Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? A Few Answers

Dora 1935
Dora 1935

Note: This is part four of a new Saturday series, in which I, with croudsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unkown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

In the first three posts I asked the readers several questions that have come up so far when closely reading Dora’s lettters. I’m delighted to report that I received answers! Many thanks to Laura Green, Sandy Millin, Dorit Renov and Beata Gulati for their help. Special thanks to Beata who has wholeheartedly taken up this project!

First of all, I realize I should clarify exactly where Dora lived. I understand that there are places with similar names and spellings, not to mention the borders that were redrawn. The letters quoted in this post were sent from Brest in what used to be Poland. Today it is in Belarus (see map). This much information  I have known since childhoold, since that is where my own grandmother grew up. The letters I have are without envelopes, so I have no address. However, it seems that Dora wrote some of the letters on stationery from her father’s workplace. Their logo includes an address. Beata looked into locating this address. Street names have changed and Google maps does not help here. However, Beata’s following explanation has led to a little story I had never heard:

 

“Brześć n/B is on the river Bug in Polish n-for “nad” and “B” Bug the name of the river where Brest is situated :)))”

I asked my mother if her mother had ever mentioned a river in her tales. “Oh yes!” my mother said. “The river Pok. She grew up by the river Pok. She used to say that the reason they ate so much carp fish in those days was because the river was full of the fish and it was cheap”! I had never heard this story before!

Dora wrote that she took her matriculation examinations (“Matura” exams) in May 1938. I asked if it was safe to assume that Dora was born in 1920 in light of that information. Beata has located an example of a graduation certificate from the same year awarded to someone who was born in 1920 and heard from people that in those days people graduated at 18, so I believe this is a very reasonable assumption.

I was unable to make out the letters of the name of the “healthing place” Dora went to on her summer vacation. Everyone has agreed that she must have gone to the spa town Busko-Zdrój .

I also was unable to figure out what word Dora had written because it never occured to me that she might have begun a sentence with the word “much”. Beata explains:  “…those letters are written straight from the heart of Polish girl and just translated into English but the way of thinking is Polish. So it is not Blush or Hush it is “Much I can not write you” in the meaning I can not write too much because I am busy with my Matura exam.”

This post is quite long so I will begin the next letter next week. I will just tell you that it is undated but seems to be from late 1937 or early 1938.  A visitor from America makes an appearance and the letter is torn in places, resulting in missing words…

 

 

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You Dora? Crowdsourcing Q. 3

The younger days were happier...
The younger days were happier…

Note: This is part three of a new Saturday series, in which I, with croudsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unkown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

I began my journey into Dora’s letters with one that was clearly dated and was easy to read. However, it has become clear to me that it isn’t the earliest letter. I believe this one is, based on the content. The date isn’t completely clear and there are some words I can’t make out. I’m looking forward to your suggestions as to what the missing words may be.

But first, regarding the date. It is obviously Dec. 28 and not the year 1928. As you will see in the quote letter below, it sounds like it was written in the winter of Dora’s 11th grade. For years it was common here to use the European terminology and refer to 11th and 12th graders as seventh and eighth formers. Since in the previous letter we clearly saw that Dora graduated in May 1938, I believe this letter was written in Dec. 1936.
The first question is what then is written after the name of the town, which is the Polish spelling of Brest?
The second question is do you think the word in red is really “blush”?
Finally, can you make out where Dora went on holiday?

In the letter Dora writes ( as always, quotes include original errors in English):

date 1937
“I beg your pardon for my long not writing. So it is, each man is occupied by his own work, and sometimes forgott even about sister. But when I recollected about you I feel that I am not in order according to you. Now when the father writes you a letter and I have time (it is the time of Winter holidays) I write you also a few words. Blush.

blush
” I can not write you because in the last time I have no patience to write letters and I have not also a dictionary, so that is enough difficult for me. You see until to day I can not write well English without a dictionary because my knowledge is confined.
About me I can write that I am in the Vll class and on the second year I shall end the school. I have very much work because we prepare to the mature exam on the second year.
In summer I was in ???? It is an healthing place. I spent here the time very well.

health place

Now I finish the letter. I send you my lovely regards.
You Sincerly,
Dora”

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts regarding my three questions!

 

Wacky Web Tales & the Art of “Some”

 

Where's the party? Naomi's photos
Where’s the party?
Naomi’s photos

Many EFL teachers, particularly those of struggling learners, reject using first rate online materials mainly because they feel their students can’t deal with the vocabulary or the sentence structures. Sometimes this may be a wise decision but in many cases wonderful opportunities are missed.

Identifying these opportunities all depends on employing “the art of SOME”.  The activity called Wacky Web Tales is a great example of this.

