Using “Ten in the Bed” Picture Book/song in EFL Class

By Alex Case
Ideas for using the popular song “Ten in a Bed” and any of the many books based upon it.

“Ten in the bed” is a very well known and popular song which combines numbers, the amusing idea of falling and a nice conclusion in everyone falling out of bed (and then maybe getting back in and falling peacefully asleep). You can also add the vocabulary of the characters in the bed, e.g. family members. This article in mainly based on the book Ten in the Bed by Penny Dale, in which the ten characters are nine animals and a baby boy, but it also includes many variations that can be used with just the song or others of the many books based on the song.

Introducing the topic and/ or language


Ten In a Bed is a great way of introducing counting down for the first time, so at the introductory stage you only need to introduce or revise counting up to ten.

– Students count as you build up a tower of blocks, that maybe then falls down for dramatic effect

– Ask students to quickly count how many of certain things there are in the classroom, e.g. chairs, boys or pink things. If there is enough room to move around, they can run and touch each thing as they count it.

– Do the same with body parts, either their own or those of every one in the class.

– Lay out and count ten flashcards and then turn them over one by one. Ask the students to tell you what number flashcard the thing you call out is (e.g. “Whale” “Seven” “Let’s turn over card number seven and check”) or what is on the flashcard with the number you call out.

– As you practice counting on your fingers, get louder and louder as you go up from 1 to 10. Then do the same, but also crouching down in a ball and then growing as you count up until you are stretched up and shouting for number 10.


– Give hints about what the animal on the next flashcard is, including whether it is big or small and maybe whether it is bigger or smaller than the animal you described before. Other hints include where the animal lives, what it eats, its colour, its body parts, and what it can and can’t do.

– Get students doing a mime for all the animals you introduce, e.g. swinging their arm in front of their nose to represent an elephant’s trunk

“In the bed”

– Do a pop up storybook where someone is searching for something in places including in a bed, e.g. Where’s Maisy?

– Do a song where students pretend to be asleep, e.g. We Like to Walk from FAB Red or Teddy Bear Teddy Bear, then ask how many are asleep in the first picture in the book

Activities while reading the book

– Ask where the characters are, e.g. The zebra is on the hedgehog/ on the chair/ under the chair/ in the kitchen

– Ask what the characters are doing, e.g. drinking milk, pulling, pushing

– Ask how the characters feel, e.g. cold, scared, tired, happy, surprised

– Ask them to predict which character will fall out next

– Ask them how many are left in the bed now and how many it will be when you turn the page

– Sing the next line of the song just before you turn the page

– Ask students to do actions, e.g. rolling, actions to represent each animal, feelings, little (maybe your index finger and thumb held up very close to each other), holding up fingers to show how many are still in the bed, and one finger falling towards the floor

– Add sound effects of falling onto the floor etc.

– Ask what actions are naughty

Post reading

Topic extensions

Beds and bed time

– Introduce daily routine actions like “clean my teeth”, “put on my pajamas”, “have a shower” etc.

– Students make a bed to do a finger play version of the song with (see Worksheets and Crafts extensions below for details)

– Make a flashcard revealer in the form of a bed and present connected flashcards that way (see Flashcard Extensions below for details)

– Make a bag that looks like a bed, and ask students to feel the bag to tell what is inside, e.g. plastic fruit. Alternatively, do the same inside a pillow case

– Put flashcards in, on, next to etc a picture of a bed, turn the flashcards over, and test the students on which flashcard is where


– Elicit other things that are naughty, then say classroom actions like “Push the teacher” and “Colour” that you want them to shout out are “Good” or “Bad/ Naughty”.

– Do another book with someone being naughty, e.g. Not Now Bernard


– Animal Flashcard Play your Cards Right- lay out ten animal flashcards then turn them over one by one. Show the first card then ask the students to remember or guess whether the next animal is bigger or smaller. When you’ve finished one game, do the same thing but with students guessing with ten cards they haven’t seen.

– With the students deciding on the animals or helping draw them, draw a bed with ten animals in on the board and erase them as you sing the song.


