Up Down Around

After reading the book, children will use a small toy and a box to represent positional words.

Lesson for:

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

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

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

  • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems
  • Use visualization, spatial reasoning and geometric modeling to solve problems
  • Describe and name relative positioning when traveling: over, under, around and through
  • Describe an object by its shape and location

Learning Targets:

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

  • Describing, naming and interpreting direction and distance; navigating space; and applying ideas about direction and distance
  • Describing, naming and interpreting relative positions in space and applying ideas about relative position
  • Finding and naming locations with simple relationships such as “under” and in coordinate systems such as maps
  • Developing common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates

Up Down Around

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book, Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayers
  • Small toys that move (small cars or trucks)
  • Boxes (small shipping boxes or even cereal boxes)

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. Introduce the children to the positional words that you will be using in this lesson: up, down and around.
  2. Explain what a positional word is in comparison to a regular word. “Positional words allow you to follow and give directions and to use language precisely.” Model each of the words with one of the small toys. Say: “The car is traveling up the chair. The car is sliding down my arm. The car to traveling around the easel.”
  3. Read the book, Up, Down and Around. When you are done with the book, ask the children to identify the positional words.
  4. Once up, down and around are identified, have the children act out the words. Say: “Can you show me up? Can you show me down? Can you show me around?”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1.  Give each child a box and a toy. Give directions to the children by inserting positional words into sentences:

“The toy is traveling ______________ the box.”  The children should then follow your directions.

  1. Ask the children what the words up, down and around have in common. (The children should be able to answer the question verbally or by acting out the correct answer. They should also be able to incorporate “direction” and/or “traveling” into their answers.

Additional Extensions

  • Using the box and the toy, introduce more positional words (in, out, on top, on the bottom, etc.).

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Up: Toward the sky or a higher position (e.g.,”Move the car up the box.”)
  • Down: Toward or in a lower place or position, especially to or on the ground or another surface (e.g., “Move the toy down the box.”)
  • Around: On every side of (e.g.,”We went around the box.”)
  • Positional words: Words allow you to follow and give directions and to use language precisely (e.g., “Identify the positional words in this sentence.”)
  • Travel: To move from one place to another (e.g.,”The car will travel around the box.”)
  • Direction: The course or path on which something or someone is moving (e.g.,”Note the direction in which you moved through the obstacle course.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Need one-to-one assistance to recognize and define the positional words being introduced
Child care providers may:
  • Introduce positional words that are also opposites to further solidify their meanings (up/down, back/front,  in/out)
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have a grasp of beginning positional words
Child care providers may:
  • Introduce more positional words as the children’s understanding increases (in back of, beside, across)

Suggested Books

  • Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayres (New York: Candlewick, 2008)
  • Ups and Downs: A Book of Positional Words by School Zone Publishing Company Staff (School Zone Publishing Company, 2000)
  • Positional Words (Get Ready Book) by Barbara Gregorich, Joan Hoffman and Richard Pape (School Zone Publishing Company Staff, 1995)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Set up an obstacle course outside. Have a kiddie pool that the children must wade through. You can be much more creative and messy outside.

Web Resources

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