Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marco Polo In the Classroom, or, "Oh my God there's so much blood!"

It started innocently enough. I just wanted to plan a simple classroom game that got the students to move but required them to use English to play.

If you never played "Marco Polo" in the swimming pool when you were younger, well, you probably didn't grow up in America. Marco Polo is a blind-man tag game based on hearing only. In the game, one kid - eyes closed - is "It". Whenever he yells "Marco!" the rest of the players must yell "Polo!", unless they are underwater. When "It" finds and tags another player, that kid becomes "It" and the game continues until Mom is ready to go home or someone wants to play a better game like "Sharks and Minnows".
Cartoon used by special permission
off the mark / one-a-day calendars

I thought this was a great set-up for an English-speaking game in the classroom. In "Classroom Marco Polo", one kid is "It". Everyone moves around in a designated space until "It" yells "Stop!" Then "It" must ask a practiced question like "What's your name?" or "What's your favorite food?" The other players must answer as many times as the question is asked.

"It" can take one giant step in any direction to try to tag another player. The other players can move their bodies to avoid being touched, but if they move their feet they become "It".

In the cut-throat version of the game, whenever a student is tagged, he becomes "It" but then must leave the game after tagging another player. The last player left without being tagged is the winner.

Unfortunately, whenever you let repressed, over-disciplined high school students - especially boys - loose in a game that involves blindness and physical contact, accidents are bound to happen. Glasses will get knocked across the room; kids will fall down; and one boy will swing his hand around wildly until he punches another boy in the mouth and splits his lip, which erupts into a crimson geyser across tables, chairs, and the floor. Seriously. So much blood.

I slowed down the bleeding with a wad of toilet paper and took the boy to the teacher's office, where they called his mom. All I really understood from the rushed conversation was "waygook shigan", or "foreigner time", so I had to fill in the rest of the conversation for myself. It went something like

"Hi, this is I-dong High School. Your son was in class with our foreigner-in-residence and now he's bleeding to death. Please come pick him up."

Personally, I didn't think the cut looked that bad. It just bled a lot. But I saw him the next day, after his visit to the hospital, and his lip was bandaged up so heavily he could barely speak.

Classroom Marco Polo Rule #1: No punching.


  1. Anonymous6:17 PM

    That is good stuff Jonny.
    You should take Bamboo in and see pandemonium erupt.

  2. Anonymous7:19 PM

    if marco pollo was to be played in campus, i guess there are rules that could be added to your rule #1

  3. Hi Jonny,

    My wife and I are about to head out there too... and this post has just made you my new favourite blog!

    I had a game in Spain which allowed the kids to whip each other with rolled up newspaper (instead of a stick (Bamboo???)) - I even had the teachers join in and get to hit the kids! Went down a storm!!!

  4. Hey thanks Colm! Where are you and your wife headed in Korea?

    Btw Bamboo is the name of a friend's black lab I was dog-sitting for :) . I don't know which would cause more pandemonium, though I have a feeling the sticks would cause more nosebleeds.

  5. Ashley H.2:04 AM

    Ha I love this. In Honduras, I taught an all female class how to play American football during Phys. Ed. By the end of the class, I too dealt with a bloody lip and convo. with the rents...


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