Home Literacy & Reading Early Literacy Nursery Rhymes: Math and Science In Nonsense Activities

Nursery Rhymes: Math and Science In Nonsense Activities

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Nursery Rhymes: Math and Science Sense in Nonsense

Graphing Personal Preferences or Opinions
Materials: Paper plates in 2 colors; 2 ropes about 15’ long with knots tied in each every 18”; 2 items to experience with one of the senses OR 2 ideas to think about
• Children sample 2 items using one of their senses OR choose between 2 ideas.
• A specific color paper plate will represent each sensory item or idea.
• EXAMPLE: Apples = Red, Bananas = Yellow; Yes = Blue, No = Pink
• Children decide which sensory item or idea they prefer.
• Each child receives a colored paper plate corresponding with its preference or opinion.
• Line up children with like colored paper plates in 2 separate lines side by side with their “outside” hands holding the rope and their “inside” hands holding the paper plates.
• Ask children which line is longer and what it means.
• While still holding the rope, children place their colored paper plates in lines on the floor with opposing colors side by side. One line may be longer than other.
• Children now let go of the ropes and step away from the plates on the floor to see the visual representation of their personal preferences or opinions.
• When children come to understand the process of graphing, they can be given colored felt figures to line up on a flannel board or some other sort of marker such as colored post-it notes, stickers, etc.

Spatial Relationship Hide-and-Seek
• Select one of these spatial relationship terms to explore at a time: Over, Under, Behind, Inside, On Top, Below.
• Children identify all the places in the classroom related to that term.
• EXAMPLE: Under the teacher’s desk; under a student’s chair; under a table; under a blanket.
• One child is “it” and closes her eyes while a student hides an object someplace related to the term the class is exploring.
• When the child is far away from the object, the class tells her she is “cold.” As she gets closer to the object, the class tells her she is “warm.” When she is very close, they tell her she is “hot.”
• This game can be played over and over using the same term until the students have learned its meaning.
• Switch to a new term when children understand one term.

Apples and Bananas
I like to eat, eat, eat, apples and bananas and potatoes and shrimp and hamburgers and…

Science – Sensory Exploration – Taste
Math – Graphing
Children taste a piece of apple and a piece of banana then graph their personal preference as described above.
(“Do You Know the Muffin Man” pg. 25)

Math – Division
Show children how cutting an apple into more pieces makes it easy to share it with others. First cut into 2 pieces, then 4, then 8, etc. Introduce fraction vocabulary. (“Where is Thumbkin?” p. 181)

Are You Sleeping?
Wake up, sleepy eyes!

Math – Graphing 2 Possibilities
Give each child 10 large wiggle eyes to toss onto a colored paper plate. Graph the number of “sleepy eyes” (those that land face down) and “wakeful eyes” by lining each up side by side in an ice cube tray. Count them using one-to-one correspondence. (Adapted from Do You Know the Muffin Man?, p. 28)

Math – Skip Counting by 5’s
As each child completes the activity above, write their results using hatch marks on the blackboard to create a “sleepy eye” / “wakeful eye” graph for the whole class. Show children how each set of 5 hatch marks stands for 5 eyes. Write the numerals 5, 10, 15, etc. under the appropriate set of hatch marks. Practice skip counting!

Baa Baa Black Sheep
If the three bags full were different sizes, who got the most wool?

Math – Spatial Relationships – Over, Under, Behind, Inside, On Top, Below
Select one spatial relationship at a time for this game and play “Spatial Relationship Hide-and-Seek” as described above hiding a little sheep stuffed animal.

Science – Empty and Full
The following activities can take place over several days: Show children three different sized brown paper bags. Ask if they are empty or full. With children’s help, fill each bag with cotton balls. When they are full, ask again if they are empty or full. Say the rhyme again with the children then ask which bag was for each of the characters in the rhyme (master, dame, little girl who lives down the lane.)

Math – Graphing Predictions
Ask children to predict which character got the most wool. Graph their predictions. Count out the cotton balls in each bag and, if possible, line them up to make a bar graph. Direct children to compare their predictions with the actual amounts. Bags could also be weighed to see which is heaviest and which is lightest. Discuss if it was fair for one character to receive more wool than the others. Should they all get the same amount of wool?

Math -- Seriating
Direct children to arrange the bags in order from biggest to smallest and vice versa.

Do Your Ears Hang Low?
How low is low when it comes to ears?

