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When One is Lost

Count, subtract and add—in English and Arabic! Children create furry stick-puppets to keep track of how many donkeys are headed to market or somewhere else!

  • Grade 1
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Bilingual folktales about number are a great way to integrate math, languages and social studies. Find a captivating book such as How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and Nadia Jameel Taibah or Build a Burrito: A Counting Book in English and Spanish by Denise Vega.
    2. Before reading, practice pronouncing any new words by seeking out families or others in the community who speak the language fluently.
    3. Read How Many Donkeys? with children. Soon they will start to count along as the donkeys wander off and then return. As you read, ask children to notice how the Arabic numbers are written and in which order.
    4. With children, take a closer look at the book’s illustrations. The fur on the donkeys and camels look so soft! Each hair looks touchable! How did the painter, Carol Liddiment, create that effect? Ask children to notice the different colors and markings on the donkeys too.
    5. Challenge children to make large stick-puppet donkeys that look soft and furry. Children use the book’s illustrations for inspiration. With children, count how many legs, how many ears, noses, tails and other body parts each donkey has in Arabic and English. Guide children to draw their donkeys with Crayola® Colored Pencils on light colored Construction Paper. Fill at least a half sheet with the donkey!
    6. Show children how using two or three different colored pencils, some darker than others, will create a furry effect with repeated light strokes. Little wisps can stick up for the manes and tails. If children like, they can add a colorful blanket and basket to personalize their donkeys.
    7. Encourage children to carefully cut out their donkeys with Crayola Blunt Tip Scissors. Children use Crayola School Glue to attach the donkeys to craft sticks.
    8. After the glue dries, divide into groups of 10 children each. Ask them to use their donkeys to retell the story in their own words.
    9. Challenge children to add and subtract other numbers of these wandering animals—in English and Arabic. What if two or seven donkeys were lost?
  • Standards

    LA: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds.

    LA: Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.

    MATH: Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction. Add and subtract within 20.

    MATH: Represent and interpret data.

    SS: Explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar human needs and concerns.

    SCI: Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.

    VA: Collaboratively engage in exploration and imaginative play with materials.

    VA: Use observation and investigation to make a work of art.

  • Adaptations

    Visit a farm that includes donkeys. Compare and contrast them to horses, zebras, cows and camels.

    Taste fresh dates, like the vendor in the book sells at the market. How do dates grow? Look for clues in the book.

    Ask someone who is fluent in Arabic to help the children learn how to make the Arabic symbol and write the word for a least one numeral (perhaps their age).

    Encourage children to work in small groups to invent their own counting story and create props with which to tell it.

    Count all of the donkey puppets in the classroom. Invent additional and subtraction problems to solve with them. Count by twos. Count backward. Have fun with these puppets!

    Figure out where this story takes place, and in about what time period.

    Ask children and their families to identify similar counting stories from other cultures. A few are mentioned in How Many Donkeys.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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