Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Introducing New English Activities, Part 2: Drawing Shapes

Sometimes I get nervous about introducing a brand new activity to a class because I’m concerned that they won’t understand my explanation. That concern grows as the grade levels get lower, so when I decided to go ahead and introduce this activity to the 2nd graders, I really wondered if they would get it…and if they didn’t, I had a backup game for them just in case.

I figured out that the 1st and 2nd graders actually know a lot more than I anticipated, so instead of doing an activity with fruits and vegetables with the 2nd graders as the elementary sample curriculum suggests, I decided to teach them the directions up, down, left, and right. “Up” and “down” was no problem for them, but some of the kids mixed up “left” and “right,” which was expected. They picked up the vocabulary very quickly, which made my next activity a lot easier for them to learn.

In this drawing activity (which I haven’t given a name yet), a number of students go up to the blackboard and each have a piece of chalk. The number of students can be determined in any way; for my class I chose one student from each table (we were all grouped into tables in elementary school, right? I know I was), to make six.

The shape that these six students have to draw is determined by me. Before class, I drew out several different abnormal shapes on sheets of paper to be done by the students, kind of like the ones shown below:

I choose one shape and show it to the rest of the class, but NOT to the students at the board. I choose a place on the shape to start and show the class which direction we will go.

Once I say “Go!” or “Start!” The class say in unison either “up,” “down,” “left,” or “right,” depending on which direction I designated from the start. The class watches as I trace my finger along the shape, and meanwhile the students at the board start drawing in the specified direction at their own pace. When I reach a corner on the shape, the class specifies the new direction and the kids at the board follow. If they make a mistake while drawing, it’s okay; it just makes the game more amusing.

When my tracing finger reaches the beginning point, the class says “Stop!” and the students stop drawing and move aside to show the class their drawings, and we compare to see which pictures most resemble the chosen shape. The class gets a pretty good laugh when they see that the drawings look completely different from the shape, and the students who drew them get a laugh when I reveal the shape to them.

After each student got a turn to draw, I told the students that I was going to draw next, but with a blindfold on. Even though I’m the one who drew the shapes, I let the homeroom teacher choose any one without me seeing it. So this time, I’m being given directions, but not only do I not know which shape it is, I can’t even see what I’m drawing! Before class ended we had just enough time to let the homeroom teacher draw a shape while blindfolded.

In the end the game was a big success; the teacher and the class had a lot of fun and at the same time they were able to learn each of the directions both by listening and by reciting them out loud. The teacher and I both noticed that some work needs to be done on clarifying the pronunciation difference between “left” and “right,” because with Japanese pronunciation they sound very similar (“refto” and “raito”). But the most important thing is that they know the difference between the two. It’s just hard to hear when they say it all at once.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do this activity again since I only teach the 2nd graders once a month, but I want to add a few more variations and introduce it to the other classes. Since the 5th graders just learned “Turn right” and “Turn left” and know how to navigate on a 2D map, I want to do this shape-drawing for them as well. As long as the shapes have no curves, the teacher can make as many different pictures as they want and as complicated as they want.

I hope the directions aren’t too complicated to understand. I might make a video to demonstrate just in case.


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