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Drop by Drop

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In this lesson, students recognize and use the attributes of volume. They engage in activities that promote understanding of how to measure volume using standard units.

Gather students so they can see the book and hear the story, Drip, Drop, by Sarah Weeks. This story portrays a mouse that keeps getting leaks in his roof during a rainstorm and chooses to catch the water with different kitchen containers (i.e. a pan or cup). After reading the story, explain that each pair of students will pretend that it has rained in the classroom and will measure how many cups and tablespoons different containers can hold using the “rain” that fell.

Prepare approximately one quart of water for each pair of students. Also give each group of students three or four different containers with which to measure the volume. None of those containers should hold more than one quart of water. For demonstration purposes, use a quart of water, a couple of empty containers, and a cup for measuring.

711 cups

Model for the students how to measure the number of cups of water a container can hold by moving one cup from the full container to the empty container. Explain that you are measuring the volume of the different containers. Have the group count aloud each cup of water you move from the quart you have prepared to the empty containers. When the containers are full, discuss that the volume of the container was __ cups. Repeat the demonstration using different containers or different measuring devices and units. Use non-standard measures for younger students and with those students who need additional experiences with nonstandard units.

  • Book— Drip, Drop, by Sarah Meeks
  • Cups and tablespoons— enough for each pair of children
  • One quart of water for each pair of children
  • Various Containers— each group should have a set of at least three different sizes/none larger than a quart

Assessment Options

  1. At this stage of the unit, it is important to know whether students can accurately measure volume using standard units. Checking students’ predictions and calculations allows you to assess whether students understand this concept. You might collect data and document information about the following:
    • How accurately are students able to define volume?
    • What evidence is there to support that students can transfer this knowledge to other volume-related problems using the same or different measuring tools (standard and nonstandard as appropriate)?
    • What strategies do students use to calculate volume with other standard units?
  2. Use the Class Notes Recording Sheet to document student progress throughout the unit.
  1. Ask students to predict how many cups it will take to fill their container and then record their prediction.
  2. Move on to the next lesson, Grouchy Lessons of Time.

Questions for Students 

1. How would you describe the meaning of volume?

[Student responses may include capacity, how much liquid a container can hold, etc.]

2. In what ways can we determine the volume of any container?

[Student responses may include using different measuring tools, such as tablespoons, cups, etc.]

3. Do you think the volume of this container will be more than 10 cups? Why or why not?

[Student responses will depend upon the container used in class.]

4. Do you think the volume of this container will be less than 10 cups? Why or why not?

[Student responses will depend upon the container used in class.]

5. Would using tablespoons to measure the volume of this container give us the same answer? Why or why not?

[Student responses will depend upon the container used in class.]

Teacher Reflection 

  • Is there another piece of literature that would be useful for teaching volume?
  • Which students need more practice with measuring volume? Do they need additional work with nonstandard or standard units?
  • What would I do differently the next time I teach this lesson? Which activities produced the greatest benefits for students? Which were least effective? Why?
  • What vocabulary words did I use in today’s lesson? Which measurement words did students use in their discussions about the activities in this lesson? What additional vocabulary do the students need to understand?
  • What other mathematical concepts does this lesson teach or reinforce?

The Length of My Feet

This lesson focuses students’ attention on the attributes of length and develops their knowledge of and skill in using nonstandard units of measurement. It provides practice with and remediation of the measurable attributes of length.

The Area of Things ...

Students have opportunities to recognize and use the attributes of length and area using non-standard units.

Grouchy Lessons of Time

This lesson provides an introduction to and practice with the concept of time. The activities focus students’ attention on the attributes of time and enables students at varying levels to develop knowledge and skills in using time.

The Weight of Things

This lesson introduces and provides practice with the measurable attributes of weight. It also gives an opportunity to assess student knowledge of and skill in using measurement of mass. This learning experience focuses students’ attention on the attributes of weight using hands-on activities and active learning.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Recognize the attributes of volume.
  • Measure volume using standard units.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

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