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It's A Job!

I’ve always found teaching occupations makes me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because when I was young and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I had no idea. If I thought anything, I grew up with a nagging feeling that I had been abandoned on Earth by mistake and that some day a space ship would turn up to collect me. Did I want to be an alien? No, I felt I was alien. I think I could have done a better job at saying what I didn’t want to be.

Now that I’m supposed to be a teacher one problem I have with occupations is that they are not exactly true. Brainstorm a list of occupations or look at those that commonly turn up in children’s text books and then consider what percentage of the world’s population actually do those jobs? Then consider the kind of jobs that are missing. There’s something of a reality gap. Moreover, the illustrations used are often more like illusions. For example, find an illustration of a farm and a farmer. The farmer probably has a wisp of straw in his mouth or behind his ear, and is carrying a pitchfork. In the background there are probably some happy smiling animals roaming freely or standing in big open fields. Not exactly a factory farm.

Another thing that makes me uncomfortable is the issue of gender roles. How to avoid suggesting that a particular job is reserved for either women or men? One thing I do to avoid this is to try and use duplicate flashcards of the same occupation. . This lends itself naturally to practising sentences like, “He is a police officer” “She is a police officer” “They are police officers” etc. I wonder what percentage of the world’s population are police officers, or soldiers? I wonder how many children would like to grow up to be police officers or soldiers. I wonder how many children are police officers or soldiers. I wonder to what extent textbooks for teaching children should be dealing with issues like this?

That’s a lot of wondering. Perhaps I should be mentioning some activities instead?


This is a traditional team tag game taken from the book Everybody Wins by Jeffery Soebel (Walker and Company, 1983). Players divide into two teams that line up at opposite ends of the space. One team chooses a profession and a location and then the teams advance towards each other. There is a dialogue that goes like this:

First Team "Here we come!"
Second Team: "Where from?"
First Team: "Tokyo!" (or wherever)
Second Team: "What's your trade?"
First Team: "Lemonade!"
Second Team : "Show us some if you are not afraid!"

The first team all start miming the agreed occupation while the second team tries to guess. As soon as a correct guess is made that is the signal for the first team to run back to their home base. The second team gives chase and anyone tagged switches teams. Roles are then reversed.

The rhyme isn’t exactly logical. Teachers who worry about this kind of thing might like to try an alternative version which goes like this:

First Team "We can work and you can too! Can you guess what we do?"
Second Team: "Of course we can! We are the best! Do your mime and we will guess!"


There are various ways to play this co-operative guessing game. In the freestyle version, one player simply says hello and everyone else guesses what job the player is thinking of. If more structure is required use some flashcards. The first player takes a card and says hello and the other players guess in turn. The first player saying hello after each guess. Yet another way, is to divide into pairs. For each pair prepare a set of six cards each with a different job and also a sheet showing the same pictures. A sample has been provided. Player A takes the cards and Player B takes the sheet. Player A takes one card and says hello and Player B looks at the pictures and guesses “Are you a…?” Player B keeps guessing until a yes answer is given at which point player A hands over the card and takes the next one. Play repeats with Player A saying hello and Player B guessing the profession until Player B has all the cards at which point roles are reversed. It’s a good idea to stress that pairs are actually partners and should help each other. When players are used to the game it’s possible to introduce a timer. Can partners run through all the cards in a minute?

Guess My Rule!

Here’s a game for older children. Prepare some category cards for jobs. To get you started here is a list:

Can be dangerous
Has a big salary
Often famous
Uses a vehicle
Uses electrical equipment
Uses tools
Usually wears a uniform
Usually works outside
Works in a team
Works with animals

Give one player a category card and divide up some flashcards between the other players. One player names a flashcard and places it face up. The player with the category card decides whether the occupation fits into the category. If yes, the players get a chance to guess the rule. If no put the card to one side face up so it can be referred to. Can the players guess the rule before running out of flashcards?

Very capable children might be able to create their own rules and/or play this game without cards. Conversely, when first introducing this game it might help to create a project where a poster is created for each category and children draw pictures and label them.

And I guess that’s it, except to say, what about housewives, house-husbands and home-makers? If teachers are making occupation card sets, shouldn’t we include being at home as well?

February 2005
(column in Teachers Learning with Children
The Newsletter of the JALT Teaching Children SIG)

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