Posts Tagged ‘letter’

Much to My Chagrin

2012年 9月 6日

Every March, when the school year comes to a close, it is common to receive trophies, letters, or other presentations from the students. Sometimes spontaneous movement of the children’s hearts prompts it. Other times, teachers assign it to get pupils to unwittingly practice their language arts skills. Regardless of origin they are always enjoyable to read: first, because they are moving; and second, because they are cute.

Definitely, children say the darndest things and one sadness is that I can’t afford to store all the cards, letters, and presents for posterity: partly for fire safety reasons.

Last Spring, at one of my favorite schools, each second grade class had a representative write a letter for everyone. Instructions from the teacher indicated that group opinion – rather than personal – should be expressed. I included one letter here from a boy who couldn’t resist slipping in a sentence about his regrettable memory from my class. He placed it in the middle and the teacher, busy wrapping up the school year, didn’t catch it; but we had some laughs when I showed it to her.


Dear Erik, thank you for always teaching us so much more than English, like pronunciation and many other things. Your slightly ‘unconventional’ games are also very fun. “Recently when we played the board game, much to my chagrin, I came in fourth.” When you read picture books to us we really enjoy it. Everyone feels that when we play games or you read to us, those are the most enjoyable times. From Second grade, class 1

Technology is for Using

2010年 10月 21日

When a long-term assistant teacher packed his bags and headed home for Australia, he sold me a bundle of teaching materials. Several of the picture/word cards have very amusing drawings on them which the children love. For example, the ‘feelings’ set includes a red-faced man who is hot, a blue-faced man who is cold, a pale green-faced woman who is sick, and so on. Showing any of these cards draws a lot of attention to the subject.

A drawback of these cards is that they are on heavy pasteboard and are approximately a monstrous A3 size. Toting a number of these around in my backpack can be murder and require the larger pack. Using pasteboard around poorly cleaned chalk trays has obvious drawbacks as well. Additionally, with my wife begging for a little closet space for her belongings, I am thinking about how to reduce.

Rethinking my teaching philosophy led me to the conclusion that B5 cards with clear images are sufficient for a standard 36 student classroom. Even children in the back row (excepting the ones whose parents won’t take them to the optometrist – a source for another post) can easily identify the cards. All of the new cards I’m producing for personal use are printed on B5 paper. For some time now, I have been planning to remake all of the old cards which I use regularly, but get bogged down in details. What paper should I get? What kind of pens do I need? Will I be able to turn out equally good drawings freehand? But today that all changed.

A week ago I decided that the ‘color’ cards, with bright smiley faces in ten useful colors, could easily be generated in a graphics program; being constructed of three circles and an arc. Pride flowed through me, probably unreasonably so since it took me far to long to realize the solution. At the time, I was still troubled about the more artistic cards until it suddenly dawned on me that I could just scan them all into the computer and print them out on whatever size suited my needs. I could also send the files to each of the schools to produce their own cards as desired. At the same time, I could correct a few annoying details like the uppercase U with a tail like a lowercase u, or the lowercase n with the vertical stroke on the right. These nigglers are probably from having his Japanese wife do a lot of the detail. Another point in need of fixing is the Bell Pepper card that says Capsicum. As you may imagine, these small differences between how English is spoken in various countries is a lively debate point on how to “properly” teach English.

So, the trigger for my brainstorming today was when I was copying menus from an American restaurant onto ISO paper sizes. The menus were letter and ledger size, which are near A4 and A3 respectively. While A4 and A3, by design, have the same aspect ratio, making them great for reductions and enlargements; the letter and ledger have aspect ratios different to each other as well as different to the standard sizes. I was using a fancy copier which included 17 inch marks on the scanning surface, but had no automatic features for scaling to A3 size. This made me think, “If only I scanned this into a PDF file I could just print it out to whatever paper size I desired… wait, why don’t I just scan in those big cards I want to reduce?” Why do those simple solutions take so long to bubble up?