Friday, 20 February 2009

Angelina Jolie Sent Our Students Autographed Photos In Response to Our Letters!










Let me describe how this all came about in my classroom. I am teaching English to many students everyday here in Taiwan. The older students, those in fourth grade to eighth grade are more advanced in English, so I decided to take on a new project; writing letters to movie stars. This would be an excellent opportunity for them to practice their English writing skills and letter skill in hopes that they would grow from the experience.

We then watched several Angelina Jolie movies. One being Tomb Raider, the other being Tomb Raider 2. I thought she was a great example to Asian girls because of Angelina’s powerful personality and character in all her movies. The students watched and were very surprised to see a woman performing such dangerous stunts, all the while never running away from a fight, but instead bravely standing her ground, allowing the fight to come to her.

Each student was given a single paper to write on. Each paper would hold about 100-150 words on each side, making a total of 200-300 words when finished. There was a small area on one side for students to draw a picture in and another on the other side for putting a photograph in. Kids loved writing the letters to her. They talked about movies they saw her in, how brave she always was, about their favorite scenes in the movies and even asking her personal questions.

When they had finished writing both sides, they drew pictures at the bottom of the paper. It was about 25% of the papers size, so they had plenty of room to draw. Some drew fighting scenes from Tomb Raider, others drew a close up of Angelina Jolie’s face, yet others just drew things they knew how to draw like pocket-monsters, Hello Kitty, and so on. Students were allowed to put up to four stickers on the paper if they had them.

After that students brought a photo from home of themselves and we taped them to the back of the letters. Students put on some last finishing touches, then the teacher mailed them out.

It makes me laugh just thinking about one of the kids in the class. His name is Chris and he is one of the most cheerful and friendly kids I ever met. When we talked in class about possibly getting a response from Angelina Jolie, his remarks were incredibly straightforward. He said, “I love Angelina Jolie! I will keep the photograph forever and put it up on the wall by my bed, so every morning when I wake up, I can say, I love you baby!” I think this sixth grader’s straightforward response sums up the feelings of every student in the class, not to mention the teacher.

We have written letters so far to Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider), Will Smith (I-Robot), Tobey Maguire (Spiderman), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Angelina Jolie is our first to respond, and with a wonderful autographed photo (10”x8” color) for everyone! The students said they thought a big movie star would not care about them, and probably not write them back, but inside they hoped so much to get a response, to be recognized and appreciated by their idol. I’m sure Angelina’s response will be a memory that they will carry with them as long as they live, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that memory.

Being a teacher of English in Taiwan, I am often in search of new and unique ways of getting the students interested in writing and speaking English. I decided to try writing letters to some American movie stars in hopes that perhaps, if we were very lucky, we would get a single autographed photo for the entire class to put on the classroom wall. The First movie star to answer did so in a way that is much like her personality, absolutely incredible! We had two of our classrooms write letters and draw pictures on them. The kids protested saying that Angelina Jolie would not care about them. They refused to believe that she would take notice of them, since they live so far away in Taiwan. After showing them two of her movies, I tried to explain to the classroom that Angelina Jolie is not like other movie stars, she is the Princess Diana of America! They didn’t quite understand that comparison. The next day I printed out photos of Angelina Jolie doing charity work in Kenya, South Africa and many other poor countries that usually people around the world often ignore. They began to understand that of all the movie stars in America, she was someone special, someone who not only believes that she can change the world, she takes herself away from her mansions and movie sets to take time in noticing and finding ways of helping those who need it most. The name Angelina if you look up its meaning says, ‘a messenger of God.” Indeed Angelina Jolie lives up to that title and then some. I would like to say thank you to Angelina Jolie, from me and all of my students for this wonderful and thoughtful gift. I wish that I could express how happy they were when they received the autographed photos, but words could not do it justice. That sparkle in their eyes and smiles on their faces was a moment of teaching that I will never forget.