Book lesson: Estimating "Inch by Inch"

Essential Questions for students (objectives): How does what we measure determine how we measure? When are estimates appropriate as a measurement?

Suggested Books

Supplies:  Ruler, measuring tapes (or string), journals, computer for quick research
Instructional format:  Whole group OR Small groups/centers
Vocabulary for Word Wall: inch, measure, estimate, approximate

Prior Knowledge/Possible Warm-up Activities:  Students should have some experience with measuring and using measuring tools for many different purposes – length, capacity, weight, time, etc.

Description of Lesson:

Whole group lesson –

1) Ask the students what they feel is the perfect measurement tool?  Hopefully, the conversation turns to ask the question – what are we measuring?  At this point, you can let students decide what is the best tool for each situation OR let them discuss the perfect tool overall.

2) Start reading Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni to the class until the part where the Robin flies off with the inchworm to measure other birds. Have students listen for the use of a measurement tool. When you pause at the reading, ask whether or not the inchworm is the perfect measurement tool in this situation?  Good discussion should follow.

3) Next, read each page of the book, one at a time, showing the pictures and ask students to estimate the length being measured and record their thinking in a journal or on a piece of paper.  Make sure to get a range of estimates which they should record!  You need to stop reading when you finish with the hummingbird.

4) Google or research the actual lengths of the birds listed in the book.  Some of the measurements are easy to find, but others (like the flamingo’s neck) are not so simple or can’t be found exactly.  This is a great conversation to discuss when an estimate is good enough.  The estimates may need to be adjusted depending on finding out the entire height of the heron for instance. 

5) Quick writing prompt:  Why do you think the length of a flamingo’s neck is listed with its basic measurements?  Share out as a class.  Hopefully, they see that we don’t use inchworms when we measure, we use rulers that are straight, while the flamingo’s neck is curvy.  For the flamingo – a measuring tape would be a better tool; however, it would be a challenge to manipulate it through all of the curves and twists of the neck.

6) Finish reading Inch by Inch.  Ask the students why the inchworm couldn’t measure the nightingale’s song?  What do the students feel would be a good measurement tool for the song?

7) Extension:  How can we measure unusual objects (mountains, lakes, music, liquid, helium)? 

Small group/centers lessons -

1) Students read Inch by Inch.  By looking at the pictures, can they estimate the measurement of the birds that the inchworm measures.  Then, can they use any measuring tools to find the actual measurements of the birds [they will need a measuring tape or string with a ruler for the flamingo].

2) Students read Inch by Inch.  They need to describe how an inchworm is/isn’t the perfect measurement tool for each of the situations in the book.  For the situations where the inchworm isn’t the perfect tool, they need to come up with an alternative and defend it.

3) Students research unusual measurement tools or units.  What do they measure?  How do they work?  Are they still in use? 

4)  Horses are measured using “hand” as the unit measure.  Have students look up what that means and then estimate how tall they are in hands.  Then, they should measure themselves in hands. 
Interdisciplinary connections:

Science:  Students can practice estimation in all areas of science.  For instance, if you are studying animals – you can have students estimate their weights, heights, etc, then check their predictions.

ELA:  Students can debate the perfect measurement tool learning the rules of debate and writing up scripts for both sides of the argument or they can write a persuasive piece of writing arguing what is the most useful measurement tool.
Time needed: 30-45 minutes

Assessment (Acceptable Evidence): Formative assessments can be gathered from the work completed in the small groups/centers.  In the whole group lesson, students can be assessed from their estimate ranges and actual measurements gathered.

Cautionary Notes/Misconceptions:  When gathering estimates, students mistakenly think there is a right answer.  It is critical to get a range of answers.  You may have to model this process multiple times.

Book Cover

Help Wanted on
Mont Vernon
This book combines history
and mathematics with
adorable characters to teach
kids about the many talents
of the first U.S. President.

Book Cover

The UnderAchievers:
Woven into a fun story, this
book provides excellent
math lessons for kids.  

Writing Across the Curriculum:
The NumberFix Project


Book Cover

 Wacky We-Search Reports:
A popular book on writing
across the curriculum.