Three cheers for the fact that the season that shall not be named is done! Of course, at school that means the pace of life has at least doubled with everyone frantically trying to schedule all the end-of-year activities. For me that also means getting in those last important lessons before our state standardized testing begins in – gulp! – one month! Wasn’t it just August?!
Converting Units of Measure
Not long ago my students learned how to convert units of measure in both the customary and metric systems. As we were working on our lessons, I thought there had to be some easy strategies they could use to accomplish this tricky skill. Well, if you don’t have a strategy then do what I did…create your own! But first, a few lessons were necessary to understand the concepts behind the units of measure. The word “milliliter” will mean nothing to your students without some context. It’s purely abstract unless you give it some meaning. I recommend using common, everyday objects that kids are very familiar with and can easily picture in their minds. Whenever I introduced a new unit of measurement, we always connected it to at least one common object. For example, with milliliter I used an eyedropper and put a milliliter of water in their hands. Perfect for your kinesthetic learners!
Next we worked in small groups to identify other common objects for all the other units of measure that people most often use. If you’re not sure, just do a quick Google search with the phrase “what weighs an ounce” (or whatever unit you need). Also, while doing your grocery shopping, look for some items that you can incorporate into your lessons. I found the one liter water bottle shown in the picture above, which made for a great compare and contrast moment to our one milliliter activity. It also shows kids just how much measuring is used in our everyday lives.
Time for the strategies! I created several pages for my students to glue into their Math Notebooks and we used them as needed during our unit of study. With my background in Whole Brain Teaching, I also used gestures with each step in the strategies. For strategies to be most effective, students need to be able to articulate the steps in order to apply them. That requires lots of repeated practice with saying the steps and doing the gestures. Whenever I worked with students in small groups or individually, I also made them say the steps multiple times. This approach seemed to have something for each type of learner – the notebook pages and common objects for my visual learners, the gestures and touching the objects for my kinesthetic learners, and saying the strategies over and over hit the mark for my auditory learners.
Click on the link below if you would like a free copy of the math notebook pages I created for helping students convert units of measure. Happy teaching!