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Using Shapes to Teach Measurement: Preschool Lesson

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 2/8/2012

I'll bet you never thought of using shapes to teach preschool measurement. Actually, shapes are familiar objects to preschoolers, and they can be a great way to teach the concept of measurement to preschoolers. If you want to know how, you'll have to check out these teaching ideas.

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    Measurement at the Preschool Level

    When teaching concepts of measurement, it's best to stay concrete because that's how preschoolers think at this stage of their development. A preschooler would have a tough time learning the ropes of measuring skills using a regular ruler. They don't have much of a handle on any abstract skills yet, and measurement falls in that abstract area. Still, the basics of measurement can be taught at the preschool level with great effectiveness by using very basic measuring methods. The paper ruler activity below helps develop a sense of the awareness that every day objects have a certain length. This length can be determined by "measuring" the object with a ruler. Even though "inches" or "centimeters" are much too abstract for a preschooler's grasp, the concept of counting shapes is more concrete and can be a great way to introduce measurement. Preschool measurement lesson plans should always be clear-cut and as concrete as possible in order to facilitate understanding.

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    Paper Rulers

    Try using cardstock paper rulers to teach preschoolers basic measurement skills. To make a paper ruler, cut a rectangle shape out of hard cardstock to resemble a ruler. Your ruler will not be made to correctly measure items, since that's not really the intent. On the ruler, you will place colored shapes up one side of the rectangle. You can use triangles, squares, or circles. Make the shapes small enough that 10 will fit on the ruler. The shapes on the rulers can be made using shape stickers or by simply drawing the shapes with magic markers.

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    Measuring the Classroom

    Objective: Preschoolers will begin to grasp the concept of length. They will also practice counting numbers 1-10.

    Materials: paper rulers and objects around the classroom or playground

    Directions: Each child will use their own paper ruler for this activity. Begin by explaining how we use rulers to find out how long something is, and demonstrate by using a paper ruler to "measure" a pencil or other object. Encourage the students to count the number of shapes to figure out the length of the pencil. Demonstrate this with one or two other small objects, then give each student a paper ruler and have them go around the room "measuring" objects. Help individual students as they measure various objects in the room, and discuss some of the results with them. This activity can be extended to other areas of the school, like the cafeteria or playground.

    Evaluation: Teachers will evaluate students through observation. Look for basic understanding of the concept of counting shapes on the ruler to determine the length of small objects.