Yesterday in my advanced TOEFL cohort of 8th graders, called HS2B, we were doing a listening unit. The book is structured so that along with the multiple-choice questions, there are fill-in-the-blanks dictation scripts of the listening passages. I do a kind of low-key "game show" format as we go through the dictations. The scripts are pretty hard, and the blanks span full phrases, not individual words, so the chances of getting the individual blanks filled in correctly aren't that good. Sometimes I go from student to student, as we work out the the exact wording. The Korean students get hung up on the differences between "a" and "the" (indistinguishable in rapid, natural speech in many phonological contexts), on the presence or absence of past-tense marking, on plurals, etc. I'm a total stickler, because the points determine pay out at the end of the class. If the speaker says "He walked to the office," and the student says "He walk to the office" (phonologically identical in normal speech because of the following /t/ phoneme), they don't get the point.
We were doing a particularly hard phrase. I don't actually remember the phrase – I didn't take note of it.
Several students guessed and gradually they got closer. We went all the way around the room, and Seunghyeon (who insists his English name is Señor Equis i.e. Mr. X – I think the Spanish is a tribute to me, specifically, which is appreciated) finally got it right. I got pulled off topic by some question, so I didn't write the point on the board immediately. When we resumed the dictation passage, I asked the class, "Who's point was that?"
Seunghyeon and Gijun both raised their hands. They argued as to who got the point. Gijun was more plausible, since he is quite good at these exercises, while Seunghyeon is not. But I said, "I think it was Seunghyeon."
Gijun protested. "I should still get the point."
"Why?" I queried.
"Because my wrong answer made it possible for Seunghyeon to get the right answer," he explained. He was referring to the process of elimination of wrong possibilities that we go through for these.
I was dumbfounded by such clever sophistry. I laughed. "I should give you a point for such a clever argument," I told Gijun. "But I guess I shouldn't encourage you."
Gijun acquiesced. He's actually a very nice kid, but sometimes too smart for his own good.
[daily log: walking, 7km]