Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lions and tigers and bears

My fifth grade classes are learning about animals to wrap up their year. It's a good choice of topics because they love telling me about their favorite and least favorite animals, recalling trips to the zoo or to a farm, and drawing pictures of animals. This distracts them from the other thing that they really want to do, which is to not be in school anymore. I can sympathize.

So on Thursday I made up a worksheet with pictures of different animals, jumbled names, habitats, foods, and other pertinent facts. The students had to match everything up. Their favorite animal by far is the "pen-gween," and they also delighted in informing me that "pengweens live not in the Nort Pole. They live in the South Pole!" Guess who forgot to proofread her worksheet?

My original idea was to have the students give little presentations on the animals once they'd matched up who lived where and ate what. The teacher suggested that we play a guessing game instead. Word to the wise: kids love games.

Really, all I have to do is call something a game and they're excited about it. Recall that we turned birthday months into a competition.

So they started out using the animals from my sheet, giving as ambiguous of clues as possible. Then one particularly ambitious child asked if he could go off-script and have the class guess a different animal. I was a little nervous about the lack of vocabulary, but it turns out they know the word "octopus" as well as a host of other animal names. We guessed rhinos, elephants, dolphins, ducks, monkeys, bees, chameleons, and lambs before the bell finally rang. Then, because it was my last day with these students and they had a double lesson, we had a quick Q&A in German. The schools are pretty strict about monolingual classrooms, but the students were so excited that they could just ask the questions without worrying about how to phrase them in English, I think the teacher didn't mind.

One more week of school for me, and then my family is coming for a visit. It's odd to think that this chapter of my life is ending and I won't spend the next years reminding young Germans to use the present progressive or pronounce their "th" sounds correctly. I've been warned that at least one of my classes is planning a little party. I see tears in my future.

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