I love Bill Nye and so do my kids! He has this little video introducing the metric system that supports the standard by not only introducing the idea of the metric system but using relative measurement concepts as he talks. I knew they would be excited to see it!
After the video was finished, we got our math notebooks out to write. I asked them to answer this question.
Do you think the metric system will feel like you are using a non standard method of measuring and why?
I asked this question because I want students to disseminate the idea that metric and customary measurement are the same. I noticed they think its the same system. I figured it out when I asked them about how we measure liquids. They talked about how they thought that ounces and milliters were said together. One student said as he picked up a plastic water bottle on his desk, "My water bottle is 15 ounces and 1.5 liters". The "and" caught my attention and so when I questioned him, most students agreed they should be read together. Even with parenthesis dividing the units, they thought the two units went together. I gave them a few minutes to answer their question and asked for 3 quick shares. I announce that I will use 3 quick shares before they write so that they stay focused and on task. Most of them look forward to possibly being chosen to share. My students like reading their writing aloud.
Here are two nicely written quick shares. Non Standard Measurments & Sharing ideas about metrics vs. nonstandard measurement
After our quick share with our writing, I wanted to build their metric vocabulary. We built a flipbook. While my district has the luxury of one -on- one iPads, I chose this hands -on tool because I wanted them to draw examples of each unit word as a reference. I believe this helps familiarize them with sizes and the relationships to the unit. Flip books make it fun! I decided to use different colors for different units of measurement: RED for Meters, Green for Grams, and Blue for Liters. These booklets would be very resourceful when they need to study for a test when they prove they understand relative sizes and choose units to measure those given items.
The flipbook showed only the smaller units below meters and we placed kilometers on the back as in the video. The top page was labeled "Meter", and then we went downward to mm. I didn't include Hectometer and Decimeter because they are not common units and would be hard to find a relative object without understanding the more common ones first. Decimeters are not really commonly used, but are easily understood and we included them in our curriculum. The standard lists km,m,& cm and therefore, I emphasized those units. I had explained this to the students as they made their flipbooks.
In these samples, you can see that I had instructed my students to label their booklets and then draw objects that matched the unit. For example: millimeter: one student drew an insect, another drew yarn, another drew a plant stem. For meters, students drew arms, a person and labeled the height, etc. I let them work on this in class and I roved the classroom making sure they were drawing objects that related to the unit. I could assess if they were mastering the part of the standard that expects them to identify and use the correct units relating it to the size of the object.
I closed the lesson by asking them to share what they thought it would be like if we used meters to measure everything in the United States? Most said that they thought people would be fine if we changed. They said it people would get used to it. One student said their dad said that he uses metric wrenches at work and that it is more accurate.
After our discussion, I asked them to continue filling out their booklet at home and find more examples of items that would be measured in millimeters, centimeters, decimeters or meters.