layers of arrays of cubes.

This 5 day mini unit can be used as an introduction to the study of volume of right rectangular prisms or be used as a culminating activity. The unit is good for exploration of the concept and the bucket filling game can be used over and over to practice the concept of composing and decomposing volume of right rectangular prisms (i.e. box shapes). See the chart below for pacing.

This unit is specially designed with language learners in mind because it includes a language objective in addition to content objectives, identifies key vocabulary, supports students in discussing their mathematical thinking in pairs, includes visuals, the use of hands-on materials and more! The unit is grounded in children’s literature and builds social skills and a caring classroom community. Students will practice filling others’ buckets (by giving compliments) and then calculate and compare the volumes of their buckets. Enjoy!
:-), Trish

Pacing Guide

Lesson 1 - Students are introduced to volume of right rectangular prisms and compare volumes of 2 right rectangular prisms.

Lesson 2 - Students relate the concept of volume to their own invisible “feeling buckets” through literature.

Lesson 3 - Students work in small groups to build or “compose” a right rectangular prism and measure it with unit cubes.

Lesson 4 - Students play the “Fill a Bucket” game by giving compliments to members of their small group and filling their bucket with unit cubes gaining practice with composing right rectangular prisms.

Lesson 5 - Students solve 2 volume problems and have a “math conversation” about their strategies using key vocabulary.

Sheltering Strategies for Language Learners

Common Core Math Critical Area
Grade 5, Critical Area 3: Decompose three-dimensional shapes and find volumes of right rectangular prisms by viewing them as decomposed into layers of arrays of cubes.

Content Objectives: I can recognize volume as an attribute of solid figures and understand concepts of volume measurement. (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.C.3 ). I can find the volume of a right rectangular prism with whole-number side lengths by packing it with unit cubes (CCSS.Math.Content.5.MD.C.5a). I can measure
volume with a cube with side length 1 unit, called a "unit cube," that has "one cubic unit" of volume. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.C.3.A
I can measure volumes by counting unit cubes, using cubic cm, cubic in, cubic ft, and improvised units. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.C.4

Language Objective: I can work with a partner to explain my thinking, strategies, and solution and use the key vocabulary in my explanation.

Key Vocabulary
volume, right rectangular prism, unit, cube, combined, compare/comparison, length, width, height, compliments, giving compliments, tally, array, face, capacity.

Vocabulary Teaching Strategies: Use pictures/clipart/animation in the presentation; model the key words using gestures and body motions when introducing the game and interacting with groups.

Connecting to Prior Knowledge/Providing Background Information:
Volunteers share what they know about volume from their lives. Read aloud “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Rath & Reckmeyer utilizing a document camera to project the text.

Hands-On Materials:
30 boxes of various sizes, Small containers (with a 2 cm x 2 cm base) (see template following Lesson 4), 1 cm x
1 cm unit cubes (at least 12 cubes per student), markers (1 per pair)

Meaningful Practice
Students will build a model of their “bucket” volume by filling a small paper “bucket.” Pairs will explain how they solved volume problems using key vocabulary.

Open-Ended Questions:
As students work, ask the following questions to elicit higher-order thinking and understanding of the relationship between mathematical concepts.
1) What would happen to your bucket if you kept track of filling and emptying it all day?
2) What do you think the volume of our whole class bucket would be if we kept track all day?
3)What strategies did you use to solve the problems?

Constant Assessment
Ask open-ended questions related to the objective (e.g. “How do you know...” “How will you know if you are right?” etc. ) Ask individual students a question they would need to answer with a key vocabulary word using the target words in their explanations: “How did you figure out the volume?” “Can you tell me about the arrays in
your bucket?” etc.

Do you have questions?  Contact me directly at

This item is also available at Teachers Pay Teachers.



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