Kids will regularly present you with scenarios or sentences that you simply don’t know how to respond to. I was teaching a group of 9 and 10 year olds the first conditional this week, i.e.: if something happens, I will do something. After a little practice, I set them loose on a speaking game where one team asks the question ‘What will you do if…?’ and the other team must provide the response, ‘I will…’, and then the question team must ask another question based off their answer. Perhaps it would make more sense with an example:

What will you do if you’re hungry?’
‘I will go to 7/11’
‘What will you do if 7/11 is closed?’
‘I will go to the supermarket’
‘What will you do if all the supermarkets have been taken over by zombies?’

etc etc.

You get the gist. So, I let them get on with it and almost immediately the questions and answers took to a theme of killing, crying and being maimed by wild animals or crazy people with guns.

Here is another example of which none is imagined by myself:

‘What will you do if Benny is trying to kill you?’
‘I will use my gun to shoot him’
‘What happens if you miss and Benny cuts off your arms?’
‘I will run to the mountains’
‘What happens if there is a bear?’
‘I will shoot him’ …
‘But you don’t have any arms.’
‘Oh… then I will die.’ *everybody laughs and cheers*

After this had repeated a few times with various people getting seriously injured or worse, I decided to intervene and told them that there was to be no more people dying, at which point 9 year old Benny pipes up with this:

‘But Teacher Ella, why not? This is the world we live in. It is a very dark place sometimes.’

Queue a long pause of reflection on my account – partly induced by the fact that a 9 year old knew English well enough to be able to call the world  a ‘dark place’ and partly because he’s not exactly wrong. I suppose it is a somewhat sad state of affairs that a 9 year old can say that about the world around him. So I let them continue because there was simply nothing that I could say in the moment that would have been convincing enough for them to side with me and I suppose they were using the language correctly, no matter how violent it might have been.


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