To introduce the measurement unit, I start with a brainstorming activity. Students work in small collaborative groups to generate two lists (tools used for measuring and units of measure).
To get the students started in the right direction, I ask for one example unit of measurement. (feet)
The reason I am asking students to make two lists is because I find that fifth graders are comfortable talking about measurement and using measurement words, but their language is not precise and often it is inaccurate. The standard of focus of this unit, 5MD1 is about unit conversions. Before students can truly understand how to convert within a given measurement system, they have to have a conceptual understanding of the measurement systems.
Students brainstorm for about 10 minutes and then meet back together on the carpet by the white board. I have previously generated my own list, that i share with the students. We compare our lists of units of measure, I add to mine anything that I didn't think of and the students did. Then do the same with the list of tools.
After brainstorming the different units for measuring and the tools that are used to measure them, students are given a print out of each of the lists we generated on the board. They use these print outs to sort the words into categories. I have printed the tools in a larger font than the units and encourage students to use these as the headings for each of the categories. (More than one tool can go with a category ex: rulers and yard sticks are used to measure length)
When groups have sorted their measurement words into categories, I meet with them to hear their thoughts and reasonings. I help students revise their thinking if words are misplaced.
Next, I encourage each group to sort the sections into subsections using their prior knowledge about measuring. (Metric and U.S. customary). Some groups need prompting to get to this point, others are able to do this with some time for thinking.
To wrap up this introductory lesson, students create a reference sheet for measurement.
On the front, students sort U.S. Customary terms into groups: length, weight, capacity, and time (with is universal to both systems). One the back students sort metric terms into the same categories.
These references sheets are used to lead a class discussion as I create the same reference sheet on the board.
As part of the discussion, I facilitate a discussion about the word parts of metric words. Students ask questions and lead discussions about currency in different countries and the nuances in language that make learning tricky (oz and fluid oz, pint (a unit of US measurement, not metric- but also size of a glass in Europe).