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Posts Tagged ‘numbers’

Rompecabezas y naipes.

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

On my trips to Spain I’m always in search of a bargain! I’ve recently not had much luck finding ‘Poundland’ type shops, nor the equivalent of a Swiss brocki but this time I came across a 1 euro shop down one of the Siete Calles in Bilbao. Disappointingly there were no books, and unfortunately I was down to my last few euros. However, I did find some bargains.

Firstly some vocabulary jigsaws. Following on from a tip from Eleanor Abrahams-Burrows at ILILC a few years back, I bought some blank ones from Wilko (also available from Flying Tiger) and made some bespoke vocabulary jigsaws for early finishers/take home Spanish bags/ to reinforce grammar points.

I was pleased to find these ‘rompecabezas’ in the shop and at 1 euro 20 I bought one of each. I’ll use them in much the same way as my homemade ones; let’s see which is the most popular. Additional activities that you could do once the jigsaws are complete:

  • put the vocabulary in alphabetical order
  • read and practice pronunciation
  • make a list of the words you find most interesting
  • make a puzzle for a friend with the words
  • classify the words – could be by colour, size, like/dislike, manmade/natural
  • find the word for… with a partner

My second purchase was a pack of cards. I’ve got lots of decks of cards already, but this my first  ‘baraja española.’ As you can see, they are not the same as the ‘baraja francesa’ with which we may be more familiar. There are four ‘palos’ or suites – oros (coins), copas (cups), espadas (swords) y bastos (sticks) – of 12 cards each. The different ‘palos’ are also distinguished by the number of breaks in the line around the edge of the card: oros -0; colas – 1; espadas – 2; bastos -3. And, in contrast to the 52 card ‘baraja francesa’, there are only 48 cards in the ‘baraja española’ as, whilst there are three ‘figuras’ – rey (king), caballo  (horse) and sota  (jack) there is no card marked 10.

If you’re interested in the history of them, the Spanish wikipedia entry is very interesting.

I was pleased to purchase these from a  cultural point of view as well as to be used when we’re working on numbers/counting etc

Here’s a post with some ideas on how playing cards can be used in language learning.

And some traditional Spanish card games that are played with the ‘baraja española’ are explained in this post. Some are played with a 40 card deck (which omits the 8 and 9) One such game, and probably one of the simplest too is Siete y media which is explained in Spanish here (to change it to English, click on English in the left hand menu!) but is basically a game in which the aim is to get cards totally 7 ½ points and no more, with number cards being worth face value and ‘figuras’ are worth half. A simple game that could easily be played in class with basic language:

te toca a ti – it’s your go

otra carta por favor – another card please

me planto – I’m sticking here (no more cards)

me paso – I’ve gone bust (my total is over 7 ½)

gano – I win!

¿jugamos otra vez? – shall we play again?

You many not want to add an element of betting for counters or points, but if you do…

apuesto… puntos/fichas – I bet …. points/counters.

I usually use decks of cards for activities such as :

  • pick a card and say its value in Spanish
  • pick two cards and add their values
  • playing 21 (very like Siete y media but with higher numbers so harder to play when pupils can only say up to 10!)
  • pick a card and saying the number bond to make ten, fifteen or twenty
  • pick two cards; what’s the difference?
  • pick two cards and multiply the numbers
  • higher, lower (in the style of Play your cards right!)

Do you have any favourite card games that you think could be used in the language classroom?

PS Loving these ‘naipes’ GIFs!


Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

It’s very tempting when you can’t go shopping to get the shopping bought to you. I’m being quite restrained but I have been ordering a few things…

One of my recent purchases is pictured below.

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I admit that they’re bigger than I’d envisaged (they’re advertised as and are 1.5 inches/3.8cm but my spatial awareness is not good!)  and some of them aren’t exactly cubes, but they serve the purpose for which they are intended. Which was?

Well, they’re made of foam which will hopefully mean less noise, and their size and colour means that I’ll see where they are, they won’t get mixed up with the school dice and they won’t get lost under/inside books/pencil pots/pencil cases.

And I have several ideas for their use.

Playing board games

Well, obviously! You can make your own using Tools for Educators (see previous post), a template like the ones below or have a look at this site – I particularly like the daisy one!

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So many ways to use dice in this way! Here are a few – I’m sure you’ve got ideas of your own – feel free to add them in the comments!

  • throw one die and say the number
  • throw one die and double it, or multiply by 3 etc
  • throw two dice and add the numbers
  • throw two dice and multiply the numbers
  • throw a dice several times, adding up the numbers are you throw and trying to score a perfect 21.

