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Ideas From the Field...

Small-Group Activity

Title: What’s Your Number?

Using laminated phone cards, children identify their phone numbers on phones.

Originating idea: The children had been very interested in using the old cell phones or cordless phones (donated by families) in the house area in different ways. They were using them both indoors and outdoors, mostly in pretend-play experiences. I decided to take this opportunity to introduce the children to their phone numbers.

Key developmental indicators (KDIs):

31. Mathematics Number words and symbols: Children recognize and use number words and symbols.

Beginning (how you introduce the activity):

  • Introduce the activity by relating it to some experience your students have had with phones. I started this activity by saying "I've noticed that you have been very interested in using the phones. You have shown me so many ways to use them during work time and outside. Today I want to show you your phone numbers."
  • Explain how you use a phone number. For example, you might say, “To call someone, you need to know what numbers to push into the phone. Every phone has a different phone number.” Model using your phone by showing the children your phone number (on the laminated card) and naming the numerals while pressing the corresponding buttons on your phone’s keypad.
  • Give each child a laminated card with his or her name and phone number, and say “This is a special phone number for your house or parent’s phone.” Then say "I’m going to give each of you a phone, some paper, and a pencil. I wonder what numbers you'll choose to call or write down.” Give each child a basket with a phone, pencil, and paper, and put the extra set of laminated cards in the middle of the table.

Middle (how you support and extend each child’s learning):

  • Acknowledge children’s efforts as they work on identifying numbers on the phone’s keypad. For example, you might say, “You found the number 9. What’s the next number you want to find?”
  • Some children may quickly locate their numbers on their phone. Suggest that they pull another child’s phone number from the center pile and identify those numbers on their phone’s keypad.
  • Support children who write down their numbers on the pieces of paper by describing what they do. You might say, for example, “Delaney, I see that you have written your whole phone number and two other phone numbers too.” One child in my small group made a “phone book” by folding the paper into a card shape and writing some of the phone numbers on the paper.
  • Encourage children to use the cards with other children’s phone numbers to “call” each other and have a conversation.

End (how you end the activity and transition to the next part of the routine):

  • Tell the children that they have 5 more minutes to use the phone number cards and phones.
  • After 5 minutes, ask the children to help clean up by placing the phone cards in one pile and their other materials back into their basket.
  • To transition to the next part of the day, hold a phone and make a ringing sound to get children’s attention. Say something like, “Oh, I wonder who that could be.” Then answer the phone and pretend to have a conversation about the next part of the daily routine with someone on the other end, for example: “Hello. Yes, I know it is time for snack. (Pause.) Yes, Dillon is here. (Pause.) Yes, I will tell him it’s time to wash his hands. What’s that? (Pause.) Yes, Maggie is here. Yes, I will let her know that it’s her turn now.” Continue the “conversation” until all the children have transitioned to the next part of the daily routine.

Ideas for follow-up or related activities: 

  • Add the phone number cards to the writing area in your classroom.
  • Use the phones as a prop for recall time. Take one phone, and give another phone to a child. “Call” that child and ask him or her about work time. Ask the child to pass his or her phone to another child, and then call the second child. Continue until all of the children have recalled.
Eden Haywood

Author: Eden Haywood, Kindergarten Teacher, The Valley Learn.Play.Care. Child Care Centre, Ontario, Canada

Do you have a great idea for large or small groups?
If so, we want to hear about it! We would like to offer you the chance to share your favorite large- or small-group-time plan with your HighScope colleagues. If chosen, your idea will be posted on the HighScope website. You’ll be sure to hear “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?” from your colleagues. You will also receive a $15 gift certificate to HighScope's online store.

For a large-group-time form, click here; for a small-group-time form, click here. Complete the form, and then submit it via e-mail. You can also print out the form, complete it, and fax it (734.485.5210) or mail it (send it to Nancy Goings, HighScope Educational Research Foundation, 600 North River Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48198-2898).


girl on phone


Materials for each child and teacher:

  • 2 laminated cards with the child’s (or teacher’s) name and phone number (use 1 card for Backup materials)
  • Phone (old cell phone or cordless phone)
  • Small pieces of paper
  • Pencil
  • Small basket to hold phone, paper, and pencil

Shared materials:

  • None

Backup materials:

  • Set of laminated cards with children’s/ teacher’s name and phone numbers



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