Teaching Customary Measurement Conversions

Overwhelmed with planning to teach customary measurement conversions? Measurement worksheets and boring measurement lesson plans are NOT the only way! Here are the activities and resources I use to teach converting customary units in 5th grade.

I’ve included everything from interactive notes to an end-of-unit project! Add these resources to your lesson plans and save yourself the frustration of trying to plan your measurement unit from scratch.

Activator Video

I love to introduce new math content with a video. It gets my students’ attention and helps to set the stage for the lesson! I use a different video as an activator each day of our converting measurements unit. To introduce the customary system and customary measurement conversions, here are some of my favorites:

Interactive Notes

I typically teach the customary system BEFORE I teach the metric system because I think it’s a little trickier for students to grasp! Click here for my teaching metric conversions blog post, if you’re teaching that first!

Personally, I find that my students are WAY more likely to go back into their notebook and reference notes if they’re easily found and usable – AKA interactive. So, to teach customary conversions in 5th grade, I use simple flipbook notes, that are perfect for students to reference again and again to practice customary measurement conversions.

We take the interactive notes together, after discussing the activator video, and our prior knowledge. Your discussions around this will vary, depending on the background knowledge of your students! These flipbook notes are simple, but they contain ALL of the information your students will need to grasp the concept of customary conversions.

Act it Out!

This is my favorite part of teaching customary measurement conversions because it’s fun and ALWAYS helps my students remember! Here is how I teach my students to figure out if they are multiplying or dividing when converting customary units.

Hold your hands up. If you are going from a BIG unit to a SMALLER unit (think, feet to inches) do a “big to small” motion with your hands. BIG (hands up, wider than your shoulders) to SMALL (move them both in, crossing in an X over your chest.) This shows that when going from a bigger unit to a smaller unit, you multiply.

If you are going from a SMALL unit to a BIGGER unit (think, inches to feet) do a “small” motion first, by holding your hands together in front of your chest, to BIG (move your hands out in a straight line) making a straight line like a division sign with your hands. This shows that when going from a smaller unit to a bigger unit, you divide.

Seem silly? Maybe. But believe me when I tell you that this will help your students remember every time!

Practice Activities

Searching for math practice activities can be so time consuming. Lots of times, I end up doing some practice problems from the textbook or using a customary conversion worksheet as independent practice.
Let me be clear – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I also, however, love to mix up our math practice when I can. Here are two options to use for customary conversion practice that will have your students engaged with customary conversions, with little to no extra prep on your end.

First up – these customary conversion color by number activities. I adore using coloring activities in math class because they provide excellent repetition and practice of new concepts AND they let students break up the monotony with a little coloring. My students always loved the challenge of getting their picture correct as well, and who doesn’t love to give their kids a little extra motivation?

If you want to boost the engagement even more – cut up the problems and tape them around the room. Then have kids walk around with their coloring sheet as their answer sheet! It’s the perfect independent or partner practice activity. Grab the set of converting customary units of measurement coloring activities by clicking here.

Converting customary units of measurement color by number activities

Another review activity that’s sure to boost engagement while teaching customary measurement conversions in 5th grade, is a board game! This obviously takes a little more prep on the front end. But, once it’s prepped you can use it year after year!

I actually use this board game that covers both customary and metric conversions to review at the end of the unit. Basically, students draw a card and answer the converting measurements problem. If they get it right, they move to the next space on the board with the same color as the card they drew. (Think Candyland!)

Board games are perfect for a partner activity or a small group station activity around the room. You can even project the game board on a smartboard, and pass out the game cards to your students, just like task cards! Click here for this board game to review converting customary and metric units of measure.

teaching customary conversions in 5th grade

Assessment

In a perfect world, we’d formatively assess, maybe do a project, and move on – but in my fifth grade classroom, I had to give my students some sort of summative assessment to see where they were at with customary measurement conversions. I found that the tests from the textbook only asked the questions one way, and weren’t actually assessing my students’ understanding.

So, I created my own assessment for converting customary units of measure. It covers the standard and has students show their knowledge in multiple formats. Click here to check out the customary conversions assessment that I used!

customary conversions quiz

End-of-Unit Project

Converting customary measurements in 5th grade is the PERFECT unit for a culminating project. I use this project to assess my entire 5th-grade measurement unit since it covers both customary and metric conversions.

The project I use, described in more detail here, has students design a new store for the local mall. They’ll have to convert measurements (both customary, metric, and time) to choose the best space, build a sign, purchase materials, hire employees, etc. I love it because it shows converting measurements in a real-life application!

You could JUST have your students do the customary conversion practice pages in this project if you haven’t yet covered metric conversions. I’ve also split the project up and had my students work on one page at a time, to keep it manageable.

Typically, I’ll give my students the whole packet, and go over the directions. Then, I have them work independently on each page. I tell them that they cannot move to the next page until I’ve checked the page they completed. This helps me assess their understanding as their work their way through, rather than having them complete the entire project incorrectly. I check the page, stamp the bottom, and send them on their way to work on the next page of the project! Click here to check out the entire converting measurements project pictured below that I use with my students.

converting customary units project

There you go! Everything I used in my 5th grade classroom to teach customary measurement conversions. This is one of my favorite units to teach because there are so many opportunities for real-life examples and practice. Teaching metric conversions next? Click here for my metric conversions blog post. Happy teaching!

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