Help Students Learn to Measure Accurately
This year I have been working on several classroom inquiries. One of them is finding ways to help students measure more accurately. Our school has always produced very low assessment scores in measurement. I thought I would integrate art into measurement. I believe my students are measuring much more accurately than before. So here I share.
I start with modeling how to accurately measure a metric grid on a piece of newsprint paper that is 30.5 cm wide and 45.5 cm long. Then the students measure one grid piece into 10 cm X 10 cm. They look at their hand and do contour drawing, using the grid as a guide. This is meant to guide students into drawing what they see, instead of cartoon symbols for hands. This is their baseline assessment.
About a month later, they measure a second grid. This time, they measure the paper into 10 cm X 10 cm squares. Again I model how to do this. We happened to be collecting ants for a population study, so I found a drawing of an ant that was drawn using a rectangular grid that was 3 squares by 4 squares. The students used the ant drawing to calculate the ratio of enlargement to the newsprint, and then sketched the ant appropriately.
After another month, I repeated the the activity. Instead of an animal, I copied a small map of our island onto a half sheet of paper. I had the students lightly measure/divide the island map into a 3 X 4 sq grid. They drew our island on the accurately measured newsprint grid and then put a star where they thought they lived. This is the third time they have measured, so I took another assessment of their work.
WOW! So many of them measured accurately! It was amazing, well over 80 % of the class met the accuracy rubric. This was just before Christmas. I thought my job was done.
Two months later, after the Christmas break, and well into the third quarter, I gave them a fourth assessment, just as a reinforcement. I was shocked! Very few students measured accurately. Instead, they divided the newsprint into a 3 X 4 grid. Their subject was a turtle, because we were learning reproduction, and I had shared with them turtle nesting on our island. They drew some nice turtles, but not accurate grids! I put 12 drawings (out of 140) on the display board and asked them why would I choose these drawings?
Accurate carefully measured grids verses grids. I had one student's drawing of our island, and one student's drawing of the turtle. I asked him, "What happened between your drawing the island, and drawing the turtle?" My students saw this example clearly and realized they did have the skills, but they didn't focus on accurately measuring.
They saw their mistakes, and one month later, were given a chance to accurately measure another grid. This time they drew one of their favorite creatures, a shark! There were only 8 students, (including all my special needs students) that didn't accurately produce the 10 cm X 10 cm grid.
I will reinforce this lesson a few days before our state testing, as a reminder that they are accurate measurers. I believe the set back between the turtle drawing and the shark drawing, was due to seventh grade 'insanity,' what I refer to as the middle of the middle. A kind reassurance, that they know how to measure accurately, and have done it in the past, was all that was needed to put them back on track.
What do you think? Is integrating art into accurate measurement a way to help students learn the important skill of measuring?