Sunday, 15 July 2012
(Written on Friday evening, but I forgot to post it and can't be bothered changing the times. Please pretend you are reading it on Friday.)
This morning after getting up, I was drinking a cup of tea and waiting for my body to decide it was possible to start moving around without fainting at the earliness of the hour, and it occurred to me, as it so often doesn't, to check what my plans were for my day's classes.
Friday is a lovely day this semester (which is almost over) – four small classes. Small classes are rare at universities, but in this particular department they have decided, correctly, that smaller is better. It is a shame that we only see the students for one semester instead of two, (there is always a compromise) but still, I always feel that the students learn a lot more than my bigger classes do in a whole year. In some ways the classes are harder work, but the work is teaching work, and not merely class management. That makes a nice change from the rest of the week.
Anyway, as I was saying, I decided to check what my plans were for the day in case there were materials I should be taking with me when I left the house. To my horror I discovered that today was not the last day of teaching before exam week. That is NEXT week. What I'd thought was happening was that I'd be doing speaking tests today, then the paper exam next week. In fact I'm doing the speaking tests next week and the paper test is the week after. I had no plan for today. "Give them something fun to do," I'd written in my teaching notes, optimistically assuming I'd come up with something 'fun' on the spur of the moment when the time came.
It was time to bring out the trusty quiz cards.
They worked, of course. They always do. Not only did they work well, I had also forgotten that today was the day for the teacher evaluation surveys, where the students get to criticize their teachers. Doing this right after they've had a particularly hilarious class was a bonus for me.
So it might have been Friday the 13th, but it turned out to be my lucky day. I got to spend the class time grading homework (instead of having to bring it home to do), the students used English for the entire class period, and they thought I was brilliant, AND said so on the evaluations. Win!
I had a very hard time keeping a straight face during one particular exchange, though. I try not to interfere when the students are playing this quiz game, unless they ask me directly. They like figuring things out for themselves, and usually do.
One student in a group of five had taken a card, but wasn't quite sure of the pronunciation of a word. The question was this:
"How many pennies are in a dollar?"
He hadn't seen the word 'pennies' before. I had taught it to them before the game, and written it on the board, but the word up there was 'penny,' not 'pennies,' and he didn't make the connection at first. He read, hesitantly,
"How many penis in a dollar?"
He frowned at the card, puzzled, probably trying to figure out why the answer was 'a hundred.'
The other students were leaning forward and listening intently. When they heard the word 'penis' they leaned forward even more intently. There was a word they knew but weren't expecting to hear! (Students always know the bad words.)
One of them said,
"What??? Say that again?"
The questioner frowned heavily at his card, and repeated, hesitantly,
"How many … penis … in a dollar?"
"Penis? REALLY? But that doesn't make sense!"
"That's what it says. P - E - N - N - I - E - S," he spelled out.
Everybody thought about that for a moment, then one of them suddenly turned and pointed to the board.
"PENNIES!" he shouted.
It was my turn to frown heavily, at the homework I was reading. It was FASCINATING.