Zero, My Hero! Exploring the Number Zero

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Students will be able to identify the number zero, identify groups with zero objects and represent the number zero.

Big Idea

Many kindergarteners come to school with rote counting skills, but they often do not understand that the numbers they can recite actually represent quantities. This lesson helps to make that connection.


10 minutes

You will need to print a copy of the classroom book, Zero My Hero.  I prefer to use a color printer and laminate the book for durability.  I then bind it with a plastic comb, but staples and rings would also work. 

I gather the students in our reading corner, around my “big chair”.  I hold up the book and read the title to the students.  I ask them some questions prior to reading the book to help them make connections to the text.

I see a number on the cover of my book.  Do you know what it is?  That's right.  It is a zero.  I heard some of you say "O".  The number zero does look like the letter O.  What do you know about the number zero?  I heard some of you say that zero means the same as none.  You are right.  When I have zero cookies, I have none or no cookies.  Let's read our story and find out a bit more about the number zero.  The title of our book is Zero My Hero.

I read the first page for them. "Zero is my hero.  When something bad happens, he can make it better."  I turn to the next page and read, "I got in trouble for leaving my toys on the rug."  To help the students make connections to the text, I ask, "Have you ever gotten in trouble for leaving your toys out?  Let's see if Zero can fix this."  I read the text bubble above Zero.   I have the students predict what will happen before I turn the page. I then turn the page and read the text, "Now there are 0 toys on the rug. Zero is My Hero!"  

I talk to the students about how there are no toys on the rug.  "There is nothing for me to count!  I do not have anything to touch.  This is what it means when there is zero.  Whenever I am counting a group and there is nothing for me to touch, that is zero."  

We continue reading the story discussing how there is nothing to touch and count.  On the last page we talk about what happened to the cookies.  I say, "If there is a plate of cookies and someone eats all of them, that means there are zero."

After we are done reading the story, we move over to the SMARTBoard to learn more about the number zero.


15 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use my SMART Board.  If you have a SMART Board, the Number Zero Notebook file can easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson.

I gather my students in front of the SMART Board.  I have cards with each student's name on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the SMART Board.

I open the first slide (SMART Board Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques. I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can find the number zero, identify when a group has zero items and remove items from a group until there are zero items.

Language Objective
I can use the number zero to tell a friend how many items are in a group.

I then continue with the slides.

Slide Two:  This is the number 0.

Slide Three: When I count, zero can be the first number I say.  I then count pointing to the numbers on the Smartboard slide.  I repeat, having the students count with me.

Slide Four:  I have nothing to touch.  There is nothing to count.  There are zero things in the box.  When there are NONE there is ZERO.

Slide Five:  I have some groups of items on this page.  I am wondering what ones have zero.  Can you come up and find a group that has zero items.  You will erase to check.  

I call students up using my “picking cards”.   After the students find the ones with zero.  When the students find a group with zero, we talk about how there is nothing for them to touch when counting.  The students erase in the circle to expose the number zero. 

After the students identify the sets with zero, I ask them how many objects are in the other groups.  I have them come to the board and demonstrate counting the objects.  The remaining objects have eight and nine objects each to review those numbers.  I make sure the students demonstrate touching and counting each object. 

Slide Six and Seven: Now the students get the chance to remove items from a group until there is zero.  On slide six, the students move toys from the rug and put them in the toy box.

The students use their finger to drag each toy into the box (using the smooth part of your fingernail works well for students to move the objects.  If that is too difficult, students can use a tennis ball to drag the items on the SMART Board).  When they are done, we discuss whether there are any objects left.  I say, We know there are zero objects because there is nothing to touch and count.  We do the same thing on slide seven with the cookies.

Slide Eight: I use this slide to demonstrate how to make a zero.  I stress the importance of starting the number at the top where the green or “go” circle is.  I show how to make the number, saying to the students,  Start at the top where the green dot is, curve toward the left, hit the bottom line and curve up.  Close up the top.

Slide Nine:  Now it's time to do Turn and Talk to build oral language skills.  Students get with their assigned Turn and Talk Partners.   I tell the students, Now, turn to a friend and tell them how many grasshoppers there are.

After the students have had a chance to talk, I ask the students to raise a hand if they know how many grasshoppers there are.  (There are nine to help review that number). When I get a correct answer, to expand their language skills I have them repeat the answer in a complete sentence.  I say, You are right.  There are nine grasshoppers.  I then have them repeat after me, There are nine grasshoppers.

I now focus the students attention on the next group.  I ask them how many toys there are.  This usually gets a few giggles.  After the have talked with their partner, I ask if anyone knows the answer.  That's correct.  There are zero toys.  I know there are zero because there is nothing for me to touch and count. Say that with me.  There are zero toys.

We then move from the SMART Board back to our tables.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, the Zero My Hero Student Book is needed.  The book can be duplicated and stapled on the side.  After duplicating, the stapled packet can be cut down the middle to make two student booklets.

After the students are seated, I distribute the booklet and instruct the students to put their name on the front cover and set their pencil down.

The students and I read the cover together, Zero My HeroI ask them to point to the number zero on the front cover.  We then turn to the first page.  I read to them, Zero is my hero. When something bad happens, he can make it better.  We turn to the next page.  I invite the students to join me as I read.

I got in trouble for leaving my toys on the rug.  We turn the page.  We read together.  There are zero toys on the rug.  Zero is my hero! Boys and there anything for us to touch and count?  No!  When there is zero, we do not have anything to count   I invite the students to pick up their pencil and trace over the number zero, starting at the top.  

 We continue on, reading the book in this fashion.  The last zero does not have only has the lines so the students can practice making the number on their own.

When we are done, the students are instructed to put the booklet on their name tags on their table.  After independent practice they will get a chance to color in the book.

Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

 A copy of the Zero Cookie Activity Sheet is needed for each student.  To complete the activity, students will need ink pads and their pencils.  They will "ink" the erasers on the pencils with the ink pads and use them to make chocolate chips on the cookies. 


I distribute a copy of the activity to each student.  I have them put their name at the top and set their pencils down. I then explain to the students, I have chocolate chip cookies on my sheet, but some cookies are missing their chocolate chips.  We need to make sure each cookie has the right amount of chocolate chips.  Sometimes, you will see the number zero.  How many chips do you put on that cookie?  That's right!  None.  There will be no chocolate chips on the cookies with a zero underneath.  


I demonstrate for them how to touch the eraser to the ink pad and then touch the cookie on the sheet with the eraser to make a chip.  I stress that they do not need to grind the eraser into the ink pad (Yes...I had students do that once and ruined several ink pads).  I then say, after you are done putting chocolate chips on the cookies, you will be writing some numbers.  Trace over each number that is on the sheet  You will also practice some more zeroes.    Trace over the three that are shown and then make three more.


As the students complete their work, they bring it up for me to assess.  I make sure to have them count the number of chocolate chips for me so I can assess whether they are saying one number for each touch and touching each chip only once. After I have assessed their work, they are given time to color in their student book.  I encourage them to take the book home and read it with their parents.


Included in this lesson is Number Zero Dauber Review for students who need additional practice. Students can practice identifying, representing and writing the number 0 with this sheet.