One view I strongly share with Richard Graham of Genki English is the cringeworthyness of the question, “How many members are there in your family?” This is a question you’ll often hear in East Asian EFL classes. While grammatically correct, it makes families out to be like civic business associations, each with their own newsletter and monthly dues. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?“ is a far more natural question, making the eponymous song on volume of 8 of Genki English a good one for young learners to get down pat.
Now free demos of Genki English songs are surprisingly hard to come by, but you can hear the song in the background of this teacher training video:
And as you heard in the video, the lyrics are easy enough.
The storybook that comes with the software is also quite hilarious, and can be downloaded as a pdf file that can be made into a book:
But one of the things I like the most about this theme are the mini cards, which show different combinations of brothers or sisters.
One simple game that works well with a small group of young learners is to lay all the cards face up on the floor and then have the children ask you the question, “Do you have any brothers or sisters? I then respond by saying one of the combinations of brothers or sisters on the ground such as, “I have one brother and two sisters.” The children then busy themselves trying to find the right one. After someone does, I turn the card over and we began again, continuing until all the cards have been turned over. (The question might seem a mouthful to get kids to say but if you teach them to sing song first the children they’ll have no problem.)
For all my fellow Genkists I’ve written each combination below:
- I have 3 brothers and 4 sisters.
- I have 4 brothers and 3 sisters.
- I have 2 brothers and 4 sisters.
- I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters.
- I have 4 brothers and 4 sisters.
- I have 1 brother and 4 sisters.
- I have 4 brothers and 1 sister.
- I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters.
- I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters.
- I have 1 brother and 3 sisters.
- I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters.
- I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters.
- I have 1 brother and 2 sisters.
- I have 3 brothers and 1 sister.
- I have 1 brother and 1 sister.
- I have 2 brothers and 1 sister.
- I have 1 brother.
- I have 1 sister.
- I have no brothers or sisters.
This game is not a speaking activity per se, but it still proved very helpful to the ten five-year-olds I was teaching to both understand and eventually reproduce this sentence pattern while talking about their own families.
I deliberately set this game up to be more cooperative than competitive, with no obvious winner. But for older children who can better handle competitive games, I tape all the mini cards to the white board and divide the children into teams. To play, a member from each team stands facing away from the board and asks me the question from the song. After I answer, they turn around and search for the right one. A point is awarded to the team of the winner. Long time users of Genki English will of course recognize this as the Turn and Circle Game from Mido Farid’s Book of Games (book 2). Give either game a try, they’re a lot of fun.