If you are teaching ESL to young children, you know how hard it can be to keep their attention.
This is especially true when the language barrier keeps them from understanding what you are saying. And even the simplest language can be overwhelming when a student doesn’t understand. Numbers often fall into this simple yet impossible category, but they don’t have to. These games for practicing numbers will engage your students and bring smiles to their faces while practicing using numbers in English.
Make the Numbers Easy
One of my favorite games for the ESL classroom is memory. In this simple game, students arrange a set of cards in a grid face down on a desk or table. Each card in the deck has one match, and students take turns flipping over two cards in hopes of making a match. If they make a match with their two cards, they keep it and take another turn. If they do not make a match, they turn the cards back over and the next person takes a turn. The key is remembering which cards are which once they are turned back over. This game is great for practicing numbers in the ESL classroom, too. Make a set of cards for your own memory game; half of the cards should have numerals on them. Their matches should have the number word spelled out. Students play memory matching the number to the number word. It’s a chance to have fun and review number words at the same time.
Number Scavenger Hunt
This time of year is great for taking your students outside and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. You can get some number practice in the next time you are on the playground with a number scavenger hunt. Make a set of index cards with written numbers 1-20 or whatever numbers you want to review with your students. Shuffle the cards and give one to each student. On your go, students race to find one item in the quantity listed on their card. For example, a student whose card says “six” might race to find six pinecones, acorns, or leaves. Once he finds them, he runs back to you and has you check his count. If he is right, he gets another card and races to complete his new task. Play until you run out of cards (you should have enough so each student could get two or three cards), and the student with the most cards at the end of the game wins. If you like, bring the found items into your classroom to create a nature collage or review natural vocabulary.
Turkey Feather Matching
This game is perfect for a learning center or a busy bag when November rolls around. Give your students small paper plates and some brown paint, a turkey head, and some google eyes. Students first paint their plates and then use the other pieces to transform their plates into a turkey – everything but the feathers, that is. Collect the turkeys and write a number on the front of each one. These should be larger numbers; your students will be adding other numbers to reach that sum. If you like, staple the turkeys to a bulletin board, but make sure you only staple the bottom and the sides of the turkey. Then, label many dyed clothes pins with written numbers. These numbers should be smaller ones since they will be added together to reach the numbers on the turkeys. Either taking turns or independently, students draw a clothes pin from a bag and place it on a turkey. As they add clothes pins to each turkey, the goal is to reach the number written on the turkey. If necessary, students can rearrange the clothes pins on their turns. Your students will have fun building the perfect birds and reviewing number words and simple addition at the same time.
Number Cover Up
In this game, students race to cover every number written on their papers. To create the game boards, list the numbers two through twelve or three through eighteen. You can decorate these papers with seasonal clipart (leaves in fall, snowflakes in winter, etc.). Give each student one paper, and every group of three students two or three standard six sided dice (depending on which numbers you listed on the paper). Students take turns rolling the dice. Whatever sum they roll, they cover that number on their paper using dot markers, highlighters, etc. Students take turns rolling and marking their papers. If a number is already marked, play simply passes to the next person. The person to cover all of her numbers first wins the game.
This exciting game gets students excited about counting in English. Set up a pong board by labeling the top inside of several plastic cups with written numbers one through twenty. Velcro the bottoms of the cups to a board or sturdy poster board (so you can disassemble and store the game more easily) so they are touching on the edges. Place the cup board on a table, and give the first student a ping pong ball. He should bounce the ball on the near side of the table and let it land in one of the cups which is resting on the far side of the table. Whatever cup the ball lands in, he counts out that many markers. You can use dried beans, small pieces of candy, or any other item you have in large quantities as counters. He should count out his winnings aloud in English. Then the next person takes a turn. Play for a certain number of rounds, and the game win goes to the person with the most counters. You could also have students play until they reach a certain number of counters or until they can fill a small cup. Vary the game by letting each student bounce three balls each turn and then adding the numbers before counting out their winnings.
A fun game can bring life to even the most basic of lessons, and these games will get your students in the spirit of competition while they practice using numbers in English. Whether they are bouncing balls, flipping cards, or running around the playground, your students will end up with smiles on their faces when you use these fun English games in class.
Do you have a favorite game for practicing English numbers?
Do you have a great way to keep kids moving and learning at the same time? We want to know. Share your thoughts in the comments below.