Teaching Newcomers: ABC's and 123's

This week I began teaching 4 of my Burmese newcomers- 2 of them have never been to school before and two of them went to "school" in the refugee camps where they were born.  When I tested them for their entrance test, I gave them sight word and alphabet tests- one student could read /the/, /is/ and /a/.  The others have no letter-sound correspondance, and the two who went to school can count out loud to 10 but don't recognize the numerals or number words.  Did I mention they are in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th grade?

So! Where to start? After getting some great ideas from Mr. Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasboard and Cara at First Grade Parade, I decided to make our first week a focus on names, ABC's, and numbers.  We've been practicing our alphabet every day and numerals to 120.  I plan to start a number of the day soon, as well as letter-sound (using Wilson cards) next week.

We learned to answer "What is your name?" and then we learned to spell our names out loud.  We used the letter magnets to count how many letters were in our names.  We wrote the sentence frame "My name is ____. I have ____ letters in my name." in our journals. 

Some of my friends have trouble forming letters, so we will do some tracing and handwriting practice next week.  These past few days were really an ongoing assessment for me to see where they are in terms of needs!

We graphed our names and learned the word "more."  In hindsight, I moved a little too fast- my students need work understanding the number line and counting using manipulatives.  We'll probably do skip counting and place value.  You live and you learn!

This is a fun game called "Stomp the Number." I played it when I taught French, and brought it back to teach my newcomers.  It takes the values of TPR and brings in some competitive spirit.  

The seated version starts like this: we start with number cards, and I hold up the card, say the word, spell it, they repeat.  Then I hand the card to a student.  I pull the next card, say the word, spell it, they repeat.  Then I teach them how to point to a card when I say the name.  So after I teach a new card (3 at a time) I hand the card to a student and ask them to respond by pointing to the card I say.  Confusing? I'll take pictures next time. 

For the standing version, I review each card as I put it on the floor, then I call out a card and students race to stomp the card.  Towards the end of the game, I pointed to a number on the number line and had one student call it out for the others to race to. 

We have a lot of work ahead of us! I am planning to work hard on getting their numerals and number word sense down in the next week or so- it will be so important for them to have basic math understanding especially since they are a little older. I will try hard to put a math spin on most things that we do, just like the name/number graphing.  

If anyone has any suggestions for basic math activities for older students, please send them my way!


  1. Sounds like you are off to a good start! Stomp the Number sounds like a lot of fun, especially the standing version. I think it is really smart of you to try and infuse the language arts and math.

    Eclectic Educating

  2. Your students are moving right along! That is great to hear the progression. Lots of learning and fun going on in your room!
    Conversations in Literacy


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