EL Support Lesson

All About Subtraction

Use this engaging lesson plan to teach or review subtraction to your ELLs. This can be used as a stand alone or support lesson for the **Mr. Alligator Can't Catch Me!** lesson plan.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Mr. Alligator Can't Catch Me! lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Mr. Alligator Can't Catch Me! lesson plan.

Students will be able to represent subtraction using objects and drawings.


Students will be able to explain to a peer how to subtract within five using counting manipulatives.

(2 minutes)
  • Gather class together for the lesson.
  • Tell students a relatable problem. For example, "Mia loves to share. She has a collection of 10 animal erasers. She gave five of them with to her friend Sam. How many erasers does she have left?"
  • Instruct students to turn and talk to share their ideas with a partner.
(5 minutes)
  • Say, "This is called a subtraction problem. Subtraction means to take something away."
  • Draw 10 circles on the board, and show students 10 counters. Tell students that you will need to take away five, or subtract to show the erasers that Mia gave away. Count out, then cross out five of the circles. Model how to count out 10 manipulatives and then subtract five of them by counting five and removing them from the group.
  • Explain that using manipulatives is one strategy or way to solve the problem and that using drawings and crossing out the number to take away is another strategy.
  • Count aloud and have the class echo count after you to determine that Mia has five erasers left.
  • Retell, "Mia started with 10 erasers total. She gave away part of the erasers and kept the other part for herself. We wanted to know how many erasers Mia kept for herself. Here is a way we can write that: 10 - 5 = 10."
  • Model how to make the minus sign with your arm (holding it up horizonatally) and explain that it means to take away, or make something less.
  • Point at the equation and have the students echo you as you read, "Ten minus five equals five." Say, "Repeat after me. Mia has five erasers left."
  • Use the Vocabulary Cards and the Glossary.
  • Glossary to further explain new terms.
(5 minutes)
  • Write a subtraction problem on the board and tell students a relatable story that goes with the problem. For example, "Samiya had eight stickers. She gave three to her little brother. How many stickers does she have left?"
  • Write 8 - 3 on the board and have students chorally read, "Eight minus three."
  • Pair students together and pass out counting manipulatives to each pair. Instruct students to count out eight manipulatives and then give a thumbs up when they are finished. Then ask students to count and remove three manipulatives from their total.
  • Model the process using your own manipulatives. Remind students to touch and count each item individually to keep track. As a group, have students chorally count the remaining manipulatives to solve the problem.
  • Finish the equation 8 - 3 = 5 , and have students read along with your chorally.
  • Repeat process using additional problems within 10.
(15 minutes)
  • Display the Counting to 10 worksheet and go over the instructions. Explain to students that they will work with a partner to solve each problem, but will be recording their work on their own worksheet.
  • Pair students with a partner, and then pass out the worksheets and counting manipulatives to each partnership.


  • Display a poster that includes both numerals and number names 0-10 for reference.
  • Allow students to count aloud and use number names in their home language (L1).
  • Complete the worksheet and/or additional practice problems in a teacher-led small group.


  • Ask students to explain the steps to subtract using manipulatives or drawings in their own words.
  • Ask students to describe other strategies for solving subtraction problems.
(5 minutes)
  • Circulate during independent work time to check student understanding. Carefully observe to see if students are counting the correct number and are able to accurately solve the problems.
  • Listen as students read aloud each number sentence to assess their understanding of subtraction.
  • Collect student work to further assess if students are accurately able to solve subtraction problems.
(3 minutes)
  • Gather the class back together and practice solving one last subtraction problem.
  • Encourage students to chorally read the number sentence aloud and to count along with you to solve it (draw pictures on the board).
  • Ask students to turn and talk to a partner to share other strategies to solve the problem.

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