First Days of School with ELLs: Me By the Numbers Lesson and Project

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Me By The Numbers 

This is an easy and fun activity to do during the first days of school. It’s easy to prepare, and is a great, low-stress way to start informally assessing your new ELL students for both input and output, right away. It’s also a fun way to introduce yourself to your students while also providing students with a “mini-project” to be completed during the first week. Best of all, it’s simple enough for all students to access, and it will allow you to figure out if you have any students who are newcomers or who are significantly struggling with English. Usually, they stand out right away.

The activity is called Me By the Numbers.

Part 1 Teacher by the Numbers:

You can do the first part of the activity in two ways.

Option 1:

First, write all of the numbers up on the board in a list. In small groups, pairs, or as a whole class (depending on the size) I give out strips of paper with a sentence about what one of the numbers represents. One strip might say “my age” and another “my house number.” Ask the kids to see if they can pair the correct sentence with the correct number by bringing it to the board and taping it next to the number they think the statement represents. I then check the board and reveal the correct answers by moving the strips to the correct numbers. I read out the statements and give a little more information about myself as I explain. If you have a large class you will need a lot of statements, so it might be best to use option 2, see below.

Option 2:

Give each pair of students (or each individual student) a sheet with 10 numbers about you in one column and ten statements that go with those numbers, scrambled in another column. (I’ve included an example of this worksheet in the download). They discuss with their partner and try to match the statement with the correct number. I’ve also done this where I ask the students to cut out the sentences and then physically match them with the numbers, it depends on how much time you want to spend and your tolerance for having little bits of paper all over the floor. Once students are done matching, go over the correct answers orally. Sometimes I give a prize to the students who gets the most matches correct.

Sample “Me by the Numbers” from some years ago
  • 1 sister. I have one sister who is 9 years older than I am.
  • 2 cats. Gronk and Izzie. They’ve been with us for about 4 years now. Izzie uses the toilet.
  • 33 years old. That’s how old I am.
  • 24 of June. The day I got married.
  • 10 years as an ELL teacher.
  • 5 and 7 The ages of my nephews.
  • 18 years of school. That’s how many years I went to school.
  • 4 schools. I have taught in 4 different public school districts.
  • 7 countries. The number of countries we visited on our honeymoon.
  • 16 The number of my house.

Part 2: Student mini-project

Now that they have my list I ask them to take a blank sheet of paper and come up with 10 numbers that represent something important to them. They write the numbers and what they represent. Then they share with the class. Sharing with the class, or at least with a small group allows the students time to edit or modify their statements before starting the mini-project.

You don’t have to make this into a project. Sometimes I stop after asking students to come up with their 10 numbers and matching statements and sharing.

The project is pretty simple. All you need is blank paper and some colored pencils or markers, etc. I ask the students to  visually and artistically represent their “Me by the Numbers” (both the numbers and the statements). I require that it be hand-drawn, fill the whole page and have visuals that represent each of the 10 things they have chosen to reveal about themselves. This is a pretty low-stakes project, but it gets kids working independently, often allowing me time to assess students in reading individually. In the product download I’ve included my criteria for success. This is a method I learned in a class a few years ago that I really like. See my post about that here.

For more ideas about how to get your ELL class off to a good start subscribe to the mailing list to get the guide: “10 Steps to Effective ELL Teaching from Day One.”

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