To create a Wacky Web Tale, student first see a series of prompts, asking them to fill in a noun, an adjective, a large number, the name of a song, etc.  All they know about the story they are going to get is the title. I chose, for our example, an absolute all time favorite called Simply Delicious . 

This is the part that is so incredible from the teacher’s point of view, particularly so when the students realize how these stories work. Suddenly these struggling learners ask  to be reminded what a noun/verb is. These distinctions very important for such students. One of the reading comprehension strategies they need to acquire is how to decide which words to look up in the dictionary (verbs often give the most meaningful information in a sentence, for example) and then how to choose the definition/translation suitable for their context when they do turn to the dictionary. English is a language full of words that have a different meaning as different parts of speech!

There's only part of the tree... (Naomi's Photos)
There’s only part of the tree… (Naomi’s Photos)

It gets better.

Students are motivated to dream up what they deem to be interesting answers, so that their story will be funny. Since they usually don’t know many of the words they want to use, they look them up! These aren’t words I, the teacher, asked them to use – they are self-motivated to look up these words. That’s what I call meaningful learning! 

Even spelling comes up! Two 16 year old girls in my class (it’s a great activity for pairwork) today argued about the correct spelling of “beautiful” and “Italy” . Without my intervention they corrected their own spelling!

Now we get to the second part. When the students have filled in all the missing words they click to see their completed story. Here’s the “Simpy Delicious” story I created:

 

my simply delicious

There are many difficult and unknown words in the completed text, which in this case is a recipe. But that doesn’t matter at this stage. I have no problem supplying any unfamiliar word  (and they can read the words they inserted themselves!) as this is the stage to share a good laugh with the silly story they created. Remember “the art of the some”! We’ve done plenty of meaningful learning!

While the site is geared at 3rd grade American children, I find it suitable for use with struggling students with poor vocabularies in junior high-school and high-school as well.  I haven’t tried it with adults.

It’s great to be wacky sometimes – enjoy!

 

Saturday’s Mystery: Who were you Dora? Crowdsourcing Q.2

Dora is the one in the black dress.
Dora is the one in the black dress.

Note: This is part two of a new Saturday series, in which I, with croudsourcing help, try to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unkown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll in Poland. For further explanations see previous post.

In the first quote, Dora writes that she graduated from high-school on May 31, 1938. My question was whether it was reasonable to assume that she was 18 – was that the age that people graduated back then as well?

At the moment I do not have an answer but I would meanwhile like to thank Baiba Svenca and Beata Gulati for looking into this question.

Today’s question relates to a word I  can’t make out – something Dora received as a graduation gift. Perhaps YOU can figure it out?

In the second part of the letter to New York, dated May 31,  1938,  Dora writes (in English, using a dictionary at times, mistakes left as they were) of her bleak prospects for her educational future. Her unknown gift is mentioned at the end:

” But now I have nothing what to do with myself, till today at least I had an occupation and now what I have to do? To study in the university I have not money and also a place, because in Poland Jews are not accepted willingly at the university. Besides this it is not safe because each day I can get with a stone in the head. My studies must remain only a dream.

… How do you do? In America must already be hot. Do you bathe this year in the river? Becasue I did not take any bathes here is almost cold… I got a beautiful veticule from Bluma’s friend the day when I passed the examination. “

Here’s a screen shot of her handwriting. Perhaps it says “reticule”? It doesn’t look like an “r” and that’s a very odd word (which I just learned of now, as I write) but that would mean a type of handbag, perhaps. What do you think?

unkown word from letter

Musings on Memory Palaces in the Language Classroom

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

Every now and then I encounter the memorization method commonly called “Memory Palace”,  though a more precise name would be “method of loci”.  “In basic terms, it is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information” (Wikepedia). This current round of musings on the topic was sparked by reading the book “Moonwalking with Einstein – the art and science of remembering everything” by Joshua Foer.

First of all, I’d like to point out that the book is not a self help book, in the style of books with titles like: how to improve your memory in 10 easy steps. It is an interesting, accessible read about how memory works and what we know about it and how memory-athletes train their memory. The  techniques are discussed as well, of course.

And here’s the first point – it’s not easy. Learning how to build a memory palace, learning how to place what you want to remember in different locations in the structure (resting on the armchair, dripping wet in the shower, etc.) and then strolling through the palace visually in your memory to retrieve the information, is not something you can easily begin doing. It requires training and practice. How and when exactly would such training take place in the classroom?

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

Which leads to the second point – are the skills needed for successful acquisition of a foreign language the kind of information we want to store in such a manner? Isn’t this method most suitable for facts, or discrete items? If I were a history teacher, I’d me much more enthusiastic about classroom applications. If my students could visually walk through their “palace” on their test and remember all the important events & dates leading up to World War Two, for example, that would a useful skill indeed. I don’t know how useful it would be outside the classroom (even Foer discusses this issue) but it certainly works for standardized testing.

