Creative Measurement Activities for Upper Elementary

Update your measurement unit with these NEW measurement activities!

teaching measurement in upper elementaryTeaching measurement seems so easy to the outside observer, but many people forget how many elements of measurement there really are.

As upper elementary teachers, we have to teach students capacity, length, weight, and temperature, but we don’t just have to teach each of these concepts once, we often have to teach them in both customary and metric! Not only must weight be taught in both ounces and pounds, but it must also be taught in grams and kilograms! Length must be taught in inches and feet, but also centimeters and meters. Then there’s Fahrenheit and Celsius, and on and on it goes.

Let’s be honest, teaching measurement is not just about measuring, it is really about vocabulary development mixed with real-world application and repetitive use of different measurement terms. 

Three Levels of Measurement Instruction

In my classroom, I always focus on measurement in three layers, and as I built out one of my favorite measurement resources, the Measurement Lapbook, I tried to keep each of these three levels in mind.

At the beginning of our measurement unit, first we focus on concrete understanding. During this stage of learning, it is critical that students hold measuring tools in their hands, to help build a concrete understanding of each unit of measurement. For example, I bring in real items such as a baseball bat and show them how it is about the same size as a yardstick. We hold real paperclips and compare them to an inch on a ruler. We hold a key to feel the approximate weight of an ounce, etc.

To make sure students have a reference to align with this concrete level of understanding, I made sure to include all of the units of measurement, along with some measuring tools such as  paper rulers when I created the Measurement Lapbook.

Once students begin to grasp at least a little of the vocabulary, we move on to pictorial learning.

teaching measurement in upper elementaryThrough pictures I am able to start helping my more visual learners understand how the different measurements look and compare to other measurements. This is the part that I think really makes the lapbook so helpful. The Measurement Lapbook contains picture representations (such as a pineapple to equal a kilogram or a picture of a fingertip to show a centimeter), so students have both the vocabulary and visual representations to use as a reference as we continue through the unit.

Lastly, we start considering abstract examples. This includes word problems and skill application and…measurment activities!! This is where students are able to use their new measurement knowledge and apply it to real-world scenarios and their Measurement Lapbook is used as a tool to support this process.

New Measurement Activities That Engage Students

After thinking about measurement some more, the team at Undercover Classroom began to brainstorm some of the most fun ways we could practice measurement in the classroom using some of the methods we know our upper elementary students relate with: challenges, competitions, brainteasers, and physical activity.

Honestly, we didn’t just come up with one or two great ideas for activities, we came up with four

So today we are going to take you through the first two activity ideas, and then, as a special bonus, we are going to give you two additional activities in the next post.

In today’s post, you’ll learn all about how to implement The Container Comparison Challenge [Capacity] and The Classroom Supply Guessing Game [Weight].

In our next post, we’ll teach you all about two additional measurement activities: The Measurement Scavenger Hunt and the Tool-Free Team Challenge. Each of these activities can be used with a variety of measurement types.

Let’s get started with the first measurement activity.

Measurement Activity #1: The Container Comparison Challenge

Step 1: Collect and Prep Containers

In full disclosure, this particular challenge takes a bit of prep work, but after you’ve prepped it once, you can do the activity every year with little to no prep.

Start by bringing in a variety of different sized containers. I keep my eyes open for gallon, quart, pint, and cup-sized containers at the grocery store. Milk, creamer, and juice containers often come in these sizes. You can also ask students to search in their own refrigerators for containers to recycle. All of these containers can be used over and over and stored for use year after year. 

Step 2: Set Up Measurement Stations

At each station, place one gallon-sized container, one quart-sized container, one pint-sized container, and one cup-sized container. Also, provide some type of measuring substance. I have a classroom sink and usually use water, but you could also use rice, or another small, dry material. The students will be pouring the substance between containers. It’s helpful to have a tray or tub and some paper towels at each work station.

Step 3: Ask Measurement Questions

Create cards, or write on the board:

1 Pint = ? Cups

1 Quart = ? Pints

1 Quart = ? Cups

1 Gallon= ? Quarts

1 Gallon = ? Pints

1 Gallon = ? Cups

Step 4: Create Groups/Pairs

Put students in pairs or in groups and ask each group to use the measuring tools to find and record the answers to the measurement questions.

