Measurement: The skill of how long, how big, how small, how much?

12 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT explore five different scientific measurement tools.

Big Idea

Measurement is a tool that can makes life easier.

Two Day Investigation

5 minutes

Due to the nature of this investigation, it must be completed over two days.  Students will not be able to gather the data and and compare the results with the time for the butterfly to grow. This is the first day of the investigation. 

It is important to call out that this investigation is not about why the reaction will happen, but the process of collecting measurements, gathering data, making comparisons and communicating those results.  

This lesson is also a beginning lesson in how all the science process skills meld together.  Up to this point, the process skills have been focused upon and taught individually.  This lesson, brings many of those skills together.  Which is really what "real" science is.  Scientists do not work on individual skills alone, they have a process or even a formula, if you will.  This is a first step in demonstrating to the children in a fun way that science can be as simple as a Dollar Store toy or as a complicated as the cure for a life threatening disease. 


10 minutes

A good story is always a fantastic hook to bring children's interests into a new lesson.   For this lesson, my story is Measuring Penny.  It a is a wonderful story about a little girl who must practice using all types of measurement tools for a homework assignment.  

I gather all the children with me at our favorite meeting place in the classroom, our rug.  I remind students to remember how to sit and respect others opportunities to listen and enjoy the language we are going to listen to.  Also, reminding them that we will read the story through completely before we discuss anything we notice or any wondering they may have.  

I begin to read and while I am reading, I will make an effort to pause each time the little girl will need to use another method to take measurements.  I really want this language of measurement to soak it.  Not only with this lesson will it  be important for us as scientists, but it will also come back full circle in math later in the year.  

One thing I really love about this book, is the way the author makes the distinction between standard and non-standard measurements.  This is so important for scientists to be able to use both types of measurements.  Which really translates to using qualitative and quantitative language.  Science and Engineering Practice 5 specifically says students should be able to " describe, measure, and/or compare quantitative attributes of different objects and display the data using simple graphs." 

This lesson is closely tied to the Cross Cutting Concept of Scale, Proportion and Quantity. Students must be able to look at an object and know whether the object is large, small, round, flat, ten inches or twenty feet.  Scientists cannot gather data to make observations, develop inferences, or compare the object to another in nature, without understanding the scale or proportion of the object. Quantity can be equally important, when looking for patterns in repeated trials, or knowing an exact measurement in inches, pounds, or grams.  All involve measurement.

After we read the story, I look at the children and say, "Wow! that story caught me off guard. How many of you were surprised by all the different methods she could use to measure Penny? Or "Was I the only one in our room who didn't know that today?" 

I wait and watch the children's reactions to either of these statements.  I want to see if they will agree with me or say anything like, "I knew you could do that."  This is a starting point for me to move forward.  In a round about way, I have just gathered data on my students measuring their background knowledge of the concept of measurement. 


10 minutes

This lesson has a different format than the typical 5E model in science delivery.  It is difficult to manage the materials for this lesson with small groups; and time does not allow to conduct the investigation singly with five or six small groups, so I choose to do this whole group. On a continuum of inquiry, this lesson falls more in the guided inquiry category than an independent inquiry lesson. 

In order for the students to complete the inquiry piece of measurement later in the lesson, they need guiding information to begin before hand. This information is critical to their understanding of what we are going to do.  

I have my laptop ready with the Measurement Power Point open to begin.  The first slide is the title slide and also includes the standard focus for the children to see. I always put the standards on my power points for the children to see. I believe it is important they understand that I am teaching them specific skills or standards because it is what is expected at our grade level.  Not simply because I choose to teach it.  This can be a life long lesson in understanding. 

Slides 2 and 3 simply explain that scientists gather data to make informed observation and inferences.  I make sure that I have taught both of these lessons before teaching this lesson. This ensures the students an opportunity to bring in their schema and feel success in knowing they have experienced both of these strategies.  

After focusing on what scientists do with measurement, it is time to look at the five major types of measurement in science.  Each slide, 4 - 8 has clean and simple pictures and text to explain what  measurement entails.  There is not a lot to this portion of the lesson, however, without explaining what the measurements are student will not be able to complete the exploration phase. 

Getting All the Numbers Lined Up!

15 minutes

With our new information in hand, we are ready to explore some measurement.  Slides 9 and 10 prepare the children for what lies ahead.  The children have seen enough of these power points to anticipate when the slide says, "Let's practice!" they know we are going to do do something.  

