The grammar point being taught was how to use "to have ~ " and "had ~ " in sentences. So for the activity, I made up a bunch of slips of paper in three categories: S, V (with the grammar point), and O. (For example, in the S category there would be words such as "Tom," "Sally," They," and so on. V would be "to have met," "had eaten," "had been asleep," etc. O would be "restaurant," "the President," "Alaska"...)
I divided the students into three groups as equal as possible, and then each group picked slips of paper from a single category. Groups with more students were given S and O, because it's easier to combine those. Once they had their words, the students had to find *at least* one student from each of the other categories, and the three (or four, if there was an extra S or O) had to get together and make a correct sentence using all of their words in some fashion. The strategy involved was finding students from the right categories who had words that would make sense together.
Once the students understood what they were supposed to be doing, they had a real blast. They came up with some really great sentences. For example (key words in bold): "Sally is happy to have met the President during the earthquake" and "Tom and I had been sleeping before Orlando Bloom came here." Other benefits were that it got the students up and moving around and active, plus they had to interact with *everyone* in the class to try to make good sentence-worthy teams rather than just sticking with their usual group of friends. (Playing the activity twice in a row--or more--mixes them up even further.)
There was one problem that I hadn't even really been aware of until it was explained to me afterward. During the free-talk period at the beginning of the class, I went around asking the students something they "had done" before they came to this high school (which was their homework assignment, so they all had an answer ready). One girl said that she had learned a particular Asian language. Since part of the free-talk session is to get them to be able to respond to common questions, I probed further with "Why did you study that language?" The girl promptly clammed up, until the other teacher suggested "Because it was interesting?"
I thought it was just a case that the girl couldn't think of how to answer in English or was embarrassed, which happens a lot. My team teacher told me after school, however, that the girl is actually that nationality, and she didn't want to say in front of the whole class that she isn't Japanese. I wondered why she went out of her way to use that as her answer if she didn't want to talk about it, but maybe she simply didn't expect anyone other than the teacher to hear it when she did her homework. Anyway, I was taken by surprise that I had touched on such a serious issue by accident.
Another event today was that we had an earthquake drill. First we all practiced ducking under desks when the alarm sounded. Then we all evacuated to the courtyard, where the fire department had set up a special truck whose interior is designed to simulate earthquakes. It's set up like a typical kitchen/dining room. They took volunteers four at a time to sit at the table and experience an earthquake, teaching them how to take cover under the table and wait for tremors to die down before trying to turn off the stove and such. ...What I found interesting was that, in the meantime, a number of the teachers occupied themselves by pulling weeds. They had pulled a heaping wheelbarrow full by the time the demonstration ended.
After I got home, my proficiency test application form was delivered. I filled it out and rushed it to the post office before they closed. On the way back, I celebrated by stopping at a kaitenzushi (revolving sushi) restaurant for supper. I love these places because the vegetarian sushi is always the cheapest. I can stuff myself for $4-5. (Of course, I don't eat much to begin with.)