I was looking at my metric system notes that I have been using for years and was wondering how I can jazz it up and make it more visual and interactive. My notes are a basic intro with a short class activity where the kids measure thing like their hand span and fingernail width in cm, then they use those to estimate the length of things like a pencil or their lab table. We wrap it up by finding the actual measurements and seeing who was the closest to the real length.
This is not on the handout, but while the kids are doing this activity, I have them come over to a square support column where I have a few pieces of construction paper taped vertically to it and I mark their heights in cm then put their name next to their mark. I leave that up all year long and they love to see how much they’ve grown since Sept!
Using Publisher, I opened a Brochure template but used the 4-panel fold instead of the standard 3 panel. This makes it a legal sized document (8.5 x 14). For page one, I only used the 1st column and the 4th column. In the first column I wrote “English” and placed a washed out image of the USA behind it (we are 1 out of maybe 3 countries that use it). On the 4th column, I wrote “Metric” and placed a washed out image of the French flag behind it to signify that it was created by French scientists as a standard unit of measurement around 1791.
For page 2, the columns on the left are in English units and the columns on the right are for metric units. As part of the lesson, we brainstorm all the different English units we use everyday and categorize them according to their use: mass, volume, or length. I then introduce the base unit for mass, volume and length in the metric system: gram, Liter, and meter. Then I introduce the prefixes that can be used with the base units: kilo, centi, and milli. (I mention them, but I don’t really go into deci, deca, or hecto because they are not as commonly used.)
Then I explain how you can mix and match the prefixes with the base units and I have the kids list as many as they can and we go over what they mean, as well as practice their abbreviations. For example centi + meter = centimeter (cm) and its used to measure distance (length).
At this point I pass out the rulers and we go over where the cm side is and how each number represents a cm, and the little lines between are millimeters. I have them count the small lines and they see that there are 10 mm for each cm.
Now that they are familiar with the “other side” of the ruler, I show them how to measure their hand span (pinky to thumb with fingers spread apart as much as they can), their index finger length, the width of their index fingernail, the back of their hand (make a fist and measure across the knuckles) and their foot length. (When we are all done measuring I tell them that their foot fits between their wrist and the bend of their elbow. They don’t believe me, but when they do it they think its pretty cool!)
The one thing that is different in this lesson than the original is that I am having them measure in inches, also. Mostly just for practice and that they can compare the values and see that the values for cm are larger than the values for inches.
So after we have taken those 5 measurements, I take the rulers away and they have to estimate the values for the lab table, width of paper, pencil length, width of chair, and width of a floor tile. This part is great because now they use the known values of, lets say their hand span or fingernail width, to find the unknown values of those 5 objects. (and while they are doing this, I call up one at a time to measure and mark how tall they are in cm)
Once everyone is done with their measurements, we talk about what some of our estimates are and compare values. I then hand the rulers back and they measure to find the true values. After a few minutes, I then ask for the actual measurements, one item at a time, and we see who was the closest and if anyone had it exactly! Their answers are usually pretty close!
When everyone is done, and if there is time, I’ll have them start the right side activity which is practicing and reviewing the units that we learned today. I made this handout as a way for the kids to start using metric vocabulary and to become familiar with “thinking metric”.
For the foldable, it is formatted to print out on Legal sized paper (8.5 x 14). If you have legal size printer paper and legal size copy paper, then that is a one option. If you do not, there is an option in the print menu that can shrink it to fit onto 8.5 x 11 paper. ( see next post)
- Metric Notes pdf (For this one and most of my in class activities, I would have the kids glue this into their notebooks after they have completed the lesson)
- Metric Notes Practice pdf – right side practice or hw