Ordering Leaves from Shortest to Longest
Ordering leaves from shortest to longest is a fun measurement activity to do with young children during the autumn or any time. Children love collecting leaves and they also enjoy comparing them by a range of different attributes such as their colour, length, size, etc. Before teaching children how to measure using standard units such as inches, centimetres, feet or meters, children should have experience comparing lengths so that they can understand what the measurement of length is, and how to think about what is long or short (relatively speaking).
Younger children in nursery or preschool can begin comparing the lengths of two leaves with the introduction of vocabulary, such as long, longer, longest, short, shorter, and shortest. Then you can move on to comparing 3 leaves. Children familiar with stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears may make links with the terms small, medium, and large or alternatively you could introduce this vocabulary. Then children can move on to comparing lengths of lots of leaves or other objects before beginning to measure them.
Children may not always do a ‘fair’ comparison. If the objects they are comparing do not start from the same place, you may want to have them compare heights. Then show them how you can put one person on one step and someone else on the step above. Is that a fair comparison?!! No, of course it isn’t! Just like when you compare heights, when you compare lengths you also need to have both objects compared from the same point. This will also help when they begin to actually perform measurement and then they will need to start measuring an object at the same point.
What you need
- A large variety of leaves
- Flat surface (protected from the wind)
Questions to ask
- Which is longer? Which is shorter? How do you know?
- This is long but which is the longest? Why?
- Is that fair (a fair comparison)? Why or why not?
- How can you check to make sure?
What they get from it
Children will be able to develop vocabulary related to lengths such as long, longer, longest and short, shorter, shortest. This will also help prepare them for measuring with nonstandard and then standard units. If this activity is done as part of a small group, the children will have the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills such as resolving conflicts and working collaboratively.
Shortest to Longest – Take it further
Once children are in school and have had lots of different experiences comparing lengths, they can move onto measuring with non-standard and then standard units. See my post on making 1 foot and 1 meter (coming soon) with sticks as a way of making children familiar with what these units of lengths look like.
Children can also sort leaves based on their colour or other attributes. See my post on Autumn Leaf Activities for Children.