But what information would the students store in the EFL classroom? The only thing I can think of are lists of words of even collocations. Unfortunately, in my classes of   Deaf and Hard of Hearing students I repeatedly see students who have memorized a great many words but do poorly on reading comprehension tasks and exams, while others (using a dictionary) do so much better. And in classes where conversation in English is practiced, I can’t imagine someone pausing, strolling through the memory palace to locate the collocation needed, and then resuming speaking.  That doesn’t seem to be the way we should think about language.

Do you agree?

On a personal note – the method for remembering numbers by using letters is really helping me in my own life. Since the Hebrew language has an ingrained letter-number match, I didn’t even have to learn the corresponding letters given in the book, I just needed to apply the method! Now that’s an easy strategy to use!

Saturday’s Mystery: Who Were You, Dora? Crowdsource Q. 1

Dora by car
Dora by car

I usually post about books that I read on Saturdays, but for a while I would like to share & enlist your help with unusual reading material I am totally engrossed in at the moment.

Through a combination of the wonders of the Internet and sheer luck, I am now in touch with distant relatives whom I hadn’t known about. Not only is it wonderful to get to know such nice new relatives, I have now received letters and pictures related to my family from Poland (today Belarus),Israel and Argentina, dating back to the 1930’s, all the way to 1940.

One of the most mindboggling aspects of all of this, is that an apparition of a mystery girl has suddenly materialized in my life. I’ve always known that one of my grandmother’s biggest sorrows was that her half sister was not able to leave Europe with the other siblings in time. I knew her name was Dvora /Dora, and that she lived in Brest, Poland (today Belarus). That’s it. No picture or any other information.   Nothing. Now, like magic, I  have letters written by Dora, in her handwriting,  on my computer.  And suddenly I have a strong desire to find out everything I can about her and her short life.

Which is where all my friendly Internet pals come in. I’m sure you can help me.

Crowdsourcing question number one: When was Dora born? When she speaks about graduating high-school below, would she have graduated at the age of 18 or was it 17 back then?

In a letter dated May 31,  1938 Dora writes (in English, using a dictionary at times)

“At last I am free and write to you a letter, after such a long time of silence. The 19th May I passed the finally examination and I got a certificate of of completed secondary education (tistat zvetasa in Russia). But till today (even there passed nearly two weeks) I could not concentrate my thoughts and I was very tired. During two months I slept four hours during the night. The examination itself did not last a whole hour, because I answer only from language, history, mathematics and physics. From the rest I was free. In spite of this I was very nervous before the examination and I feared very to write {a letter}.”

So, do you think she graduated at the age of 18 and then was probably born in 1920? Or was the education system back then organized differently?

Mind boggling!

“Pizza Cat” to the Rescue!

 

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

A little introductory exercise that is suitable for struggling middle school learners working independantly for the first time at the the computer – simple but not babyish.  This is their first exposure  to Edpuzzle and Edmodo (with Quizlet to come, as its flashcards can be easily embedded).

I reccomend using in “full screen” mode – then the questions and the visuals can be seen at the same time.

The exercise was created the original video found here.

Note: The next step is The Egghunt series, which has already been posted on this blog.

 

 

Using “Kahoot!” with HOOTS of JOY and of OY

Smooth sailing Naomi's Photos
Smooth sailing
Naomi’s Photos

“Kahoot!” is defined as “a free game based learning platform that makes if fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device for all devices”.  Broadly speaking, the students use their cell phones as clickers and get immediate feedcack on interactive activities such as quizzes. After listening, reading and hearing countless reccomendations and creative ideas from a large number of teachers, I decided to brave the complexities of my learning center and start using it too.

HOOTS OF JOY – it IS fun, most of the kids DO like it, AND (one of the things I was most worried about) there were enough students who already knew how to use “Kahoot!” to lead the others without me having to explain. This is no trivial matter in my Special-Ed classroom – the introduction of a new activity, even a really fun one, can easily be derailed by the wrong choice of words, especially as this one involved use of the students’ personal cell phones for a class activity. I was so pleased! I WILL be using it again!

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

Hoots of OY :

I teach in a learning center for the deaf and hard of hearing. This creates a complex situation in a number of ways.

1) There is no projector to project the screen for everyone to see.  Students crowd around a computer.

Yesterday a group of students  played while the others didn’t. Just to be clear, its not that I didn’t let them all play.  Five students (11th and 12th graders ) who still had work to do for their Literature Logs, (report cards are just around the corner)  flatly refused to participate. The other five were delighted for the break in routine.

“Kahoot!” has a competitive aspect and encourages boisterous reactions. In the past, there were no cochlear implants and teens often stopped using their hearing aids. In short, I had a lot of students who were really didn’t hear anything. There was no problem with some students getting excited, loudly, over a game while others were working.

