- Key Words: Motivation
- Learner English Level: All
- Learner Maturity Level: All
- Preparation Time: Varies
- Activity Time: Varies
There are New Year and Christmas parties given in almost every English school, but how often do we treat ourselves and students to the kind of party we can both relax at and enjoy together? I hate going to karaoke parties because I don't enjoy singing in that kind of situation. While chatting with others at the party, I dread my inevitable turn at the mike. On the other hand, I've never been able to relax at other types of student parties because there's a great similarity to teaching when you have the burden to provide the entertainment and games.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a different style student party in Oita, Kyushu. It was a real success mainly because students and teachers worked together to provide fun and interesting entertainment. There were 150 students and family members gathered in a big hall with limited provisions. The emphasis of the party was not on eating and drinking. Many had bought tickets in advance to help pay for the hall rental and drinks, and those that didn't were asked to donate at will. All the students were asked to prepare one performance in each class that they would do at the party.
A lot of them were panicking until they were told "Anything goes!" There were then a lot of volunteers and ideas which resulted in a great variety of acts. Everything from a soccer dribbling demonstration to karaoke, jazz dance, choreographed lip-synching, the hula, and an original song and piano accompaniment were received with equal praise and enthusiasm.
After the talent show, three games were organized which work amazingly well with groups of mixed ages and abilities. Because not everyone was a student, the questions and instructions were translated into Japanese, although there was a definite time advantage for those who understood the English. The first game was the favorite YES/NO game, simply played by asking a yes/no question and everyone choosing one side to stand on which showed their choice of yes or no. The questions were based on local trivia about their teacher and English which all students might know. The people who stood on the "yes" half of a "no" answer would then sit down until there was only one person left.
The next game was the highlight of the evening and is a great activity for any large class. I call it the "what have you got" game and I've used it in many high school classes successfully. It's a scavenger hunt style game with a twist. We broke the group up into smaller groups, with each group having a similar makeup of adults and children. The teacher, or appointed "judge," then stands in the middle of the groups and calls for things he wants. "I want two ball-point pens of different colors" he yells and the first representative, or "runner," from a group who gives it to him wins a point for that group (only one runner per group). The requests of the judge gradually become more demanding and this is when the excitement and laughter level increases as well. Some good examples are: "I want . . . a strand of hair exactly 13 cm long" (the judge has a ruler), "the group who can sing my (the judge's) favorite Elvis song," "the ugliest driver's license picture," "each members' signature written by another on a business card" (no person can sign his own signature, but must tell others how to), etc. The final demand would be for the team to complete a task of some kind. My favorite is a group effort to blow at a tissue to keep it afloat as long as possible while huddling in a tight group. Or final points could be given to the group which can make the best human pyramid. It's a game participants will be telling their friends about.
The final game of bingo helped wind everyone down after all the excitement. It was also a chance for many people to win one of the many prizes donated by the teachers. Whoever says second-hand goods aren't popular in Japan are wrong; people love them! The grand prize was a second-hand bike fixed up like new.
The atmosphere of the party was friendly and comfortable with everyone encouraging each other and meeting new people in a fun and informal environment. Some of my students at college recently told me how much they enjoyed singing carols in the lobby at Christmas, but I now realize that's only the tip of an enjoyable international experience. I'm looking forward to organizing more events for them like the one in Oita where they can relax and enjoy events set up for enthusiastic and friendly people with a similar interest in English.