Measuring Temperature Activities for Elementary School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Young students need to learn to understand different phenomena in the world around them. This lesson focuses on activities that will help elementary students measure temperature.

Measuring Temperature

Many young students already have a good sense of what temperature is and why it matters. After all, they are often told something is too hot to touch, or that it is too cold to go outside. One thing that can help support your students' emergent understanding of physics is teaching them how to measure temperatures, as well as why it matters to measure the temperature of different things. To do this, you will want to use some hands-on activities that appeal to different learning styles and engage students in learning. The activities in this lesson are oriented toward teaching elementary students what it means to measure temperatures.

Visual Activities

This section offers activities that will appeal to visual learners, or those students who thrive on using art, images and graphic organizers to make sense of what they are learning and doing.

Visual Thermometer

Have students work in small groups for this activity. Give each group a poster board to work with as well as a set of markers. The students' task is to draw a large thermometer on their poster board, with demarcations for different landmark temperatures they have learned about. Then, they should create visual labels showing how to use the thermometer to measure temperatures as well as what different temperatures might mean. For instance, they can label the thermometer's bulbs, auxiliary scales or digital read windows. Depending on the type of thermometer depicted, students can label the boiling point for liquid, the mark of a fever, and so on. To differentiate, you can have different groups draw different kinds of thermometers, and then share their work.

Graphic Instructions

This is a great activity for students to remind themselves of the steps in measuring temperatures. Assign small groups to different categories, such as liquids, gases, living things, soil, etc. Then, ask them each to create a short comic strip in which a character takes and records the temperature of that thing. Their comic strip should function as a graphic how-to about taking temperature.

Kinesthetic and Tactile Activities

The activities in this section are designed to appeal to those students who learn well using their hands and bodies. This kind of active, hands-on learning will help students remember and internalize concepts associated with measuring temperature.

Get Outside

This activity brings students outdoors to think about the temperatures of natural aspects of their environment. Supply students with the relevant kinds of thermometers. Then, explain that while they are outdoors, they are responsible for finding the temperatures of three different things. These might include:

  • Air in different parts of the recess yard
  • Different soil samples
  • Water in puddles, water tables or other natural sources
  • Sand in sand boxes

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