As I said in a previous blog Fractions in Third Grade, fractions are an abstract concept. I always start with concrete learning so that students can start to explore concepts and build learning through their own discoveries rather than teacher-driven instruction.
At this point in the third grade learning progression, the students have already learned about fractions as parts of a whole, parts of sets, and on a number line. Now through the use of student-led learning with manipulatives such as Cuisenaire Rods and expanded pattern block sets some students have already begun noticing equivalent fractions! It always makes my teacher heart happy when students start discovering concepts prior to any teacher-led instruction.
One hands-on project that I have students create is a Fraction Habitat. The concept is simple, the students fold and cut circles into various fractional parts. Then they put together the pieces into an artistic display of an aquarium or a jungle animal. The students then present their creations using their knowledge of fractional parts. It is always fun to see what creations the students can come up with using their fraction pieces!