From Mary’s Teaching Toolbox
Preschool children should have many opportunities to measure. I’m not just talking about measuring length but also weight, time, and volume. No matter what you’re measuring, its best if preschoolers use non-standard units. So instead of inches- paperclips or shoes. Instead of pounds- marbles or blocks. Instead of seconds-counting. Comparing the size or weight of two or more objects is also a measurement skill. Since measuring involves so many different skills, its important that children have repeated opportunities to measure over the course of the year. In the fall, pumpkins lend themselves well to any number of measuring tasks. .
Children as young as 2 can compare the height or weight of two pumpkins if they are different enough. Older children can compare two or more that are closer in size. When comparing height, its easier to compare pumpkins without stems. Another activity is for them to find items in the room that are taller/shorter lighter/heavier than their pumpkin. Balances can also be used to compare the weights of two mini-pumpkins. or a mini-pumpkin and another object. Children as young as 3 can learn to use balances independently. Challenge older children to figure out a way to compare the weights of three pumpkins.
Measurement of Length
Four year olds can measure the height of the pumpkins using blocks. Have them estimate how many they think it will take and then measure to find out how close they were. Its easier to estimate the height of a smaller number than a larger one. Try to choose a unit of measurement that will be small enough for different pumpkins to have different results, but large enough that the total is a number the children can count independently.
You can also use pumpkins or pumpkin seeds as your non-standard unit with which to measure length. How many seeds long is the leaf? How many pumpkins long is your jump? Make sure what you’re measuring is not too big for the units you’re using. Seeds are better suited to measure a pencil than a table.
When measuring with non-standard units, there are several skills the child needs to learn. First they need to start and stop measuring at the ends of the item being measured. They also need to learn how to place whatever they are measuring with end to end without any gaps.
Measurement of Weight
You can use a balance to measure the weight of small mini-pumpkins using non-standard units such as small wooden blocks. Make sure the unit of measurement you choose is heavy enough that it doesn’t take more than the children can count to balance the scale. You can also use the seeds as your unit of measurement to weigh small objects. Once again you’ll want to choose items that don’t weigh more than the number the children can independently count.
Recording the Answer
Children should record their answer. This gives them a real reason to practice writing or identifying numbers. You can make a graph and the children have to mark the height/weight of their pumpkin, They can write the number on a paper “Kelly’s pumpkin was 6 blocks tall”. They can draw a picture of what they did. You can also have children write their names on a chart like the one shown.
This is the last of four blog entries about using pumpkins in the preschool classroom. I’ve covered using pumpkins as loose parts, to estimate and count and measuring length and weight. I’ve also shared my favorite book about pumpkins. How have you used pumpkins in your classroom?