The Birthday Card Assignment

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The Birthday Card Assignment
2011 EPIK Episode
1
The Birthday Card Assignment
Written by: Adam Douglas
School: Hamchang Middle School
As a middle and high school English teacher, I struggle with how to bring elements of
the real world into the classroom. So much of what the students learn is so abstract. When will
they ever need to use English outside of the school except on the college entrance exam? I'm
conscious of this and am always looking for ways to show the students that English is good
for more than just getting into a good university.
The middle school English teacher prefers that I teach from the textbook. I create
lesson plans based on a talking point from that chapter. We learn the grammar, practice the
dialogue, and do an activity that reinforces the lesson. I try to make it interesting but there's
only so much you can do with this template. Sometimes I have to deviate. And in a recent
lesson, I managed a deviation that managed to be both educational and entertaining, as well as
contain that elusive goal: it was real world applicable.
My mother, herself a lifelong teacher, had a birthday coming up. I thought she would
really like to receive birthday cards from my students. So when I saw that a second-grade
lesson had a little free time left after the dialogue, I decided to have the kids make Englishlanguage birthday cards for my mother's birthday.
The instructions were simple: make a card using English. Write a birthday wish, such
as "Happy Birthday," and sign your name. I purposely left the instructions vague because I
wanted them to use their innate creativity.
I could not have been more pleased with the results.
Some students made standard folding birthday cards. Others drew interesting pictures.
Some made poster-type cards, with extensive English. Some even made pop-up cards. I took
pictures and recorded video to include with the cards. My mother was indeed touched.
I believe the students did such a good job not just because it was an assignment but
also because it had a real-world application. They were able to use their hard-won English
skills to convey a message of happiness to a real person. And they really seemed to enjoy it. I
am happy that I was able to help make that connection for them.
2011 EPIK Episode
2

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