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Introducing Temperature Measurement

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Grade Level: Grade K-2
Estimated Time for Completing Activity:
  • A few minutes a day during calendar/weather time.
Learning Outcomes: The student will:
  • learn how to read a Celsius-scale thermometer
  • associate weather conditions and seasons with Celsius temperature ranges
  • keep a record of temperature
National Standards:
  • Standard A: Understandings about Scientific Inquiry
  • Standard E: Understandings about Science and Technology
  • Introduction to modeling and number patterns
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • Science K.1 : The student will demonstrate an understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science by planning and conducting investigations.
  • Science K.9 : The student will investigate and understand that there are simple repeating patterns in his/her daily life.
  • Science K.10 : The student will investigate and understand that change occurs over time and rates may be fast or slow.
  • Science 1.1 : The student will demonstrate an understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science by planning and conducting investigations.
  • Science 1.7 : The student will investigate and understand weather and seasonal changes.
  • Science 2.1 : The student will demonstrate an understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science by planning and conducting investigations.
  • Math K.8 : The student will identify the instruments used to measure length (ruler), weight (scale), time (clock: digital and analog; calendar: day, month, and season), and temperature (thermometer).
  • Math K.10 : The student will compare two objects or events, using direct comparisons or nonstandard units of measure, according to one or more of the following attributes: length (shorter, longer), height (taller, shorter), weight (heavier, lighter), temperature (hotter, colder). Examples of nonstandard units include foot length, hand span, new pencil, paper clip, and block.
  • Math K.13 : The student will gather data by counting and tallying.
  • Math K.14 : The student will display gathered data in object graphs, picture graphs, and tables, and will answer questions related to the data.
  • Math 1.14 : The student will investigate, identify, and describe various forms of data collection (e.g., recording daily temperature, lunch count, attendance, favorite ice cream), using tables, picture graphs, and object graphs.
  • Math 1.15 : The student will interpret information displayed in a picture or object graph, using the vocabulary more, less, fewer, greater than, less than, and equal to.
  • Math 2.14 : The student will read the temperature on a Celsius and/or Fahrenheit thermometer to the nearest 10 degrees.
  • Math 2.17 : The student will use data from experiments to construct picture graphs, pictographs, and bar graphs.
  • Math 2.18 : The student will use data from experiments to predict outcomes when the experiment is repeated.
  • Ability to count by 1's and 10's to 30
  • Familiarity with meaning of Temperature
  • Large Celsius scale thermometer
  • String with 30 large beads, 10 each of three different colors
  • Chart for recording temperatures each day and/or worksheet for students to record temperatures
  • Temperature
  • Thermometer
  • Celsius scale
Lesson Links:

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the use of a Celsius thermometer. If the teacher would like to relate this to a study of weather, a suggested resource for an explanation of how air temperature relates to weather may be found at World Book at NASA for Students (See Lesson Links).

For background review of heat, temperature, thermometers, and temperature scales, a suggested resource is Physical Geography On-line Textbook website. (See Lesson Links).

The terms heat, temperature, and thermometer are sometimes confusing to students as they first learn about Earth's weather.  Heat is a form of energy and depends on the action of atoms and molecules in a material.  Temperature is a measurement of that heat, that is, the degree of hotness or coldness of the materials.  It is measured on a definite scale.  A thermometer is an instrument which has definite marks (a scale) used to measure the temperature.  There are three different temperature scales:  Fahrenheit (F), Celsius (C) and Kelvin (K).

Procedure: Beginning to Measure
  • Begin by introducing students to the large scale Celsius thermometer.
  • Have them identify the 0, 10, 20 and 30 degree marks.
  • Have them estimate what the temperature is (for example, a classroom will typically be between 20 and 30 degrees).
  • For younger students, practice estimating for a few days.
  • Next, have them count the divisions to the actual temperature measurement. For example, if it's 16 degrees they would count from 10: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Younger students may count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • When they finish counting always remind them to check the result with their first estimate. Is it 6 degrees? Or is it 10+6=16 degrees? Or is it 20+6=26 degrees?
  • Once students are comfortable, assign a different student to measure the temperature each day.
  • Ask the students to talk about what this temperature feels like so they begin to associate seasons and weather with the Celsius temperature scale. (Meaning, after you have taught how to read a thermometer it is best to have the thermometer outside so you measure the outside temperature, not that in the classroom!)
Beginning to Graph  
Once the students have made a temperature measurement, use the beaded string to represent this measurement. For example, if the temperature is 16 degrees, have the student who made the measurement count the first 10 beads of one color, and six beads of the second color. Hang the string in front of the class so that only these 16 beads are visible. For example, hang them over an easel with the remaining beads hanging down the back. See photo to the right from Dianne Cluett's class in New Zealand, with the blue and yellow beads hanging on the side of the easel. Photo of colored beads on a string from the classroom of Dianne Cluett in New Zealand
Using a class chart or individual worksheets, have a student color in this temperature on a chart for the day: use the first color for the first 10 degrees; use the second color for the next 6 degrees. You can also use a number line to show where the measurement would be graphed. Again, see photo from the classroom. Photo of rainfall and temperature number lines from Dianne Cluett's classroom.

Next day, get a new temperature measurement and have another student color in the graph for that day.


Your students (and you!) have now learned what Celsius temperatures feel like. Your students have learned how to read a scientific instrument, including the important steps of estimating and then checking their answer. They have learned how to make and then read a graph. And they have created a record of the local temperature over a series of days.


As local conditions suggest, you may want to try adding and recording other simple weather observations: rainfall, snowdepth, cloudiness...

Teacher Notes:

It is suggested that the teacher build on what may already be familiar to the students. For example, ask the students about the weather.  For example, hot? cold? wet? rainy?  Then introduce what is meant by temperature.


Assessment questions are included throughout the procedure of the lesson.  It is suggested that the teacher monitor the students for understanding, and spend extra time where necessary.  (See the Conclusions and Summary section at the end of the Procedure).

If a more measureable assessment is preferred, then two criteria are suggested as guidelines:  (1) Can the student arrange the beads to correctly represent a temperature? (2)  Can the student correctly shade in the paper graph to represent a temperature?

Reference: Lesson contributed by Dianne Cluett, an elementary teacher from New Zealand.

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