Hands-On Measurement with Animal Footprints!

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Measurement in Kindergarten

When studying measurement with my students, we always use non-standard units of measurement, per the math standards in kindergarten. One important idea I want my students to understand is that we can measure different amounts depending on the units we are using. I want my students to understand this concept on their own – I want them to discover this through an investigation. One way that I teach this is with this activity using different size animal footprints.

We used the book Big Tacks, Little Tracks to introduce the activity! This was perfect timing for a winter nature walk that we had done that week!

Setting Up

Students all get different size animal prints and measure certain things around the classroom. I chose woodland animals because those are animals more native to our area, but this activity could be done with any animal prints. I found the prints from a basic web search for “animal tracks actual size”. When giving out the prints, I wanted to give the biggest tracks to the students who are working on counting smaller numbers (because the answers will be smaller) and the smallest tracks to the ones who need challenges to count higher numbers. When setting up the chart, write the animals in size order – it doesn’t matter if it is biggest first or smallest first, the point will be that the sizes go up or down on the chart.

Remind students that measuring needs to be accurate by going from the front of one footprint to the back of the next footprint with no gaps. Your students can measure anything in the room, but I would pick 5 things of varying lengths that all students must measure.

Reflecting on Measurement

After everyone has finished gather the students on the rug to view the results. I asked the students what they noticed and they told me they saw that the numbers were getting bigger as you went down the animals, no matter what they were measuring. I asked why they thought that was, and after a few minutes, they figured out it because of the size of the footprint. They said that the bigger the footprint was, the smaller the measurement was because it needed fewer times to get across. We ended the lesson with a connection to the importance of units and explaining your units when giving measurements so everyone knows what the units are!

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There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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