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Exactly 46 cherries

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I grabbed a prop for the first day of rock bottom beginner elementary class last week; the cherries were ripe and right there on the counter. I plopped them on the desk and wrote on the board: How many cherries are there? As the students came in and settled down, they were mighty interested in those cherries! Every one ventured a guess eventually and then someone counted them and the winner took them home.
The next class I took peanuts. Then daisies growing wild nearby. Then jelly beans. The exercise has expanded from "How many..." to "How many did Victor say?" (and we've learned everyone's name in the process) to "You cannot guess the number 30. Tran guessed 30. Pick another number" to entire beginning dialog exchanges based on "What are these called? They're called daisies. Do you like flowers? Oh, yes, I like flowers."
It's an opening exercise which admits of stragglers, too. I write each guess on the board (now another student does) next to the name, so that early comers have a better shot at the winning guess. This class starts on time!
Mary Helene Mele Bellingham, Washington

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