Here’s a PDF of Maths activities using dice for Kindergarten right up to year 8. Dice-Ideas

I particularly like Make 100/Cien challenges learners to throw dice and make 100 by using any  operation, and also Double half or stay (I shall call it Doblar, dividir por dos o ¡ya! as I am struggling to find a better way of putting it!) which is simlar to 21 but can be played with any number and you can, as the name suggests, double,half or stick with your number.

Counting/Maths games

Activity Village suggests a very simple game called Mountain o Sube la montaña which has the aim of reaching the summit of the mountain first by throwing the numbers in order. So you have to throw 1 to start then 2 and so on. Players say their numbers as they throw the dice so plenty of repetition. Have a look at the site  for more detailed rules and variations.

Here are  the downloadable mats to play the game Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.33.15


For subtraction, here’s a game I found on eHow.com called Pennies (although could be called cents or Euros instead of peniques 😉 )

This is an ideal game for younger players. Stack 20 pennies in the center of the table. The first player rolls one die and takes the number of pennies shown. Play passes to the next person and continues until the pile is gone. An exact roll is required to take the last of the pennies. The winner is the person with the most pennies.

Language used would be very simple – Tengo 2.  Hay 20 euros.  Tomo 2. Restan 18.

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I like this idea from Activity Village too  called Beat That! (¡Superárlo! or ¡Superar eso!) that reinforces place order and practices 2 , 3 (or more!) digit numbers.

Roll the dice and put them in order to make the highest number possible. If you roll a 4 and an 6, for example, your best answer would be 64. Using 3 dice, a roll of 3, 5 and 2 should give you 532, and so on. Write down your answer, pass the dice, and challenge the next player to “Beat That!”

Play in rounds and assign a winner to each round.

You can also play to see who can get the lowest score!

Mathswire has several games that look at probability – I especially like the Cookies game where you throw two dice and add the numbers to decide which cookie can be packed away – or perhaps eaten! 😉

Download the  Great Cookie Contest Cookie Sheet Mat

A variation on this I’ve played is for outdoor fun using chalk as I shared at #ililc3

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 11.01.20You draw a grid in chalk on the ground with lanes of 10 squares for numbers 2-12 (when I saw it played with Kindy in Switzerland they used 1 which wasn’t fair!!) Pupils choose a lane and they are the ‘caballo’ or ‘caracol’ that will race in that lane. They take it in turns to throw two dice and add the numbers together. That decides who can move forward; so if 2 and 3 are thrown, caballo #5 can take a step forwards. The idea is to “llegar a la meta” first. Lots of number language involved, and it’s an activity
that can easily be played as one activity in a carousel. (There’s a board game called Snail Pace Race that is similar but uses colours)


Another probability activity from Maths is fun would be a great way of supporting the Maths curriculum using más probable and menos probable.  Clare Seccombe has done a whole presentation on Supporting Maths through language learning – it’s well worth a look for further ideas! (Sadly now that Slideshare has stopped slide casts the audio is no longer embedded 🙁 )

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Six sided dice are great for conjugating verbs as there are six “persons” 1st 2nd and 3rd singular and plural. Throw the dice to decide the person of the verb







You could combine this with a board game featuring verbs like the one I made below for M and M, my Spanish English students in Switzerland to practice the past tense. Or

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.05.30


You could also assign parts of speech a number – learners throw the die a number of times and “collect” parts of speech according to their roll and then make a sentence using that combination of words. You could restrict the choice of vocabulary with cards, or allow learners to use dictionaries to make a unique sentence!




4 = adverb


6=free choice

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Similar to grammar games, you could play a speaking game as suggested here

The teacher brings a large soft dice to the classroom. Students sit in a circle and take turns rolling the dice. Each time, a student throws the dice. The student who rolls the dice uses the number that shows up on the die to say some things about himself or herself. For example, if the number 2 shows up, the student will have to say two things about himself or herself.

Another variation would be for the student to ask the class the number of questions according to what number shows up on the dice. Equally, you can make the class ask the number of questions according to the number on the dice.

You could also use two dice and challenge learners to make a sentence with that many words, a phrase with that many syllables or think of a word with that many letters. circle_time_picci


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Throw the die to win body parts. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a beetle you build; it could be a monster, a clown, a person or something completely different. Activity Village suggests Mouse  or Ratón

6 = el cuerpo
5 = la nariz
4 = bigotes
3 = un ojo
2 – una oreja
1 = la cola


Here’s an idea to make a Joan Miró style painting using a die…

roll a miro


…and why not have a look at one of these ideas to make a Monster,  a Picasso painting  or a Miró Skyscape.

