MacGyvering a Lesson

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Here's an article that I wrote for a magazine.

MacGyvering a Lesson

It's Sunday night. You are staring up at the ceiling realizing that tomorrow you are going to be the shepherd of howling hooligans yelling "Teacher GAME!" and it fills you with dread. These days Simon says, "Jaemi-oppso," the students have already stolen all the monopoly money, and you've lynched the entire populous of stick figures.
You think back to your first day of hagwon hell, after you just flew into the country, and felt the shock of being in the sweltering, cramp armpit of Korea. It was an exciting time, remember? Then, jet-lagged and not even unpacked, your kind director took you into a classroom and said, "Teach" as if he was animating clay to life.
You got through the first couple months on charm, wit, and the games you used to play as a kid, but now...; you are out of ideas and numb from the screams and cries of kids suffering from EAS (English Advesion Syndrome...yes, it's a real term). You simply dread the sunrise and you start packing your bags and plan, THE RUN.
But wait. I can help you out and get your through another month or six. I used to teach at the public education school level and these are the games I used to play. Public School teaching is a whole new world. Imagine 40 kids in a class. About 3 in each class are brilliant showoffs and want to capitalize on your time, 7 kids are above average speakers, 15 are moderately good at English, and the final 10...well they A) hate English, B) hate you, C) suffer from ADD, D) are ashamed because they can't afford to go to hagwons like other students. And in some of my classes I would have some mentally handicapped children.
These are games that I played with my large classrooms from the 3-6th grade levels. I've modified some of them and they will even work at the middle school level. All you need is a plush ball. This has to be light in weight and it can't have any hard plasticky things like eyes, noses or anything else. My favorite was a foam cube about 5cm by 5cm by 5cm. Now this cube was the most important thing in my repertoire. Kids love catching the cube and throwing it. It injects energy into the class. Also when you have it, all eyes are on you. When they pass it to another student, than all eyes are on them. It's a great way to get them to participate. And watch out for open windows!

Game #1 Questions
Ask a question and pass to someone. Simple right? Amazing how asking about the weather, their favorite food, animals, anything becomes fun again as you throw a ball at them. The student has to ask the next student a question and they have to answer. 5 minutes.
Game #2 Spelling Bee
Make two teams and throw the ball to one kid and ask them to spell the word. If they get it correct then he passes the ball to the other side. If they misspell it, then the kid must sit. If someone else tries to help them spell the word then they have a penalty of a harder word that they must spell. 5 minutes.
Game #3 Hot Potato
Have the students sit in circle and have take out their reading books. You need to have a radio or something of the sort. Have one of the students be your helper. The student's job is to turn off the radio when he feels like it. Each student in the circle has to read the next word (or sentence) in the story then they pass the ball to the next person. They must say it correctly, if they don't then correct them before they can pass. When the music stops, the person holding the ball is out. 10 minutes.
Game #4 Dodge-ball
Say a word such as "Apple" and students must take the last letter "E" and make a new word and throw it. If the other student catches it then the game continues on. If it hits the other student, but they drop it, then that student is out. 10 minutes.
Game #5 Diamond Hunter
You need a blindfold for this one. Have one of your students hide the diamond (the ball) somewhere and then have one student be the navigator and give directions to the blindfolded student to find the ball. It's really funny when the last time you have the ball in your hand and you walk around the room. The class laughs because they know what's going on. 10 minutes.
Game #6 Quiz Game
I recommend the cube die for this one. Make a list of questions from Naruto, Harry Potter, Spongebob, America, etc (trust me they know a lot of trivial). Pick a mix of easy and hard questions like, "What is the spell to make light in Harry Potter? A: Lumos" Divide the class into 3 teams and make a Jeopardy style game grid on the board. Have 1 kid be the game host- his job is to read the question. Another child should keep score on the board. Then have the students answer the questions in a "What is" format. Now this is important. If they get the answer correct get them to roll the die. They will get points based on what they roll. It's a great equalizer when you have some kids that are smarter than others. 20 minutes.

There are endless possibilities of games you can do. Just make sure that there is an element of competition and it should be fast paced. Keep the energy up and I promise that you'll build up a repertoire of games that'll keep you afloat until you receive that big year end bonus.

by Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray is a writing teacher at Ian English in Cheongdam. He has taught in Korea for 3 years, at varying levels including a 2 year stint at the public elementary school level at Wonmyeong Elementary School in Gangnam. He loves red wine, playing with his Wii, and writing.

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