On the very first day with my new ESL kindergarten class, we had 9 tables, 9 chairs, and a cardboard box. Not just any old box, mind you, but a refrigerator box. A child or two could easily fit inside. I put the box in the middle of the circle, and the children stared, wondering. What were we going to do?
I took a marker out of the holder, and drew a large rectangle on one side, and smaller squares on the three other sides. I left the top and bottom as they were.
I pulled out a knife, and carefully cut out each of the squares. I proceeded to the rectangle, and cut it so that it could swing open. I stood the box upright, holding open the rectangle. Suddenly, the rectangle became a door. “Hajime, look! Sit here!” I said, pointing inside. Hajime sat in the box. “Look! A house!” I said. Hajime was delighted. Eight other fingers pricked into the air, held aloft by arms stiff with excitement. Everyone wanted a turn in the house. They soon found out the magic words: “I want house!” Any child who said these magic words got a turn. In the end, everyone got a turn.
Soon we were exploring other words: door, wall, window, floor, roof, in, and out. The rest of the day, we made curtains, wallpaper, flowers, bricks, a chimney, and a beautiful floor. We found that two children could fit in the house, and in the days that followed, we also found that four could also fit, walls bulging as children giggled, waiting to see when Miss Amy would discover the children in the house so they could be counted yet again.
A fellow teacher passed by, and one of the boys shouted to her excitedly, “Look! Two children are in the house!” She was quite impressed with this child, as no-one had ever heard him speak before.
When the house finally gave in, the children discovered the wonders of duct tape, and we repaired the house again and again. Until one day, when it finally collapsed for the very last time. It was time to learn a new word: recycling. The entire class carried our precious house down the hallway to the caretaker, who brought us to the big blue paper bin outside. We stomped on our house and smashed it up before carefully tipping it into the bin. Saying our good-byes to the house, I promised to bring in a new box. Tomorrow.
The next day, a new box appeared in the classroom. And this time, we built a submarine, complete with periscope.