This is no longer the case. The noise level was an issue. “Kahoot” seems to be suitable for when all the kids are onboard.

Half and half Naomi's Photos
Half and half
Naomi’s Photos

2) My students can’t hear / understand me if I’m talking behind their back. If I want to comment on the question (or give a hint) they all have to turn around, away from the computer and lose time. Probably a problem that would be solved in the computer room.

3) My classes are multi-level (from students who barely read to students at the highest level) and multi grade, all jumbled up. They cannot all play with the same quiz if I desire an actual language learning experience.  Matching pictures to names of cartoon characters or brand names to their logos seemed to be the only type of thing  they could all share. I created a “Kahoot!” called “Can you identify the teacher?” with general trivia questions related to teachers on our staff. Despite using basic vocabulary, some of the weaker students simply waited for the stronger ones to translate the questions for them and didn’t attempt to read on their own.

If the quizzes are at the right level for the weak students and they are by themselves (without their friends, the immidiate translators) I’m sure they would read the questions. Which brings me back in a loop to point number one. Some students need to play while others are doing something else…

More experimenting is called for – wait for updates!

Visualising School – Photo Pause

A teacher gets “new eyes” with camera in hand!

This week we had a national exam day, so there was a great deal of activity in the corridors in the afternoon hours. Our observers seemed rather bored by it all.  Long days at school are hard on my back so I left my camera at home. This was taken with the camera’s phone…

Spur-winged lapwings
Spur-winged lapwings

 

Remember the trees with the toilet paper tangled in the branches? The kite? The view between the branches of the wooden bench in the rain? All the trees have been seriously cropped!

(Last photo with my camera phone – back still bothering me after exam day…)

out the classroom window
out the classroom window

 

Around here, the phrase “dead of winter” doesn’t apply. Look at the colors one encounters when exiting the school’s main gate!

Right outside the school gate
Right outside the school gate
Outside the school gate
Outside the school gate

 

Then there is the wildlife! This butterfly absolutely begged to have its picture taken – it waited till I was ready!

The butterfly who waited patiently for the slowest photographer ever...
The butterfly who waited patiently for the slowest photographer ever…

These cattle egrets also decided to be extremely patient with me – sometimes I get lucky!

2animals Naomi aka Puffin P1060912 P1060919

 

Note: This is an educator’s blog, so only school related pictured are posted here. To see what this teacher comes up with when pounding the pavement of her hometown, see here:

Pounding The Pavement in Kiryat-Ono

“Everyone is a Genius” – An Adaptation

Full disclosure: I’ve never began a post this way before.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

There’s no real reason to continue reading this post. Hana Ticha’s lesson “Everyone is a Genius” has everything you could want a lesson to include – vocabulary, grammar, syntax, discussions, general knowledge and FUN! The quote chosen has a such a nice educational message too. So why adapt it? What happened to “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Just go on to Hana’s post!

I had to adapt the lesson because I wanted to use it in my learning center for Deaf and hard of hearing students. Each lesson is for a jumble of  10th, 11th and 12th graders, at all possible levels. This activity is not for all them.

In addition, due to my students’ hearing problems, I would have to write out each clue, as they woudn’t be able to follow the spoken language. That would be cumbersome and time consuming.

In short, I needed a version that students could work on fairly independantly, with me guiding and helping from time to time (and then hopping of to help someone else).

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

So I typed up the lines for each letter of each word of the quote, so the students would have that information as a hint. I also added the first letter of most of the words (not the grammatical ones). I also wrote clues for about two thirds of the words. Some are very simple clues, others demand more of the student.

Here is the word document (two pages):

A Quote Challenge

I’ve done it with a few students so far. One by one (not in the same lesson). They are all students who enjoy a challenge, students who are curious.

They loved it!

Filling it in led to them asking great questions. The students tried to use “he” instead of “it” for the fish, which led to a review of the difference between  “it’s” and “its”. One very deaf student was puzzled by the word in the clue for tree “leaves” which he was positive was only an irregular verb in the past. The whole idea, naturally, of an “f” (leaf) changing to a “v” (leaves) is strange to him. Another student was sure that “everyone” should be plural but could tell that the number of letter spaces didn’t match the word “are” and figured out on her own that the following word must be “is”. The only word they all had trouble figuring out was “if”, even though they got the “will”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have a clue for it, and then it will draw more attention to the conditional form.

The students really enjoyed the detective work! However,they all needed my help in understanding what the point of the quote was. One thought it meant he shouldn’t go off on “wild goose chases” such as looking for fish on trees…

All the students who have done it so far are kind of “loners”, students who don’t always “fit in”, for different reasons. Once they got the point of the quote, they really approved!