Friday, February 05, 2010


More tales of English classes.

When you were a child and it was a rainy day and the class couldn't go out for recess what did your teacher do? In sunny California there weren't too many of those days but I remember playing indoor games like 7-Up (I still can't remember how that one goes... Something about putting your head down on the desk and holding your thumb up in the air...) and Hangman. Do you remember Hangman?

A few years ago when there was a little time leftover after an English lesson I decided to teach my children Hangman.

"I am going to choose a word and put spaces on the whiteboard for each letter. I want each of you to guess a letter. If you guess a correct letter I will put it in the space. If your letter isn't in my word then it goes to the bottom and each time I will draw in another part of a little man on a little scaffold. See if you can guess the word before the little man is all drawn! (My little man had fingers and toes so that he never got hung...)

So we started the game and the kids seemed to be having fun. Except for one little girl. She got more and more restless as more and more of the little man appeared and then she started saying that she didn't like this game and wanted us to quit.

"It's okay. This little man has fingers and toes. He isn't going to get hung."

Nope. My student was standing up, hiding her eyes and covering her ears and getting very upset. Since the other kids were enjoying themselves I suggested that the little girl sit and wait in the next room which she did but by that time she was crying. The rest of the class quickly finished our game and started something else.

"Teacher, let's do it again!"

Not while I've got a child in the living room crying about the poor Hangman! Anything but Hangman!

My student was so distressed and traumatized by Hangman that she couldn't join in any more activities that day. I could just imagine her going home upset and telling her mother that the English teacher was into occult or something and was terrorizing the students with gruesome stories of dead people hanging from the rafters.

Did I do something amiss? Was it all my imagination that this was a FUN word game for elementary school students? Wasn't this part of my American education? I even went to the Internet to make sure that there really was such a game! I was beginning to doubt my memory!

That night I told Tetsu about my class and the game (he'd never heard of it) and the reaction of the little girl. And Tetsu thought I was WAY~~ out of line bringing something like that into my classroom.

"What is the MATTER with you, Tanya? Why would you want to subject little children to scaffolds and hanging people? That is so unlike you. I can't understand what you were thinking. That child has every right to be upset and you need to go and apologize to her parents as soon as possible!"

Which I did. I went to the family, explained my position and how this was an English word game in America that it could be found on practically any children's website dealing with language. Nevertheless, there was no excuse for upsetting their daughter and I hoped that the girl would return to English where I promised NEVER AGAIN to play Hangman in the classroom.

Just an example of what is and is not common sense in different cultures. When I think about it, Hangman really is a gruesome game...

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