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In the frame: One is a Snail Ten is a Crab

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By Cherri Moseley Primary teacher

Welcome your new class with a fun counting book that could lead to some mathematical manipulation – and a spot of mayhem!

One Is a Snail Ten Is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Walker Books, ISBN 1844281647), is the ideal book for playing with numbers. Ask the children to predict what is coming next and they will be delighted when they are proved wrong! The book is great fun and, if used at the start of the school year, it will help you to gauge how comfortable the children are with manipulating numbers. Use the book for counting, recognising odd and even numbers, estimating and early multiplication.

One is a snail ten is a crab cover


Since one is a snail and two is a person, we must be counting by feet! Using a dog for four, an insect for six, a spider for eight and a crab for ten, counting from one to 100 provides some very funny pictures to enjoy and helps children think about numbers.

Read and enjoy the story with the children. As you read, encourage them to verify that each version of the given number is correct. They will soon find themselves counting in twos, fours, sixes, eights and tens. Ask them what they have noticed about the numbers and pictures – they will have lots to say!

Crab activities

  • Ask each child to draw a seaside scene with rocks, a rock pool and some sand. If possible, laminate the scene to use for number activities. Provide lots of copies of small pictures of each of the creatures used in the story (see activity sheet below). Challenge the children to make their picture ‘say’ a particular number by adding the appropriate creatures, and look at the different ways they have used. If they rely heavily on one particular creature, ask them to find another way using fewer creatures. When they are comfortable with this, invite each child to make their own chosen number and let the rest of the group work out what their number is.
  • Ask the children to find all the possible ways to make ten. Provide a large sheet of paper and lots of copies of the creature pictures. Model working systematically by starting with ten snails, then exchange two snails for a person (so the next way is one person and eight snails); then replace another two snails, and so on. There are lots of possibilities to explore.
  • Give each child an envelope containing a raffle ticket; differentiate the numbers according to the ability of each child. Ask them to look at their number without showing anyone else and then make that number on their scene. Invite the rest of the group or class to work out what the number is.
  • In your starter activity, count in people or crabs or any of the other creatures. As you count, drop a picture or model of the creature onto a tray. Support counting backwards by removing one creature from the tray at a time.
  • Turn a large, accessible wallboard into an appropriate beach scene. Make sure some of the pieces can be moved, for instance rocks and seaweed. Label the scene with a question such as ‘How many feet are in the picture today?’ Change the scene each day, moving rocks and seaweed, as well as adding and subtracting creatures – but always make sure at least a little of each creature is showing. Why not invite a different child to change the scene each day?
  • If you have an interactive whiteboard, clone copies of the creatures. Set up some slides with a collection of creatures, followed by a blank page. Show the creature slide for a count of two, then quickly flick to a blank page. Ask the children to write their estimate of the total number of feet they saw on their mini whiteboards. Flick back to the collection page and group the pictures to aid counting as you check the total. Use just one creature at first, then a mixture of two, three or more creatures as the children get better at estimating the amount.
  • Look at the numbers one to ten. Ask the children to help you list the numbers that can be made with only one creature and those that need two. What is different about your two lists? Introduce or consolidate odd and even numbers. There are lots of possibilities for discussion here. Why do creatures always have an even number of legs, except a snail? Is this true for wings? Can you make an odd number of legs by adding creatures other than a snail?
  • Once the children can quickly recognise the number each creature represents, begin to make up some addition and subtraction sentences for them to solve. Challenge more able children by making sure it isn’t always the answer that is missing.
  • If you can count by feet, you can count by anything! Invite the children to make up an appropriate counting system relevant to your current topic. For example, for a ‘wheels’ topic, one is a unicycle, two is a bicycle, three is a tricycle, four is a car, and so on.
  • For a cross-curricular link, look at the creatures in the book. Which kind of habitat does each creature need? How are the creatures the same? How are they different? Make a class counting book showing the creatures in their natural habitats.

Linking Primary Framework objectives

These activities are particularly useful for the beginning of the school year and have been written with Block A Unit 1 of the Renewed Framework for Years 1 and 2 in mind.

Year 1 Block A Unit 1:

Describe ways of solving puzzles and problems, explaining choices and decisions orally or using pictures.

Count reliably at least 20 objects, recognising that when rearranged the number of objects stays the same; estimate a number of objects that can be checked by counting.

Compare and order numbers, using the related vocabulary; use the equals (=) sign.

Read & write numerals from 0 to 20.

Relate addition to counting on; recognise that addition can be done in any order; use practical and informal written methods to support the addition of a one-digit number or a multiple of 10 to a one-digit or two-digit number.

Understand subtraction as ‘take away’; use practical and informal written methods to support the subtraction of a one-digit number from a one-digit or two-digit number and a multiple of 10 from a two-digit number.

Use the vocabulary related to addition and subtraction and symbols to describe and record addition and subtraction number sentences.

Year 2 Block A Unit 1:

Present solutions to puzzles and problems in an organised way; explain decisions, methods and results in pictorial, spoken or written form, using mathematical language and number sentences.

Read and write two-digit and three-digit numbers in figures and words; describe and extend number sequences and recognise odd and even numbers.

Count up to 100 objects by grouping them and counting in tens, fives or twos; explain what each digit in a two-digit number represents, including numbers where 0 is a place holder; partition two-digit numbers in different ways, including into multiples of 10 and 1.

Estimate a number of objects.

Add or subtract mentally a one-digit number or a multiple of 10 to or from any two-digit number; use practical and informal written methods to add and subtract two-digit numbers.


  1. sarah
    on 30 July 2011

    one is a snail ten is a crab

    one is a snail