Measuring and Comparing Temperatures

Kathy Ahrndt, Northside Elementary, Benson
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Using thermometers, students will compare the temperature of various materials and locations. In science notebooks, students will decide on ways to record and organize the data that was collected.

Learning Goals




Students will develop an investigation to compare differences in temperature.
Students will record and chart data collected.
Students will present completed graphs to classmates.

Context for Use

This lesson can be taught in conjunction with a weather unit or on its own while studying tools for science. In my experience, my third graders have had little experience independently reading the temperature off of a thermometer. Prior to having them investigate on their own, do some hands on practice interpreting the small lines between the actual numbers on the thermometers. I allow students to record temperatures both inside and outside the classroom. Be sure to set up boundaries ahead of time and have an extra adult to supervise if students will be in various locations. Also be sure to teach thermometer safety.

Description and Teaching Materials

 Begin the lesson by having students OBSERVE a thermometer with a partner. In a science notebook or journal, have children describe, draw, and label everything they notice. Discuss together how a thermometer is used and how it works.
 Using an overhead thermometer or Smartboard tool thermometer, have students practice reading temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
 Next have student pairs write 3-4 investigable questions using the sentence prompt: How does the temperature of _____________ compare to the temperature of _____________?
Sentences can be written in science notebook.
 Have groups of students share their investigable questions with the class to help groups who are short on ideas. Examples: How does the temperature in our room compare to the temperature outside. How does the temperature of my hand compare to the temperature of my friend's hand? How does the temperature in the shade compare to the temperature in the sun?
 Instruct students to carry out their investigations. Remind them that scientist often gather their data and chart it in some manner. All information should be documented in science notebook.
 On day 2 of the lesson have student pairs choose one of their comparison charts to enlarge on construction paper. Students can use colorful markers to make graphs. Math skills can be used to calculate the temperature difference.
 Have each group share their investigation findings with the class. Post charts around the classroom.
 After all groups have shared, have students write a REFLECTION in their notebooks by using the prompt:
I learned...
I discovered... or
I wonder...
Closing: Explain to students that meteorologists are always measuring and comparing temperatures to help them make weather forecasts. In future lessons, students can make a line graph and plot out the daily temperatures for a week or longer. Temperatures can also be collected at various times throughout the school day. As more temperatures are collected, students can begin making predictions. Sample Comparison Graph (Acrobat (PDF) 2kB Sep2 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Fahrenheit is a more common temperature measurement for third grade students. As a teacher you can allow students to choose between Fahrenheit and Celsius or have them conduct investigations in both. Either way, exposure to both is beneficial. Guide students to the understanding that most scientists do use Celsius. Depending on how much experience students have had collecting and organizing data, more or less guidance can be given. To guide inexperienced students, a template can be used and modeled. Science notebooks are one place to record science investigations, but other paper can also be used. If students have access to computers, data can be entered into a graphing site such as the one listed below.


This is just one of many lessons in my weather unit. Therefore, a quick rubric is what I will be using to critique these investigations.
*Investigable questions are listed in notebook 4 3 2 1
*Temperatures are accurately measured 4 3 2 1
*Data chart shows a comparison in temperatures 4 3 2 1
*Work habits - Stayed on task 4 3 2 1


3.III.B.1 Investigate weather conditions using common instruments.
3.I.B.2 Students will particpate in investigations using appropriate tools.

References and Resources