ESL Activities and Games | Teaching ordinal numbers

Functional language | 60 - 90 minutes

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.

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Use of the board

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 elementary | Ordinal numbers


Ordinal vs cardinal

An optional lead-in activity where the teacher explains the difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers.

Explain the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers. Cardinal numbers are used for counting, while ordinal numbers show the position or order of things. Depending on the age of the students, you could represent this on the board using images.

Ordinal birthdays

The students take turns coming to the board to write a date in its written form.

To prepare for this 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

A writing activity where students make ordinal statements based on the image of a building drawn on the board.

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

For this writing activity, the students will use ordinal numbers to write about significant moments in their life.

Start this activity by explaining 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

A speaking activity where the students answer questions about important moments in their life.

For this activity, you'll go round the class and ask each student a few questions about the important dates they wrote about in the previous exercise:

When were you born?
When did you start school?

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


Whiteboard relay

Two teams of players race to the board to convert dates from their number format to written form.

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 have finished, they'll 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.

More A2 ESL lesson plans for elementary students

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 iOS or Android user, the best way to view this content is through the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers, designed for in-class use.

Printable versions of all resources are available to members. View a sample
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