Science – Comparing and Contrasting Living Things
Show children pictures of animals with different kinds of ears. Contrast: How are the animals’ ears different from each other and from human ears? Compare: Which animals have similar ears and how are they similar. What about mouths?
(Adapted from Do You Know the Muffin Man, pg. 50)

Five Little Speckled Frogs
In the cool of the pool…

Math – Subtraction
Act out the rhyme using masks, plastic frogs, refrigerator magnets, etc. After each frog jumps into the pool, count the remaining frogs using one-to-one correspondence.

Science – Life Cycles – Frogs
Read a non-fiction book about the life cycle of frogs.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
And teeth and cheeks and wrists and arms and elbows and …

Science – Naming the Parts of the Body
After singing the traditional words, substitute other words for other parts of the body lips, such as tongue, teeth, eyebrows, jaw, cheeks, earlobes, thighs, shins, calves, ankles, fingers, knuckles, palms, wrists, arms, chest, elbows, back, waist, hips. Show the children the names of these parts of the body on a chart and see if they can find them on their own bodies.

Hickety Pickety, My Black Hen
Eggs-actly which egg is which?

Science – Sensory Exploration – Hearing
In plastic eggs put the following items then seal the eggs with clear tape:
2 eggs – 1 tablespoon of rice each
2 eggs – 1 tablespoon of red beans each
2 eggs – 1 tablespoon of salt each
2 eggs – 1 tablespoon of lentils each
2 eggs – 1 tablespoon of unshelled sunflower seeds each
Have children shake the eggs and listen to the sound each makes. Direct them to find the pairs of eggs that sound alike. Use the terms “alike” and “different” when talking with them. User fewer pairs for younger children.

Hickory Dickory Dock
Who else ran up the clock?

Math – Time
Using a demonstration clock, show children the position of the big hand and little hand when the clock strikes one. Move the little hand to 2 and ask them what time that would be. Continue with different hours.

Math – Measuring
Explain that a grandfather’s clock is an old-fashioned kind of clock in the rhyme. Direct the children to find something in the classroom to represent a grandfather’s clock. Graph how many steps it takes a toy mouse to climb up the clock using the length of the toy mouse’s body to represent a “step.”

Math – Graphing
Repeat the activity above using other toy creatures such as bugs, stuffed animals, etc. Graph the different number of steps it takes for the different creatures to “climb” up the clock. Guide the children to understand that the bigger the critter, the fewer steps it takes.

Humpty Dumpty
Why didn’t Humpty fall up?

Science Exploration – Comparison and Contrast of Living and Non-Living Things
Show children pictures of Humpty Dumpty and help them understand that he is an egg. Bring a real raw egg to class and show the children that when an egg is dropped (on a cookie sheet or in a pan!) it breaks and cannot be put back together. Discuss things that break and can be fixed and those that break that cannot be fixed.

Science Exploration – Gravity
Make a wall out of blocks. Hold a plastic egg on the edge of the wall. Tell the children that you will let go of the egg. Ask them what will happen. Let go of the egg. Repeat the activity asking them if they think the egg will fall down again. Ask them if the egg will ever fall up. Does anything ever fall up? Tell the children about the invisible force called “gravity” that keeps things from floating around and that makes things fall down.

I’m a Little Teapot
Getting “all steamed up” to “shout” is science!

Science – Changes in Matter
Show the children a real teapot with a whistle on it. Show them the handle and the spout. Explain that when water is heated, the water changes to steam and that makes the whistle “shout” to let us know that the water is hot and ready to make tea. If you have access to a stove, demonstrate how boiling water in a tea kettle makes the whistle blow or “shout.”

Itsy Bitsy Spider
Let the sun shine on!

Science – Evaporation
Ask the children if they’ve ever seen a puddle of water outside after a rain. Ask them if the puddle stays there forever or if it goes away. Guide them to understand that warmth from the sun dries up the water and that this is called evaporation. Place a cookie sheet outside on a sunny day in the morning. Spray some water on it. At the end of the day, is the water still there? What happened to it?
Explain what a water spout is. Many children don’t have gutters on their homes with down spouts. If your building has gutters with downspouts, show the children.

Jack and Jill
Lack of indoor plumbing can be hazardous.

Science -- Water
Show children pictures of the rhyme that include a well. Explain that a long time ago people didn’t get their water out of faucets but instead got it out of a deep hole in the ground using a bucket and a rope. Show a book or poster of the water cycle explaining that there is water underground as well as in lakes and rivers.