– With their eyes closed or facing the other way, ask them what fell out from its noise when it hits the floor, e.g. tambourine, can, plastic bottle, squeaky toy


– Lead on from opposites in the book (happy/ sad, big/ little, in/ out), for example by using a pop up book like Opposites by Robert Crowther


– Draw beds on the board or give them flashcards of beds, then say “There were thirteen in the bed” and they have to work together to put that many fingers there as quickly as possible, with all students in each group putting in at least one finger

– Say “There were ten in the bus”, “There were seven in the phone box”, “There were five on the sofa” etc and they tell you if it is normal or possible or not, then maybe show amusing photos or drawings to check

– Do something similar, but with students guessing how many are in the photo of the record breaking number of people in a phone box etc

– Show a bit of video and they tell you how many people, sheep etc were in each place

Counting down

– Set tasks to do in ten seconds and then count down, e.g. say the alphabet, hop to the other side of the room without putting the other foot down, say the names of eight different vegetables in English, touch and say the names of seven things in the classroom

– Tell them what to start doing in ten seconds and then count down to the start

– Pace backwards and forwards counting up from one to ten and back down again as you space backwards

– Count down with videos, e.g. space ship lifting off. Ask students to predict what is going to happen (if only using gestures) at the end of that countdown before you start the video.

Realia and flashcard extensions

– Put some realia or flashcards against the far wall and shout out “Roll over/ Turn over the elephant/ chair/ flower” and they run to the wall and race to do that as quickly as possible. This is more fun if it takes some balancing skill to keep the plastic apple etc upside down (e.g. by balancing it on some Blu Tack or Playdoh) or to lean the flashcard against the wall at the right angle.

– Make a bed flashcard revealer from two pieces of A4 paper, whip off the top sheet for a second then ask what is in the bed or how many are in the bed

Worksheets and crafts extensions

– Produce a worksheet with two pictures of each animal, one inside the bed and one outside. Dictate how they should colour them in, e.g. “Colour the bear in the bed red” and “Colour the bear outside the bed/ out of bed/ next to the bed pink”

– Make a bed from an A4 page with a pillow on it and a shortened A4 page on top as the duvet. Let them colour the pillow and duvet any colours they like, then staple them together along the sides but not along the bottom- so that they can put a hand in the bed. Then do the song with five fingers representing five in the bed and counting down as they hide their fingers

– Fold some cut ups of animals, punch two holes through them (making four holes), put rubber bands through the holes, and twist the animal so the rubber bands twist together and make the animal roll over when released at the point of the song where you say “Roll over”.

– Make a worksheet where the students colour in “There were seven mice in the bed” or “There were three red mice and one pink mouse in the bed” from written or spoken instructions. Older students can do the same thing by drawing the animals in the bed.

Music/ TPR extensions

– Do the Ten in the Bed song using the craftwork bed (see above), then move onto other finger songs like Mother Finger Mother Finger Where Are You? ( or Five Little Bears (Bouncing on the Bed)

– Sing the Ten in the Bed song, asking students to act along and maybe sing. If you have the right number of students or can organize them into the right sized groups, you can get a set of 6 to 12 students to act out the song by sitting them on a row of chairs and the person at the end of the row pretending to fall out of bed. “Roll over” can be them standing up and turning round, or just rolling their arms around each other disco style. You can also do something similar with cuddly toys

– If you did opposites, lead from “in” and “out” to the Hokey Cokey song

– If you did daily routines like “go to sleep” or “make the bed”, do Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush with the same vocabulary

– Do other counting down songs like Ten Green Bottles (Hanging on the Wall) or Five Little Ducks (Went Out One Day)

Sample lesson plans- Two one hour lessons with a fairly new class

Lesson 1


• Name badges

• A soft ball, e.g. a beach ball

• Songs on CD (although all but the initial action song can probably be done just by singing/ chanting)

• CD player

• Animal flashcards, including some more difficult ones that in previous lessons like “camel” or “rhino”

• The book Ten in the Bed

• Materials for Rubber Band Bears- One rubber band per student, one cut out picture of a bear per student, one piece of thin card the same size as the paper with the bear on it per student, one glue pen each, enough crayons for one per student, a hole punch, sellotape in case anything gets ripped.

• One prepared Rubber Band Bear

• Daily routines flashcards, e.g. the first set from preferably ones you can mime and including ones suitable for the song Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, e.g. brush my hair


• Photocopy and cut up bears for the Rubber Band Bears, approximately 4 bears per A4 sheet, then cut up some thin card the same size

• Make one copy of a Rubber Band Bear by colouring it in, sticking it to some card, folding it over, punching a hole in it with half of a hole punch (making two holes when it in unfolded), putting a rubber band through the holes, and then tying it so that it stays in the hole but there are two dangling ends that you can put your fingers in.

