Introducing subtraction with Ten In The Bed
In addition to teaching rhythm, vocabulary, grammar, listening skills, verbal skills, and more, songs are fantastic for introducing concepts in a way that makes it very easy for young learners to internalize.
As adults, we need to remind ourselves that things we take for granted as being really simple and basic are often brand new ideas to young children. Gaining an understanding of these idea or concepts takes a lot exposure and repetition. Songs allow for that kind of repetition in a fun way, and can introduce important concepts without needing any formal explanation, giving young learners a basic conceptual understanding that they’ll be able to build upon as their studies become more formalized and in-depth.
The song “Ten In The Bed” is a good example of this. With each verse, kids singing the song must recalculate how many are left in the bed. We never need to explain to them that this concept is called subtraction. We never need to let them know that they are learning basic math. Simply by singing the song, children gain a passive understanding of the concept, so that when it is time for them to have math lessons, they have a basic conceptual understanding of subtraction that they can draw upon.
Here are a few ideas for getting the most out of the song.
- After each verse, ask the children “How many are left?” You may want to pause the music while you do this.
- Count with your fingers. Pause the music, hold up ten fingers, and count them together. “How many fingers?” Next, point to one of your thumbs and bend it so that now there are only nine fingers showing. Ask, “Now how many fingers?” Elicit answers and then, together, count the remaining fingers.
- Sing the song while seated and give children 10 objects they can use to count with. These can be small bingo chips, pom-poms, erasers, toys, etc. After each verse, the kids can remove one object and then recount the items.
- Try this idea shared with us from Daddy Ross Preschool in Argentina:
Kindergarteners and preschoolers LOVE this activity. If you don’t have ten children to play with, it’s no problem. Just start from six (or however many children are playing), or use stuffed animals as substitutes.
- Try the above activity, but sing the song without music, and the leader (teacher, parent, one of the children) calls out a different number each time. For example:
Group: ♫ There were ten in the bed and the little one said, “Roll over. Roll over.” So they all rolled over…♫
Leader: ♫…and two fell out. ♫
Now two children will fall out, and everyone can count together how many are left in the bed. With large groups of more than ten children, you can have everyone participate (assuming you have enough chairs ^_^), and try having different numbers of kids fall out each time. It’s great listening practice and will allow you to introduce the concept of subtracting numbers other than one.
Enjoy the song, and happy subtracting!