We had a long listening activity about an embarrassing event. A famous actor was speaking about a childhood musical in which he had played the lead, a homeless boy dressed in rags. At the end of one particular musical number, the other characters (including one played by the school principal) tear off the boy’s clothes, and he stands on stage in his underwear as the curtain falls.

You can almost see it coming. One day, the boy somehow forgot to put on underwear.

So there he is, struggling with the other actors, again including the principal, to keep his clothes, which everyone thought was totally in character. His clothes come off and he is left naked on stage. The curtain falls and he finds himself alone with the school principal. Needless to say, the principal was not happy. The actor says something like “and then he beat me with his bare hands.”

It was a long listening excerpt and I suspected the students needed to listen again. But we tried some of the questions first. How did the boy feel? Embarrassed. Mortified (good vocabulary!) How did the principal feel? Angry. Surprised. Astonished.
So the boy and the principal are behind the curtain and all the boy’s clothes have been pulled off. What did the principal do? Silence. No one knew. “Something with his hand,” volunteered one brave student.

It was clear that he didn’t mean anything funny and might not have understood why half the class, including me, burst out laughing. We listened again and found out the principal had hit the boy, nothing more sinister. Should I explain to the half of the class that looked on blankly when the rest of us had laughed? They didn’t all speak the same language, so any explanation would need to be in English. My executive decision was that if they didn’t already know why it was funny, I shouldn’t corrupt them by explaining.