Walking in the room and writing “Santa Claus” on the board in Chinese and English seems to be a sure winner. (Of course, throwing in “Hanukkah Harry” at times demonstrates a sense of balance if not sense.)
I had a story ready to go this morning (once more, we are on shortened periods due to snow, but this time it is an early dismissal). The story was tried-and-true because I “borrowed” it off the moreTPRS listserv. We never even got close to it, because writing “Santa Claus” led to the home-run question “Did you tell Santa what you want for Christmas?”, and the thousands of very interesting offshoots like “Were you good?” “Why were you bad?” “What did he do that was bad?” “Oh, he said bad things about his classmate. Were they true? Is she really XYZ?” “What about Susie Creamcheese? Is she a bad girl? Is her friend Connie Cranberrysauce bad too? Will Santa bring them coal?”
Stuff like this puts the “P” in PQA. The interesting part is that we did NOT start with a “curriculum word”, yet the class content certainly covered a whole lot of curriculum content — we practiced the usual suspects (yes-no questions, QW questions, comparatives, ba construction) and also ended up with words like “Christmas”, “present”, “coal”, “dare to” and “say bad things about someone”. Seems to me that what that really means is that if a curriculum is aligned with reality, the language on it is going to be of such high frequency that truly anything a rational person talks about with the kids will be on the curriculum and will further their knowledge of the language. I mean, in real life, who in Beijing has a list of the vocabulary the kid has covered in the past?