When I arrived at work this afternoon, it was with highlights from #KOTESOL2013 still swirling in my head. I made my coworkers dizzy talking about motivation, ELF, reflection and intercultural communication until I ran out of breath.
However, when I walked into my first class, I found an eager group of 12 young learners, ready for anything. We started with a warm-up of 20 questions and Esther and Elly immediately put their hands up to start the questioning. And a thought occurred to me: one of the points my boss made when she was giving me feedback from observing that class is that those two girls do the majority of the talking in that class.
Then I remembered that Tom Farrell had shared similar observation statistics in his plenary address. He mentioned that the teacher in his case had solved the problem with talking sticks. I didn’t have anything like that prepared, but I decided it was worth a try. I told all the students that they each could only ask two questions.
This led to quite a bit of jostling as students negotiated who would ask which questions. Esther and Elly were mostly unsuccessful in trying to push other students to ask questions they wanted. During the game there was a lot of conversation and teamwork about what information they had already and what questions would be the best to ask. And everyone participated.
Overall it was a really interesting and positive result for that activity with that class and solved a problem I had worried about without Elly and Esther feeling like they were doing anything wrong. I’m curious to see how it works in the future.
UPDATE (11/11): I’ve used the 20 questions game with other classes and some insist on playing every day. One class has made up their own variations to the game, mostly changes for the better, and play it in their free time – in English! Here are the changes they’ve made:
- 2 questions per students wasn’t enough and led to silence. They changed this to 4.
- Too many options also led to silence, so they began to choose topics.
- Guessing the answer right away led to random guessing, so they added a new rule: you can guess the answer, but if you’re wrong you’re out. That way students had to guess at clues that would lead to the answer. I suspected this would lead to uneven participation again, but so far it’s worked.
- The winner gets to be “teacher” for the next game. They keep careful track of this, too!
What gets me is how cool it is that the kids have changed the game to suit them and to make sure it’s fast-paced, interesting, and can still involve everyone. They keep track of how many questions they have left and argue over the dynamics of saving all your questions till the end. In the end, all I do is facilitate and sometimes play.