Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not a bad day, really

Yesterday I was feeling inexplicably tired. It's not inexplicable, really, given that on Thursday nights I usually get less than six hours sleep, but I mean that I was tireder than usual. In my first class I stood up too quickly at one point and saw stars. These were rather decorative, but not a good sign, and I decided it was a good thing I had decided to slack off and use my quiz game today instead of using the textbook to 'teach' the students. Those three cups of coffee I had at breakfast had made me feel very awake, but apparently my blood pressure hadn't got the message yet.

I am proud of my quiz game, which I have written about before. It started as a simple definition exercise in a textbook, which gave me the idea for a game, which has evolved into something that just keeps growing and getting better. I have never had it fail on me. When I use it even the worst students sit up and use English for the entire hour I usually give them to play the game. Students who you usually have to bribe or threaten to get them to open their mouths (or wake up) are suddenly alert and spouting badly accented English loudly and joyfully, and the classroom becomes a fun place to be. It is MAGIC. The students don't even realize they are studying. They are, though. I hear them later using phrases and expressions they learned from the game far more often than I hear them using phrases and expressions they learn from a textbook. And thanks to this quiz, what looks like being a crappy day can quite often turn out quite well, as it did yesterday.

The quiz game keeps getting bigger, too. I started off with five pages of fourteen questions each, and now have twenty-three pages. These new questions are not written by me, and in fact I do not use the original five pages much at all, now. The new questions come from the students. Every time I use this game I give them homework. "Write ten new quiz questions," I say, and I think it is the only homework they really get into, even though thinking up quiz questions is difficult. But that is why I give them ten. If I asked for five I would get the same few questions all the time. This is an animal with a long nose is one I always get, and You use this when it rains. And there are only so many elephants and umbrellas one quiz game can use. By insisting on ten I can usually get at least one or two good ones from each student, and sometimes more.

And then I can make a new quiz. I then try this out on the same students later in the semester, or later in the year (depending on how long I have them for), and they love it. I type up the good questions from all the classes I gave this homework to, correcting the English and introducing a few expressions I want them to get some practice with, and mix them all up. When they play it the second time, now and again they come across one of their own questions. This delights them and makes them feel smug and clever. They love the idea that I will give their questions to new students the next year.

The quiz works very simply. Each student in a group of four or five gets a different list of fourteen questions (or definitions), with the answers, and they take turns to ask a question. The student who answers the question correctly first gets a point. If nobody can get it, the questioner has to give more hints, in English. Once they grasp the rules (which are simple, so it doesn't take long), the game keeps them totally occupied for an hour and all I have to do is slump in my chair and be entertained. They teach each other. Most of the teaching has to do with the English rather than the questions themselves, which are easy. The person who has the answer can generally figure out what the question means, and teaches the others.

They also tease each other, get intensely competitive, shout and laugh a lot, and devise more complicated point-scoring rules of their own.

At the end of my favourite class today, when I was explaining the homework, someone complained that ten questions was too many and it would be hard. I explained why I wanted ten, and he nodded. I then started to collect and collate the quiz papers (which I was reusing in each class) and while I was doing this Osama stood up.

"It's not hard!" he shouted to the student who had complained. (Osama always shouts, and had enjoyed the game enormously and loudly.) "It's easy!"

He then started to make up quiz questions on the spot, acting like a game show host and totally taking over the class. I was happy with this as we only had a few minutes to go anyway and earlier I'd felt a little dizzy from the noise and excitement. Also, it was nice to have someone else in charge for a change.

And he was amazing. I can't think up quiz question that quickly in English let alone in another language, but he was popping them out as if he had them written in front of him. Most of them were funny, and some were referring to various other students in the class. ("This is a person who always comes five minutes late to class and is not very clever!" (The answer was one of his friends.) But the one that stuck in my mind was:

"These people were born to love you!"

That rang a bell, and I stopped sorting papers for a moment to think about it. Then I got it, just as another student also got it and shouted the answer. I started laughing.

I think the reason I liked that one was that most of their quiz questions with pop culture references go straight over my head, because they are about Japanese pop culture and I never watch TV. But this one I actually got. I was amazed that any of the students did, but when I looked it up just now discovered why.

Then, when I got home, I was reading StyleyGeek and this post sent me to the link I used in my last post, where I also found this:

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Is it some kind of record, to get a laugh out of Queen twice in one day?

(This morning I woke up with a cold, which explains why I was feeling so bad yesterday.)


StyleyGeek said...

My favourite is this one.

Hebron said...

Good to hear that you're not too Under Pressure. Its A Kind Of Magic when you can get a bunch of kids together and in a Flash they're working for you instead of against you. Especially uni kids :P
You could get paranoid about the whole thing and quiver in the corner waiting for the Hammer To Fall, but Don't Lose Your Head. Such things are unlikely to happen :)


Yes, I was bored and had two minutes free :D

Contamination said...

Is Tireder even a word?

Anyhow, why watch Japanese TV? It's full of No Talent TV Talents. The commercials are MUCH more interesting.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Just goes to show: Queen still rocks!

Badaunt said...

Styleygeek: I like that one too, but the one that really caught my fancy was the Bob Dylan one, with the sneaky Hitchhiker's Guide reference.

Hebron: *applause*

Contamination: My spell checker agreed with you about tireder, but I'm afraid that both you and the spell checker are wrong. Tireder IS a word, because I say it is. :-)

But I agree with you about Japanese TV.

Keera: They certainly do!