I’ve just had one of the funniest lessons I’ve had in a long time. This was in no part due to my amazing skill as an English teacher, but rather due to the Germans’ amazing lack of skill when it came to something I think most six-year-olds have probably already mastered. (Not that I know anything about six-year-olds. Or want to.)
We were doing a lesson on comparatives and superlatives – you know: good, better, the best/bad, worse, the worst (or bad, badder, the baddest if you’re German and new to the language). The book wasn’t overly inspirational on this topic, so I thought I’d spice things up a bit by bringing in a game I’d found on the internet.
The game consists of a series of squares with one adjective in each. The students roll the dice and move their marker to the correct square. Once there, they have to flip a coin – if it’s heads, they have to make a comparative sentence; if it’s tails, they make a superlative sentence. Simple, right?
Bertha: Um, I don’t think I can do that.
Me: Do what?
Bertha: Flip a coin.
Bertilda: Can you show us again?
Betlinde: Yes, please show us again. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
Slightly incredulous and wondering if they might be taking the piss (unlikely, given that they are German), I placed the coin on my forefinger, deftly flicked it with my thumb, neatly caught it and slapped it onto the back of my other hand. Triumphant, I looked around at the blank faces before me.
Bertilda: Can you do it one more time?
After another flawless demonstration, it seemed like we were ready to start. I passed the coin to Bertilda and we were off. She threw the dice, moved her marker, read out the adjective, picked up the coin and… regarded it dubiously.
Me: Go on! You can do it!
The flip was more of a flub – the coin hopped about a millimetre into the air before crash landing on the table with Bertilda snatching at it wildly.
Me: Bah hahahahaha! Oh my god! Sorry, yes, erm, heads. Make your sentence.
Sentence made, the coin worked its way around the table.
Me: Come on, Betlinde! Flip that coin!
Me: Or you can just fling it at the table. That works, too.
I can best describe what Bertha did as fist pumping the coin into the air. She bungled the catch and the coin tumbled to the floor, rolling under the table. Ensuing “flips” saw the coin land everywhere in the room except for where it should have, including other people’s laps. I looked at the open window, wondering if I should close it before the battered coin made its getaway. I thought it might be a good idea to end the game before things got to that point but I was laughing too hard to speak.
Bertilda: My turn.
By now, she had developed this method of bouncing the coin between her hands as if it was burning her. Through my blur of tears of laughter, she seemed quite proud of herself.
Bertilda: “Interesting.” Umm. This English class is more interesting than my job.
Me: Aww, thank you! Wait, I don’t know how boring your job is. Maybe that’s not really a compliment.
Bertilda: Yes, my job is very boring.
While the German gift for the coin flip was a flop, it seemed the German talent for ego-piercing directness was still alive and kicking.