3. Being resourceful

The previous activities should have shown your pupils that ‘standard units‘ of weight are needed because without these it is not possible accurately to compare or know how much something weighs. This next part explores how you can introduce terms and develop their understanding of kilogram (kg), and gram (g) (1,000 grams = 1 kilogram). You may want to bring bags of sugar, rice or other local products sold in bags to class, to show their weight is recorded in grams or kilograms and for pupils to feel the actual weights. You could make some mock ones by filling plastic bags with sand or stones to the correct weight. If you can, borrow a pair of scales to do this.

If you do not have access to calibrated weighing scales or weights at school, it may still be possible to make approximate measurements of weight using your simple balances and some everyday objects that have their weight on them to test other bags against.

Once your pupils are confident at weighing in grams and kilograms, you can move on to helping them understand how to convert one to the other.

Case Study 3: Using homemade standard units

Mr Simasiku wants his pupils to estimate, measure and compare weights of objects in grams and kilograms. He asked permission from a secondary school science department to use their balances to make bean bags weighing 100 g, 50 g and 10 g (using different coloured cloth for each weight). He asked some of the parents who work in the local sewing shop to help him sew several sets for his class.

He demonstrated the weighing of objects in grams using the improvised weights and a simple balance, and then asked pupils to weigh objects to the nearest 10 g, and record their results in a table.


The class were very enthusiastic and weighed nearly everything they could find in the classroom. Mr Simasiku listened to their talk as they weighed and was pleased to hear them using the correct terms easily.

Key Activity: Weighing in grams

Before the lesson, collect a number of objects that have their weights shown – tinned or packet foods and other goods (you only need the wrapper, not the whole good). Try to have enough to give each group of pupils at least two or three labels. It would also be good to have some labels for weights in kilograms as well as grams.

Ask groups to write down the name of the product, and its weight – ensure that they include the correct units (grams or kilograms). They could do this by using the actual bags and putting them in order on their table. Pupils could arrange and re-arrange the packages by weight from highest to lowest or lowest to highest or sort into groups:

  • 0–250g;
  • 250–500g;
  • over 500g.

Then ask pupils to convert each weight from kilograms to grams or vice versa.

When they have finished ask each group to swap their sheets with another group and they can check each others answers. Remind them that 1,000 grams = 1 kilogram.

Discuss with your pupils why they might need to be able to convert weights in their everyday lives.

Display their work on the wall to show each group their achievements.

What did the groups learn and how do you know this? You could ask them to tell you what they think they have learnt.

2. Introducing units to compare weights

Resource 1: Simple balance