JapanJET Program

Mr. X, Joker eXtraordinaire

I had my first elementary school classes since winter break today. The 6th grade class went well, but the 5th grade class went amazingly. Today we started a new chapter. It has 26 vocabulary words, so I made today a lazy play-with-words day.

One of the boys made it even better.

Letter Recognition

I started by having them cut the vocab word cards out of the back of the book. The plan was to use those to play Go Fish after going over the words in English. I told the kids to write their names on the backs so we can easily separate cards later. One kid decided to just write X on all of his cards because he felt lazy. I started calling him Mr. X.

“How are you, Mr. X?” I asked him.

“I’m excellent,” he replied.

It’s good wordplay even before you consider that he hasn’t been taught English formally at all. Being in 5th grade, he’s just been playing with ALTs 1-6 times a month for an hour at a time. I suspect he learned the word excellent only in the past couple of years, from me. He was just going off of the starting sound, but there was no hesitation in his response. He just owned it.

Food Puns

Fast forward about ten minutes. I’m going over the vocabulary words. Since they were all foods, I figured (correctly, it turned out) that the kids would already know about half of them. Rather than just telling them the words, I showed them a flashcard and asked them to try and say what it was in English on their own before giving them the answer. Along comes pudding.

“What’s this?” I asked the class.

Jigglypuff!” Mr. X shouted.

This Makes Sense, I Promise

I had ended the previous trimester with a couple of non-textbook classes. I’ve been burning through the textbook and didn’t want to end the semester in the middle of a chapter. The 5th graders had wistfully expressed some jealousy that the younger students were all getting Pokemon-themed classes and they weren’t. (I went to town with Pokemon in December.) So we did two classes of Pokemon trading.

It ended with a free-for-all market in which the students were given Pokemon and money. They were tasked with coming up with their own goals for the end of class. I gave them some useful sentences to use to engage in trades. Some students wanted to make a profit, one girl wanted to (and did) get all of the Eevees, etc.

As part of running that (and my other) Pokemon classes, I taught them the names for ten Pokemon in English. Most Pokemon names are different in English and Japanese, though I did use some that were the same. That allowed me to increase the number of Pokemon used in class without increasing the difficulty for the students. One of the Pokemon I used was Jigglypuff, whose Japanese name is their word for pudding.

I dunno what it is about the name Jigglypuff, but it makes Japanese kids giggle like mad. It just sounds ridiculously silly to them. And apparently it makes it easy for the kids to remember; after a month of not having class with me, it was the first thing Mr. X thought of when he saw the pudding flashcard.

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