Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Approach to Teaching Linear Measurement

This week in math we have started to look at measurement (linear) as our main focus of study. It has been three years since I last taught this unit as my teacher candidates have taught it the past two.  Now measurement isn't typically a difficult unit to teach, and the children usually enjoy it. But since I'm having a year of really mixing it up I figured it was time I mixed this up too.

Getting Smaller by Kaptain Kobold
I've been thinking a lot about how I can give my students choice in how to practice and show me that they understand linear measurement.   In the past we've all done the same activity at the same time - a one shot lesson that is changed each day. Yes, the lessons were open ended but I was in charge of telling everyone what to do and they did it. This year I want to give them more choice.

So my brain started spinning as I came up with different ways for my students to practice and show their knowledge. I wanted to have activities that were very hands on, activities that included the technology we have available to us, and activities that were more structured.   My students will also have the choice of working on their own or with a partner or small group.  Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Build a Home for a Bear - in this station the students  will build a home, using blocks (or some other item if they chose) that is large enough to house one of our stuffed reading buddies. Once the home is complete the student will measure the dimensions of the home.  There is an option to use a camera to record the house, and then label the house with its measurements. Or this recording can be done just by voice, on a white board, on paper or in what ever way works best for the student(s).
  2. Cover the Metre Stick - in this station the students will spin a spinner then measure the corresponding item.  With that measurement the student will stack items along a metre stick equivalent to the item measured. They will continue to build alongside of the metre stick until it's covered.
  3. Magic Number iMovie - in this station the students will chose a specific length (say 10 cm, or 20 cim) and find objects around the room that are that length. They will then take a photo of that object. Once enough objects are found, and there are enough photos they will create a simple movie in iMovie. They will be able to add their voices to the movie to explain what they did.
  4. Watch Me Measure - in this station the students will find objects of their choice to measure. They will measure and take a picture of what they have measured. They will add these pictures to the Educreations app and write a sentence to go with their picture stating what they measure, and how long (short, high, tall etc..) the object is. Adding voice is also an option. Once the photos are collected and documented this can be added to their individual blog.
  5. Measure Me - in this station the students will trace their body (or that of a friends) on REALLY BIG paper. Then they will measure different parts of their body and record it on their life sized version of them selves.
  6. Looking for Objects - in this station the students will have a paper with specific lengths on it. They will have to go around the room and find items that fit under each specific length.
So there you have it, those are the six stations I've come up with.  But the thing is, I don't want to tell my students which station to go to. I don't want to rotate them either.  I just want them to be able to chose.  

When I was telling a colleague about my plan she wondered if I had considered a tic tac toe type board to ensure that my students try more than one station. I did think about that but the more I thought about it the more I really wanted them to do all the choosing. If they want to work all week doing the same job, getting better or more in depth with it, who am I to stop them because my ultimate goal is to have my students measure. How they chose to learn the skill is up to them.

So on Thursday I will be sharing these stations with them. I have no idea how it's going to go. I know that I'll be busy helping them get started, and I'm sure there will be a few that will need guidance.  And if I find someone can't handle this freedom, I will be there for them too.  It will be a good lesson in self regulation.

Wish me luck, I hope that in a little while I'll be able to post how fantastic everything went, and if not then at least I'll have something to share.

I'm curious, have you ever tried something like this? Or do you have some great linear measurement ideas I should try? Mass and volume are coming next.


  1. Karen,

    I love how you are so dedicated to providing choice to your students so that they are engaged and love the learning that they do. These stations allow students to be creative, and also give them the opportunity to integrate technology. Great ideas!

    Thank you also for the idea of the "oops game"- I will be sharing the idea with my fellow teacher candidates in our literacy class. It's a great game for engaging the students in practicing sight words!

    Take care,

    1. Thanks Betty. I think my students will really like them too but only time will tell. It will be good to report back no matter what happens though.

      Choice should have been my professional word for the year.

      I'm also happy to read that you are going to be sharing the "oops" game. It's still very popular in my room but I must admit I did not invent the game. I wish I could tell you who told me about it but I can't. Please come back to visit any time.