Teaching ordinal numbers with “10 little rubber ducks” by Eric Carle

Although ordinal numbers ( 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th) may seem quite abstract to little children, the story 10 little rubber ducks by Eric Carle helps children understand this concept way better than any other story. 

Pre-reading activities

  • Line up students (line-up students then point to the 1st, 2nd,3rd student, ask questions “Who is the 2nd in line/3rd in line etc.)
  • Line up objects that students have around (students point to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd object and name it)
  • Bring 10 little rubber ducks to class and number them – then play Which rubber duck is missing? (take out one rubber duck at a time and students shout out the missing duck)

While-reading activities

I read aloud the story and point out key words. I hand out the rubber ducks to students and when I read “The 1st rubber duck….”, the student who has the 1st rubber duck hands it back to me. The activity continues until all the 10 rubber ducks are back in the teacher’s bag.

Post-reading activities

  • Comprehension questions (Who jumps over the 1st rubber duck?/Who barks at the 2nd rubber duck?/Who growls at the 3rd rubber duck?/Who stares at the 4th little rubber duck?)
  • The story shows actions happening during one day -you can extend the story and talk about sequential daily activities (1st I wake up, 2nd I wash my face etc.)
  • Matching activities- use the same 10 rubber ducks and have students match each duck with the animal that it meets (e.g. the 1st rubber duck meets a dolphin). For this activity you can print out animal flashcards – related to the world of Eric Carle). The students can do this activity either individually or in small groups.


The voyage of the 10 little rubber ducks is a voyage of discovery, of self-awareness/self-knowledge, therefore the story can be used to explore the themes of self-discovery, life as a voyage for self-discovery, appearance versus reality. The story can also be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCpNRTb5tOQ

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