As a teacher, the most important thing to remember when teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) is to get students involved in the activity. Learning numbers can be very boring if students are handed a worksheet or are asked only to participate in call and response with the teacher. Number exercises that fully engage students are more likely to be effective.
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The card game "go fish" is an excellent exercise for ESL students who are learning numbers. Beginning English speakers must use simple sentences along with the numbers, as in, "Do you have an eight?" and "No, I don't have a three." Newcomer students with very limited English also can play the game simply by stating the number and receiving a yes or no answer from their partner. This game helps increase student-to-student talking in your classroom, which is recommended in the University of North Carolina document "ESL Strategies for Success."
There is nothing like a game of bingo to get English language learners of all ages excited about learning numbers. Teachers can use a traditional bingo game with both letters and numbers or create one using only the numbers that the students are expected to learn. Bingo cards also can include numbers that are spelt out in addition to or instead of Arabic numerals. Students will enjoy the game even more if prizes are provided for winners.
While the song "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" is hardly appropriate for a classroom, it is an effective tool for learning numbers because of the repetition it contains. Change the words to make it appropriate for school and the age group you are teaching. You can sing "99 Bottles of Pop," "99 Boxes of Juice"---you decide. Of course, you might want to make the song "10 Bottles of Pop" for the sake of brevity.
Younger ESL students especially will love this activity, which is short but exciting. To do a countdown, the teacher simply looks for opportunities to countdown the seconds to an event, saying "10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... Blast-off!" "Lunchtime," "playtime" and other words can be substituted for "blast-off." The class can participate in longer countdowns as they learn their numbers.
A number exercise that beginning ESL students especially enjoy is "High-Low." This activity requires one student to say, "I'm thinking of a number." The student's partner guesses a number, and the first student responds "high" or "low." This continues until the partner guesses the number. This game will only work if the teacher models it first.
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