Tales from School: To Market, To Market

My voice is almost gone and I’m falling asleep left, right, and center, but I think I managed to put together and execute a pretty good (if not interesting/unique) lesson plan for today.

To preface: this month in Social Studies, we traveled from Greece to Nigeria, our first country in Africa. It’s proving to be a difficult country to teach, since I know way less about it than the others we’ve done so far (Russia in September, Argentina in November, China in December, and Greece in January), but I’m turning into my own expert, I guess. Good thing we are having a guest from Nigeria come in on Thursday, thanks to one of my co-teachers.

Last week, I introduced Nigeria with a folktale, then taught some facts, and after that, broke the class up into three tribes, reflecting the three main tribes of Nigeria: the Hausa, which consists of (names changed) – Sara, Ben, Kanisha, Henry, and Suzanne; the Igbo, which is Kenny, Pilar, Jimmy, Shannon, and Hannah; and the Yoruba, which is Alexis, Abbie, Parker, Frannie, and Elizabeth. Their task was to create a costume from their given ethnic group, and at the end of class, the Hausa were in the lead, followed by Igbo and Yoruba.

So, today, after reviewing some facts, and talking about the differences between the farmer’s market here and the one in a YouTube video about Nigeria, I introduced the next challenge: the Nigerian Marketplace. In this activity, two people from each tribe would set up a market stall while two of their other tribe members would set out and barter items with the other tribes at their market stalls, while the 5th person would write down and keep track of the ingredients and the recipes. The recipes each team needed to complete were Igbo okra soupHausa jollof rice, and Yoruba efo riro (a vegetable stew). Each recipe required different quantities of ten items, represented by differently shaped/colored pieces of foam, representing onions, tomatoes, curry, ginger, spinach, yam, okra, fish, rice, and ato rodo (red pepper). Each tribe’s market stall received a different amount of goods, and the buyers went around asking for different items that they needed, offering deals. The first tribe to return to the Social Studies classroom from the marketplace with all of the items needed to make all 3 dishes would win the challenge.

It turned to chaos pretty quickly. Since the activity was supposed to emulate a Nigerian marketplace – it wasn’t too out of place. After the items were distributed to each tribe’s sellers, the buyers would get items from their team that they had too many of (for example, if they had too many onions), and barter for what they needed. Each group took a different approach. The Hausa tribe, which is mostly older kids, were very into the “character” aspect of the game and set their stall up neatly. Their sellers, Sara and Suzanne, stationed themselves behind the table and the buyers mostly stuck by them, only going out when absolutely necessary, adopting more of a “trading post” strategy. The Yoruba tribe, who completely imploded the previous week, were helped out by my boss, and they did a little better as a team but still struggled. This group had trouble understanding the challenge, and pretty much just did everything together, especially when Parker (a seller along with Elizabeth) lost interest and wandered away. As usual for that team, Abbie (the recipe writer) took control while Frannie (who was supposed to be a buyer along with Alexis) just sort of did whatever she wanted, annoying her team by picking up random items from their table and putting them on other tables, and taking random items and putting them on her tribe’s table, which made everyone angry. The Igbo tribe, which is most of the younger kids, started out with no real strategy; they did not have a lot of supervision, so their market stall was usually unmanned and just full of disorganized “stock” that the team kept trading. Pilar and Shannon were the two designated buyers and for the most part did what they were supposed to do, but Jimmy and Kenny, who were supposed to sell, got bored because the other two teams were pretty much just staying around their own tables while Pilar, Shannon, and Hannah bartered, so they started bartering their items too.

Eventually, the Igbo team compiled all the things they had and put the dishes together, so they had two dishes completed rather quickly and just needed a few items from the other groups (the Hausa were arguing about strategy and Yoruba were still trying to figure out what to do) and managed to sneak through and get all their items through their “divide and conquer” strategy and within 30 minutes, they accompanied me back to “base” (the other room) to check on their dishes. There was some minor drama when Suzanne’s chair tipped over and she fell out and hit her head (she was fine, it was probably either clumsiness or for attention), when most of the boys just wandered away from the classroom because it was too noisy, and when the Igbo team realized that they had too many tomatoes, and traded some away, but then needed them back when they realized that a tomato had been put in the wrong dish, but initially, they had all their ingredients and came back first, winning the challenge.

We were running very close to over-time, so I had the Igbo tribe clean up their items while I went to the other room. Basically, Abbie from Yoruba kind of gave up and started just giving all the items to Hausa because she was frustrated with her team, and even though neither group got all their dishes, I had them clean up anyway. That was when I learned that it can be risky to play this type of game with a mixed-age group; Alexis from Yoruba (age 6) came in crying because her team lost the challenge, and it took Abbie (age 10), Parker, and Elizabeth from Yoruba team, to cheer her up, telling her it was just a game. Abbie and Kanisha said that they understood that the point of the game wasn’t really to get all the items (actually, it was, kind of…to get the correct items) but it was about teamwork and working together (also true). In the final moments of class, I awarded 30 points to Igbo for winning and split 15 each between Hausa and Yoruba; gave Yoruba 10 points for “best leadership” (Abbie); gave Hausa and Igbo 10 points for “best teamwork”; gave Igbo 10 points for “best shoppers” (Pilar and Shannon); and a 5-point “sportsmanship award” to Yoruba for Abbie, Parker, and Elizabeth’s comforting of Alexis after losing the game. Who knows if the younger kids on Igbo would have cried had they lost, but they were quite happy to be the winners, and overlook the lead from Hausa while Yoruba still trailed behind. At the day’s end, Igbo was in first with 119 points, followed by Hausa (97) and Yoruba (84). Overall, I think this activity might have been too intense for the younger ones, despite them gaining the knowledge of haggling/bartering and Nigerian market products.

Man was that exhausting. My voice is now almost totally gone, but hopefully this will serve as a good memory for the kids and they will have learned from the experience.

What do you think about this lesson? Write it below!