I have a black notebook that I call the 処罰 notebook. My students laugh when they hear the name; but when I tell them that it’s called that because I will write their names inside and when they get three stamps from me (when they lose in games) they will be punished, their expressions change.

For new students, the punishment is usually to sing a song. It can be any song, English or Japanese, and depending on the student’s personality, I might ask the student to sing in front of the class or at his or her seat. For students I’ve had for some time, the punishment is sometimes to give a speech in front of the class. For students who actually find punishments fun, I might ask them to dance or sing or do both.

It sounds like a horrible thing to punish my students (and maybe it is) for losing a game – especially against me – but I promise you that the punishments actually help me achieve (I think) what I want student to gain: confidence.

Usually, the more students sing or give a speech, the less they feel nervous about doing it and about doing anything else in front of the class. My students who have done it many times, for example, now don’t get scared or nervous at the thought of singing or giving a speech. They just ask for a topic or ask what kind of song they should sing. A few of them have actually gotten so used to doing it that sometimes they think it’s not fun enough, and I wonder whether I should remind them that they’re not doing it for fun but as a punishment.