Step 5: Complete the Activity

Students can work together to pour water (or rice, etc.) between the containers to figure out the measurement conversions. Soon, they will discover that one pint holds 2 cups, one quart holds 2 pints (or 4 cups), one gallon holds 4 quarts (or 8 pints), etc. The Measurement Lapbook has a handy reference chart for customary capacity, but I prefer not to show students this chart until after they have made these discoveries on their own.

The Goal of the Container Comparison Challenge

The goal of this activity is to give students a real-world measurement experience. Holding the actual containers helps students internalize the vocabulary and see how each unit of measurement corresponds with the other units. Students now have some real visuals that they can recall when later asked about these measurements on tests.

After trying the Container Comparison Challenge, tell us what you think. What variations did you try in your classroom? How did it go? What would you do differently? We’d love to hear your answers to these questions in the comments below!

Measurement Activity #2: Classroom Supply Guessing Game [Weight]

This classroom activity is about using miscellaneous classroom supplies to practice recognizing weight.

Step 1: Pick a Measurement Type

The beautiful thing about this activity is that you can do it over and over again using different measurements related to weight.

First, pick a measurement type. Are you going to work with grams, ounces, pounds? Pick whichever one you want students to focus on for the day. 

For my example, I am going to use ounces.

Step #2: Choose a Selection of Classroom Supplies

Look around your room for objects students can use to practice that measurement. For ounces, I may use something like small beads, rice, crayon pieces, game pieces, etc.

Ideally, you will choose manipulatives or items that you could give to lots of students or groups at once.

Separate those items into small cups or containers that can easily be given to students. I love having extra muffin tins on hand to help with this part of this task.

Important: In addition to choosing manipulatives, you will also want to choose a constant. For ounces, you may use a key or something else that weighs about 1 ounce.

Step #3: Decide on Groups (or let students work individually)

Decide how many students you want in a group. I like this as a group or pair activity because having someone else to think the measurements through with is helpful. Students are also more likely to do some problem solving when working with others.

Step #4: Set the Stage for the Activity

Once you have your groups decided, enough items for every group, and a ‘constant’ item, handout all the materials to the different groups and set the stage for the activity.

Using the ‘constant’ item as a guide, each group will be trying to make groupings of the other items that equal the same weight as the constant. So in my example, the constant was a key weighing one ounce. My students will then try to get exactly one ounce of beads, one ounce of broken crayons, one ounce of rice, etc., without using a scale!

The goal is (to use a golfing term) be closest to the pin. Meaning that the group that is closest to the exact weight for each set of items wins. 

Step #5: Weighing and Tracking Scores

Keep the scale at the front of the room, and document each group’s measurements on the board. It would be great to integrate these numbers into an adding and subtracting with decimals lesson later, if that fits into your curriculum. Otherwise, it is just a way to document.

Find a way to make the game fun and maybe even a little competitive. Consider prizes or small trophies for ‘Measurement Masters’ or take photos to post on the school Facebook account. You could also create printed awards or put up a leaderboard.

Remember, this is something you can do over and over with different measurements on different days, so students will have an opportunity to steal the trophy back from another group or get their name on the leaderboard.

Options and Considerations and Additional Ideas

teaching measurement in upper elementaryYou can decide if you want students to have more than one opportunity to measure each of their groups of items. You could have them do a measurement and then go back and adjust their measurement to try to get closer, or you can set the rule that each group only gets to measure once.

If you don’t have a lot of items, you can set up stations and have students travel from center to center to work on each type of item.

Do this activity with lots of different measurement types and change out the items. 

Make this a quick bell-ringer by providing a weight and asking students to recreate that measurement with items from the room of their choosing. This wouldn’t take as long and students can do this quick version independently.

Create a laminated chart to document scores and distance from the goal. This could be something that looks like a target or even dots on a graph.

As promised we have two additional measurement ideas coming your way in the next blog post, so stay tuned for even more ideas to use during your measurement unit. If you want more information on the Measurement Lapbook, you can check it out here!

Happy Measuring!

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