It’s way too easy to forget that the kids know perfectly well what they like. Sometimes I feel unprepared to teach stories because I don’t know the top stars or celebrities or characters that enchant the prepubescent mind of the 11-year-olds in my classes. But it really doesn’t matter. If I remember to let the kids drive the bus, so to speak, and that I’m just there to apply the emergency brake now and then, they’ll put in all the characters and color they need to keep themselves interested.

Today with my 3rd period we had agreed to do some sort of joint Valentine’s Day/Friday the 13th thing. Originally I was thinking, “Let’s just make Valentine’s day cards. It’s easy. All I have to do is answer the same questions over and over again about how to write this character or that one.” But — and no offense to those who are talented at doing projects and cultural days — I’m not good at that kind of thing. I never have the markers and the colored paper and the scissors (not to mention that I float between buildings and between rooms all day long, so I’m lucky if I have my head, let alone supplies.)

So — even though this was the day before a week-long vacation and the kids were bouncing off the walls — I decided to see where a story would go. The kids were shouting things out in English already before we started (which is not a good thing — we are working on this mid-year outbreak of rambunctiousness) so obviously they were into the whole concept before we started. All I did was throw out the usual, boring “There was a boy” starter line (I couldn’t come up with the word for ‘slasher’ in Chinese off the top of my head, not that I would bother anyway — hopefully this is not a high-frequency word that would impact their lives in the future!)

And we were off. The details were filled in quite nicely. I did have one fact come to the surface — you want to call on the “less creative” kids first on a fresh question, because if you get “the answer” first, and everyone else has his hand up, it’s tough to cut it off! The class actually groaned when we were cut off by the end of the period. I put the story start (we only got as far as establishing that Mr. Ima Slasher wanted to buy a new chainsaw for his girlfriend, Miss Bigfoot, on Valentine’s Day, and planned to fly to Monkey Head Slashers Inc. to do so) up on the class Web page in characters (trying to trick them into reading characters on their own!) and we’ll come back to it the day after break. I doubt much of the momentum will have been lost for waiting.