Let Them Measure: Volume Measurements
We’ve all had those days where things just don’t go the way you think it should. You plan the lesson with all the critical elements to meet the target, but when the students get started, there is no excitement, no spark. It’s just boring. That happened in my room when students were learning volume measurements. The independent practice was a worksheet. It was not engaging enough so I decided to let them measure.
The next day I brought in boxes. Boxes of all sizes and shapes. First of all, my students were curious. What were all those boxes piled up in the back of the room?
My students formed groups of 3 or 4 (best for engagement in my room) and started with a variety of boxes from the pile. They created their own tables to record length, width, height, volume, and surface area. They found yard sticks, meter sticks, and rulers and discussed whether they should measure in centimeters or inches. They measured, recorded, calculated, and most importantly, discussed. After they had found the volume and surface area of all of the boxes, they chose two different boxes and used that to create a net. They compared the volumes, surface areas, and nets for the boxes and discussed them.
Yes, they met the targets for the lesson and no, they did not use a worksheet. Their level of engagement was impressive. They came to see how to find volume and surface area by measuring and calculating. Then they discussed why that is important. Who uses volume? Who uses surface area? Why do they need to know this?
I learned that hands-on practice beats a work sheet any time. Fifth graders need concrete examples to hold and consider. When I finally realized that, their engagement level increased and they used their measuring skills as well as their calculating skills. They incorporated math practice standards throughout. I like this workshop approach to math where everyone is busy working together to accomplish the targets and discussing math! It may appear messy and a bit chaotic, but this is where the learning happens.