Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The cup game - ordinal numbers version

The Saxon Math curriculum for first grade has an entire series of lessons devoted to teaching ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third, etc), and they are deathly boring. So my CT uses this game instead. It's quite effective, as well as efficient. Most of our first graders got the idea in one sitting.


- post-its with the numbers 1-6 written on them, one number each
- 6 small disposable cups, non-transparent and identical
- 1 small object that fits under the cups (we used a linking cube)

How to play:

1. Before class, set up the cups and post-its on a table or counter where all students can see.

2. Direct students attention to the cups. Have a short direct instruction time, telling students that when things are lined up, like the cups on the counter, they each have a special name. The cup at the very front of the line is "first," just like how we call the student at the very front of a line "first." The one after first is "second." And so on. Make sure to check for understanding. I did it by pointing to each cup randomly and having the class call out the ordinal number. I also like to ask students, "Which number is under the ___th/st cup?" and vice versa.

Note: I also call the cup on the most left-hand side first, at least in the beginning. Later, when all students have mastered this skill, I'll mix things up.

3. Tell students we'll now play a game where everyone will take turns guessing where the cube is. I didn't do this because I didn't think of it at the time, but it might be a good idea to coach the students to keep track of which cups have been called. If a student already called the third cup, and the cube isn't under that one, then there is no use calling the third cup again - the cube won't move unless the teacher moves it. Some first graders still do not automatically pick up on this bit of logic.

4. Put the cube under a cup. Shuffle the cups around. It doesn't matter if you hide the shuffling from the students or let them see. Although, if you are like me and do not have smooth cup-shuffling skills, I would hide them.

5. Students take turns calling out the ordinal number. On the first round, I allow students to pass. After that, they have to make a guess. Also, I would tell students to think of the ordinal number of where they believe the cube to be before calling on any names - at least at first. Some students take forever and a day to spit out what they want to say. I also didn't think of this until after I had taught the lesson.


Later, I would add a seventh, eighth, ninth, etc cup. One at a time until they begin to see the pattern. I would spread them out a little more, putting more space between each cup. Maybe putting random objects in between the cups too. This last thing I haven't tried, and might throw off students without some additional direct instruction. Also, I would take away the post-its, also one at a time until none are left.

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