How to Read a Thermometer: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is a Thermometer?
  • 0:32 Which Scale?
  • 1:09 Increments
  • 2:30 Knowing the Temperature
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

There are many different types of thermometers, and they have a variety of uses. In this lesson, identify the uses of thermometers, which scale a thermometer is using, and how to read a thermometer.

What Is a Thermometer?

Have you ever been sick with a fever? More than likely, someone in your family used a thermometer to read your body temperature. A thermometer is a device that is used to measure temperature, which is how hot or cold something is.

Thermometers can measure the temperature of different things. You can use a thermometer to find the temperature of the air outdoors or of something you're cooking in the kitchen. Let's discover how to find the temperature of just about anything by reading a thermometer.

Which Scale?

Temperature is measured in something called degrees. No, not the degree you get from college! A temperature degree is marked by a small symbol beside the number that indicates the temperature, like this: 45°.

There are two different scales for measuring temperature: Celsius and Fahrenheit. When reading a thermometer, the first thing to check is which scale is being used. Why is this important? There are big differences between the scales. A day that is 28°C would be very warm outside, but a day that is 28°F would be very cold!


Most thermometers use marks and an arrow, or a liquid that rises up to a line, to show the temperature. So it should be easy to read, right? Just look where the arrow is pointing or which line the liquid reaches to. Well, it isn't always that simple.

Many thermometers do not have single digits listed on them. If they did, thermometers would be incredibly large! To make them smaller, thermometers often show only the fives or tens marks on the thermometer. These are called increments. Between these increments are little lines that stand for the smaller numbers.

So, the first step is to look at the numbers and determine what increments the thermometer is using. When you say the increments aloud, are you counting by twos? Fives? Tens? This will help get you started.

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