3. Planning to teach for understanding

Understanding the importance of ‘units’ and the ability to read from scales are both central to most effective and precise work in measurement. Subsequent sections in this module will deal with Length, Weight and Time: for each, it is important for pupils to understand the correct unit, and how to read correctly from the scales on measuring instruments. This part explores how you plan activities to help pupils investigate and develop these skills.

Case Study 3: Planning the next steps for pupils’ understanding of measuring

Mrs.Ansah had spent some time working on different units of measure with her pupils. She felt that they were now getting confident in reading from the scale of their rulers, and from the weighing scales she had brought from home; they had talked about centimetres, millimetres and could show these on their rulers, and explain the relationship between them. They knew about local distances between towns, and that these were measured in kilometres. Mrs.Ansah was pleased with the progress that had been made, and wanted to make sure the learners could now see that ‘milli-‘, ‘centi-, and ‘kilo-‘, could be applied to all measurements and units.

Resource 4: Units of measurement

She decided to do this through ‘nonsense’ measures – making up playful units, and asking questions about them (see Resource 5: Space and measure for examples of such nonsense questions). After learners had grasped what she was doing, she allowed them to make up their own ‘nonsense measure’ questions, which they enjoyed greatly.

Mrs. Ansah was sure at the end of this that they knew well what milli, centi and kilo meant, because they were able to explain the differences in their discussion.

Key Activity: Planning an observation lesson on measurement

With at least one other teacher at your school:

  • Make a list of all the measuring devices you have access to that could be brought into the school (such as rulers, weighing scales, measuring jugs or spoons, and anything else). Devices that have a scale are particularly useful.
  • Think of activities that pupils could do, that allow them to practise using these devices, and recording their measurements to develop their confidence and accuracy.
  • Think about how you will introduce key terms: units, measurement, scale, distance, weight, volume, time and what learners will do to understand and remember these terms.
  • Decide how you will organise your learners and the resources you will need to carry out these activities, and how much time to allow.
  • Plan your lesson, making sure that, as well as recording the ‘number’ from the device or scale, pupils also record the units and what is being measured (e.g. distance, weight, volume, time).

Carry out this lesson; if possible, ask the teacher who helped you to think it through to observe all or part of the lesson, and discuss it with you afterwards. What worked well, what was difficult? Were there any unexpected outcomes with the approach that you took? How could you assess their understanding of how to measure?

2. Measuring heartbeats

Resource 1: A measurement mind map