Annoying Orange

Having private meetings after class when a kid misbehaves (blurts, can’t focus, etc.) does no good. Those meetings do no good. They just alienate the kid. Telling parents doesn’t do much good either – too negative.
Maybe it’s better to not talk to the kid and just talk about the kid. It’s the attention they crave, after all, that is spurring their breaking of the rules. There are no easy answers to students’ misbehaving. We must have a thousand articles on that topic here.
Here’s something that I have found works:
Creating Engagement via the Annoying Orange Technique
Another way to involve students in PQA who don’t want to be involved in PQA is to use the Annoying Orange Technique. This is a tool that under the right circumstances can be very effective with distant or passively aggressive kids.
Here’s how it works: I sense, as I am explaining what the structures mean, the distance between me and some kid in the room that day. I don’t want to have to deal with it, because kids like that one can drain energy from me as I try so hard to reach them. Certain distant kids, luckily very few, seem to take a kind of perverse pleasure in sucking air out of the classroom. In the invisible world of the classroom, they therefore become our enemies. Sometimes such kids even take other kids with them, even from across the classroom. Such silent suckers of energy must be dealt with most, but not all, of the time.
After I have established meaning of the structure in the usual way, at some point into the PQA, I start in on the kid, as per:
“Class, Jeremy wants to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween!” (circle that)
The kid’s hackles go up. He is shocked that all of a sudden I am talking about him in the target language in a way that is amusing to the class. I keep at it until the kid responds in some way, either by answering or sitting up taller, because by now I am at his desk with my finger on it. I begin to hammer the kid with that one fact, speaking to him in the way that the YouTube Annoying Orange hammers away at Apple.
The class may get into it. A few comments in English from the class might be directed at Jeremy. I ignore the English and encourage that, but only if Jeremy can take it (some students can’t, but they think that we teachers can). This is a tightrope we walk on, but it is worth it. We just have to be able to know when to leave the questioning about the kid when it gets too close to him. We have to be sensitive to that.
When employing the Annoying Orange technique. I speak the student’s name and Mickey Mouse and Halloween with an American accent but the other words are in French, like “Jeremy! Hey Jeremy! Jeremy! Jeremy do you want to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween! Hey Jeremy! Jeremy! Hey class, Jeremy wants to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween!” Doing this prevents Jeremy from acting like he doesn’t understand, since half the question is composed of cognates.
What is really happening when I am playing the role of the Annoying Orange? I am telling Jeremy that he will not suck the air out of my classroom. I am letting him know that if he tries, I will find a cheerful way, a smile-filled way, to reveal to him how indignant I am that a child wants to sit there and not help us learn the language. I have my own form of humorous passive aggression in my teaching style. I have to have that in order to survive in my urban classroom.
Teachers who teach languages who also have a degree in psychology may be quick to point out problems with this technique, but, because it is one that is housed in cheerfulness, I think it is just fine. I just pick the students I target with this technique carefully and know when to cut out of the questioning and take it to someone else. Whom to choose? I usually choose those really smart kids who don’t want to play.
There has to be something that we teachers can do to defend ourselves in classrooms where kids routinely bring negativity into our classrooms. We have no choice but to deal with it.
What usually happens after Jeremy has been peppered by enough questions about him wanting to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween? At some point his shoulders slump and he smiles and gives in and pays attention. Those are great moments, when an uncooperative kid comes around to playing the game.
It’s in the play. I have decided that in my career I am going to have fun no matter what. I refuse to crawl through the days, wishing I was doing something else for a living. So I pick on kids but within safe boundaries. I use this technique with love.
I understand that too many students opt out of the language creation process because, sadly and somewhat pathetically, they have never been taught by a teacher how to participate in a class. Who can blame those kids, when all their lives they have been told by teachers that learning is such serious business and they have to memorize and work hard or they will fail?
Here is another example of the use of the Annoying Orange technique:
Let’s say you have a glarer – a smart kid who glares – named Alan. Alan may not even be aware of the fact that he glares. There are kids like that. Only if you have a strong enough bond with Alan, start in with the annoying questions. If the text is about a character in a reading named Bill who likes Sprite and drives to Florida, you can start in with:
…Class, Bill likes Sprite. Alan, do you like Coke? Alan, do you like Sprite or Coke? Alan, hey Alan! Do you like Sprite? Alan, does Bill like Coke? He drove to Pennsylvania, right? Did he drive to Texas? Alan, did Bill drive with you to Florida? Did you go to Florida with him? Hey Alan, did you drive to Florida last week? Hey Alan, come on, did you drive to Florida or not last week?…
Just keep hammering away at Alan. He’s either going to relax and cave and stop glaring, but he will only do that if the bond between you and him is strong enough to withstand the constant lighthearted peppering of questions.
Do not underestimate this technique. It prepares kids for the workplace – we teach more than language – and is a very strong classroom discipline tool to deal with the hard nut cases, and it works, and in a humorous and almost stealth-like manner so that the kids don’t see what is really going on, what teaching is really going on. Annoying Orange not only brings fearful kids into the classroom process, it is also a way in which the teacher can show who is really in command of the classroom.
Search YouTube for “Annoying Orange” if you are open to using this technique in your comprehension based teaching practice.

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3 thoughts on “Annoying Orange”

    1. Any one of them. You just need to study the orange’s annoying way of speaking and bring that into your class when working on kids who need to be annoyed, to break down their walls. Remember to sense which kids can’t be broken down and avoid them.

  1. Ben.. I wish at some point in my learning career I had a teacher like you. Your kids are mighty lucky! I would love to come to one of your conferences someday. Now I know what my husband can get me for my birthday.

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