This free collection of engaging ideas for teaching capacity is designed to help your students develop an understanding of liquid measurement.
We have found that the best way to give students a foundation for understanding liquid measurement is to do as many hands-on type activities as possible. One idea is to set up discovery centers around the classroom. You may choose to rotate the students through these centers all in one day (twenty minutes to a half an hour at each center) or you may choose to rotate the groups through the centers over the course of a week – one each day per group. It is important to remember that these centers are not meant to be graded or assessed, but simply a way for students to explore capacity measurement tools in a more real world way. Here are some ideas and resources for possible centers:
Water Center – Gather cup, pint, quart and gallon measurement tools and set them up near a sink in your classroom. Students can use the printable to record their observations as they pour water from one vessel into another.
**You can use empty milk, juice or food cartons/containers if you wish or you might want to think about purchasing a set like the one in the Amazon link below, which also has some tools for the other centers described here.
Measuring Cups & Spoons Center- For this center you will need three or four sets of measuring cups and three or four sets of measuring spoons. (Think about asking parents to borrow theirs if you don’t want to purchase them.) Next, find two large containers – one big enough to hold a large bag of birdseed, popcorn kernels or dry beans and another for salt or sand. (The bigger the containers and the more dry ingredient you have – the smaller the mess since they will be used by a group of students at the same time. Just a helpful hint!! Big aluminum pans are great for this.) Place the measuring cups in the birdseed/popcorn kernels/dry beans and the measuring spoons in the salt/sand. Students will explore these tools and make discoveries about their size and how much they hold.
Trail Mix & Drink Mix Center – This center involves the students following an easy recipe for individual bags of “trail mix” by measuring out different amounts and also in following the directions on a packet or container of powdered drink mix. For this center you will need to make sure you have a few sets of measuring cups, a pitcher for the group to mix their drink in, a large Ziploc baggie for each student, a black marker to label the snack bags, and some plastic cups. Before students can enjoy their snack and drink, the teacher will come “check” that their trail mixes look correct and don’t have too much of one ingredient in them. (This is pretty easy to tell just by looking at all the bags together. No measurement is typically necessary. A parent volunteer at this station is a great idea or it may just be one that the teacher visits often as he/she circulates the room.)
Popcorn (Popped Vs. Unpopped) Center – For this center an air popper is suggested to make it easier. (An adult placed at this center is advised as well if possible.) You will also need a large bowl, a set of measuring cups, some individual paper bowls (we have used large cups or baggies for this too) and some salt or butter salt (if desired). For this center students measure out 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels into the popper. After the popping is finished they measure the popped popcorn to see how much their 1/4 cup created and then enjoy the treat!
Capacity Cut-Aparts Center – For this center you will need to print, laminate and cut sets of the visuals below. We suggest you print the sets on different color card stock for durability and to help students keep them organized at the center. Create enough sets so that each student at the center has one set to work with. Place the sets in large baggies. Students will use them to explore the relationships between cups, pints, quarts and gallons as they complete the corresponding page Capacity Capers.
Here are some visuals to help teach capacity. You might use these for mini-lessons, to display in your classroom and/or for students to keep in a math binder as a resource:
Here are some YouTube videos we have found to enhance the teaching of capacity. Students seem to always love music and will love these!
King Gallon Song (This video has no words, just music with words on screen. This is a great way to incorporate reading into math!)
Capa City (This is a western video which lasts just under 5 minutes. It takes place in Capa City. (How cute is THAT!?) The first half tells western story and the second half is a catchy song about capacity and conversions.)
Gallon Man Shake (This video is simply visuals set to some music to help show conversion between cups, pints, quarts and gallons. This would be good for visual learners.)
Capacity Rap (This is a very short clip of students sitting in a classroom reading the words to the Capacity Rap. This would be great for your auditory learners to learn.)
And here is a link to a related resource we thought was engaging as well: