I remember the shock of being in elementary school and realizing not everyone measured in inches, feet, and miles. Then, I remember the annoyance of having to learn those dang unit conversions! Lucky us, we are now teaching conversions.
Of course, conversions apply outside of just length. Whether our students like it or not, being able to convert units properly will make their cakes come out moist and their long-distance vacations run smoothly! And really, isn’t that what we all want?
So, knowing that unit conversions are a commonly used skill, how can we best support our students in learning it?
#1 Scaffolded Math Lessons For Teaching Conversions
What I have found to be the most tricky about teaching unit conversions is the critical thinking skills involved. For many students, they are still in the stage where visualizing space can be a challenge.
Now, we are asking them to take a concept that is already a challenge – and add an extra layer! That’s, of course, where the scaffolding comes in.
I create all of my math lessons using guided math. This process takes students from the most support (a whole class lesson) to the least support (independent work) seamlessly. It also builds in small group lessons for intermediate, on-level, and above level students.
With these structures in place, I can rest assured that all my students are learning unit conversions.
If you want ready-to-lessons for unit conversion, then you are in luck. I created a Conversions Guided Math Unit for 5th Grade and for 4th Grade. Each unit includes a mini-lesson, small group activity differentiated for three levels, classwork, math notes, and more.
#2 Reference Resources
When students are first learning conversions, it’s a lot of information. It would be crazy to think they could keep track of it all. This is where a reference resource will come in handy. These can take many forms: interactive notebooks, flipbooks, mini-books, digital notes, and more.
Personally, I like to use guided math notes with my students. Instead of starting from scratch with each lesson, students have a guided, fill-in-the-blank math page that we complete together. I love this for various reasons, but mostly – it helps me stay on track with the lesson and keeps my students organized.
Also, they are really for students to read and refer to later because they aren’t a jumbled mess of notes. I have guided math notes on conversions for 4th Grade and 5th Grade.
#3 Anchor Charts
This goes along with having reference resources, but anchor charts can make a world of difference when learning conversions. I like to have anchor charts for length, capacity, weight, and metric unit conversions. My students use them a lot so it’s well worth the time making them.
Of course, you can also use printable anchor charts. You can print these out poster size, or keep them small for reference sheets, glue them into notebooks, or send them home as a review!
#4 Unit Conversion Games
Of course, it wouldn’t be a well-rounded, engaged unit on conversions if we didn’t include some math games! There are tons of games you can make using items from your classroom, such as measuring items around the room.
But, I have to share the seasonal games I created as well because they are really fun. What I really like about these seasonal games is that they review various skills, including conversions. They truly are great for the holiday season when it feels like you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall. I have one for Groundhog Day and another for Valentine’s Day!
Support Videos for You!
Did you know that we are adding videos to support teachers like you? Check out a quick tip to teaching conversions here.