Measurement Activities for the Active Classroom

Measurement Activities for the Active ClassroomTeaching measurement is  a staple of elementary education. If students want to be able to build, bake, or sew, they will need to know how to measure.

In our previous post, we discussed our step-by-step path for teaching measurement.

  • Step #1: Introducing Concrete Knowledge (using real, hands-on measuring tools)
  • Step #2: Pictorial Learning or using pictures to help identify and deepen understanding of measurement. (You may remember that we talked about how the Measurement Lapbook may be able to help with this part of the learning process!)
  • Step #3: Abstract Examples (real-world examples, activities, games, word problems, and general skill application)

We also introduce the first 2 of 4 new ideas for activities you can use in the classroom to work on measurement.

First, we introduced you to the Container Comparison Challenge to work on capacity, and then we gave you the steps for the Classroom Supply Guessing Game to work on weight. If you are intrigued with these names, and you want the step-by-step breakdown of each of these activities, they can be found in this post!

Today, we are going to go even deeper into measurement practice with two additional activity ideas you can use to challenge students as they hone their measurement skills. The Measurement Scavenger Hunt will get students up and moving around the room as they try to figure out the answer to the measurement clues you provide, and the Tool-Free Team Challenge will give students the opportunity to consider how they might measure something if regular tools aren’t available.

So, without further ado…let’s get measuring!

The Measurement Scavenger Hunt

Using only measurement clues, students will go on a scavenger hunt!

Step #1: Decide what items you want students to find or identify 

Consider what types of measurement-related clues you may use to describe the item. Perhaps you have a couple of cups of water around the room. One cup may be holding coffee, which will have a different temperature than the cup with water that was left from the day before and now has room-temp liquid in it. It also may be a pint-size cup or a single cup size portion. 

Pick 5 items you will describe through measurement clues.

Step #2: Write up your clues

Try to only give clues relating to measurement. If I was to describe the decorative photo sitting above my desk, I may say it is 2 feet, 3 inches long and 8 inches wide and 1 inch deep. It’s external temperature matches that of the room, and weighs 1.86 pounds.

If I am trying to get them to guess the flower vase on the window, I may say that it is 7 inches tall and ranges from 3 inches wide to 1.5 inches wide (as it is slightly cone-shaped) it holds approximately 3 cups, and its contents are about 66 degrees.

Remember, the number of items and clues will directly correlate with how long the activity is, so consider this as you make up your clues. Also, consider planting items in the room so there is more than one cone-shaped item, or more than one item that would register as warm, etc. This gives students a chance to use their measuring tools.

Step #3: Group students and pass out materials

Decide how you want to group students. We recommend no more than 3 students per group if possible.

You will also want to pass out either the first clue card to each group, or a whole deck of clue cards to each group.

In one version of this game, you can hide the clues with the found objects, taking on a true ‘scavenger hunt’ option of the game. Another option is to give students all the clues at the beginning, and let them work in whatever order they want.

Step #4: Documentation

Decide how you want students to document the items they find. You can have students take pictures with the item, answer a question about the item, document the item on a piece of paper, create a scale drawing of the item, etc.

Step #5: Start the hunt

Once you’ve made all the decisions, grouped students, and handed out the items to get started, you are ready to go. 

Variations and Ideas:

  • As you try this in your classroom, have students create some of their own items to integrate into the hunt. If a student gets done with a lesson early, have them go get the measurements of another item in school that you can use in a scavenger hunt in the future.
  • Get feedback from students after the hunt to see where they struggled and how your hunt can be adapted or improved.
  • Expand the hunt outside the classroom to include other rooms in the school.
  • Make your scavenger hunts themed based on different times of the school year. Do a holiday measurement hunt or a teacher coffee mug hunt.

What we love most about the Measurement Scavenger Hunt is that you can use any item in any room at any time, and even if students don’t find the exact items you have in mind, they are still getting a chance to use their measurement tools along with general problem solving to complete the activity.

The Tool-Free Team Challenge

Measurement Activities for the Active ClassroomHave you ever baked a cake, but couldn’t find your teaspoon anywhere? How do you know how much salt to add to your cake? In this Tool-Free Team Challenge, students will be faced with scenarios like this one, and they will have to problem-solve their way through it.

Step #1: Pick your challenge(s)

Decide on a series of questions or challenges to use with students that will require them to measure something without the proper measurement tools.

Some ideas for challenges would be…

  • Cut a piece of paper to meet certain dimensions.
  • Fill a cup to a certain weight with beads or pebbles
  • Identify how much fabric will be needed to make a pillow case.
  • Figure out how many books will fit on the bookshelf.
  • Make a race track for your toy cars that is so many yards long.
  • Measure a series of spices to a predetermined amount

Once you’ve determined the challenge, type-up the challenge on a sheet of paper that can be handed to students. All students in the class can do the same challenge, or you can have groups do different challenges.

Step #2: Divide students into teams

Decide what size of teams you want students to work in, and then divide them up.

Once they’ve been grouped, give them all of their normal measurement tools and one sheet of note paper.

Step #3: 3 Minutes to tool-free 

Give students 3 minutes to examine the tools and decide how they might measure things without them. 

Tell your students that in 3 minutes you will be taking their tools away from them, so using only their pencils, their one note sheet they will have to solve either one challenge or a series of challenges that will require them to do some measuring. Within the next 3 minutes they will need to come up with some ways to measure, with only their bodies, their pencils, and their one sheet of note paper.

Example: The distance between the tip of the thumb and the first knuckle is about one inch or a pile of salt in the cupped part of your palm equals about one teaspoon. The systems of measurement will be different from one person to another or one team to another. 

Note: The goal is not that every group will have the same systems. The goal is that they will find something that will work for them, and then later, if they are ever working on a test where they are asked about the measurements, they will have a reference on their person.

Step #4: Start the challenge

Hand out the sheets with the challenge, and let students get to work completing it. Try not to help as students work through this. Just give them enough time to complete the challenge, and observe what methods they use. 

Recommendation: Students are going to complete challenges at a lot of different times. Rather than picking a set number of challenges that each group will complete, have the materials ready for 4-5 challenges, and tell students they will have a half-hour to complete as many challenges as they can. That way no matter if a group is moving quickly or slowly, they will stay working the whole time.

Step #5: Review the challenge

After the time is up or students have completed the challenge, review the results as a class. Talk as a full class about what measurement-replacements they came up with, and see how accurate they were.

Review what worked and what didn’t work, and talk with groups about what they may do differently the next time.

Variations and Ideas

  • Do the same exact challenge again at some point, and see if students are more accurate.
  • Create stations with grain, sand, or small beads to do capacity-based challenges. 
  • Have students do paper-cutting challenges, and then reveal all the different cut-outs at the same time and have students vote on which version they think is most accurate.
  • Set aside one day for a temperature-based challenge. This is much harder to set-up and come up with measurement-replacement ideas for, so it may be a good one-time thing.
  • Put together an outdoor challenge when the weather is nice, so students can do challenges with dirt, chalk, and sticks.

Measurement activities can be a lot of fun, but we have to think outside the box, get students moving, and think about how we can use every day items to really make the most out of our measurement unit.

Remember, activities like The Container Comparison Challenge, Classroom Supply Guessing Game, Measurement Scavenger Hunt, and the Tool-Free Team Challenge are not where we start instruction. For that we strongly recommend the Measurement Lapbook,  but these activities are a great way to continue building on the fundamentals of measurement. 

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