“This is good. I very happy,” announced Quixian, as she held up her first creation and smiled. It wasn’t our typical ESL class. It was the last week of school before the holiday break, some students already had left town, the Thursday teachers were planning to show a movie, and my co-teacher and I didn’t want to start a new grammar unit that would be forgotten by January. How could we make the class interesting, still encourage the practice of English, and give students a holiday-related experience? As an addict to rubber stamping and creating greeting cards the answer came to me easily: the class would make cards for Christmas and New Year’s. I made a long list of supplies last weekend and started packing them early, a bit of everything so that everyone would have the materials they needed to be as creative as they wanted.
The night before class I started to have misgivings. I was bringing in materials and ideas for veteran stampers. What if I overwhelmed them? How much new vocabulary were they ready to take in and why did I think “embossing,” “heat gun,” and “to eyeball it,” would be valuable new words in their struggles to become skilled at living and surviving in this country? Five minutes into class I stopped fretting. I had passed around an album of sample cards I had made, students studied them and then immediately got up to investigate the materials they could use to create their own designs. They tested out a few compositions on scratch paper, practiced stamping until they got a clean image, and were on their way to putting their imaginations to work. Purple, red and white embossed tree ornaments; flowers; geishas; evergreens and deciduous trees dotted the classroom landscape. Every student beamed as they examined their final products and thought about the lucky recipients. “I give this one to my husband and this one to my daughter,” said Quixian. “They will like.”