EL Support Lesson

Fill Three Towers

Use this beginning of the year activity to practice counting! Students solidify an understanding of one-to-one correspondence as they compete to fill three towers. Use this EL Support Lesson alone, or alongside the lesson plan **Counting Collections.**
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Counting Collections lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Counting Collections lesson plan.

Students will be able to count within 30.


Students will be able to describe the steps to accurately fill spaces with counters using visual and partner support.

(5 minutes)
  • Instruct the class to stand in a circle.
  • Choose a target number in the teens, for example 14.
  • Tell students that whoever says the number 14 will sit down. Begin counting from one, with the student to the right saying the next number in the sequence.
  • The student who says 14 sits down, and the next students starts over at 1.
  • Continue until all students are sitting. Challenge students to predict who will say certain numbers, or who will have to sit down next.
(10 minutes)
  • Begin by reviewing how to write the numerals from 1-30. Call out, "Hands in the air! Straight line down!" to write the number 1. Tell them, "Hands in the air! Curved line to the right and down, straight line across!" to write the 2. Continue to provide descriptions of each number as you ask students to write the numbers in the air up to 30.
  • Create a chart titled, "Numbers." As you review the steps to write each numeral, add both the numeral and the number word to the chart.
  • Next, model counting 30 crayons. Count each crayon chorally as a class, and intentionally move the crayons one by one to create a second pile as you count. Point to the corresponding number word on the chart so that students make a connection between the word and number of crayons.
  • Ask students how many crayons you have total (30).
  • Tell students that today they will practice counting to 30. Counting means to name items one by one until you find the total.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Fill Three Towers game board, and define a tower as a tall, narrow building. Show students circular counters, and explain that today they will work to fill the squares in the towers with the counters.
  • Students will play in partners. Each player will have a copy of the game board. Player A will roll the die, and add that many counters to the first tower. Display the sentence frame, "I rolled ____, so I added ____ counters. I have ____ counters total."
  • Choose a student to play the game with you. Model rolling the die and adding the corresponding number of counters to fill squares on the tower. touching each one as you count it.
  • Player B will roll the die, and fill the correct number of squares. Tell the student to use the sentence frame to describe the steps.
  • Now, model rolling again and adding more counters to the first tower. As the first tower fills, add additional counters to the second tower.
  • Ask students questions such as, "How many more counters do I need to fill the second tower?" and "How many counters total do I have?" Model counting on from the last number, rather than recounting each counter beginning at one.
  • The first player to fill all three towers wins. As a variation, tell students that they must roll the exact number to fill a tower. For example, if there are three empty spaces in a tower the student cannot roll a four and add the fourth counter to the subsequent tower. An exact roll is needed to move on to the next tower.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Fill Three Towers game board to each student.
  • Partner students and give each partnership one die.
  • Tell students that as they play they must name the number of counters that they are adding, as well as the total number of counters, using the sentence frame and list of number words in English as needed.


  • Work with a teacher-led small group to play Fill Three Towers.
  • If students do not yet know number names in English, allow them to count in their home language (L1). Partner students who speak the same L1.


  • Once the towers are filled, instruct students to count backwards from 30 to take the counters off the towers.
  • Tell students to explain the steps to play Fill Three Towers in their own words. Have them describe the total number of counters on the towers without using the word bank or sentence frame for reference.
  • As student play the game circulate to assess their thinking. Ask questions like, "How do you know how many counters to add?" and "How do you know that you added that many counters?"
  • Check that students are accurately counting, and touching each circle as they move them one by one to fill the tower.
  • Ask students how many counters they have total, and how many more counters they need to fill a given tower.
(5 minutes)
  • Encourage students to reflect on the activity with a partner using the sentence frame, "The Fill Three Towers game was fun/hard/ easy because ____."
  • Allow students the opportunity to count things in the classroom, such as the number of students who are present that day, or number of pencil that need to be sharpened.

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