Sunday, January 21, 2007


I've been going through my Palm deleting stuff. I have ended up with files and files and FILES of stuff that is mostly rubbish. I write on it all the time, and most of it is not worth saving. But there are a few bits worth salvaging. Here are three of them.

Bit Number One

I wrote this after a class during which I gave a general knowledge quiz. I don't know why the students like doing these so much. They are very, very bad at them. I put them in groups and the groups compete to get points. They get more points for hard questions, or at least for the questions I have found they find hard.

The students always go for the high point questions first, knowing they probably won't know the answers but prepared to guess like mad. I love it that they do this. It is completely different from their usual approach to English, which is that they won't open their mouths in case a mistake comes out. Besides, it keeps me entertained.

"What nationality was Picasso?" is a high point question.

In previous years this has been a high point question because nobody has the faintest idea of the answer. This is no longer the main problem. This year's students don't even know who he was. One class decided he must be a musician, possibly one of the Rolling Stones. In the end I told them he was an artist, which didn't help, and they went through about fifty countries (and a few cities - they don't seem to know the difference) before they got the right answer.

Another high point question was,

"What is the capital of New Zealand?"

"SINGAPORE!" shouted one student, and everybody laughed at him. This turned out to be not quite fair, as they then demonstrated.

One of the boys who had laughed was sure it was Wales. The others in his group scoffed and beat him up. They laughed and laughed and laughed. What an idiot! He thought the capital of New Zealand was Wales! How funny! That was almost as funny as Singapore! (I heard one of them say, wonderingly, "What are you talking about? Capital means shuto, not fish.")

Then they told him the capital of New Zealand was Ireland.

Round about then I asked them if they knew the difference between country and city, and they assured me they did.

Bit Number Two

In my last class with the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! lads, we played word Mastermind. This is the same as number Mastermind (or Bulls and Cows), only using four letter words. (No, not THAT sort of four letter words.) They loved it, and wanted to play it as a class rather than in groups.

I got tired of being in front of the class, so selected different students to choose a word and go up and keep the chart on the board. I sat with the students, and as it happened the only seat free was in front of the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! students, who were sitting, as befits naughty boys, at the back of the room. At one rather tense point in the game, when everybody was staring at the board and concentrating, one of them sneezed.

I turned around.

"Bless you!" I hissed, and turned back.

"Sorry," he hissed back.

The other one hit him. (I heard it.)

"Not 'sorry,' you idiot! You're supposed to say 'thank you'!"

"Really?" said the student.

I glanced over my shoulder. "Yes," I hissed.

"Thank you," he hissed back.

The game continued. In another tense moment, I heard a VERY FAKE sneeze behind me.

I glanced around.

"Bless you!" I hissed.

"Thank you!" he hissed back.

By the end of the class I had blessed him about 25 times, and felt like the Pope.

Bit Number Three

This bit is about a class where I had only three, very high level students. One was a fourth-year law student, and he was telling us about his research project, which was about inheritance law and what happens to the 'compensation money' if someone is killed by another person. It was very complicated, and I can't say I understood it very well, but at one point I asked whether long-term gay couples had any rights under Japanese law. He turned from the board, where he had been drawing complicated diagrams, and stared at me for a moment.

"There are no Japanese gay couples," he said. Then he chuckled and went back to his diagram.

After a while I asked,

"Are you serious?"

He turned and stared at me again, assessing my question. Then he chuckled again, as if I had been very, very funny - or else HE had been very, very funny - and went back to his explanation.

I am still working on interpreting that chuckle.


Anonymous said...

"...Capital means shuto, not fish." - took a little while but I got it; that. Is. Outstanding.

Wiccachicky said...

Those are good bits!! The "common knowledge" game seems like fun. I'm worried that if I played it with my students I'd get the same thing.

And, "there are no Japanese gay couples"!!! Wow. That's...well that's...just...baffling, I guess.

Anonymous said...

"I've been going through my Palm deleting stuff."

I read this and thought, "Uh-oh, another person who's real unhappy with the palm reader's predictions."


Pearl said...

Those are keepers alright. Someone should compile a book of classroom moments like that.

Lia said...

Awesome bits! I love coming here; you brighten my day.

Now I'm wondering if the Pope hisses.