In or On the Cup: Where Is the Square?


  • To understand the concepts of in and on
  • To be able to correctly use the positional words of in or on
  • To reinforce the names of geometric shapes

Children's books (see Literature Suggestion).
For each child: 1 paper cup and a small paper circle, square, rectangle, triangle.

in on
circle square
rectangle     triangle

Literature Suggestion
Read There Was a Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsey and Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats. Help children notice the positions of the animals: in or on.

Reinforce the vocabulary for shapes by playing "Name the Shape." Place paper circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles into a cup. Put your hand over the top of the cup and give it a shake. Invite a child to reach into the cup, pull out one shape, and name it. The first child should then put the shape back into the cup, give the cup a shake, and ask another child to take and name a shape.


  • Tell children that they are going to play "In the Cup or On the Cup." Demonstrate the concepts of in and on using the paper shapes and the cup. Take the square, hold it up, put it in the cup, and say, "The square is in the cup." Ask children where the square is. (in the cup) Remove the square, flip the cup over, place the square on the cup and say, "The square is on the cup." Ask children where the square is. (on the cup)
  • Repeat the activity with all of the shapes.
  • When children are comfortable with the experience, have them take turns giving the directions.
  • Teacher Tip: Check to ensure that child is hearing the difference between the sounds.
Play the game using different containers such as boxes, pots and pans, and the classroom bookcase. You may also want to add three-dimensional shapes such as spheres and cubes to the mix of items.

Observation Assessment

  • Proficient - Child can easily identify whether items are in or on a container.
  • In Process - Child participates, but frequently looks for help or prompts when asked whether items are in or on a container.
  • Not Yet Ready - Child does not yet tell whether items are in or on a container.

Excerpted from School Readiness Activity Cards. The Preschool Activity Cards provide engaging and purposeful experiences that develop language, literacy, and math skills for preschool children.

If you need to teach it, we have it covered.

Start your free trial to gain instant access to thousands of expertly curated worksheets, activities, and lessons created by educational publishers and teachers.

Start Your Free Trial

Follow us on:

Follow TeacherVision on Facebook
Follow TeacherVision on Google Plus


December Calendar of Events
December is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum! Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event. Happy holidays!

Bullying Prevention Resources
Bullying can cause both physical and emotional harm. Put a stop to classroom bullying, with our bullying prevention resources. Learn how to recognize several forms of bullying and teasing, and discover effective techniques for dealing with and preventing bullying in school.

Conflict Resolution
Teach your students to how resolve conflict amongst themselves without resorting to name-calling, fights, and tattling.

Immigration Resources
Studying immigration brings to light the many interesting and diverse cultures in the world.