Friday, May 1, 2015

Making Metric Conversions Easy

When I first started teaching metric conversions, I did not enjoy it at all. Half of my class could not grasp the concept that every unit is 10 times more or less than the units next to it.

Then I met King Henry a few years ago and he changed my life.

It's funny how some mnemonics work well and others do not. This is one that certainly does. However, the idea of units was not working for my students. Most teachers use King Henry Died Unusually Drinking Chocolate Milk  to get their students to put their units in the write order. My students, however, were not down with the U, which I tried to tell them stood for units and would change to liters, grams, and meters. I'm not sure why it was confusing, but it was. So I came up with a new plan and hoped that I wouldn't thoroughly confuse my students. I now use three different sayings, all close to one another.

For grams, I use King Henry David Gulps Down Chocolate Milk. (You should see how fast they can write KHDGDCM).

For liters, I use King Henry David Likes Drinking Chocolate Milk. (KHDLDCM)

For meters, I use King Henry David Must Drink Chocolate Milk. (KHDMDCM)

Here's what it looks like in action:


I'm sure that you are wondering if my students have gotten them confused. The answer is no. This year has probably been the quickest that they have understood this. Now, I did not teach all three to them in the same day, as that would've been the recipe for disaster. I taught each one on a separate day and each day looked like this:

1) Introduce metric units of length (for this example)
2) Introduce and discuss the proper tools that we would use for each unit (our focus was on kilometer, meter, centimeter, and millimeter)
3) Discuss the concept of how each time we move over a unit, we're moving 10 times less or 10 times more. Again, they may not completely understand this part at first, but when you add King Henry in, you will definitely have some ah-ha moments!
4) Discuss what conversion means.  Introduce them to King Henry David Must Drink Chocolate Milk (again, because for this example I am doing meters) and model how this can be helpful in converting from one unit to another.
5) Guided practice. I put different conversions on the board and have my students convert with me on their small white boards that we use in the classroom. We do lots of them step-by-step until I know that more ah-ha's have taken place.
6) Independent Practice - Scoots are great for this! Any struggling students will still scoot, but we'll move around together in a small group.

I'm thrilled to say that my students totally rocked metric conversions this year thank to King Henry David! I've created three units, one for length, one for mass, and one for capacity. You can find them by clicking on the pictures below.






You can also get all three sets at a discounted rate in the following bundle. 


Happy converting!

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