20+ Ideas for teaching One to One Correspondence

A new school year signifies taking things back to basics for our beginning learners. Children are eager to learn and want to show you how far they can count. But then we take things back a few steps. Most children come to school being about to count, for many only by rote. I know I have a little leaner at home who can tell you 1,2,4 and 8,9,10 but doesn't really understand what that means. That's where One to One Correspondence comes into play. Keep reading to see 20+ ideas for teaching  One to One Correspondence. 

Pictures showing early counting and the text One to One Correspondence: What is it and how to teach it

What is One to One Correspondence?

I was first exposed to the concept of One to One Correspondence as a teacher - of course I knew what it was, I had been doing it since I started school, I just never thought of it as a concept. Put simply, a child has 6 cups and are instructed to put one straw in each cup from a collection of straws. If they can follow this instruction, they have one to one correspondence. If the child put all straws in one cup or shared all straws out between the cups or was confused, they don't understand one to one correspondence. It is simply connecting one object to one object.
One to One Correspondence is also called Cardinality.

My little learner can count and can identify 2 objects, however, doesn't understand "this is a collection of 4 objects" even though he can count to 4. Therefore he doesn't understand one to one correspondence but that's ok - he is only a beginning counter.

Why teach it?

One to One Correspondence can't be something that we expect the students to just figure out as we go and hope they get it. It needs to be specifically taught. I, personally, have never had a problem with children using their fingers to count, or any other manipulative for that matter. Counting with manipulatives is One to One Correspondence. Children need to grasp the concept early to help them with their maths throughout the first year of schooling. The more they can exposed to One to One Correspondence at the beginning of the year, the better they will understand the next step.

When teach it?

As a Foundation (Kindergarten/Prep) Teachers, One to One Correspondence, Shape and Patterns are the first concepts I teach. One to One Correspondence is revisited as regularly as required during the first term. Many children will practice One to One Correspondence at Pre-School

How to teach it?

The best way to teach One to One Correspondence is to expose your students to it regularly, repeated practise and a variety of activities, all concentrating on the same still. Quick warm ups are easy, center activities are fabulous and worksheet activities have a place, with learning being hands on. Here are some ideas that I use in my classroom.

Warm Ups

Have the up and moving around. Children find somewhere in the room to stand. Roll a large dice. Children walk the number of steps shown on the dice.

Sit the children in a circle and give children a piece of paper or tens frame. Roll a dice, children collect that number of counters. Clear the board with each roll as you are not working on addition quite yet.

Put blue tack or magnetic strips on the back of the domino cards. Spread around the whiteboard. Ask students to come up to the board and find different numbers of dots. 

Use partner or small group games that children have played before as a warm up. This Spin and race to 10 is perfect. Alternatively, children could use a tens frame and a dice. 

Whole Class Activities

Simple trace sheets. Children trace over dotted lines. Each number to 10 included. Once finished, children could count out 3 of different objects and place them around the worksheet. 

Number flaps. Children flip the paper up and draw the correct number of dots or pictures underneath the flap.  

Simple worksheets. Counting, identifying and matching numbers. 

Centre Activities

Centre (center) activities are perfect for exposing children to One to One Correspondence in a variety of forms. It's much easier for you too, you only need to make up one or two copies of each activity. Your laminator will absolutely be your best friend. Students only need 5-8 minutes per activity. Have a quick walk around to see how children are grasping the concept.

Any of these activities can also be sent home with students for extra practice. 

Simple match up activities like this one - matching numbers to fingers shown and matching numbers to pictures. 

Simple games like rolling a dice and adding that many scoops to the ice-cream cone. 

Use number posters or cards to draw the number of dots shown on the card.  

This is a simple activity that you could use any number cards you have in the classroom. Children simply look at the number and place that number of counters out. 

Teddy Counters are a staple in my classroom and there is something about standing them up in rows that children love. In this activity there is a dot underneath each teddy to help children match the correct number. Perfect for little learners and those still developing their number concepts. 

Simple games like roll and cover. Roll a dice, find the number and cover it with a counter. 

Students LOVE this activity. All you need is some paper with numbers and some punches. Children punch the correct number of shapes out. 

Simple clip cards. Easy for children to count and identify the number. Sneaky working on fine motor skills too....

I worked through this activity with my little learner. He loved making playdoh balls. Teach the children to show numbers using a variety of manipulatives. 

Much excitement when I pull my magnetic letters out from the storeroom. Children love finding the correct number and placing it next to the pictures. 

Label pegs to match the dots. 

Like the look of these activities and want to see more? Save yourself time and download my pack now, containing a total of 28 activities for teaching One to One Correspondence. Simply print, laminate and cut between resources. Click here to download it now. 

Looking for another whole class activity you could do? I investigate a number per week with this Number Detectives pack.

And Bingo is another favourite at the beginning of the school year. Notice the variety on the game cards. Perfect for teaching reading and one to one correspondence.

I hope these 20+ ideas for teaching one to one correspondence have helped with your teaching of little learners. Do you have any other fun activities to do with your children to help them learn one to one correspondence? Comment below!
Have fun, enjoy and until next time, happy teaching!


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  2. This is great for students who are just learning. I'll try to apply it in my tutorial center. I have kids there who just started to read and write.

  3. I think these activities also really seem great for center work that students can engage on after they have had direct instruction. It helps reinforce skills for students who may have already mastered it, but by putting it in centers students can also practice and build the skills they are missing.


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