Stage 2 – volume and capacity


Students can:

  • use a variety of containers to measure capacity
  • read a scale to determine capacity

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1

1. The teacher shows students a range of containers with labels that hold different amounts of liquid.


  • I have a container and I want to know what its capacity is. Capacity means how much it will hold.
  • Capacity is measured in litres or millilitres.
  • Each container has a different capacity. Look at the labels to find out how much each container can hold.
  • Students record list of containers and the capacity of each.

2. The teacher provides students with a list of cards with terms related to capacity.

card card card card card
paint more than a litre liquid soap oil almost full
milk coffee petrol almost a litre nearly full
soft drinks ice cream water tea juice
about half a litre about a litre half a litre half full approximately

In groups, students sort the terms into two columns.

language about capacity liquids

3. The teacher shows students a clearly labelled measuring jug and explains the measuring scales used to determine capacity (e.g. litre, 1 litre, and 2 litres).The teacher demonstrates how to measure capacity with the measuring jug by saying, If I pour liquid from this container into the measuring jug, I will know how much it will hold – its capacity! I think (estimate) it holds about (approximately, nearly, almost) 2 litres.

4. Estimating and measuring capacity

The teacher gives students a set of containers. Students estimate the capacity of each container and record their estimates in a table. After estimating the capacity of each container, students use the measuring jug to find the actual capacity of each container and record it.

Container Estimated capacity Actual capacity
soft drink bottle about a litre 879 mL
  • Students are given a variety of unmarked containers of various shapes and sizes. Students then select the container which they think will have a capacity of 1 litre. Students test their prediction by pouring 1 litre of water into the container and record the capacity as being more than, equal to or less than 1 litre.
  • Students collect a variety of containers with a capacity which is marked and less than 1 litre. Students then estimate the number of times this container will have to be filled to equal 1 litre. Students check their estimate by filling and pouring into a 1 litre measuring container.

Activity 2

The teacher provides students with different pictures of measuring containers holding an amount of liquid. Each should have a measuring scale (up to three litres). Students interpret the scale and estimate how much liquid is in each container, using language such as about, half full, about one litre.

  • Discuss the gradations on each container. How is the scale recorded, e.g. in 500 mL intervals, 100 mL intervals, 50 mL intervals.


Australian curriculum

ACMMG084 Use scaled instruments to measure and compare lengths, masses, capacities and; temperatures

NSW syllabus

MA2-11MGMeasures, records, compares and estimates volumes and capacities using litres, millilitres and cubic centimetres.

Teacher resources

Students mark 100 mL gradations on an empty plastic container by pouring water. They use their calibrated container to identify single or multiple objects which displace 100 mL

Student resources

Return to top of page Back to top