Teaching measurement to Kindergarten children- From the beginning
Teaching measurement to Kindergarten children can be a challenge as many children will come to school with a wide range of experiences and understanding of measures. Some children will have a good understanding of measure, while for others, the concept may be new. I like to start teaching children about length because once children can read a scale on a ruler, it makes it easier to apply to other scales of measurement.
When I first start teaching children about measures, I begin with simple comparisons. Longer/shorter, heavier/lighter, full/empty, faster/slower. For length, you can start out with comparing the length of two objects (and then more). See my posts on ordering leaves from shortest to longest and ordering sticks by length.
Once children are secure comparing measurements, then I have them move onto measuring objects by non-standard units. This might be measuring objects with hands or feet/footsteps and then measuring with blocks or cubes. For weight, you may also use nonstandard units. For example, you may use a balance scale to see how many blocks a book weighs. I will have a post coming soon about measuring with non-standard units. These activities will build on the comparison activities by providing ‘rules’ about measuring. This includes having a ‘fair start’, so when measuring length, you begin measuring at the edge of the object (rather than starting to measure before or after).
Teaching measurement to Kindergarten children – Making meters and feet with sticks
Children need some time to become familiar with units of measure such as feet or meters, inches or centimeters. This type of activity will help them understand what one foot or one meter looks like. It is easiest to use rulers or meter sticks for this activity but you can also use a measuring tape. Then allow children to line up sticks with one of these, in order to make the length of a meter or foot. They can do this more than once and with different sticks. They can also count and see how many sticks they used to make a foot/meter. This activity is also a great activity to do with groups of children as they can support each other and work collaboratively to do it. Having time to play around to ‘make feet’ or ‘make meters’ with sticks or something else helps them get a feel for the unit of measurement.
What you need
- Measuring tape
- Ruler or measuring stick
- Sticks of different lengths
Questions to ask
- Can you use the sticks to make 1 meter / 1 foot?
- How many sticks did you use?
- Could you make 1 meter / 1 foot using more sticks? Fewer sticks?
- Could you do it a different way? Show me…
- Could we start the sticks beyond the edge of the measuring stick? Why or why not?
What they get from it
This activity gives children the opportunity to become familiar with the length of standard measurements before having to use it to actually measure objects. It also gives them the chance to see that there is more than one way to ‘solve a problem’ and that there is not always one ‘right answer’ or way to do something. Children may also do this activity in small groups which would give them the opportunity to work collaboratively. This helps them to develop interpersonal skills such as managing their feelings and behaviour and learning how to resolve conflicts. These skills will help them with academic and later life success (Konishi & Wong, 2018).
Take it further
Children can begin to practice measuring with standard units (e.g. a ruler or measuring stick) after having some practice with nonstandard units and becoming familiar with feet or meters.
Konishi, C., & Wong, T. (2018). Relationships and School Success: From a Social-Emotional Learning Perspective. In Health and Academic Achievement. Accessed 5 August 2019, www.intechopen.com/books/health-and-academic-achievement/relationships-and-school-success-from-a-social-emotional-learning-perspective