Grade Levels: K-3

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades K-3, students explore BrainPOP Jr. resources to learn how to measure length, width, and height with nonstandard units, such as paper clips or pencils. To apply what they learn, students will measure how many footsteps it takes to get from one place to another in the classroom, being careful to step heel to toe each time. Then they will compare and contrast their results.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Discover how to use objects and nonstandard units to measure.
  2. Measure distance using a nonstandard unit—a step.
  3. Make conclusions about why it’s important to use objects of the same size and shape when measuring.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard


  • Preview the movie Nonstandard Measurement to plan for any adaptations.
  • Determine distances you want students to measure, such as whiteboard to window; window to door; teacher’s desk to flag; etc. Write them on chart paper or on the whiteboard for all students to see.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Point to a large object, such as a window in the classroom, and ask students how they would measure the window. Allow time for them to answer. Most will likely respond with standard measuring tools, such as a ruler. Ask the same about a small object, like a pencil.
  2. Now ask how they’d measure if they didn’t have a ruler or other measuring tool. Some may come up with the idea of measuring with objects. If they don’t, give an example, such as measuring the window with sheets of paper. Ask if they could use sheets of paper to measure the pencil and why or why not. Then ask how they could measure the pencil without a ruler or tape measure.
  3. Display the BrainPOP Jr. movie Nonstandard Measurement on the whiteboard and explain that today they’ll join Moby and Annie as they discover how to measure length, width, and height without a ruler. Then play the movie, pausing at various points to reinforce student understanding of key concepts.
  4. After the movie, draw students’ attention to the chart you created with different distances to measure (see Preparation). Ask students how they think they might be able to measure these distances without a ruler or other standard tool. After they share their ideas, suggest one way to measure is with footsteps, if no one has mentioned it.
  5. Challenge students to measure each of the distances on the chart in footsteps, and write their results in a notebook. Model how to measure by taking steps heel to toe with no spaces in between. Explain that it is important not to have any space between footsteps for accuracy in measurement. Before they begin measuring, have students practice stepping heel to toe with no spaces between.
  6. Ask students to predict whether all their measurements will be the same. Then, give them time to measure and record each distance.
  7. After everyone has measured, bring the class together and ask students to share their results with each other.  Ask these follow-up questions:
    • Was your prediction correct? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think your answers differ?
    • Which requires more steps, larger or smaller feet? Explain.
    • Why is it important to use the same-sized feet (or other object) when measuring?

Extension Activities:

Working in pairs, have one student select an object in the classroom to measure and the other partner measure it using nonstandard units. Pairs should discuss the best nonstandard unit to use and record their measurements in their notebooks. Allow partners to take turns selecting and measuring. As a class, discuss what each pair measured and the nonstandard unit they used to measure it. Which measurements were more difficult to make? Why?