Inch by Inch

by Leo Lionni; Astor-Honor, 1962
An inchworm convinces some hungry birds that he ought not to be eaten because he is a useful measuring tool. After measuring the tails, necks, beaks, and legs of various birds, the inchworm is challenged by a nightingale to measure its song, or he will be eaten. The inchworm cleverly responds by "inching" out of the situation.

Mathematical Concept: Measuring length in standard units

Shared Reading
  • Display the cover illustration, and ask children to identify the creature pictured. Ask children to tell how they think the title of the book is related to the creature.
  • After reading the story, give each child a 1-inch piece of green yarn. Ask children to pretend their yarn pieces are inchworms. Have them place a finger at each end of the yarn, and move the yarn the way the inchworm moved. Then have them use the yarn to find the length of a book in inches.

Math Activities
How Do Our Pencils Measure Up?
Remind children that the inchworm uses his body to measure inches. Ask them to tell what tool we use to measure inches (ruler). Provide groups of four children with an inch-ruler, and paper for recording. Have groups label two columns on the paper: length in inches and number of pencils. Ask children to gather all of the pencils that belong to the group members, measure each one to the nearest inch, and record the measures. Combine the information from each to make a class graph titled How Do Our Pencils Measure Up?

Scavenger Hunt
Divide children into small groups. Give each group an activity sheet and a measuring tape. Explain that in this scavenger hunt, children will be gathering measurements instead of objects. They'll need to find objects that are 1-, 2-, and 3-feet high, objects that are 1-, 2-, and 3-feet-long, and objects that are 1-, 2-, and 3-feet around. Challenge children to look for objects they think no one else will find. Each group should record at least one object for each measurement listed on the activity sheet. At the end of the day or week, let children share their findings. Look for the most common and most unusual entries for each measurement.

Activity Sheet