Slide 10 shows a package of a growing and glowing butterfly.  It is the highest quality teaching tool purchased at my local Dollar Store. This teaching tool, could be purchased in any dollar bin, discount store, or even high end toy store if need be.  They will all work the same.  

I explain to the children that we will be using this butterfly to help us practice our measuring skills.  Most children have already had some experience with these growing creatures and know what it will do or can anticipate what will happen.  They have not, however, related measurement to the activity.  

"So boys and girls, we are going to use this very expensive teaching tool, this is today a tool and not a toy.  Remember when we talked about the difference between toys and tools? Well, this is when things can get kind of murky.  This really looks like a toy, but it is going to be the center of our investigation today. We are going to measure this butterfly in so many different ways.  Almost like the little girl in the story that we ready earlier." 

"Ok, are we ready?  The first thing we are going to do is look at this paper? I am going to bring each of you a page that we are going to gather all the measurements and data on. This is going to be very important to our investigation, because we are going to record all the data on this chart.  It is going to help us to remember all that we do." 

I move to slide 11 and it shows the same color slide the children are receiving in black and white.  The black and white master is at the end of the power point.  

When I create a power point, I always insert the blacklines that relate to the lesson at the end of the slide show.  It is convenient to keep it all together and less paperwork for me to store in a filing cabinet. 

"Look at each of those little pictures in the first chart. Do the they look familiar?  Turn and talk to a partner and remind yourselves where you have seen these pictures." 

"We are going to do this investigation all together up on the document camera."

I explain to the children, that we are going to unwrap the butterfly and we are going to measure it with all the new methods we just learned.  We will write each measurement in the boxes on the chart.

I ask, "Which chart do you think would be best to write the data in, the 'before' or 'after' chart? Turn to your shoulder buddy and whisper your prediction into their ear."

"Show me with your thumbs up if you think we should document all this data in the before chart."  I gather this information in my mind as I scan the room, it is more information for me to see who is able to make a prediction

I know ahead of time that some of these measurements will not be possible to gather due to the nature of what the object is.  I want the children to witness this first hand as we go through the process. Rather than my telling them.  




15 minutes

"Alright little scientists, it is time to make some great observations and measurements.  I am going to really need your help.  I can always use extra eyes to make sure I don't miss anything."

I explain to the children that some of the measurements may be difficult for us to get. We will have to make a few adjustments and that the measurements will not be in the order that they are on the chart. 

I then demonstrate to the children how we will use a measuring cup to measure the exact amount of water for our investigation. I show them where the water line is and explain that we are not going to add any more than one cup. It is an easy way for us to measure.  I will model on my chart on the power point where to write the "2 cups" so the children can see where this will go.   

"The next measurement on the 'Before' chart says, that we need to do something with a thermometer.  Who remember what we are going to measure with this?"  

This time, I am not waiting for volunteers or even asking teams, I let the children know that it is alright for them to choral call and say the answer.  This is done in the interest of time, I would like to offer more think time, but I want to keep their attention and I know if I start and stop too many times, they will loose focus on what we are doing.   

I know that there will be an answer that is correct, and someone will volunteer the thermometer as a suggestion.  

We will get a thermometer and place it in the water.  While the thermometer is in the water, I explain that the temperature will not have a reaction instantaneously.  It might be best to leave the thermometer in the water while we measure the other types.  We will come back to it in a few moments.  

For the weight of the butterfly, we use a balance scale and measure in small blocks.  

To measure the size of the butterfly, we use a ruler.  

I suggest to the children that the best way for us to measure the time involved with this, might be to write down what time we begin and what time it will be tomorrow when we come back to see our results.  We could count the amount of hours that it takes to see our results. 

By this time, the thermometer should have recorded the temperature of the water.  Each time, we gather data, I will record and model on the chart, while the children do the same on their charts.  

The children will notice in a few moments that there is no reaction right away.  I offer up the idea that maybe we should wait over night and check it when we return in the morning.  We could revisit the measurements then and possibly see more.  

Of course, they all agree; due to their past experiences.  In the Science and Engineering practice 3, students are to gather measurements of an object to and also make predictions based on prior experiences.  Both of these practices have occurred during this part of the lesson. 

I am careful to save the power point with the day's date on it.  By doing so, I have saved all the data the children have gathered and it keeps my original power point in tact.  This will make it easy to revisit the power point the next day and allow us to add the new data and compare what has happened.