Submitted by: Kathy Kinsner

Grade Levels: K-3

In this multi-day measuring liquids lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades K-3, students use BrainPOP Jr. resources to explore the standard measures that are used to describe capacity. Students will order cups, pints, quarts, and gallons from smallest to largest and determine equivalent capacities.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand that standard measures can be used to describe capacity.
  2. Order cup, pint, quart, and gallon from smallest to largest.
  3. Understand that different measures can be used to describe capacity.


  • Several drinking cups of different sizes
  • Two containers of similar capacity but different shapes
  • Sink or large water container
  • Newspapers and paper towels
  • Small paper cups for Day 1 measuring activity and Day 5 soup-tasting
  • Chart paper and marker
  • Drawing paper, markers, lined paper, pencils
  • Sticky notes
  • The book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
  • Soup ingredients from the chicken noodle soup recipe on the Activity page
  • Crock pot or large stock-pot with lid, ladle, plastic spoons, potholders, cutting board and knife (optional)
  • Additional unbreakable containers in various sizes
  • Access to BrainPOP resources
  • Unbreakable containers in the following units: cup, pint, quart, half-gallon, gallon


capacity; cup; pint; quart; gallon


For day 1, arrange the classroom for group work and use newspapers to protect work surfaces. For Day 3, arrange a 5 minute behind-the-scenes tour with school cafeteria workers and/or a custodian. For Day 5, decide how much food preparation can be managed in the classroom, and make arrangements to cook the soup. (If needed, chop carrots and cook noodles in advance.)

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Show the first part of the Cups, Quarts, Pints, Gallons movie, which defines capacity and ends with Moby’s milk mustache.
  2. Divide students into small groups. Distribute plastic containers of different sizes and paper “measuring” cups, one of each per group. Have each group determine the capacity of its container. Share the results.
  3. Session 2: Units of Measurement - Show students several cups of different sizes. Explain that if they were expecting a super-sized cup filled with their favorite beverage, they might be disappointed to find out they were getting a tiny one. Scientists solve this problem by agreeing on standard units of measurement. Show students a standard-sized measuring cup.
  4. Continue playing the Cups, Quarts, Pints, Gallons movie, beginning at 'What is a cup?' and continue as the cup and pint are shown. Stop before equivalents are revealed.
  5. Explain that a pint is another standard unit of measurement. Show students a cup and a pint measure. Ask them to guess how many cups it would take to fill a pint. Ask how they could find out for sure.
  6. Explain that you will choose a small group of students to be Secret Scientists. Their job will be to test their hypothesis by using the cup measure to fill up the pint measure. You will ask students to put their heads down, then give a sticky note to each Secret Scientist. Each will take a turn measuring (out of view of the rest of the class), and use their sticky note to tally the number of cups that it takes to fill a pint. At the appointed time, you will ask all Secret Scientists to reveal their findings. Record the results on chart paper: 1 pint (pt) = 2 cups (c).
  7. Assign students to bring one cup containers from home as examples to share with the class. Clarify that they should not bring glass containers or perishable foods.
  8. Session 3: Equivalents - Share the one cup examples students brought from home and discuss.
  9. Continue showing the BrainPOP movie section explaining pints, quarts, and their equivalents.
  10. Speculate about situations in which cups and pints would be too small to be useful. For example, you wouldn’t want to measure the amount of water in a swimming pool in cups–you’d be counting forever!
  11. Show a quart bottle, and ask: How many cups might a quart contain? How many pints? Call on students to demonstrate by filling containers in front of the class. Add these equivalents to the chart: 1 quart (qt) = 2 pints, 1 quart (qt) = 4 cups.
  12. Show a plastic gallon jug. Assign Secret Scientists to determine gallon equivalents, if desired. (Some can find equivalents using cups, some can use pints, and some can use quarts.)
  13. Take students on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the school pantry and/or custodial supply area. Have the kitchen staff and/or custodian point out supplies that come in one-gallon (or bigger) containers.
  14. Session 4: Why Measure? - Use the Game to have students order units of measurement from smallest to largest. (Explain the half-gallon measurement, not previously discussed.)
  15. Play the remainder of the movie, starting with the discussion of gallons that begins with Moby at the refrigerator. Add the following equivalents to the chart: 1 gallon (gal) = 4 quarts, 1 gallon (gal) = 8 pints, 1 gallon (gal) = 16 cups.
  16. Display the Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe and announce tomorrow’s activity: making soup.
  17. Read aloud Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. Explain portions of the story that may be confusing, and help students make predictions about what will happen next.
  18. Extension activity: Students may bring in extra vegetables for the class soup, if desired.
  19. Session 5: Measure, Make, and Taste - Make the chicken noodle soup, allowing students to measure and assist. Let the soup simmer until the vegetables are tender. Serve and share.
  20. Session 5 or 6: Document - Have students take either the Easy Quiz or the Hard Quiz.
  21. Review the week’s activities. Use the Word Wall to review vocabulary. Write additional key words on the board.
  22. Have students draw pictures of their scientific efforts, using paper and crayons or the Draw About It feature.
  23. Assign roles for student helpers: Recorder (puts a tally mark on the board as each cup is poured into the container), Filler, Pourer, and Director (keeps things moving, instructs others what to do).
  24. Session 1: Capacity - Present students with two containers of similar capacity but different shapes. Have students guess which would hold more. Model how to measure capacity using a small paper cup.

Extension Activities:

Create a group story using the Write About It feature, or have students compose individual stories. Finished stories may be displayed in class or sent home to keep parents updated.