Monday, June 12, 2006


Today I was a bit worried about losing my voice. This cold has got me in the throat this time, and I can't take time off. So I planned classes where the students would be either writing or doing all the talking themselves.

It was time for the quiz cards, which I hold back for emergencies each semester. I can only use them once. This qualified as an emergency, I thought. These quiz cards came from a colleague who has been using them for years. They are brilliant, and I wish I had more of them at that level. (I do have some more difficult ones, but don't have many classes whose level is high enough for those.)

The students loved them. They always do. These cards have questions and answers on them, so that in groups, one student at a time takes a card and asks the rest of the group the question. Since the asking student has the answer, she (or he) can then keep giving clues until someone gets the answer.

But usually the problem is not that they don't know the answer, it is that they don't understand the question. They often need the question repeated, so they can try to understand it. This means that the asking student gets lots of practice pronouncing the words, and changing the intonation and stress to make it easier to understand, and the others get lots of listening practice. Whoever understands fastest and gives the right answer gets the point, which discourages them from translating in their heads. I always insist that no Japanese be used, pointing out that if they use Japanese the questions become too ludicrously easy and therefore boring.

Only a couple of the questions are what you would call general knowledge questions. Most of them are very simple, for example: What colour is chocolate icecream? (to which, surprisingly, the students often answer, Black). The idea is for them to use their English skills, not to test their general knowledge. To answer a question like, say, Ed has five clocks. Three are broken. How many still work?, they have to know that Ed is a name, the meaning of broken, and that a clock can work. Usually they figure this out from the context, but it can take time.

One of the general knowledge questions is this:

Who sailed from Spain to America in 1492?

One group had a huge amount of trouble with this question today. They knew they would know the answer when they heard it, but couldn't come up with anything plausible, although they kept trying.


"Queen Elizabeth...?" (Everybody stared at her.) "I know ... but it's the only name I can think of ... "


"Queen Elizabeth. I can't think of any other name!"

"Let me see, what American names do I know... Bush! Ha ha ha!"

They laughed and laughed and laughed at that one. They knew that wasn't right (although they were worryingly hopeful about Gulliver and Napoleon).

"Queen Elizabeth. Help! Why can't I think of anything else?"

The questioner kept giving clues until they got it, finally, but then she insisted they had to give his first name as well. This stumped them. She gave clues.

"His first name begins with C," she said.

That didn't help, so she gave another clue. "Chris is his short name," she explained. "Like Tom is the short name for Thomas."

They stared at her. None of them had any idea what Chris was short for.

"It's not Elizabeth," muttered the student with Queen Elizabeth on the brain. The others started laughing.

Suddenly one of them jumped up.


Everyone in the group thought this was hilarious. They laughed so much they could hardly speak. One of the laughing students turned to the rest of the class and gasped,

"Sorry! We are noisy. We are VERY LAUGHING!"

It was true. They were.

But that was all right. So was everybody else.

Perhaps I will use my general knowledge quiz with this lot some time. They seem to enjoy a challenge.


Wiccachicky said...

That sounds like a great game!! You should probably play it more often -- I would have loved something like that when I was in language classes.