Which is Tallest?

In this lesson, children will compare blocks of different lengths and lay them on a graphing map in order from shortest to tallest.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand patterns, relations and functions
  • Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Making comparisons and estimates of measures

Which is Tallest?

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Blocks of different lengths
  • Graphing map or tabletop
  • Measuring tape
  • Extensions: homemade activity card with template outlining blocks from smallest to tallest

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Choose three children of similar (but slightly different) heights. Do not let the children stand up yet. Ask the students to predict: “Who is tallest?”
  2. Ask: “How can we check to see if our predictions are correct?” (“We can measure them.”)
  3. Ask: “Can we let one child stand on a stool and then measure everyone? Can we let one child lie down on the floor and then measure everyone? What do we have to do to make sure we measure appropriately, so that we can compare and find out who is tallest?” Say: “Everyone has to be standing on the same level (floor) with no shoes on.”
  4. Using a measuring tape or growth chart on a wall, measure each child’s height and identify if the class prediction was correct. Then have the three children place themselves in order from shortest to tallest. Once they are standing in order, ask the children: “Who is tallest? Who is shortest? Is _______ taller than _______? Is __________ shorter or taller than ________?”
  5. Say: “Now you are going to do the same thing with your blocks.”
  6. Bring out three blocks of different lengths and lay them on the floor (but without standing them up or lining them up). Ask: “Which block is the tallest?” Ask the children to predict which block is the tallest and which is the shortest.
  7. Ask: “What do we have to do to be able to compare the heights of the blocks?” (“We have to stand them all up side by side, making sure that they are all on the same level.”)
  8. Stand the blocks up to show the children. Ask them to check the predictions that they made about the tallest and shortest blocks.
  9. Say: “Now you are going to get to choose three blocks of your own to compare.”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Ask each child to choose three blocks of different heights.
  2. Tell the children to stand up the blocks on a flat, level surface to compare heights.
  3. Show the children the graph mat or a piece of paper with a line drawn along the bottom. Show the children how they can lay the blocks on the baseline on the graph paper to line up the bottoms so that the tops show the height.
  4. Check the children’s predictions after they lay down their blocks to make sure that their answers are the same as when the blocks were standing up.
  5. Ask the children to arrange their blocks on the baseline from shortest to tallest. Check each child’s work.
  6. Encourage the children to trace around the blocks (with a younger child, the teacher traces around blocks).
  7. Ask the child to color the shortest block “red” and the tallest block “green.”
  8. If the child chooses to, she/he can label the blocks with the words ” Tallest” and “Shortest.”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Tall, Taller, Tallest: Used to compare stature/height
  • Short, Shorter, Shortest: Comparison words for length

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Play with blocks
  • Have difficulty tracing blocks
  • Have trouble making predictions
Child care providers may:
  • Redirect the child by asking, “Which of the three blocks is tallest?”
  • Tell the child: “This one is the tallest block. This one is the shortest block.”
  • Help the child predict
  • Help the child trace blocks
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have trouble making predictions
  • Line up blocks with no attention to the bottoms so that they are not actually in order from tallest to shortest
  • Line up blocks in order from tallest to shortest
  • Want to use more blocks
Child care providers may:
  • Ask the children to predict which block is the tallest and which is the shortest
  • Direct the children’s attention to the bottoms of the blocks, so that the blocks are in height order
  • Help the children check their predictions
  • Once the children have mastered the task of arranging the three blocks in height order, allow the children to choose more than three blocks

Suggested Books

  • Big and Little by Steven Jenkins (New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1996)
  • The Tallest, Shortest, Longest, Greenest, Brownest Animal in the Jungle! by Keith Faulkner and Rory Tyger (New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2002)
  • The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1977)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Find three trees to compare height.
  • Find sticks and compare heights.

Web Resources

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