Metric Measurement Lessons
Teaching students about the metric system can be a hands on experience combining games, activities, and projects.
By Cathy Neushul
Measurement is something that all elementary school students are required to learn about, but it doesn't have to be boring or routine. Say, for example, you are going to teach your students about the metric system. You might first want to go into a discussion of the history of different forms of measurement. It's interesting that the United States is only one of a few countries that hasn't adopted the metric system as its official form of measurement. You can discuss how this might be a problem when a country using a certain measurement system sells products to a country that uses a different system. You can brainstorm some of the difficulties that might arise.
A good way to start learning about the metric measurement may be to give students a chance to visualize what a centimeter looks like, and a gram feels like. As a warm up, students could measure things in the classroom, or on the playground. They may enjoy finding out how many kilograms their book weighs, or how many meters long the handball court is.
Once they've grasped the basics of the measurement system, and are familiar with the terms used, they can go on to metric lessons that reinforce their understanding. I've included some lessons below that I found particularly motivating. There is one in which students engage in a classroom Olympics: the javelin is a plastic straw, and the high jump is done along a classroom wall. By adding a little extra to the typical metric lesson, you can make it easy for students to remember and understand measurement systems.
Measurement: It Takes Ten: This lesson provides a great way to give students a thorough overview of the metric system. It comes with a song, worksheets, and posters to go with the various activities. Some of the suggested activities include the marble grab, car race, and cotton ball throw. In each of the activities, students learn about a specific type of metric measurement. The lesson provides a lot of information, and also is a lot of fun.
Can You Measure Up? This lesson helps students learn how to measure in centimeters and meters. It provides a variety of activities, and a helpful worksheet, to get student making comparisons. By the end of the lesson, students should have a clearer understanding of whether to use centimeters or meters in any given situation.
Metric Olympics: In this lesson students compete in a classroom Olympics while learning about the metric system. The lesson comes with great ideas for the different events, and provides a worksheet for tallying results. Quite a fun way to learn about metric measurement.
Measuring Up: In this lesson students use online tools to convert measurements from standard English measurement to the metric system. It provides a way to compare common objects, like a milk carton, using both standard units and the metric system.
Playground Measurement: This lesson covers the basics of metric measurement, but offers a whole lot more as well. It comes with handouts asking students to estimate the length and width of common playground objects. Students then have to measure these objects to see whether they were correct. It also comes with worsheets for building log houses, another way to reinforce measurement skills.