Visualizing Customary Capacity

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Tis’ the season to teach measurement it seems!  Over the years, I have used a variety of visuals to illustrate customary capacity.  Everything from “The Gallon Tree”, “Big G”, “Gallon Robot”, “Capacity Flip” and even “Gallon Clown” has been in the lesson plan.  While all these resources serve as great visuals, my favorite, especially for 5th grade, is the one I would like to share with you today.  And if you find yourself looking for additional measurement resources, fold-ups and practice pages please be sure to check out all of my measurement resources!

I do have to admit that I have no clever name for this visual.  I just refer to it as our ‘gallon resource’.  Maybe you can help me think of one?  Personally, I prefer this resource over the others mentioned above, because it illustrates nicely how each measure fits within the other.  Plus, once every student has completed one, we have anywhere from 20-30 ‘gallon resources’ in the room that can then be used to visually make conversions later.

So, let’s get started!  Students begin with a plain white sheet of copy paper.  Carefully, they use a thick marker, I prefer blue, to outline the paper.  Once outlined, the student uses the blue marker to write ‘gallon’ in the center at the bottom.


Students begin by outlining a 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper with a blue marker. This is then labeled gallon in blue.

Next, the student folds the paper in half (hamburger-style).  The with the fold at the top, bring the left-side of the paper over to the right-side and fold again.  After creasing, the paper is opened back up and using a marker (red) the student outlines the four parts within the gallon (the red outline will go through the word ‘gallon’ that was previously written).  After outlining the four parts, the student writes ‘quart’ in the center of the top of each (red) section.


After the paper is folded in half and then in half again (quartered), the student opens the paper and outlines the four  folded sections using red.


Each of the four red sections is labeled with the word ‘quart’ at the top in the center.

On we go to pints. Start by refolding the paper on the previous folds.  Then, with the paper standing the ‘tall’ way, bring the top down to the bottom and fold.  Again, after folding, open the paper back up.  Using a (purple) marker, the student outlines each of the eight new parts (the purple will go through the word quart that was written previously in four sections).  After outlining, the eight parts, the student writes ‘pint’ in the center of the bottom of each (purple) section.


The gallon is refolded on previous folds and then folded in half once more. When the paper is unfolded, there willb e eight sections. Each of the eight sections are outlined in purple.


Each of the eight purple sections are labeled with ‘pint’ at the bottom in the center of each section.

Our final measure is cup.  Students refold on all previous folds, then with the folded paper laying lengthwise, fold in half again from left to right.  After folding, open the paper back up.  Once opened there will be sixteen sections.  Outline each of these sections with orange.  After all sixteen sections have been outlined, each is labeled with ‘cup’ in the center.


The paper is refolded on previous folds and then folded in half one additional time. When the paper is reopened, there will be 16 sections. Each of the 16 sections are outlined in orange.


Each of the orange sections is labeled with ‘cup’ in the center.

While you could include half gallons, I don’t because the overall finished product will become to cluttered.  In addition, you may want the student to jot 8 fl. oz. beside one of the cups, as well as, 16 fl. oz. beside one of the pints.  You could also do the same for quart (32 fl. oz.) and gallon (128 fl. oz.).


The final step is to label a cup, a pint, a quart and the gallon with fluid ounces. (optional)

After creating this visual, I have my students store it in their math folder.  The real power in this resource is when we begin making conversions.  When we do, I have the students pull out their gallon resource and we ‘visually’ make the conversion.  For instance, if the students are asked to convert 4 gallons to pints, I have four students bring their ‘gallon resource’ to the front of the room.  Once lined up, it becomes easy to actually see the answer.  Not only are we are able to see that each gallon has 8 pints, but we are able to determine the number in 4 gallons by counting all 8 pints in each gallon…or…we could multiply the number of gallons by 8.

It is truly a resource your students will use time and time again…until of course they have mastered the skill!  Which, as we all know, is the ultimate goal!

As Always…Wishing you the Best!

Mrs. B

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