• Cut out and colour in one copy of a Ten in the Bed Flashcard Revealer, which is two pieces of A4 paper stapled together down one side with a pillow drawn on the bottom one and the top one cut short to show the pillow below. A5 size flashcards are hidden under the “duvet/ top sheet/ blanket”, which is flashed back to reveal them


1. Give out name badges whilst asking their names

2. Ask them to come and sit on the floor in a circle and throw and catch the ball while asking for and giving names

3. Mime “throw” and “catch” and move onto other actions, including ones you’ve done in previous classes and ones in the action song below

4. Do an action song, e.g. We Like to Walk from FAB Red

5. Students try to guess animals as the teacher gives clues, starting with actions and leading onto colours, describing the body etc. When you have revealed each card, you can ask similar questions such as “What can it do?” or “What colour is it?”

6. Filler- A song, chant or finger play about actions different animals can do, e.g. “I’m a butterfly, I can fly”

7. Flashcard numbers memory game- Lay out ten animal flashcards on the floor or stick them to the board, then turn them face down one by one as you count them off. Ask students what particular number flashcards are or what number particular flashcards are, e.g. “What is number three?” or “What number is the giraffe?”

8. Open the first page of the Ten in the Bed book and elicit what the animals are

9. Count the animals with the students and read out the first page

10. Reveal the second page with suitably dramatic sound effects of falling and crashing

11. Ask them who is left in the bed and to count how many, then continue with the book, doing the same each time. Don’t stop to discuss other things going on in the picture too much, as this breaks up the rhythm and will be done in the second lesson

12. Show them your rubber band animal rolling over by putting your index fingers in the two ends of the rubber band, winding it up by turning it over and over with your other fingers, then releasing it and putting your index fingers out as you say “Roll over, roll over”

13. Make a copy in front of the class, eliciting the names of materials and actions they need to make it

14. Get them to ask you for a (photocopy of a) bear and sit down at the table one by one. Get them to ask you for a crayon of their choice, and then to ask you for card (maybe of their choice of colour), a glue stick, a hole or the hole punch and a rubber band.

15. Either at the table or back on the floor, get them all making their bears roll over at the right point in the song

16. Filler- Get them standing up in front of a picture of a bed on the whiteboard and acting out the song by taking turns making their bears fall out of bed

17. Use the Ten in the Bed flashcard revealer to reveal daily routines vocabulary flashcards, asking or getting them to ask “What’s in the bed?” each time and doing the action after each one is revealed

18. Move onto the song Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, finishing with “This is the way we wave bye bye/ goodbye”

19. Filler- Do one or more other songs you have used at the end of the class and/ or contain waving bye bye, e.g. Teddy Bear Teddy Bear or If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)

20. Line up at the door to take their badges and say goodbye. Drill “Goodbye” and “See you tomorrow/ soon/ on Friday”

Lesson 2


– Names badges

– Song CD

– CD player

– A soft ball

– Animal flashcards, including some more difficult ones like “rhino”

– Maybe some Blu Tack

– Maybe some plastic hammers

– The book Ten in the Bed

– One copy of the Ten in the Bed Bed Craftwork worksheets per student

– One prepared copy of the Ten in the Bed Bed Craftwork worksheet

– Two packets of crayons

– One pair of scissors per student

– A stapler and plenty of staples

– Sellotape to patch up broken craftwork

– Maybe a teddy bear or teddy bear puppet

– Maybe daily routines flashcards


– Make one copy of a Ten in the Bed Flashcard Revealer (see Lesson 1 for instructions)

– Make one copy of a Finger Play Five in the Bed bed. This is similar to the Flashcard Revealer but with the duvet stapled to the bottom sheet on both sides but not on the bottom so that you can put your hand up between the two layers (like a wrist sweatband) and show the tips of your five fingers sleeping on the pillow. You can use the same worksheet for this and the Flashcard Revealer, just stapling them differently to make the two different things.


1. Ask their names and give out the name badges while they are still sitting at the table, and help them to clip them to their clothes

2. Ask them to come down and sit on the floor in a circle

3. Go through “What’s your name?” “My name’s…” by throwing the ball to each other, then move onto ages. If they don’t know numbers very well, move onto throwing the ball while counting up to ten or twenty, throwing the ball high in the air when they reach the last number.

4. Take away the ball and get the whole class miming “Throw and catch”, then move onto other actions like “Stand up and sit down”, “Jump” etc.

5. Do an action song, e.g. We Like to Walk (FAB Red) or Musical Statu

Written by Alex Case for Teflnet November 2009
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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