“What do we see in the summer night?
Ten flashing fireflies burning bright!
Catch the one twinkling there
Like a star.
One flashing firefly in our jar.”
One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my grandmother’s porch at dusk waiting for the fireflies. Some nights all of the cousins would happily run around and try to catch them other nights we would lazily watch as in unison they seemed to float into the tree tops.
Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges beautifully depicts this summer ritual in an imaginative counting book that is the story of a brother and sister catching and counting fireflies then releasing them back into the night.
Counting seems such a simple concept from our adult perspective, but for the young child learning to count can be a daunting task. For starters they must learn the number names and the counting sequence, then it gets more complicated with concepts such as cardinality (knowing that the last number said identifies the total number of objects in a group) and stability (knowing that rearranging the position of objects in a group does not change the cardinality). To help youngsters master these complex mathematical ideas we must give them many opportunities to count. Reading books such as Ten Flashing Fireflies can help. Luckily, children often like books read to them over and over again, so each time we read with them we can ask questions that help them learn to count. First, have them count along with the characters. Then, ask them to predict what comes next. For example, when the children have three fireflies in their jar then catch one more ask how many fireflies are now in the jar. Have objects available such as beans, pennies or some other small item and have children use them to represent the fireflies. They can add a bean to a jar (or pile) each time another firefly is captured. After reading they can count the objects again and again.
What other ideas might you have for using Ten Flashing Fireflies to teach basic counting concepts?