Last week was the much-anticipated KidPower ToyCon (batteries not included), the annual convention of the Classic Toy Manufacturers and Retailers Association. And the Exhibition Hall is right there in my classroom!
Better-speaking students man booths inside the classroom as representatives of toy companies, intending to hawk their latest new product; the rest of the class are "store buyers", the people that choose the merchandise that will stock their stores' shelves this Christmas season. Each store rep. has a unique identity and set of requirements, given on his worksheet; each toy manf. guy has information he wants, too, in addition to selling his toy: store name, contact info, number of outlets, age range, etc.
Okay, so it's a conceit for an interview/information gap activity, but the two co-teachers repeating from last year claim it was their favorite lesson. I mentioned previously the ways I've tried to improve it: a) simplifying the Q & A (too much information takes too much time and decreases the contacts); and b) increasing the number of toys, or booths, from 8 to 10. Both moves were successful, so the average "interviewee/store buyer" got five or six interviews compared to three last year.
It was a massive amount of work last year, mainly finding appropriate toys (no guns, swords or other violent toys, no movie or pop culture tie-ins, and ... no batteries required), then building a corporate logo, brand and promotional materials. This year I did three new toys, but I kept the Scholas Pop Out World stuff intact, because, though it is a Korean company (owned by LG), the English was acceptible.
This lesson does promote a good amount of English speaking, though vocabulary covered in the textbook, like retail (as in retail price) and promotional (as in flyer) were sometimes less understood than I hoped. I also used my "teaching stick" to threaten students who said their email address AT (@) was pronounced dalbaengi 달뱅이, though I swear before I looked it up I heard it as 골뱅이, golbaengi. However you say it, don't! 달뱅이 is a marine snail, a popular anju food, whose spiral-y shape resemples the @.
To conclude the lesson, students look over their contacts and compare them to the specifications for their particular search--"Did you get a match?" A student who visits five of the ten booths is almost certain to have at least one match. One further change I would make is to add a column on the far right of the worksheet, to check off Match or Not a Match.
The Nice Catch Suction Ball Paddle Game from Whizz-O, above, was a popular addtion this year (though two broken paddles do not bode well for its longevity in the market, or indeed the KidPower ToyCon). The Puzzlebox sets from IQ+, Inc. were also a hit, and were solved--in one sitting--by Yours Truly:
Okay, so I'm a big kid at heart.