Wonderful Worms

In this lesson, children will use colorful plastic worms of different sizes to measure various objects around the room.

Math Lesson for:

Toddlers/Preschoolers
(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Algebra
Measurement

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand patterns, relations and functions
  • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Recognizing the attributes of length, volume, weight, area and time
  • Comparing and ordering objects according to these attributes
  • Understanding how to measure using nonstandard and standard units
  • Selecting an appropriate unit and tool for the attribute being measured
  • Measuring with multiple copies of units of the same size, such as paper clips laid end to end
  • Using tools to measure
  • Using repetition of a single unit to measure something larger than the unit, for instance, measuring the length of a room with a single meter stick
  • Developing common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates

Wonderful Worms

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Objects to measure  (lengths and widths—objects should be bigger than the length of a worm)
  • Recording sheets with pictures of the measurable objects on the left side and a space with each colored worm at the top of the page, with spaces below to place the number of worms. Each colored worm is a different length, so the children will be measuring each object using the various colored worms.

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Show the children the worms and let them hold the worms and play with them a bit. Ask them what they notice about the worms. “Which colored worm is the shortest? Which colored worm is the longest?”
  2. Give the children a set of five worms (red, yellow, green, blue and purple) and have them put the worms in order from the shortest to the longest.
  3. Explain to the children that their activity will be to measure items around the classroom, using the worms as measurement tools.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Model how to measure an object using the worms and recording results on a sheet. Say: “I am going measure the width of the table. The width is the distance across, side to side. First, I am going to use the blue worms to measure the width of the table. How many blue worms do you think the width of the table will be?”
  2. Explain and model how to put the worms end to end when measuring. Say: “Okay. The width of the table is 16 blue worms long. Now let’s measure the width using the green worms. Do you think the width of the table will be more green worms or less green worms?”
  3. After you have measured the width of the table using all of the different-colored worms, write your findings in the spaces on the recording sheets. Say: “The width of the table is 16 blue worms. The width of the table is 11 green worms.” Next to the picture of the table and under the color blue, write the number 16 or draw 16 blue worms. Next to the picture of the table and under the color green, write the number 11 or draw 11 green worms.
  4. Give the children the worms and a recording sheet and let them start measuring. To begin with, the recording sheet should contain either the length or the width of an object, but not both.
  5. Once the children are done measuring all of their objects, gather them onto the rug to compare their answers. Highlight that it takes more of the shorter worms than it does the longer worms when measuring the objects. Ask: “Why do you think that is?” Collect their answers for working definitions.

Additional Extensions

  • Have the children use worms of different colors to measure an object and then have them record their findings. Say: “The width of the table was one green, three blue, three yellow and four red worms long.”
  • Have the children find the difference between the colored worms used to measure the objects. Ask: “What is the difference between the 16 blue worms and the 11 green worms?”

Step 4: Teach math vocabulary.

  • Measure: Use of standard units to find out size or quantity in regard to: length, breadth, height, area, mass, weight, volume, capacity, temperature and time (e.g.,”Let’s measure how many blue worms the robin’s tail is.”)
  • How many: The total or sum (e.g.,”How many blue inchworms long is the robin’s tail?”)
  • Distance: The length between two points (e..g, “Using the blue inchworms, let’s measure the distance from where we are sitting to the door.”)
  • Width: The extent from side to side or breadth (e.g.”Measure the width of the bed.”)
  • Length: The longest extent of anything as measured from end to end (e.g.,”The length of the table is 22 yellow worms.”)
  • Shortest: Comparison words for length (e.g.,”Which colored worm is the shortest?”)
  • Longest: Comparison words for length (e.g.,”Which colored worm is the longest?”)
  • More: A value that is higher or greater in number (e.g.,”Now let’s measure the width using the green worms, which are longer than the blue worms. Do you think the width of the table will be more green worms or less green worms?”)
  • Less: A value that is smaller in number (e.g.,”Now let’s measure the width using the green worms, which are longer than the blue worms. Do you think the width of the table will be more green worms or less green worms?”)

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Have difficulty multitasking and concentrating on one objective
  • Struggle to form their numbers
Home child care providers may:
  • Have the children measure an object with worms of only color
  • Have the children draw the number of worms that they used to measure the objects
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Easily measure objects using worms of one color
  • Be able to multitask and record the different-colored worms that they use to measure
Home child care providers may:
  • Have the children use worms of different colors to measure an object and then have them record their findings. “The width of the table was one green, three blue, three yellow and four red worms long.”
  • Have the children find the difference between the colored worms used to measure the objects. Ask: “What is the difference between the 16 blue worms and the 11 green worms?”

Suggested Books

  • Me and the Measure of Things by John Sweeney and Annette Cole (New York: Dragonfly Books, 2002)
  • The Dinosaur Who Lived in My Backyard by B. G. Hennessy (New York: Puffin, 1990)
  • Tallest, Shortest, Longest, Greenest, Brownest Animal in the Jungle!  By Keith Faulkner  (New York: Dutton Juvenile, 2002)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Use the children as nonstandard units of measurement to measure distances outside. Ask: “How many children long is the playground? How many children is the distance between that tree and the sidewalk?”

Web Resources

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