Science – Simple Machines -- Pulleys
Make a pulley using an empty spool of thread (or a sewing machine bobbin) with a skinny pencil stuck through the hole. Tie a cord to a little bucket. Lap the cord over the “pulley.” Let the loose end of the cord go all the way to the floor. While standing, hold the two ends of the pencil. Direct children to take turns sitting on the floor near you, pulling the rope down, and raising the buck up using the pulley. Use the terms “up” and “down.”

Science – Gravity
Make a “hill” out of pillows and a blanket. Place a small empty cardboard tube at the top of the “hill.” Ask the children what they think will happen if you give the tube a little push toward the bottom of the hill. Push the tube then encourage children to tell what happened. Now place the cardboard tube at the bottom of the hill. Ask the children what they think will happen if you give the tube a little push toward the top of the hill. Push the tube then encourage children to tell what happened. Ask them if they’ve ever seen anything roll up a hill. Explain that there is an invisible force that keeps things from rolling up.

Little Bo Peep
Bo Peep’s sheep might be on a ship or in a shoe..

Math – Spatial Relationships – Over, Under, Behind, Inside, On Top, Below
Select one spatial relationship at a time for this game and play as described above in “Spatial Relationship Hide-and-Seek.” Hide a little sheep stuffed animal.
Little Miss Muffet
Why would a spider frighten Miss Muffet? Maybe it wasn’t “itsy-bitsy!”

Math -- Seriating
Show the children toy spiders in different sizes. Direct them to arrange the spiders in order of smallest to largest.

Mary Had a Little Lamb
Mary’s lamb was NOT a good classroom pet.

Science – Comparing and Contrasting Living Things
Read the children a book about taking care of different kinds of animals including sheep, cats, goldfish, wild animals, birds, hamsters, etc. Discuss the different places that animals live, what they eat, how to care for them. Guide children to discuss good pets for living inside the house, outside the house, and inside a classroom. Now maybe they’ll understand why Mary’s poor little lamb got expelled from school.

Mary Mary Quite Contrary
There really is no such thing as a “green thumb.”

Science – Plants Need Sun
Plant grass seed in two different containers of the same size. Place one in a closet and one on a windowsill where it will get sunlight. Water each an equal amount according to directions on the seed packet. Which one sprouts?

Science – Plants Need Water
Buy a couple of white long-stemmed carnations. Fill a couple of empty water bottles (labels peeled off) with water. Add different colors of food coloring to each bottle. Cut the stems of the carnations so that the flowers will stick out of the bottle about 4” each. Now place the carnations in the colored water. In a day or so, the children will see that the carnations are “drinking” the water as the veins in the petals are now colored. Look at these veins in a magnifying glass. Introduce the idea that people have veins, too, for carrying blood around our body.

Muffin Man
Muffins can be quite tasty!

Science – Sensory Exploration – Taste
Math – Graphing
Purchase or make 3 different kinds of muffins with distinctly different flavors and textures. Have enough muffins for each child to have a couple of bites of each kind. Muffins can be cut into quarters for tasting. Keep one of each type whole and place one of each type in a 6-muffin tin with colored corresponding preference markers below each type of muffin. This is the graphing “guide.” Whole group tastes one kind of muffin all at same time and discuss its flavor and texture. Then group tastes the second kind and discusses it then the third with discussion. Direct the children to think quietly of which muffin they liked the most. One by one have each child select the marker from the “guide” that represents their preference. Markers are lined up in a bar graph on table, poster or board. Count the number of votes for each muffin. Write the numerals on a marker and place them in the appropriate muffin holders. Discuss which muffin had most votes and which had least.

Scientific Investigation with a Magnifying Glass
Gather samples of muffin ingredients (salt, sugar, flour, baking soda) and place on separate pieces of wax paper. Don’t let the children see you doing this. Children try to identify each substance just by looking at them with their eyes then with the magnifying glass.
(Adapted from “Where Is Thumbkin?” pg. 101)

Oats and Beans and Barley
Let’s hear it for the vegetarians!

Math – Patterns
Discuss different kinds of grains, beans, etc. Show children examples of each. Children glue different colors of grains, beans, and legumes in patters on a board. Or they can spoon them in layers in small jars to make patterned “paperweights” as gifts!

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Another missing critter!

Math – Spatial Relationships – Over, Under, Behind, Inside, On Top, Below
Select one spatial relationship at a time for this game and play as described above in “Spatial Relationship Hide-and-Seek.” Hide a little dog stuffed animal.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Let’s hope all those animals kept quiet at night so Old MacDonald could get some rest.

