In this lesson, children will create and record the fractions for each color of their caterpillar using colored pompoms.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols
  • Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Connecting number words and numerals to the quantities that they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Understanding and representing commonly used fractions such as 1/4, 1/3 and 1/2
  • Using concrete, pictorial and verbal representations to develop an understanding of invented and conventional symbolic notations
  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Understanding situations that entail multiplication and division, such as equal groupings of objects and sharing equally


Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Construction paper
  • Paper sheets that can be glued onto the construction paper. These are the recording sheets. The recording sheet should have the following statement written on it:  “______________ out of ________________ are __________________.”
  • Colored pompoms
  • Googly eyes, pipe cleaners (optional)
  • Completed caterpillar made out of different-colored pompoms

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Prepare a caterpillar and a blank recording sheet for demonstration purposes.
  2. Show the children the caterpillar. Ask them to describe the caterpillar. Ask them how many pompoms of each color they see and how many pompoms there are in total. For example, if your caterpillar has three red pompoms, two yellow pompoms and four blue pompoms for a total of nine pompoms, direct the children to state that three out of the nine pompoms are red and so on. Explain that, when you divide the group into various parts, you are creating a FRACTION of the group. Explain that a fraction is any PART of a group. For example: “There are three red pompoms out of a total of nine pompoms, so the fraction is 3/9 or 3 out of 9.” Record their answers on the sheet so that they can refer back to a completed sheet when working on their own caterpillars.

A completed sheet would look like this:
____3_____ out of _____9______ are ___red______     3/9
____2_____ out of _____9______ are ___yellow___      2/9
____4_____ out of _____9______ are ___blue_____     4/9

  1. To begin, only put out three different-colored pompoms and allow their caterpillars to be nine pompoms long. You don’t want a really long, multicolored pompom caterpillar. Depending on how many caterpillars they construct, add some different-colored pompoms and take away some of the already used colors. Change the amount of pompoms they can use.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Have the children work at stations that have a container filled with the three different-colored pompoms, the recording sheets and the construction paper.
  2. After the children have constructed one caterpillar and filled out their recording sheets, gather the children to discuss all of the different ways that they could have used the colored pompoms to construct their caterpillars.
  3. Have the children construct several caterpillars with various color combination of pompoms.

Additional Extensions

  • Group the caterpillars by which child constructed what type of caterpillar. For example, three out of the 12 children constructed caterpillars that had three red pompoms, two yellow pompoms and four blue pompoms.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Fraction: Any part of a group (e.g.,”There are three red pompoms out of a total of nine pompoms, so the fraction is 3/9.”)
  • Total: The complete amount of items counted (e.g.,”There are three red pompoms out of a total of nine pompoms, so the fraction is 3/9.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Have difficulty looking at the various groups within a whole
Child care providers may:
  • Start with pompoms in only two colors when constructing the caterpillars and have the children work with two color groups within a whole and then add on colors once the concept is solidified
  • Have the children group the nine pompoms into their color groups first, identify the groupings within the whole and then glue the pompoms onto the caterpillar
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Easily identify the groups within the whole
Child care providers may:
  • Further group the caterpillars by what child constructed what type of caterpillar. For example, three out of the 12 children constructed caterpillars that had three red pompoms, two yellow pompoms and four blue pompoms for a fraction of the number of children who made caterpillars  __(caterpillar description)_ for a fraction of   ______________.

Suggested Books

  • Give Me Half by Stuart J. Murphy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999)
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins (HarperCollins Publishers, 1989)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Web Resources

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