One thing that bothers me about my teaching is that I don’t know that many of my high school students’ names. Last year I never had a lesson where I got to know them, and so I probably only know the names of about a quarter of my students. Where English names are concerned, I have a pretty good memory, yet Korean names seem to disappear from my mind almost as soon as I’ve heard them. To give myself a bit extra memory training, and to try to break down one of the barriers between me and my students, I set out to learn a few more through this week’s lesson.
I first saw the Skittles game played by Craig Tronsgaard at the EPIK orientation in February 2010. Since then, it had been sitting at the back of my mind for a while as something I could do in class. The main reason I like it is that it involves everyone in the class. Often when we do group work there’s a tendency for some students to drift and not do any work. In this lesson everyone has to say at least something. Here’s my version of the game adapted for the Korean classroom and the fake M&Ms available at Art Box’s pick ‘n’ mix.*
* The PPT files use some non-Windows fonts: World Colours, German Beauty and Herkules, all available for free at Freeware Fonts. Just download the fonts and extract them to your Windows/fonts directory, and then the PPTs should look really good.
By a happy accident, the first day of using this game in the classroom was White Day in Korea, a second Valentine’s Day when men give candy and chocolate to their partners (women do the giving on Valentine’s Day in Korea). This meant the lesson was nicely thematic, and we could do plenty of questions about all things romantic. This led to one really excellent class with my second graders, with lots of questions about my first kiss and how many girlfriends I’d had. Discussing this was of considerable interest to a class that’s often difficult to engage. It felt like we formed a few bonds in this class that will hopefully carry on into forthcoming lessons.
I tried to keep track of the language that emerged, especially from the orange and green tasks. In terms of interesting language there was little really new. Most kids fears were fairly generic, with low exam scores and teachers (not me though) unsurprisingly featuring regularly. One surprise was the number of students with a fear of frogs. Almost every class had at least one student terrified of our hoppity friends. Similarly with embarrassing moments there were few really good stories, while a few comics suggested that there most embarrassing moment was “now”. There are some useful patterns to pick up on here though. My students often make the mistake of using the singular rather than the plural when generalising, saying “My biggest fear is frog”, so this was some good practice of that. It’s also a good platform to discuss the use of the passive. A lot of fears arise from lack of control, and the passive is used here to suggest the sense of something happening to a person, rather than a conscious choice. Finally, the storytelling aspect of the “most embarrassing moment” task tests students ability to use tenses consistently. This is another problem for K students as Korean often only conjugates the final verb of a string for tense.
My biggest tip for running this lesson is to keep some blue skittles handy for disciplining students. I found that students would try to hide or exchange their skittles, or simply eat them and hope I wouldn’t notice. If you spot a student doing this, just give them a blue skittle and add them to the singing group. This works nicely as ‘soft’ discipline. There’s no shouting, the rest of the class finds it funny, and it’s not too much of a punishment for the student. If anything it improves the atmosphere in the classroom.
While this lesson was definitely a success, and I’m now trying to remember about 30 more names for next week, there is a lot of time when students aren’t doing anything. To improve it, there should perhaps be some kind of writing task going on at the same time, where groups try to note down as much information as possible about the class, or a snap quiz at the end. That’s the only major problem with this lesson, but it’s great fun, useful and definitely worth having a go at yourself.