Playful Revolution teaches Playfulness as a foreign language

Posted on 13/05/2014

I was in Klaten, Indonesia, to teach English as a foreign language. My host at the private school I was teaching at was inspired by my stories about the Playful Revolution, she invited me to host a workshop at the public school where she was teaching English.

I prepared a very simple routine, with some clapping games and theater improvisations. Also some fresh games that require some language improvisations, telling a story together in a circle, one word at a time. I quickly bumped my head on the language barrier. These were 6 – 7 year olds on a public school in rural Indonesia, their vocabulary was very limited. We’re talking fruit and vegetables here. So I had to quickly switch some games for simpler, language-less, games. Word improvisation became funny-face-and-sound improvisation, which worked quite well.

IMG_0783Another barrier I ran into was Sharia; Muslim moral code and religious law. I set up the New Games classic Lap Game, where participants stand in a tight circle, face to back, and then try to sit down on each others lap simultaneously. This is CRAZY for Muslim moral code. Boys and Girls sitting on each others lap and tumbling down on top of each other, are you MENTAL!? I couldn’t help but feel rebellious and follow trough, these are just children for Allah’s sake! I tried to play ignorance, I tried persuasion but it would not fly. So I ended up splitting up the group by sexes and tried to coordinate two Lap Sits at the same time. After lining everyone up for the first attempt I said (and was translated) ‘Now everybody, very slowly, sit down’. In slow-motion all the kids broke loose from the circle end ended up cross-legged in the grass.

After we played on of my primary school favourites, Great Wall of China. a game of tag where the tagged player lines up against a tree, forming a big line of captured players. When a free player passes between two captured players, the line starting from that player is free!
I ended up exhausted but playful. The children and me had loads of fun, I hope they improves their English some, at least they learned some playfulness as a foreign language.