In fact, you could make anything with components using a dice… or randomise anything in sets of 6 using dice!

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Dressing up

Assign a number to items of clothing with the aim of creating an outfit for a teddy bear, cut out person, or even your partner. You could end up with far too many jumpers and no trousers!

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 12.18.04Directions

You could use dice to decide directions that people should take. You could use the classroom, a map or an assault course!

In it’s simplest form you could just use left and right

a la izquierda – impar (1,3,5)

a la derecha – par (2,4,6)

or you could add todo recto by assigning opposite numbers to each e.g. 1 and 6 = todo recto; 2 and 5 = a la izquierda; 3 and 4 = a la derecha

or even have a different direction for each number, including ‘darse la vuelta’, volver al principio or reaching your destination if you throw a 6.

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And there are so many more things that you  can do!

Here are some links I’ve found that might be of interest.

Juegos de dados games to play with up to 5 dice

Cómo jugar al juego de dados de los diez mil or Reglas para juego de dados 10000

Juego mueve dados online dice game – not really for using my dice, nor a language activity but I thought I’d share as it made my head ache!


And then, of course, there are dice that don’t have numbers on them but colours, images or words!  MES Dice games has some ideas that uses vocabulary dice too, and Crazy faces  looks fun too – I might come back to that and write another post on non-number dice! And then there are dice apps…

Plus I love this game!

Favourite books for PLL – Counting ovejas / Diez orugas cruzan el cielo / Descubre y aprende los números con Fido

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

*This is one of a series of posts about some of my favourite story books for Primary Language Learning*

Following on from some ideas for Spanish books using colours, the books in this post look at numbers 1-10.

Image 12

Counting ovejas (available on Amazon and Abebooks) is a book about a little boy who can’t get to sleep as there’s too much noise so he decides to count sheep. Except these sheep aren’t in his imagination! Una oveja blanca arrives in his room and he bids it ¡Adiós! , then dos ovejas amarillas walk in; he bids them ¡Adiós! as he pushes them out of the window. More and more sheep of varying colours  arrive and the boy bids them ¡Adiós! in ever increasingly ingenious and elaborate ways. Does he ever get to sleep? you’ll have to read the book to find out!

The text is very simple and very repetitive, following the structure of stating the number and colour of the sheep on one page and bidding them goodbye on the next. In fact the whole book is made up of the following vocabulary:

los números – uno / dos / tres / cuatro / cinco / seis / siete / ocho / nueve / diez

una oveja / ovejas

los colores – blanco / marrón / negro / rosa / verde / rojo / turquesa / violeta / azul / amarillo

¡Buenas noches! ¡Adiós! ¡gracias!

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There is a ‘pronunciation’ given on each page for the Spanish; I personally don’t like these as their accuracy depends on everyone interpreting the ‘phonetic spelling’ in the same way. For example seis ovejas rojas is written ‘pronounced’ say-ees oh-veh-hahs ro-has 

However it’s a lovely book for reading with young learners who will soon recall the colour of the sheep as well as the next number as you count the invading woolly creatures! It’s a great book for acting with masks too, perhaps for an assembly! And although this post is about another (similar) book, the activities are equally valid!

Image 9

Diez orugas cruzan el cielo (available on Amazon and Abebooks) is another counting book with little caterpillars traveling through the pages. Each double page is written in four line rhyme with the final word of line 4 being the number of caterpillars left on the next page:

Image 10

One caterpillar falls asleep, gets lost, or gets left behind on each page so the numbers decrease from diez to uno until there’s a big surprise on the last page. I like this as counting backwards is more tricky than forwards and adds variety to number work.

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The final counting book for young learners is Descubre y aprende los números con Fido. This book is similar to Descubre y aprende los colores con Fido and particularly good for small groups or individual reading, or for whole class using a visualiser. And as the numbers only go as far as 5, it’s particularly good for very young learners in Nursery/Kindergarten.

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Each double page focuses on a different number and has bright images for counting, a panel of numbers for indicating the correct figure and a wheel for finding the correct image to fill the window. You could extend the activities by asking learners to find a certain number of items e.g. dos ovejas or tres vacas from the farm, or cuatro coches y un tren from the transport corner. Or count the number of steps to reach certain parts of the classroom/playground.

A fun book – I’m sure there are plenty of other similar books that could be used for similar activities.

I’ll be back with some French ideas once I’ve found all my French books!

And to finish, a few videos that could be used with these books –

Very simple presentation of Los números 1-10 

and also

Un elefante se balanceaba

And a counting song (NB Mexican accent)

Los números 0-9

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Like this video clip on counting from 0-9.  Seems to be like the Spanish version of TenTown?