EL Support Lesson

Converting Centimeters to Meters

Get your students comfortable discussing their math thinking in converting centimeters to meters. This lesson may be used on its own or as support to the lesson Converting Metric Measurements to Decimals & Fractions.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Converting Metric Measurements to Decimals & Fractions lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Converting Metric Measurements to Decimals & Fractions lesson plan.

Students will be able to convert decimals to fractions in denominations of 10 or 100.


Students will be able to explain the process of metric conversions using discussion supports such as sentence stems and peer interactions.

(3 minutes)
  • Lead students in a brief braindump on the term "metric system." Write the term in the middle of a piece of chart paper.
  • Tell students to talk to a partner in their home language (L1) or in English (L2) about their background knowledge related to the "metric system." Encourage students to share anything they know about it.
  • Call on a few students to share key points from their discussion. Jot down keywords from their sharing onto the chart paper, in the space surrounding the word in the middle. Draw lines connecting the concepts to each other. Note: it is acceptable for students to have limited background knowledge at this point.
  • Leave the chart paper up to use at the end of the lesson.
(8 minutes)
  • Read aloud the language objective and have students repeat it to a partner.
  • Display a teacher copy of the Glossary and distribute one to each student.
  • Read aloud the vocabulary word metric and its definition. Describe the image that goes along with it. In the far right empty column, write the title "Example" and show students how to write examples of the term. (For example, an example of metric system is meter, centimeter, and kilometer. The speed limit on this road is 40 kilometers/hour.)
  • Assign students into partnerships and have them read each vocabulary word to each other. They should read aloud the definition and describe the image. Then, have students work together to write one or several examples of the vocabulary term in the last column. Invite a few students to share their examples with the whole group.
  • Instruct students to glue the Glossary into their math journal for future reference.
  • Explain to students that the metric system of measuring is one that is used in many other countries but is less common in the United States. Tell students that if they travel to another country that uses the metric system, it is important to know how much a centimeter or a meter is.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will practice measuring classroom objects in centimeters and then convert the centimeter measurement into meters.
  • Model how to measure a water bottle, or any other classroom object using a ruler. If possible, show this process on the document camera for students to see. Say, "I want to know how tall my water bottle is in centimeters. First, I line up the edge of of the 0 cm mark to the edge of the water bottle. Then, I see where the water bottle stops and look at the number of centimeters. It is 21 centimeters tall. If I want to convert this to meters, I know that one centimeter is 0.01 meter or 1/100 of a meter. Therefore, I know that I have to move the decimal point two digits to the left. Twenty-one centimeters is the same as 0.21 meter or 21/100 meter."
  • Ask students if they have any questions about your process.
  • Assign students into effective pairs. Tell them to choose a classroom object to measure such as a highlighter, eraser, book, lunchbox, etc.
  • Instruct them to use the paragraph frame as a guide to talk to their partner about their measurement and conversion: "I want to know... First, I... Then, I... It is ____ centimeters. The equivalent measurement in meters is ____ meters. I know this because..."
  • Call on two sets of pairs to share their conversations regarding the item they measured. Tell the audience to ask probing questions to get more clarity and details out of their peers. Display the following questions and sentences stems for students to use for inspiration as they listen and interact with their peers:
    • How did you measure the object? ("I measured it by...")
    • Could you explain a little more about how you converted the measurement to meters? ("I converted the measurement by...")
(12 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will work in partners to select classroom objects to measure in centimeters and convert to meters.
  • Hand out the Measuring Classroom Objects in Centimeters and Meters worksheet to students and display a copy on the document camera. Hand out a ruler to each student.
  • Read aloud the steps needed to complete the activity and model how to choose an object to measure and convert. Show students your thinking process as you convert to a decimal and fraction.
  • Assign students into new partnerships or have them stay with their original partners. Set guidelines for objects that are appropriate to measure with a ruler and those that are not appropriate.
  • Allow students ample time to complete the graphic organizer.
  • Join two pairs of students to form a group of four and have them explain their math work from the worksheet. Each partner should explain two of the measurements they found.
  • Provide and display sentence stems to help students explain their math process:
    • "We chose to measure a ____."
    • "It is ____ centimeters long."
    • "To convert it into meters in decimal form, we..."
    • "To convert it into meters in fraction form, we..."
  • Invite a few students to share with the whole group any discoveries or interesting observations they noticed as they shared in small groups.


  • Pair students with advanced ELs who are able to assist them in the partner activity.
  • Pull aside a small group of struggling students and have them do the guided work with you.
  • Have students repeat and rephrase the directions in the lesson.
  • Provide bilingual resources such as online dictionaries or glossaries to help students look up unknown vocabulary words in their home language (L1) or in English (L2).


  • Have them be first to share their math processes during group sharing time.
  • Ask students to rephrase instructions and important learning points throughout the lesson.
  • Encourage students to converse with their partners without using the sentence stems for support.
(4 minutes)
  • Distribute a sticky note to each student. Instruct students to measure the length and width of their math journal in centimeters. Have them write the measurements on the sticky note.
  • Collect the sticky notes and redistribute them to students, making sure that no one got their own. Then, have them convert their peer's measurements to meters on the sticky note too.
(3 minutes)
  • Invite a few students to share the sticky notes and their math process aloud to the whole group.
  • Remind students that it is important to become familiar and comfortable with metric measurements such as centimeter and meter because they will most likely encounter the metric system in their future. Have students return to the chart paper you started in the Introduction section and invite them to add to or change any of the words or sentences they wrote earlier.

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