3. Planning to teach for understanding

Understanding the importance of ‘units’ and the ability to read from scales are central to effective work in measurement. Later 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 can plan activities to help pupils develop these skills. By using practical activities related to their everyday lives, pupils will see a purpose to the work and be more interested.

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

Mrs Gwala 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 on their rulers, and from the weighing scales she had brought from home. They had talked about centimetres and 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 Gwala was pleased with the progress that had been made, and wanted to make sure the pupils could now see that ‘milli-’, ‘centi-’ and ‘kilo-’, could be applied to all measurements and units. (See 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 her pupils had grasped what she was doing, she allowed them to make up their own ‘nonsense measure’ questions, which they enjoyed greatly. Mrs Gwala 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

Plan this activity 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, etc.). Devices that have a scale are particularly useful. How do people selling vegetables in the local market measure what the customer wants? (For advice about collecting resources, see Key Resource: Being a resourceful teacher in challenging circumstances [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)
  • Think of activities that will allow pupils to practise using these devices and recording measurements, to develop their confidence and accuracy.
  • Think about how you will introduce key terms: units, measurement, scale, distance, weight, volume, time, and what your pupils will do to understand and remember these terms.
  • Decide how you will organise your pupils, how much time to allow and the resources you will need to carry out these activities.
  • 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). See Key Resource: Planning and preparing your lessons.

Carry out this lesson. If possible, ask the teacher who helped you plan the activity 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? How could you assess your pupils’ understanding of how to measure?

2. Measuring heartbeats

Resource 1: A measurement mind map