Temperature: Centigrade and Fahrenheit
What's the Difference?

A Multi-level Cooperative Learning Activity


This lesson plan is an elaboration of a lesson idea described in Stainback, W. Stainback, S., and Stefanich, G. (1996). Learning Together in Inclusive Classrooms: What About the Curriculum. Teaching Exceptional Learners, 28 (3). 14-19.

Grade Level and Subject: Fifth grade science/math

Concepts: Hot and Cold, Centigrade and Fahrenheit Scales, Conversion Formulas, Relationship Between Temperature, Diffusion, and Molecular Movement

Background: This lesson is part of a unit on the metric system. Students will have already worked with measures of distance, weight, and volume.

Time Requirements: Approximately 90 minutes

Low Functioning Students:
1) Identify and describe the concepts of hot and cold
2) Correctly label and describe the uses of a thermometer
3) Read thermometers using both scales
Average Functioning (Most) Students:
1) Read thermometers using both scales
2) Convert from one scale to the other
3) Identify the temperature at which water boils and freezes expressed in both scales
4) Describe the relationship between temperature and diffusion
High Functioning Students:
1) Read thermometers using both scales
2) Develop/discover conversion formulas for Centigrade to Fahrenheit and Fahrenheit to Centigrade
3) Convert from one scale to the other
4) Identify the temperature at which water boils and freezes expressed in both scales
5) Describe and understand the relationship between temperature, diffusion, and molecular movement

Materials/ Resources:
Seven or eight thermometers with both Fahrenheit and Centigrade scales
Twenty-eight or thirty-two medium-sized beakers
Approximately two gallons of distilled water
Seven or eight ounces of red or blue dye
Equipment to heat the distilled water
Ice cubes and a refrigerator to cool the distilled water
Worksheets for student use in recording, converting, and determining formulas

Lesson Introduction:
Today we're going to be learning about temperature and how it's measured. (Holding up a thermometer) Can anyone tell me what we call this? Right, it's a
thermometer, and that's what we call the instrument we use to measure temperature. What unit of measurement do we use to indicate temperature? (If
students don't understand, say, "Do we use inches or pounds?) That's right, we use degrees. What do you think our temperature is right now in this room? (about
72 degrees) Does anyone know what scale we're using when we say it's 72 degrees in the room? It's the Fahrenheit scale. Today we're going to use thermometers to measure temperature, and we're not only going to take these measurements in Fahrenheit units, but also in another scale called the Celsius or Centigrade
scale. Has anyone ever heard of that scale? Well, it's a Metric scale that's used in most other countries, including Canada. Have any of you been to Canada and listened to a weather report there? They give the temperature using the Celsius scale. It's also used by scientists, even in the USA. (Students will have already worked with other Metric scales to measure length, weight, and volume.)

Lesson Activities:
1) Students are placed in mixed-ability groups of four. Each group should consist of one higher-achieving student, two middle achievers, and one
lower-achieving student.
2) Each group is provided with a thermometer, four beakers filled with water of different temperatures ranging from near freezing to approximately 110-120
degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature of hot, but not scalding, tap water), a small container of red or blue dye, and a work sheet with spaces for recording
temperatures of the liquid in both scales.
3) Students will measure the temperature of the water in each beaker and record the temperatures in both scales.
4) Students will determine approximately what temperature constitutes "hot" and "cold" in each scale.
5) Students will pour the dye in each beaker and time how long it takes to diffuse (mix thoroughly) into the water. Students will then determine a rule to
describe the relationship between temperature and diffusion. Students will be asked to speculate why diffusion occurs more quickly in hot water (molecular
movement is more rapid at higher temperatures).
6) Given the formula for converting Centigrade to Fahrenheit (9/5C + 32 = F), students will be asked as a group to complete a worksheet with conversions from
C to F (including freezing and boiling points). They will then be asked to develop a formula for reversing the process (going from F to C or C = 5/9 F -17.777) and to complete the other side of the worksheet requiring these conversions. If no group is able to develop the formula, provide it for them.
Allow groups to use calculators.
7) If you wish, have your students check their work by consulting Rapid Tables.

1) Worksheets will be scored and a group grade recorded.
2) Information from this unit will be assessed as part of a metric unit

Follow-up/ Extension Activities::
1) Students will be asked to speculate why the Celsius scale is used in most other countries.
2) Interested students will be asked to research the origins of each scale.


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Last updated 11-10-2015
Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.

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