Beating around the bush, and hoping that the other person is beating the same one.

Japan has a thing for telepathy, emotional intelligence, what have you, and they call it reading the air, the 空気. I had two very blatant gaijin-esque experiences with it today that I hope to tone at some point while I’m here.

The first was with a student. I had seen her at the local summer firefly festival, but didn’t bother to greet her, as I’ve found that kids, especially the not-so-extroverted ones, tend to keep to themselves, or avoid attention, and they do this by looking away. I don’t want to inadvertently embarrass a kid in front of their friends, so I tend to just give them a hard look, as if I’m trying to recognize them, and when I catch their eye, respond accordingly to how they respond. An advice columnist on NYT calls this the “candy bar rule“: One person breaks the candy bar, and the other gets to choose. This (hopefully) guarantees fairness, although I usually choose the smaller piece because I only want a taste. Anyway, I’m sure she saw me at the festival, so in class today, I looked at her, smiled, made this knowing face, nodded, pointed somewhere random, just stupid body language that she responded positively to with a broad smile, a nod, a giggle. Her friend, in the meanwhile, is like, “huh?” and I complimented her on her braids.

The second time today was with the school nurse. A couple days ago, I’d brought up a picture of a poster that’s been put up next to the nurse’s office at some schools in Japan, and it explained how a person can like boys, girls, either, or no one at all, regardless of their gender. Basically, it made LGBs on par with heterosexuals. I told the nurse I thought this was really progressive of Japan, although it’s no surprise for me in America. I followed up with her again today during a free period, just had a conversation about a bunch of things before talking about the poster again, about some students going through some gender stuff, some hiding it moreso than others, and then finally about me because she asked if I was bothered by anything. I told her I don’t have any hang ups and life is pretty normal. I didn’t directly come out, but I did say, “you probably know that I am,” and that “I hid it from my parents for a long time.” The school nurse was great, and said that these things have  recently been talked about, so people definitely know about it. I’m glad she didn’t say something like, “Well, please don’t talk about this with anyone else,” or “This is something you shouldn’t tell anyone.”

I feel like the telenovella man in the bee suit in The Simpsons.

Sentence Auctions!

I felt like I needed to spice up my classes a bit, and do some more games since I’ve been giving them such hard topics to talk about. Recently, I read up on an auction game, and went about making materials for it.

For sentence content, I used a book about food, and the previous class was about food. Food on the mind!

I strayed a bit from the auction game to give students two chances to win:

#1: Get the most correct sentences
#2: Pay the least for the total value of sentences bought.

The goal of #2 is to really make them pay attention to what the mistakes are, rather than having only two binary options to choose from, and bidding crazily from there. If students have differently perceived values of the sentences, they can decide what the bid limit is, and theoretically bluff an opponent to bid high for the sentence. Now that I think about it, I may have been playing too much poker…

Sentences can have from 0-4 mistakes. Here’s the value for each type of sentence:
0 mistakes = $100 dollars
1 mistake = $75 dollars
2 mistakes = $50 dollars
3 mistakes = $25 dollars
4 mistakes = $5 dollars

Bidding for every sentence starts at $5, and bidding should be in increments of $5.

Each sentence should be read aloud without mistakes, and students should not be looking at it in written form. This is the Listening skill training.

After reading aloud the sentence to students, they should look at the “product”, and have a chance to appraise its value by looking for the number of mistakes in it.

The you start the bidding.

Some things to improve for my next execution of the game:

  • Give each group a list of the sentences so that they can look at them at the same time, and for a set amount of time, with a timer. I had only prepared each sentence as an individual strip, so it took a long time for each individual group to evaluate the sentence. Lots of quiet time, as well as inconsistent amounts of time from each group to evaluate. Also, the groups that got to see the sentences first had the advantage of hearing the sentence read aloud only seconds before, whereas the group that got to see it last may have promptly forgotten what was said.
  • Have every group choose a sentence to correct, have them read the correct sentence out loud so they get used to the rhythm.

Apples to Apples

I got my students hooked on Apples to Apples:
Cosmic – Leaf Blowers : One of the similes was “limitless”, and the students interpreted it as 無限. Leaves are 無限.

Addictive – Computers : The student had some pretty good cards to choose from, and narrowed it down to Cocaine, Las Vegas, and Computers. His thinking was that cocaine and Las Vegas are fleeting experiences, whereas with computers, you can’t pull yourself away.

Unusual – My Dad : LOL. This is definitely an international understanding

Unbelievable – Fairies : The funny bit is not which card was chosen, but the card that wasn’t, and the reaction that the card giver had. The student that put out “Losing Your Job” was thoroughly disappointed, and even asked me what I thought about his card. I certainly agreed, but had to remind him that now he understands the other person better.

The class had very mixed levels of English, so I was a little worried about how the game would go. But from my TESL training, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, since being taught by peers is also very helpful. However! Japanese kids don’t really like to attract attention, especially in this area, so the kids who know English well may dumb themselves down a bit. In any case, luckily, the lower level kids were actually really motivated to play this game, so everyone had a good time.

Something to remember: It’s good to have Apples to Apples Junior or Kids version as easy cards to pull, along with the regular cards so everyone has a good chance of having their card picked, especially because they can understand what card they decide to put out.