Emily, a PCV who lives about 35 km north of me, came to visit on Sunday. On Saturday evening I texted one of my students to tell him that if he or any of the English club members wanted to practice English, they could meet me and my friend at school the following day to show her around. “If you can’t make it, don’t worry, it’s informal,” I told him. “We’ll probably be at school around 11.” Fast forward to 10:30 AM the next day. My student texted me to tell me everyone was waiting in front of the mosque. Not knowing what to exact, Emily and I nonchalantly showed up about half an hour later, to find 32 eager students waiting for the English club meeting.
We rolled with it. At first the students were still malu (shy) but one of the English club leaders remembered something I had taught him on a recent hike to a nearby temple. He jumped up in the center of our circle and after in the midst of some rapid-fire Bahasa Indonesia I heard the words “eenie meenie mini mo.” With Emily’s help coaching me through the East Coast version, we soon had all the students diligently repeating
Eenie Meenie Mini Mo
Catch a tiger by his toe
If he hollers, let him go
Eenie Meenie Mini Mo
As I sat back and watched, the students divided into groups and each small group practiced the chant, clapping their hands to the beat and repeating each word until they could say it properly. Next, they said it faster and faster until they just started laughing because the words ran together. After that, we had a competition as each group had their turn to repeat the rhyme. Then I had a brilliant idea of having each group chant in a round (think, singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in a round) and with a little help and a contoh (example) from Emily, Bu Chris, and me, we had all the students repeating round after round of Eenie Meenie Mini Mo. And when we had finally exhausted all of these possibilities, we sat in a large circle again and used Eenie Meenie Mini Mo for its original purpose: to select one student who then had to ask a question to either Miss Sarah or Miss Emily. We did this around and around and around until every student had time to ask a question. Students who couldn’t think of questions in five seconds had to stand in the middle of the circle and do a dance or sing a song, to everyone’s great amusement. The system was clearly biased because whenever the English club leaders were selected, everyone counted to 5 at the top of their lungs and drowned out any question they could ask. We were treated to the shuffle dance and a rendition of “My Heart Will Go On.” It was a blast.
The best part was, as Emily noted, that the entire activity was student-directed. It was pretty amazing. I mostly watched from the sidelines while occasionally offering suggestions or correcting pronunciation. I was amazed by all the ways they used this simple chant: individually, in groups, in a competition, singing as a round, and using it as a tool for another activity – asking questions. All that to say, my students are awesome. I love how excited they are to learn silly rhymes, I love how they will take an idea and run with it, and I love that they want to be friends with me.