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Scrabble - Georgian Style

The previous lesson - about measuring - had primed the children's skills of judging space and using office tools. Now -in the spirit of medieval monks who never let a stray piece of vellum go astray, but use it for pen trials or to record monastic land transactions - we sought to make a final use of a piece of card which had languished since the last Summer School, when its obverse had graphed areas of coloristic interest in the Mona Lisa. The clean side was serviceable and just large enough - I judged - for us to construct some 'Scrabble'-style letter cards. Marking out at inch-and-a-half intervals, once the pencils were sharp, was a trick soon mastered; and the first idea was to draw reasonably straight parallel lines, guided by the pencil markings.

* The Azerbaijani contingent vied with each other for the pole positions of line-drawer, ruler-holder, steadier; and so on: this photo shows them at their co-operative best:

A word's eye view (above). Meanwhile (below) the Georgians - mainly girls - are doing normal Workbook exercises; but today Nato has cunningly deployed them in isolated pairs. (Having two activities going on at the same time, each ideally suited to the temperaments of those involved, is another great solution to the issues of Class Four the same class which we had marshalled in February, at the time of the TLG inspection.) * Below - two boys showing great absorption; Nato at her relaxed, tutorial best; map on the wall showing Georgia (white) ; and (extreme left in pale blue) the Black Sea. We are surrounded by the unknown yellow of Russia and Central Asia; which exerts the same fascination for me still as did the white spaces on the world atlas for Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene.

Meanwhile the first half of the ruling task has been completed.

And then horizontals are carried out in no time at all

So we are the proud possessors of a grid 9 x 13 of 1.5 inch white cardboard squares, as yet uncut.

The maths proves feasible.

one more check.

and the cutting begins.

Gifted Stella, at the other end of the classroom, can always be relied on for calm, applied, intelligent effort.

Nika - meanwhile - making a praiseworthy attempt to calm his naturally ebullient class presence, is learning how to cut. A bit too much tension here; but the mind is crystalline and directed.

Stella abandons theory for practice

while Lela watches the Azerbaijanis with a certain anxiety. They are the spoilers, the potential invaders, the rogue element She, Nika and Stella are immediately ready to play the part of the Three Hundred Aragvelians

Nika now has the hang of it; and Georgian-Azerbaijani relations are at a new splendid high.

careful as you cut down towards the edge!

Cut downwards! Scissors are dangerous. They can kill a man; they can fly a jet liner into the Twin Towers.

the higgledy-pigeldy of great progress

* And now for the rpartition - as the French call it: how many cards for each instance of an English letter?

We construct a theoretical template

.and examine the problem in its most global manifestation

At this point I need to invoke my famous 'consonant wall'. English words - young learners must most certainly be aware of this! - are made of letters; but letters come in two sorts; two sorts which have radically uncompromising functionality. As much as yin and yang; or male and female although the special case of y (belonging to both camps) is a refinement I have yet to work into the scheme properly. As a preliminary exercise I explain the 'bricks and mortar concept' - although my Georgian for 'mortar' is not very good; all I can say is: 'concrete' or 'glue'.

Consonants rule! They are the bricks. You build your house with bricks, your words with consonants. Everyone - Nato included - practices saying the word 'consonant' . Then we take sample words. Start at a consonant, navigate to a vowel, then retreat back to another consonant.

Migrate from stone to mortar (or glue) and back to stone.

Draw a line to represent your intellectual journey.

Here, 'hat' has been chartedand pig is being navigated. * Meanwhile, essential back-room activities have not ceased.

We have a schema - or schemas - of the English letters: the class now proposes how many of each we would like to draw on our cards.scaling the number up to a total of 117 after the first estimate comes in too low

The next photo shows the manufacturing of our 117 cards according to the statistics we have agreed upon.

And they are put into this - a simple Pooh-style jam-jar; although excess of zeal has caused the tearing and destruction of Card No 117 - allegedly by a card-carrying and paid-up memberduring the cutting phase. So we end up with 116.

In full Harry Potter cry, I wave a kind of magic wand (in this case a pencil) and ensure the vowels are comfortable in their jamjar

while the team receives the cards to complete, with what looks like a covert 'Gaumarjos' or g for victory -salutation *

Meanwhile more, serious, work from the Vowel department

and Martin is called upon to pronounce the English sound v. I've always found it comes across to students as a slightly aggressive sound (a labial fricative, technically ) and the best thing is to clutch an eraser at the moment of utterance, suggesting that you are mastering feelings of anger.

These girls will play

They love this gadgetry


And finally, a touch of grammar! No, the chopped did not children down trees! Its perfectly clear; and true, too! Its rivalled, maybe, only by (from the same class) Ninis immortal: the birds are singing out of song. Its children trying language out, as you try on a Halloween costume. The right usages will be learned eventually


A mixed-age-group game which brought together children from several different classes, sowed the seeds of education for the future. Two gold coins for a reward, and the summer holidays are about to begin!