EFL - ESL activities and games for teaching ordinal numbers

A collection of ESL activities and games for teaching ordinal numbers to elementary level students (A2). It includes a lead-in activity, several classroom activities, a game and a collection of specially selected ESL resources from around the web. If you're an Android user, try this lesson out on our TEFL Handbook app. It gives you offline access to all of our materials, perfect for quick reference in the classroom.

Lead-in activity

Depending on the familiarity of the class with ordinal numbers in English, the sample board work below could be used to either introduce students to the topic or serve as a useful lead-in activity. In the case of the later, elicit the ordinal numbers and spellings from the class.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for ordinal numbers | Elementary

ESL classroom activities for ordinal numbers

Ordinal vs cardinal

This optional lead-in activity depends on the class level. Take some time to explain the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers. Cardinal numbers are used for counting, while ordinal numbers show the position or order of things.

Ordinal birthdays

To prepare for this ESL speaking and writing activity, you may opt to drill the months of the year. Start by writing your birthday on the board in the format (6/10). Next, have one of the stronger students in the class come to the board to convert the date into its full written form. For example:

The sixth of October.

That student will then write the short form of their birthday for the next student to convert. Repeat this for the whole class.

Ordinal skyscraper

In this ESL writing activity, students get the chance to apply their knowledge of ordinal numbers while reinforcing other areas of English grammar, such as prepositions of place and possessive nouns. Draw a skyscraper on the board. Add a restaurant, shop, Mark's office, gymnasium, Swimming pool. Cinema, Mark's apartment, John's apartment etc. Position these places so that the students can make sentences that combine ordinal numbers and prepositions of place. You may need to give them a couple of examples to get them going:

The swimming pool is on the twenty-seventh floor, next to the gymnasium.
Mark's apartment is on the eighth floor, above Jim's apartment.

This activity works well with groups of up to four. Also, depending on the level, you may want to drill the prepositions or add them to the board.

Important dates

A fun and challenging writing activity idea that serves as an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned about ordinal numbers, while peripherally testing their knowledge of the past simple and prepositions of time. First, explain that we use the preposition on for exact dates and in for months. Then have the students write five sentences about important dates in their life. You can add the following type of prompts to the board to help them, but you should encourage them to think of their own.

Born on/in
Started school/English Academy/
Christmas/Valentine's Day/World Peace Day
Went to /France/Beach/Skiing/Cinema
Moved house
Started learning English/Guitar/Karate

Reporting on dates

This activity works well as a follow-on to the previous exercise. Ask the students questions about the important dates that they have written about:

When were you born?
When did you start school?

For stronger classes, you could even have them swap books with a partner and report on their partner's results in the third person.

Related games

As usual, our suggestions for ESL classroom games require the minimum of resources (whiteboard and markers).

Ordinal whiteboard relay

We can adapt the whiteboard relay spelling game to teach ordinal numbers. First, divide the class into two teams. Write two lists of dates on the board, in short format (6/10), one for each team member. When the game begins, a student from each group will run to the board to convert a date to its written form, containing the ordinal number. When they finish, they run back to their team and hand the marker to the next student. The race ends when one of the teams finishes. Finally, count up the scores and give a point for each correctly spelt date.

Additional ESL resources

If you are looking for more activities to beef up your lesson planning options, have a look at these ESL resources from around the web.

For an alternative approach to teaching ordinal numbers, this lesson plan template from busyteacher has some excellent ESL activity and game ideas. If you need free worksheets, islcollective has a great collection. Also, this free ESL worksheet from busyteacher would serve as a fitting assessment activity for ordinal numbers.

If you have a suitably equipped classroom, this video from Francesco Favero has a fantastic explanation of ordinal numbers, along with an overview of their functional application.

More A2 level ESL lesson plans

We hope that you were able to grab a few ideas from this lesson plan. Our suggested next lesson is on the present simple. Be sure to check out our complete collection of elementary level lesson plans, A2 lower and A2 Upper. For other levels, have a look at our entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Also, if you are an Android user, the best way to view this content is through the TEFL Handbook Android application. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers, designed for in-class use.

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