Math – Sorting and Classifying Animals
Direct children to sort various animals into those that live on a farm, in the water, in the jungle using plastic animals or cut out figures.

Math – Sequence of Events
Direct children to dramatize the order of the animals in the song using masks such as Roylco Farm Animal Masks No. 4951 available through School Aids.

Math -- Seriating
Direct children to arrange all the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm from biggest to smallest then vice versa using either plastic animals, stuffed animals, or cut-out figures.

Scientific Investigations -- Sound
Direct children to feel the vibrations in their vocal cords by placing the back of a hand under the chin while making an “aahhh” sound. Explain that sound is caused by air moving over vocal cords and that different people have different vocal cords so they sound different. Demonstrate the idea by stretching a thick rubber band between your fingers then have a child pluck it a couple of times. Do this again using smaller and smaller rubber bands.

Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake
This rhyme reminds me of my grandfather who called cookies “little cakes.”

Math – Shapes
Direct the children to roll out play dough using small rolling pins or thick wooden dowels cut into 6” pieces. Engage them in cutting out “cakes” in different shapes using cookie cutters. Consider having children roll out real lumps of cookie dough and cutting them with cookie cutters. Direct them to mark their initials in their cookies before baking them.

Queen of Hearts
What if the Queen of Hearts was very fashion conscious?

Math – Shapes
Science – Colors
Each day or week, the Queen of Hearts wants her crown to have only particular shaped or colored “jewels.” Provide a box with various colored and shaped earrings, buttons, foam pieces, etc. from which the children will select the Queen’s latest preference for the jewels in her crown. Children decorate a crown (plastic or cardboard) as a class project. Old clip earrings are fun to play with since they can be changed easily.

Ride a Cock-Horse
Rings on her fingers!

Math – Patterns
Children use colorful small elasticized cloth hair ties as rings on their own fingers. Encourage them to use several ties on each finger to make colored patterns.

How many people can the tub hold before it sinks?

Scientific Exploration – Floating and Sinking
Math – Graphing
Place a plastic margarine container in a pan of water. Count how many rocks can be placed in the container before it sinks. Graph that number. Now repeat the experiment with a different set of objects and graph that number. Repeat using objects of different sizes and weights, graphing each number (cotton balls, marshmallows, beans, lemons, potatoes, etc.) Guide a discussion about size and weight.

See-Saw, Margery Daw
Up and down and up and down.
Scientific Investigation – Balancing & Weighing
Make a see-saw using a ruler, a spool of thread and a rubber band. Fold rubber band in half and wrap it around spool. Slip the ruler through the rubber band loops and slide the spool to the exact center of the ruler. Make clay “creatures” in different sizes to ride on the see-saw. Guide children to notice how the bigger clay creatures weight the see-saw down. Challenge them to balance the see-saw with either 2 clay creatures the same size or with various sized ones.
NOTE: This kind of homemade see-saw does not maintain perfect balance. For a more scientifically satisfying experience, purchase a commercial balance scale from an educational vendor.

Ten in a Bed
“You’re squishing me!”

Math – Subtraction
Dramatize the song using stuffed animals of different sizes in a bed made from a cardboard box, a pillow, and a pillowcase. Count the number of animals remaining in bed after each verse.

To Market, To Market
How much does it cost?

Math – Money
Set up a play store where various types of items and stuffed animals will be “sold” for play money. Guide the children to make price tags for everything using numerical concepts they understand. Direct them to take turns being the customers and the shopkeeper.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
How I wonder what constellation you are….

Science – Stars as Objects in the Sky – Constellations
Read the children a book about constellations and point out that the stars in the constellations are like the “dots” in connect-the-dot pictures. Guide each child to select a cookie cutter shape for making a constellation. Pour white glue into a flat dish, have a flat dish of glitter nearby, and piece of black or dark blue construction paper for each child with their name written on a white label on the paper. Have each child dip its cookie cutter into the glue, then into the glitter, then press it onto the paper. Let dry for amazing “constellations.”

Where Is Thumbkin?
Whose thumbkin is whose? The fingerprints will tell.

Scientific Investigation – Fingerprints – Magnifying Glass
Write each child’s name on an index card. Provide an inkpad then have children make their fingerprints onto their card. Be sure to use washable ink. Direct children to examine their fingerprints with a magnifying glass to see the unique pattern in their fingerprints.
(Do You Know the Muffin Man? pg. 222)