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"I like to dance big human."

October 22, 2002: Lost in Translation

Well, having recovered from the spectacle that was the parade of "God's Houses," I am finally settling into my groove at school. This whole team-teaching adventure was definitely more than I bargained for. As a self-admitted control freak, it is a good excercise in letting go and going with the flow. My weekly task is to prepare activities for English Oral Communication class. The only requirement is that the students practice speaking English. And that it's fun. And that the students understand what they're saying. And that it is a new activity. And that it's creative. And that it is simple enough to explain and challenging enough not to bore us all to death. Add on top of this that the proficiency levels of the students are all over the place and you've left me pretty confused.

Sometimes my cooperating teacher changes class without telling me, or looks at me blankly and says "I don't understand your meaning" in front of class when I've previously discussed the activity and he seemed to understand what the objective and rules were. Early on, I had to also figure out that one teacher uses "too many" as a good thing. As in, "You've made too many activities." The first time he said that, I said "Oh, so I should eliminate one or two?" To which he replied, smiling and nodding, "No-- too many activities is good!" Okay... so I'll continue to make "too many copies" and "too many games" to his delight.

But despite of (and perhaps because of the craziness) I love it. The students are genki (energetic) most of the time, and I've figured out the key to success—using the students to make me laugh. Like this morning, we were reviewing the use of "would," so I had them running around class asking each other "Would you...?" Their worksheets had many choices of things to ask each other. My favorites were "Would you touch my nose?" and "Would you do a dance?" Watching awkward tenth graders "shaking their thang" first period was just hillarious. Their bodies were moving and bobbing but their faces were a strange combination of humor and horror.

I also enjoy what they come up with when they write sentences or dialogues. A few weeks ago, when teaching different ways of expressing themselves, the second-years had to write and perform short skits about how they were feeling. Here is an excerpt. (Disclaimer: I did not in any way influence the writing of this script.)

A-san: What's up?
B-san: Not much—I'm hot.
A-san: Really, why?
B-san: I'm excited.
A-san: Why?
B-san: I just saw Anna.
A-san: Yes, she's very pretty.

I was quite amused.

Then yesterday, we had a purely fun lesson. At the end, we played a relay version of telephone. I whispered a phrase into the first person's ear and the last person in each row had to write what they heard on the board. My favorite was, "I like to dance big human." (Indeed!)

And finally—this is from a lesson plan I found that uses Palm reading to teach the construction, "is going to." Students look at their palm to tell each other's fortunes and then write sentences to summarize. Here was the example taken from one student's notebook, "I have many marriage lines. I'm going to be 'Christmas Cake.'" "Herman has a short love line. He's going to be a G-Spot Champion." (Excuse me?! Apparently I've been reading the wrong English primers !)

Be well!
Anna

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2002 North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617-1475