24th March 2000 at 00:00
Paul and Arnold are in a corner, whispering and giggling. "I'll give you an Arbok for a Parasect," says Arnold. "Only if you throw in a Pidgeotto," bargains Paul. "That's not fair, last time you made me trade a Chansey for a Zapdos. Chansey has 120 hit points and takes away 80, Zapdos has 90 hit points and takes away 60 or 100. So Chansey's better." "Look out, here's Miss!" A common scene in many primary schools - unless Pokemon has already been banned. And while it is true that fights, bullying and theft can revolve around Pokemon cards, such behaviour was not unknown before their invention. So why not use something that arouses such passions to teach something?

One London teacher has claimed "amazingly fast" progress in refugee children's acquisition of English. So keen were they to start trading that names like Beedrill and Bulbasaur were useful building blocks in learning to read. But it needn't stop with EAL additional language learners.

Since ll the Pokemon names are ordinary English words strangely distorted - think of Drowzee, Polirath - why not get the class to play with language in the same way? Given the vivid characterisation - Weedle is a caterpillar with a poison stinger on the head, Drowzee an elephant with psychic powers - there is lots of scope for making up attributes and stories.

Pokemon are cute and naughty. An art project lurks here: what makes a drawing cute? Some pupils have ventured into design technology and made counterfeits. Many have made logbooks of their collections. Rag dolls may be more satisfying than stuffed toys; home-made board games could substitute for costly computer discs. And there is the card game itself. A complicated system of trumps, hit points, attacks and retreats, it hones maths and negotiation skills.

They are not even that expensive, especially with many players giving away their doubles. So why ban them? Get them into the classroom.

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