Today marks the beginning of our metric unit and I want to be sure students understand a few things about measuring. I thought that an activity of non standard measurement would get their minds going about the meaning of linear measurement. I showed this little video clip from PBS KIDS.Org to 2:28. Then, I stopped the video to get the activity rolling.I didn't show the whole video because I want to facilitate the rest of the activity rather than watching them.
I ask: Why might someone want to measure the length of our classroom? Could we use non standard measurement to do so?
Students talked about using themselves to measure the length of the room or using various objects like the tissue box or their art box.
I reviewed the rules of linear measurement. Students chose partners with whom they felt they could work well. I went over two things I wanted them to remember while measuring.
1. Determine where you want to start.
2. Make sure your tool is lined up correctly and straight across.
I told my students that they would measure the hallway, since it was open and free from obstacles. This activity supports Math Practice 5 that demands that students not only pick the right tools but use them properly to solve problems. I asked them to choose a non standard measurement tool and measure the hallway.
One partner was responsible for recording and checking that their partner was lining up the tool with no spaces as the PBS movie teacher pointed out.Measuring.mov
It was fun to see what they picked. I thought they would just use their bodies, but many chose to use objects. Only three partners used themselves to measure. We wrapped up in the classroom. I asked them how it felt to use non standard units because many wanted to use inches. Even in the process, they were "guessing" how many inches the object was and then they were adding them together.Using tiles!
This little activity revealed so much to me. I could see how several pairs wanted to revert back to measuring with feet and inches. These students were my high end students. My students who are middle to lower end understood how to use a nonstandard measurement. They reasoned through "Gerald" in the movie. Logic was being used in students with lower level thinking and reasoning! The higher level students wanted to go back to the more intricate work of converting their tile to inches and then feet! Interesting! The students with the book at first were guessing how many inches the book was and then adding that up in their heads. The look of relief was amazing when I told them they just needed to know how many 'books" the length of the room was!
They enjoyed having time to just measure using a tool of choice. They showed me they knew how to measure by butting up the edges of things or the tops of there head to their feet to measure. None of them tried to switch tools, so I think that concept is solid.
Our discussion really revealed a lot of cross talk about metrics and customary units, so I am convinced this group does not know they are talking about two different animals. It is my hope that soon they understand metric units and feel comfortable using it. We will see what the pretest reveals.
Revised Module D Metric Measurement Unit Assessment: Use this one to pretest!
After we finished our discussion about what we learned and noticed, I told students that metric and nonstandard units of measurement "feel" the same. It's new, maybe a bit confusing at first, but once they got the hang of understanding the units, it would be a breeze.
This test was designed to measure their conceptual understanding as well as their calculations and conversions. There are areas to draw and write explanations because that is what CCSS is about. Students need to prove their learning and their conceptual understanding. However, this test was based on old standards prior to me revising it. It is important for you to know that you should not use it but only to compare it to aligned revised test. As we transition, we will run into these pitfalls and I have taken time to fix the errors so that standards are met precisely.
I knew that the pretests would show that the majority of my students knew nothing about metrics because of how fast the tests were turned in. I was right. Many made good guesses but none of them could convert on the charts. No one crossed unit measurements though. Conversions were very weak in word problems.
As I taught this unit and really examined standards 4.MD.A.1 and 4.MD.A.2, and 4.MD.A.3, I realized the pretest fell short of what CCSS was expecting us to master. In regard to our metric units, the words "larger unit in terms of a smaller unit" resonated with me as I realized that this test did not meet the standards exactly as written. The charts needed to be changed. I realized that equations needed to be developed to continue with understanding the unknown, and that building on powers of ten was inside this standard of converting larger units to smaller ones.
So, the final test was re-written. Prior to CCSS, I wouldn't have thought this deeply about what my students were understanding in terms of the depth. Rather, I would focus on how. The pre-test is sort of half way there. I knew I needed to include more writing and explanation. I needed to include area and perimter and a problem that gets students to determine a factor when given the total area.
I think this final test is aligned well with the standards. Please use this for the pre-test.
Also, this revised grid is a great way to follow your students mastery of the standards as you go through the unit. Metric Measurement Assessment Grid.