Numbers can be hard for novice level learners to pick up. Numbers are abstract and are not repeated enough in a typical class for students to acquire and use fluently. I used to do a unit on numbers early in my Spanish I courses. Thinking that I had done my part, I would be disappointed when students did not seem to know the numbers at the end of the year or in the upper levels.  “How can a kid in Spanish 2 or 3 not know the numbers?” was my pitiful lament, implying that there was something wrong with the students.

But it was my fault. It usually is when I start to question the intelligence or focus of my students. Turns out that there actually is someone in the class that is stupid and lazy as my helpless questioned implied.  It was me.

It was my fault they were not learning the numbers. I wasn’t taking into account how students actually learn a second language. Numbers are acquired like other words. We have to establish meaning and then repeat them in a meaningful context scores of times before we can expect students to get them. Handing out notes and doing a couple of worksheets doesn’t do it with numbers any more than it works for any other word or grammatical structure.

So to make numbers meaningful in level one, we count everything before they have even really begun to “learn” the numbers. Here are some things we have counted in level 1 within the last week:

PAT points for the week. Number of boys versus girls in the class for a game. Number of students on the left side/right side of the room for teams. How many people have traveled to another country? Number of verbs we have learned so far.

Here is a blog entry about a level 1 counting game that is usually a big hit with students: I plan on introducing it to them this Friday for PAT time.

Today we were telling a story in level one about a boy in a boring class. So I asked what are some boring classes. I wrote the classes on the whiteboard (no teach names, please!). Each student got two votes for their most boring class. They could spend them both on one class or divide them between two classes. “Raise your hands for math class!” And we counted.

In a TPRS class numbers can be inserted into every story in fun and unusual ways. More on that later. Keep counting!