Using a Ruler

Purpose:  to give students practice using a ruler, numbers, and some vocabulary and questions related to measurement:                       

ruler, length, height and width

quarter (1/4), half (1/2)

inch/inches (“), foot/feet (‘)

What is the length of the _______?

What is the width of the _______?

What is the height of the _______?

Prep time:  10-20 minutes                

Materials:  real-life materials to measure, copies of the handout for students, rulers (preferably with minimal markings – inch, ½ inch and ¼ inch only), paper, pencils

Prep:  Think about how you want to pre-teach the vocabulary by demonstrating and modeling, and assemble any items needed.  For example, a half and a quarter can be demonstrated by drawing a pizza on the board and talking about dividing it among 2 or 4 people, by cutting an apple in half and in quarters, or by cutting up a piece of paper. Once the concepts are understood, move to the ruler.  Make a list of items in the classroom that can be measured, including items like those on the handout: an envelope, a card and a package.


1) Pre-teach vocabulary, giving lots of examples.  Find out what learners already know about terms related to measuring length, height and width.  Practice the pronunciation as well.

2) Hand out the rulers and talk about them.  Draw a larger ruler on the board to illustrate inches, feet, ¼ and ½ inch markings.  Even if students have experience using rulers, they may not be familiar with the way measurements are written in the U.S. (2’ 3”), so plan to demonstrate by measuring a number of items together and recording them on the board.

3) Ask students to work in pairs, measuring items in the room and recording length, height and width of tables, paper, books, windows, boxes, etc.

4) After working with real-life materials, move to the worksheet for additional practice.


  • Make a chart on the board or on paper, with each student’s name down the left side and two additional columns, one for feet and one for inches. Mark feet on a doorway or on the edge of the board.  Have students measure each other, using rulers for additional inches, and record heights.  Then put the measurements in order from tallest to shortest and practice the comparative and superlative.  The same could be done with various items, their widths and lengths.
  • Students with little or no formal schooling may not be familiar with rulers and how to use them, including how to draw a straight line by running a pencil or pen along the edge of the ruler while holding it in place with the other hand.  Provide lots of opportunities for learners at this level to master the skill of drawing lines. For example, give them a page of text and ask them to underline whole lines of text on the page using the ruler.  Then have them practice drawing lines on a blank page.  Eventually, learners can measure the lines they draw and practice drawing lines of specified lengths.

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