A while ago, the English teacher who teaches four out of five third year classes asked me to put together some kind of “last English class” lesson. He wanted it to be something special, not just another game day. Stumped for ideas, I went onto Facebook and into the teaching resources group there for ideas. I posed my situation to the group and asked for ideas. Many people suggested having the students make something that they could have as a keepsake. After some thinking, it came to me: the students could make keychains with everyone’s signatures on them.
After that it was just a matter of coming up with a lesson plan around the activity. Here’s what I came up with:
First, I explained why Westerners even need/use signatures. In Japan, personal seals, or inkan, are used to mark important paperwork or places where we would use a signature in the States. I explain that signatures tend to be unique to the individual and sometimes incorporate parts of the signer’s personality in them. The students did not really care about knowing this, but the information does help set the scene for the next part.
Second, I explained that celebrities use their signatures a lot. I put up different pictures of celebrities on the board. Based on a search of people with interesting signatures I chose:
(The picture is from a PowerPoint version of the activity I’m doing with some of the other classes.)
I included myself because I knew it would get a laugh from the students. Then I rationalized it by telling them I am famous…in the school. They sort of agreed with that. After dividing the students into teams, I gave them each a few signatures I had printed off. They then had to discuss with their teammates who they thought each signature belonged to. Two teams were allowed to put their signatures under the same celebrity if they both thought they were right and the other was wrong. After everyone had chosen, we checked the answers. Teams who were right got a point. Those who were wrong got none. The team with the most points got stickers.
Next, I told them that they were going to need a signature if/when they became famous. I handed out a worksheet (see below) with the cursive alphabet and four boxes on it. In each of the boxes I told them to write their name in a different style. First, they had to write their signature as cutesy as they could. Then with loops. Then with a big first letter and smaller subsequent letters. Lastly, as fast as possible. They had to choose their favorite version of their signatures.
The last part of the activity was the actual production of the keychain. I bought the Japanese equivalent of Shrinky Dinks, sheets of plastic that shrink and harden in the oven. It was the first time most of them had ever seen the stuff before, so I had to explain it and show them an example of the end product. From there, they ended up writing their signatures about 40 times each. As tedious as that sounds, they seemed to enjoy it a lot. In fact, they enjoyed the lesson as a whole a lot more than I thought they would, which is great. It was a great last class for both of us. Them because I did not care how much English they actually used. Me because I was not stressing out or having to deal with any behavioral issues. Everyone actually participated, no one tried to work on other classes’ work or sleep instead.
After the classes were finished, I collected all the sheets of plastic and went to work cooking them all. Each one took a minute (if the oven was warmed up, which is hard to do with the multifunction microwave/oven/toasters here) and it took me a little while to figure out the best method, so they all look slightly different, but I think they turned out overall well. I hope the students like them.
For one of the other classes, we did not have the Shrinky-Dink material on hand, so we just used paper instead. I think those turned out almost better than the plastic ones, but I feel like those are more likely to end up in the trash because you can’t do anything with them besides display them.