Friday, October 26, 2007

The Balloon Incident

On Tuesday I taught a group of 小学生 しょうがくせい、elementary kids at an elementary school that is near my current junior high school. I have been teaching these kids for two years but only one month a year, namely every October/November.

In the last class I taught they the phrase:

Q. "Can I have a (color) + (animal)?" A. "Sure."
So I run through the names of animals and colors. I taught them ten colors and about fifteen animal names, everything from turkey to zebra. And during this class we reviewed what we learned last week. We practiced as a group and then I decided to try a new game with the students.

I brought some balloons that I purchased at100円ショップ「ザ・ダイソー」,100 Yen Plaza for this game. I had students make 5 groups and form a line. I then asked two vounteers to come up and demonstrate the rules of the game for everyone to see.

I explained to the kids that they had to put the balloon between their knees and pass to the person behind. Before they could pass they must ask the person behind the target sentence, "Can I have a ~?" and that person must reply before they pass. Obviously this is difficult to understand so I asked the Japanese teacher to explain it in detail. He did and so I thought they understood how the game works.

So I asked the two volunteers to demonstrate the game. They started out just fine, the boy in the front turned to the girl behind with a long balloon between his knees. He said, "Can I have a brown bear?" And the girl replied, "Sure." Nothing wrong with that. So I was looking around at the rest of the students to judge if they understood so far. And it looked like they got the just of it.

But the second I turned around to look out our demonstrators I was startled beyond belief. Now, I can honestly say I never expected what happened to happen, and I should have been more thorough in my explanation to the Japanese teacher. I am sure had another foreigner been there or had this happened in America, I might be in jail right now.

What I saw was the boy standing there with this long balloon between his legs, and the girl bent over with her back to the boy. The boy was trying hard to pass the balloon to the girl but if you saw what was happening it certainly would have left you seriously pondering about the innocence of these children. It looked at least to me as if they were doing some sort of hanky panky routine. I wanted to laugh to relieve the embarassment or trepidation, but I knew better.

Instead I jumped up and told them to stop and then I demonstrated with the Japanese teacher the right way. The students should stand face to face and pass the balloon with their knees, then the second student should pass the balloon in the same way to the third and so on. What made it worse was the horrified look on the parents who were watching in the back of the room. I'll never forget that day.

Needless to say in the future I will probably not use this game and if I do, I will make sure to demonstrate it first.

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