And now for the greatest moment in ESL, quite possibly ever.
My first graders are currently learning English mealtimes. By “English mealtimes” I mean that we are teaching them the times of day in which you eat meals, and what they are called. Breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner are the key terms here, and in and of themselves, are not so hard to grasp–if you’re not a combination of 6 and entirely attention deficit and slightly diabolic, that is.
So on Tuesday, the first grade teacher and I gave an elaborate presentation on mealtimes, demonstrating for them on a schedule and a brightly colored chart on the board when we eat breakfast, when we eat snack, when we eat lunch and when we eat dinner. In order to try to teach them sequential ordering, we emphasized what happens BEFORE and AFTER these mealtimes.
Tuesday’s after-lunch review period is mine to lead. I approach the blackboard and ask, accompanied by a slew of grandiose illustrative gestures, “So guys, what do we eat (*spoons imaginary food maniacally into mouth*) after we wake up (*huge, exaggerated stretch/yawn*) in the morning (*points to clock)*?” Of course, I receive about 12 blank stares–only 12 because 6 are busy touching their privates, playing with their pencil cases or pulling their seat mate’s hair, and the other 6 have their fingers–often a full two knuckles’ worth–jammed up their noses and are energetically mining boogers from the farthest reaches of their nasal cavities.
“Come on,” I say. “Somebody?”
Silence again. More snots are extracted from around the ocular nerve. Babble.
“Por favor!” I finally yell, exchanging a worried look with the teacher. “What do we have after we wake up in the morning, before we come to school?”
There are a few more seconds of silence until one child (one of the 6 not picking his nose, but formerly rummaging in his pencil case) crumbles under the pressure. “Brrreakfaaast!” he shouts. “Hwe haf the brrreakfast!”
Delighted that someone has paid attention, I affirm him enthusisatically.
“YES!” I say. “Right! Good work, Marcos.” Perhaps there is some hope, I think. Maybe they’re absorbing something? With more hope in my heart, I move on. Snack is next up to bat.
“All right, guys,” I say. “So if we eat breakfast after we wake up, what do we have after breakfast?” Of course, my inquiry is met by empty looks and a resounding, buzzing silence.
“Come on! During recess–on the patio–what do you eat?”
“Guys. At recess, at 11:00 every day–your mom gives you something to eat (insert “eating” gesture here) while you play. Sometimes it’s an Actimel, sometimes some biscuits–what do we call that meal?”
(nothing). Finally, I point to the word on the board, silently underlining it with my finger. Maria, a head-scarfed wonder who is an intelligent little kid when she pays attention–also not very often–catches on. I can see her mouthing the word, dark Bambi eyes fixed on my chalk scrawlings, as my finger traces beneath each letter. I finish with k, and she gasps, one hand shooting into the air, the other over her mouth. She leaps up from her chair, bouncing up and down. Without waiting for me to call on her, she removes the hand from her mouth and shouts:
“The sex! We have the sex!”
I nearly die of shock and amusement and spend the next 15 minutes laughing. Who knew “snack” sounded so much like “sex” to non-native speakers? I just have to say that I wouldn’t be at all opposed to an 11:00 break engineered expressly for “the sex.” It might make some of the teachers at my school less highly strung. 😉