Gather students so they may see the book and hear you read aloud the story It Looked Like Spilt Milk,
by Charles G. Shaw. This story uses the natural movement of what seems
to be a cloud to create many different shapes (i.e. a squirrel, a tree,
and a bird). After reading the story, explain that students will make
their own pictures using a piece of yarn and cotton balls.
Introduce the concept of measuring area using nonstandard
units by showing students how to create regions, predicting how many
cotton balls are required to fill the region, filling the regions with
cotton balls, and counting the number of cotton balls required to fill
the region. Glue the cotton balls into place and label the picture with
the total number of cotton balls used. This numerical label gives
students a mental picture of area and helps them understand the concept
of measuring area.
Give each student a 12-inch piece of yarn and a ruler for “checking” the length of yarn.
After each child has checked the length, give each student one
sheet of blue construction paper. Model how the two ends of the yarn
must touch to create a picture. Depending on other concepts that need
to be reinforced, you may suggest to some students that they create
simple geometric shapes for their pictures. For very young students,
you might want to tie the ends of the yarn together to make this step
easier. However, be sure that the yarn is no longer than 12 inches for
this age group too, so that they will be able to count the number of
cotton balls needed to cover the region.
Ask students to draw a region on the blue construction paper. Assist
students in gluing their yarn along the outline they created (making a
“trail” with glue and then placing the yarn on top often makes this
task easier for younger students). Have students first predict and
record how many cotton balls it will take to cover the inside of their
shape, then place the cotton balls inside their figure so that the
entire area is covered. Students need to glue, count, and record once
their cotton balls are in place. When this activity is completed,
students will have made a picture made of yarn as well as recorded
estimates of and counted the number of cotton balls used.
Create a bulletin board using various regions filled with
cotton balls. Label each with the number of cotton balls required to
fill the area. Students could create additional examples of area while
working in the math center.