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Ladybug Lengths

  • Lesson
Location: Unknown

This lesson captures students’ interests, provides an introduction to and practice with the measurable attributes of length, and assesses student knowledge. This experience focuses student’s attention on the attributes of length and gives students the opportunity to develop knowledge of and skills in using nonstandard units of measurement.

The lesson begins with a connection to children's literature. As students practice measuring length, the do so using nonstandard units.

Gather students in a large group appropriate for listening to a book and read aloud the story Ladybug on the Move by Richard Fowler. This story involves the adventures of a ladybug as she travels in search of a new home. Each page involves a short trip marked by a trail of words and dots. The book includes a cardboard ladybug used to actually travel on the paths and pass through each page. The book offers a great opportunity for measuring short increments of length or distance on each page.

697 lb chart

After reading the story to students, use pre-cut strips of yarn to trace the trail on about five pages and determine the length of the trail or how far the ladybug went. This exercise demonstrates measuring length with yarn (a nonstandard measure). Turn back through the book and allow students to estimate which page shows the longest trip the ladybug made. Measure the trip on each page using the pre-cut yarn. Tape each piece of outstretched yarn onto chart paper or poster board in front of the class and record which path it represents (for example, “leaf to flower pot”). Then ask students to compare the lengths. This activity gives the students an opportunity to compare length and discuss concepts such as longer and shorter and more than and less than. Prepare a second set of yarn strips representing each segment of the ladybug’s journey. Attach these to each other and compare with the strip of yarn that is equivalent to the length of entire trip (prepared earlier). An alternative culminating activity is to display a pre-cut piece of yarn, the length of the entire trip. Discuss the fact that the whole trip is longer than any single portion. This demonstration allows the students to see how smaller lengths or distances add up to one greater length or distance.

pdficonLadybug Tape 

As a class, measure the length of each portion of the trip by using the Ladybug Tape. Ask students to tell you how many units each portion of the trip is in length. Then ask the class to determine the total distance traveled, using that unit.

Next, provide each student with a copy of the Ladybug Lengths Activity Sheet and a supply of lima beans.

pdficonLadybug Lengths Activity Sheet 

Model for students how to measure the length of lines and objects using the lima beans by placing them end-to-end. Then allow students to work independently or in pairs to measure the lines using their ladybugs.

697 ladybug

Assessment Options

  1. At this point, it is important to determine whether students understand the attributes of length and how to measure them using nonstandard units of measurement. Document information about the following:
    • How accurately do students measure using nonstandard units ? What knowledge and skills enable them to be more successful in measurement activities?
    • Can students transfer their skills for measuring length to other objects and activities?
    • Can students measure the length of a variety of objects using a variety of materials?
  2. The Questions for Students help students focus on the mathematical concepts being introduced and allow you to gather information regarding prior knowledge and skill with these concepts.
  3. One of the assessment tools provided is a Class Notes recording sheet. This sheet allows you to document the ability of students to measure lines using nonstandard units and their current understanding of length.


Instead of ordinary Lima beans, students may use "ladybug Lima beans" as a nonstandard unit when completing the Ladybug Lengths Activity Sheet.

To make the ladybug Lima beans, you should follow these preparation steps:

  • Purchase several bags of large dry Lima beans, red spray paint, and a black permanent marker with a medium point.
  • Place the Lima beans on newspaper or an old table cloth and spray paint them red. When the first side has dried, turn them over and paint the other side.
  • When the Lima beans have dried completely, use the black marker to decorate one side of the red bean to resemble a ladybug with eyes and spots on his back.

Questions for Students 

1. What is length?

[Student responses may include the distance between two objects, how far a ladybug has traveled, or similar definitions.]

2. How can we measure length using this yarn?

[Student responses may include using pieces of yarn to trace the path of the ladybug and then comparing those pieces of yarn to "ladybug" tape.]

3. What are some other materials or objects that we could use to measure length?

[Student responses may include paperclips, other objects found in the classroom, or rulers.]

4. Which piece of yarn is the longest?

[Students should identify the longest part of the ladybug's journey.]

5. Which piece of yarn is the shortest?

[Students should identify the shortest part of the ladybug's journey.]

Teacher Reflection 

  • Is there another piece of literature appropriate for teaching length?
  • Which students met all objectives of the lesson? Which students did not meet the learning objectives
  • What adjustments could be made in future lessons to teach this concept?
  • How will I reteach length to those students who did not master it?
  • What extension activities are appropriate for continuing to teach length?
  • What other materials would provide students appropriate experiences for developing knowledge of and skills in measuring length?

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Define length as a measurable attribute of objects.
  • Measure using nonstandard units.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Recognize the attributes of length, volume, weight, area, and time.
  • Understand how to measure using nonstandard and standard units.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1
    Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.

Grade 1, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.A.2
    Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end; understand that the length measurement of an object is the number of same-size length units that span it with no gaps or overlaps. Limit to contexts where the object being measured is spanned by a whole number of length units with no gaps or overlaps.

Grade 2, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.A.1
    Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

Grade 2, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.9
    Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit, or by making repeated measurements of the same object. Show the measurements by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number units.