K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Mother Goose in use: Rhymes that teach
This collection of kindergarten lesson plans uses classic nursery rhymes to teach curriculum objectives in math, English language arts, science, and healthful living.
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Learning outcomes

  • Students will recognize written numbers and use one-to-one correspondence.
  • Students will understand directional words.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

40 minutes

Materials needed

  • Materials to make fish counting game (See “Pre-activities” below):
    • Card stock
    • Pen and markers
    • Self-stick magnets (if you have access to a magnet board) or masking tape
  • Optional: magnet board
  • Recording of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Once I Caught a Fish Alive)” from nursery rhyme CD, such as 100 Songs for Kids or text version from nursery rhyme book
  • Nursery Rhyme Flip Chart or large chart paper with the nursery rhyme “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Once I Caught a Fish Alive)” written on it
  • Clown Fish Finds a Friend by Rebecca Johnson and Steve Parish


  • Prepare the fish counting game:
    • Draw or trace a large fish on card stock.
    • Make several color copies of the fish, and write a number on each from 1 to 10.
    • Make about 20 small fish.
    • If you’ll be using a magnet board, put a magnet on the back of each fish. If not, you can use masking tape when you do the activity in class.
  • If you’re not using a flip chart, write the nursery rhyme on chart paper for students to see.


  1. Anticipatory set: What do fish have that allows them to stay in the water?
  2. Play a recording of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Once I Caught a Fish Alive)” from the nursery rhyme CD or read the rhyme to the class.
  3. Have the students recite the rhyme with you as they read from the chart.
  4. Fish counting activity: One at a time, place a big fish on the board. Have students take turns place the correct number of little fish below based on the written number on the big fish.
  5. Directional words activity: Give each student a little fish and a directional word (above, below, inside, close to, left, right, between, before, after). Have the students place the little fish on the board in the appropriate place based on the directional words.
  6. Read the book Clown Fish Finds a Friend to the class.
  7. Conclude the activity by asking students the following questions:
    • Why do people go fishing?
    • What types of fish do you know of?
    • Do you like to eat fish?
    • Can you think of words that rhyme with each of the numbers 1 through 10?


Assess by students’ participation in the fish counting activity and the directional words activity. Did the students put the correct number of little fish under the big fish? Did the students put the little fish in the correct place according to the directional words?

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Kindergarten

        • Counting & Cardinality
          • K.CC.4Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality. When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only...
          • K.CC.7Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.
        • Geometry
          • K.G.1Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)


  • Goal 1: Number and Operations - The learner will recognize, model, and write whole numbers through 30.
    • Objective 1.01: Develop number sense for whole numbers through 30.
      • Connect model, number word (orally), and number, using a variety of representations.
      • Count objects in a set.
      • Read and write numerals.
      • Compare and order sets and numbers.
      • Use ordinals (1st-10th).
      • Estimate quantities fewer than or equal to 10.
      • Recognize equivalence in sets and numbers 1-10.
  • Goal 3: Geometry - The learner will explore the concepts of geometry.
    • Objective 3.03: Model and use directional and positional vocabulary.