This morning I had a ball singing the “What Time Is It, Mr Wolf?” song by Genki English, a truly inspired piece of EFL music about which I have written elsewhere. It’s my favorite way to introduce the concept of telling time to young learners because the song is just so sticky. We also get to play the classic children’s game, so what’s not to like?
Just before walking into my morning lessons I had one of those moments of inspiration that sadly seem to come less and less often with age. Remember the pilot of Newsroom when they discovered that the Deep Horizon oil rig had exploded? They tossed out their plan for that evening’s show and did it completely on the fly. It’s those kinds of moments in teaching that I love – when I ignore what my own experience tells me to do and I improvise. It’s like jazz, man.
So, just like that I ditched my original lesson plan and tried a new game that was simple but lots and lots of fun. First, I spread my laminated teachers’ cards across the classroom. Some were in obvious places like on tables and chairs, while others were nestled in the hidden nooks and crannies of the classroom. Each one shows a clock displaying a time of day ranging from one to twelve o’clock.
They were all clearly visible from afar but you did have to get up close to see precisely what time was displayed.
Since there were more than twenty children in the class I divided them into two teams. This was not for competitive purposes. I just wanted to reduce the mayhem that was to ensue a bit. I mean, I was going to purposely let the children run around the classroom like little maniacs after all.
The first team gathered in front of me and on the count of three asked, “What time is it?”
I then unleashed utter chaos simply by answering, “It’s eight o’clock.”
Within a split second the children began to search the class for the right flashcard as if their lives depended on it while I counted down from ten. When I reached zero, I yelled “stop” and all the children froze in their tracks whether they had found the right card or not. The ones who hadn’t were tagged out. It’s important to try and make this process as fun as comical as possible (I have a whole array of sound effects just for this purpose) so no one feels like they’re just being excluded or punished.
The ‘survivors’ gathered in front of me and we tried again, repeating until there were only one or two children left. At this stage I declared them the winners, and then the next group of children got to try (but only after I rearranged all the cards around the classroom).
It’s a lot like The Camera Game, which is also quite a hoot for practicing almost any kind of vocabulary words you could think of.