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This is a lesson on number sense and numeration using literature


Language Arts, Math  


K, 1, 2, 3  




Harriet Goes to the Circus



Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro



(New York: Crown, 1989)


Topic: Standard 6 – Number Sense and Numeration

Grade: K – 3

Materials: Book Harriet Goes to the Circus



Read the book aloud with the students

In the book Harriet the elephant wakes up early to go to the circus because she wants to be first in

line in order to get the best seat. She is the first one there, and one – by – one her animal friends line

up behind her. But, much to Harriet’s dismay, the entrance to the circus tent is at the other end

of the line. Everyone turns around, and Harriet is now the last in line. However, it turns out the

chairs are in a circle inside the tent, and everyone gets a front seat.


1. One the first page of Harriet Goes to the Circus, Harriet is waking up. Ask the students what they think she will do first. Second? Third? What is the last thing she will do before she leaves her house? Ask the children to make a list of what they do in the morning before they come to school. Then have them put these activities in the proper sequence.

2. Utilizing ordinal names, ask the children questions about the story. For example: What is Harriet doing on the fourth page?

3. Give each child a large strip of oaktag with guide lines for printing. Have each child choose one sentence (there are 29 in the story) to write on each strip. (If this is too hard for the students to do themselves, you or an aide can do it beforehand.) Then have the students put the strips in the story’s correct order. Children can worked on this by themselves at other times as well.

4. Get a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, a loaf of bread, and a butter knife. Have the children give you directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Have them tell you what to do first, second, and so on. Follow their instructions verbatim.

5. Have the students brainstorm situations in which ordinals are used:

(in line, in the first paragraph, book pages, birth order, contests/prizes, directions)


Tell the students that when the animals are standing in line for the circus:

The mouse is next to the duck.

The duck is not first.

Harriet is next to the mouse.

Harriet is first in line.

Then ask, “In what position is the mouse?”

Later the animals discover that the entrance to the tent is located at the other end of the line,

and everyone turns around.

The owl used to be last or tenth in line;

now the owl is first in line.

The dog used to be eighth in line;

now the dog is third in line.

The monkey used to be fourth in line.

In which position is the monkey now?


1. Have the children take on the roles of the different animals and act out the story.

2. Have the children write a pattern book based on the story Harriet Goes to the Circus.


Math Through Children’s Literature

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