I recently found this idea on Pinterest, but had to modify it a bit to meet the needs of our standards. The original idea came from First Grade Wow. A group of teachers and I were brainstorming how to modify it this afternoon to meet our needs and this is what we came up with.
I would not use this lesson as an introductory lesson to area. The play-doh lesson I shared in the making length comparisons post is better suited for introducing the concept.
As with any lesson, I would do this first as a whole group model. In advance, draw lines on posterboard to create large squared graph paper. You will need 2 sheets of posterboard like this. On the first piece of posterboard, color in some of the squares to make an animal. Drawn and color in a different animal on the second piece of posterboard.
Explain to students that they are going to draw animals and then compare them to find out whose animal has more area. Have students tell you what this means and how you will compare the two animals to find out which one has more area.
Model for students how to do the activity below. Then have students work with a partner to complete it on their own.
During your model make sure to review the definition of area, more space, less space, and the same space. You can print 1 inch sheets of graph paper here.
Pair students up. Have each child draw an animal and color it in on their grid paper.
Have students partner share what they need to do to compare their animals to see which one has more area. Call on students to share out their ideas with the class. Have one student cut up their animal into squares.
Then have students work together to lay the cut up squares on top of the animal that was not cut up. Students can simply lay the squares down or glue them down so they will stay.
Guide students through filling out the recording sheet. Have them share their animals with the group and explain which animal has more area, which has less area, or which has the same area. Then have them explain how they know.
You can download the recording sheet here.