“Who can give me an example of a prime number?”


“Good.  Now, who can give me an example of a composite number?”



Okay…are you bored yet?  Because I am, and that’s just from typing the imagined class “discussion.”

As much as I love PBL, there are times when I need to make sure my students are understanding some basic terms or concepts.  Sure, I could just ask them basic, rote,  level one questions (click HERE to learn more about Depth of Knowledge levels) or I could get them active and engaged.

How?  Look no further than Floor Venn Diagrams.   

Why Floor Venn Diagrams work:

  1. Students get to use tangible objects, flexible seating (mine all chose to spread out on the floor), and become actively involved.
  2. Students need to engage higher level thinking to not just classify, but create classification system
  3. Teacher can easily rotate and observe to determine student understanding
  4. There are many ways to mix up the concept so it doesn’t become boring

Below I have outlined specific steps on how I used Floor Venn Diagrams in my math class, along with Alternate Versions to mix-it up!

Step One:  Get big circles

floor venn 1On the day that the pictures in this post were taken, I honestly took the 5 minutes between my students transitioning classrooms to cut and a tie a few big loops out of yarn.  Are you a super-planner?  Then feel free to get fancy and bring in some hula hoops!

Step Two: Make classification labels

With my loops created, I now needed something for my kids to classify.  I knew I wanted to review some math terms we had learned yesterday, but instead of just writing the definition I made some quick slips of paper with different numbers on them.

Step Three:  Let students organize

floor venn 2

I let my students work in groups on this because I wanted to encourage discussion.  This part is important:  LET THE STUDENTS CREATE THEIR OWN ORGANIZATION SYSTEM! I knew I wasn’t going to give them the classification requirements, so I wanted them to be able to talk out the process with peers.

When I passed out the loops and number slips to my students, I explained the rules:

“I want you to think of classification rules on your own.  An example might be: ‘Prime Numbers’ and ‘Numbers with 4 as a Factor.’  Then, organize the numbers you have in your Venn Diagrams based on the rules you chose.”

Need to keep data?  Have a checklist with the CCSS you are reviewing across the top and the student names down the side.  Rotate to different groups and have them explain their organization system. You will be looking to see that (1) they chose valid rules and (2) they organized correctly.  Watching them work lets me know who truly understood the concepts and who didn’t.

Mix it up #1:  Vocabulary Terms

Instead of numbers, give the students slips of paper with vocabulary terms on it.  Again, make them classify the terms based on their own rules.  Some examples could be: “Adjectives vs. Non-Adjectives” or “Positive vs. Negative Connotation.”

Teaching Tip:  From personal experience, I would add a disclaimer that the rules cannot be based on spelling.

Mix it up #2:  Different Number of Loops = Easy Differentiation

Do you have students who could benefit from a challenge?  Encourage them to use THREE loops.

Do you have students still struggling to grasp a concept?  Have them use one loop and one rule, focusing on what fits the rule and what doesn’t.

Mix it up #3:  Find the Mistake

Have students write labels for each of their Venn Diagram loops.  Then, tell them to purposefully misplace one of their slips of paper.  For example, if they were sorting numbers and one of their rules was “Fractions Equivalent to 3/4,” maybe they would stick “8/12” in there as their mistake.

Next, switch with another group and try to determine which label is misplaced!

Mix it up #4:  What’s the Rule? 

After students have classified their terms, have them switch spots with another group.  Can they determine the other group’s classification rules just by analyzing the data?  This game adds rigor to the previous game suggestion, Find the Mistake.


Click HERE to download my free guide on how to use Floor Venn Diagrams with all subject areas!