Eleven Cats of Christmas Study Guide

Merry Fishes to All


  • Students will analyze and understand two sets of song lyrics.
  • Students will compare the two songs in terms of music, meaning, and math.
  • Students will make decisions about meaning and give reasons for their decisions.
  • Students will practice writing thank you letters.



  • If students are familiar with “The 12 Days of Christmas,” sing the song. If not, play a recording of the song. Explain that the song has been popular in England and the United States for centuries. It is probably related to Breton songs used in singing games in the 15th century.
  • Make a list of the gifts mentioned in the song.
  • Play the recording of “The Eleven Cats of Christmas.”
  • Make a list of the cats mentioned in the song. Discuss the names of pets belonging to the students. Discuss the animals given in “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Are they pets? Ask for reasons for students’ opinion on this point. Ask students whether the 11 cats are gifts. Ask for reasons.
  • Use a Venn diagram to compare the two songs. Points of similarity might include the titles,  the fact that  all the animals in both songs appear to be gifts, and the cumulative nature of the last lines of each verse in both songs. Points of difference might include the tunes and the fact that “12 Days” lists gifts given in a single year while “11 Cats” includes a single cat for each of 11 years.
  • If students don’t list this difference, point out that the singer of “12 Days” seems to have gotten LOTS of gifts. For example, on the second day of Christmas, the singer received “two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree,” so that in the end there would be 12 partridges in 12 pear trees, eleven pairs of turtle doves, etc. Use manipulatives or drawings to determine how many animals the singers of the two songs would eventually have received. (184 birds for the “12 Days” and 11 cats for the “11 Cats.”)
  • Have students choose to write a thank you letter from the singer of either song.
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