A friend told me, how her parents used to have this ' bean-counting ' game at home. As with all good ideas, it was extremely simple. Something Bob and I could do to make our English classes a tad more fun and exciting.
As soon as the shops were open after Christmas, we ventured into town and started to scour the shops for glass jars. Remember, we needed about 10 of them. Price was an issue. In great style, we also bought labels so that each kid could put their name on the jar. After all, Bob and I would keep them between the lessons. The kidney beans were easy to get at the supermarket.
The rules to go with this are simple, and I explained it to all the kids in German:
- Each competition lasts a month. At the start of each lesson, each child gets 10 kidney beans for attending.
- Winning at Uno or other games...2 beans.
- Knowing some English terms or reading in English....1/2/3/ beans.
- As to speaking German in the lesson, which they were all fond of doing with each other, we told them that each lesson we would take a piece of paper and make a column with each name. Each time someone spoke German, they would get a tick in their respective column. The one with the least ticks at the end of the lesson...3 beans.
- If anyone was naughty or swore or hurt another kid....minus 2 beans. ( they have been little angles since then )
- At the end of the month, the one with the most beans in their jar would get a huge bar of chocolate.
Bob was a tad bit sceptical whether it would work. From the start, I explained it in detail to the crowd ( 7-9 years ) and as they say, warts & all. I made sure they understood about the minus points for speaking German. Bob at times thought I was too strict but from the first minute, as soon as I heard German uttered, the mighty pen struck a mark.
In a way, a lot of adults underestimate how important consistency and rules are for kids. In fact, they thrived on this point of not speaking German. As soon as they noticed that I meant business they got with the program! ( I did tell them that even if they only say YES or NO, that is fine but no chatting in German with each other. )
At the start of the second lesson, the plot thickened. The crafty kids had had their Mums teach them how to say " I don't know " or " I am not sure ". Others almost bit their tongue the whole lesson and resorted to shaking or nodding their head. Too funny but also an extremely impressive display of willpower.
The moment a German word or phrase was uttered, they would quickly bat their eyes in my direction whether I had heard. Naturally I had and a tick resulted. On the off chance that I hadn't heard it, I had plenty of eager little helpers pointing out the fact that someone else had talked in German. Even after a two week holiday, the kids came back and were raring to go and earn beans.
We had our first winner yesterday. As there are lessons on two separate days, we made each child count his or her own beans. That amount got written on a piece of paper and I explained to them, that they would have to wait a week before the winner gets his prize. As young as they are, they knew exactly what was what!
Our lot are ingenious to boot. As the last bean was counted, one girl asked me what would happen if there were 2 winners.
" Of course you each get your own bar. "Then she asked me what would happen if all of them got the same amount.
" Oh, that might be too expensive for Bob and I."and sangfroid she replied:
" Oh, that's okay. We will lend you the money so that you can buy us all a big bar of chocolate! "
Life in Burgenland...fabulous!