Pung Chu is a martial art, invented by Paul Henry Zarraga, which involves allocating sound and movement to various punctuation marks. The aim is partly to help students remember how to punctuate English texts, but mainly so we can get people on their feet doing John Travolta impersonations or making high-pitched raspberry noises, or just generally swinging their arms about wildly. Which is of course immense fun.
Click here to see the Henry Brothers demonstrating pung-chu at the 7th Istanbul Cevre Schools ELT Conference – “The Magic of Getting the Best out of Students”. We have participated in this conference every year since it began and for the last five have opened the event in the main auditorium, to audiences of 400 or more.
So how did the mystical martial art of Pung Chu begin? Legend has it that whilst travelling through Asia the Brothers came to what looked like a deserted shack on a remote hillside. Upon further investigation it became apparent that the shack was in fact inhabited and the occupant turned out to be non other than the Half Japanese and half English Pung Chu Black Belt Practitioner by the name of Mark. The Brothers now refer to him as their guru, Pung Chu Asian Mark. Guru Mark taught the brothers the art and after two years of meditation and Pung Chu practice the brothers left to spread the good word.
However, the brothers readily acknowledge that Pung Chu has been inspired by equally valid disciplines. In England the legendary Phil Beadle, secondary school teacher of the year in 2004, appeared on the Channel 4 television programme ‘The Unteachables’, where he was shown getting disaffected kids to recite Shakespeare to cows and other resourceful methods. In one activity he enthused his pupils with Punctuation Kung Fu – punctuation driven home with karate kicks. Here are some notes on his sytem and how it works…Punctuation Kung Fu
ELT authors Herbert Puchta and Mario Rinvolucri in their book Multiple Intelligences in EFL present a similar discipline called Percussion Punctuation in which students are given a suitable text and have to choose or invent a sound and/or action to represent the punctuation marks (one might clap for a full stop, another might rustle a crisp-packet to represent inverted commas, and a third might cough for a comma) and then practise reading the text aloud with their sounds in place of punctuation marks.
But the idea goes back further than that, to the work of Danish comedian and classically trained pianist Victor Borge, seen in this video demonstrating his Phonetic Punctuation, in which he recited a story, with full punctuation (comma, full stop, exclamation mark, etc.) as exaggerated onomatopoeic sounds. And Borge even put the method into practice to great comic effect as part of a duet with none other than Dean Martin.
Whichever discipline you choose to follow, be it Pung Chu, Punctuation Karate or Phonetic Punctuation the essence of each remains the same. Creativity, fun and some good old fashioned physical jerks. Enjoy! And please let us have your comments and any other examples of good punctuation teaching, especially if it’s kinesthetic…