From “Planet Puffin” to “Planet Classroom”

I see you! Epstein Family Photos

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of puffins.

Puffins,  as in the birds, though I certainly like a great many Puffin Books as well! Puffins are beautiful, cute, and versatile – they can fly AND swim!

I understand these birds are incredibly popular in Britain and in many other countries, but they aren’t that well-known in my part of the world. My students are not the only ones who comment in puzzlement about the “strange duck” I use as a profile picture!

While the puffin may seem like an unfamiliar creature to my students, I have recently learned that our shared life in the classroom has more in common with puffins (and pufflings!) than I ever imagined.

How did this newfound knowledge come my way?

“Planet Puffin” is a wonderful podcast composed of short episodes of varying length (ranging from 5 to 15 minutes) and varied modes of presentation: “A regular podcast from PM on Radio 4 on all things puffin. Both the silly and the serious; the scientific and the cultural”.  Many thanks to Elizabeth Evans Cicconi for telling me about it!

The only thing they don’t discuss in the podcast are the similarities between “Planet Puffin” and “Planet Classroom”, so I take it upon myself to highlight the forgotten issue.

Epstein family photos
  1. Puffins look very different in the winter.  They lose the colorful beaks and the black mascara-like markings around the eyes. They lose their wing feathers and become flightless too.

Students and their teachers also exhibit marked changes in their looks between winter and summer, though the changes often progress in opposite directions.

In winter students often seem unable to fly – they simply don’t shine.  Their teachers despair over their inability to grasp the material, to behave themselves and wonder if the students will ever be able to fly independently. Yet by the time the summer finals arrive, the students flex their wings and fly, in glorious colors!

The teachers, on the other hand, retain their bright, energetic colors well into winter, perhaps all through winter. However,  by the time the summer finals come round, teachers’ feathers have faded and become dun-colored, their beaks sag and their movements seem sluggish.

Epstein family photos

2. So very needy

Pufflings are always hungry. They stay in their burrows while the parents fly off, again and again, day after day, to find fish for them. “Puffin parents can supply their young with fish more than 100 times a day”.

If we ignore the fact that students (particularly adolescents) seem always ready to actually eat, students are just as needy as the pufflings. In order to “feed” them properly, teachers find themselves spending far more time on their students’ nourishment than the allotted 4-5 teaching hours (per class) a week.  Breaks between lessons dissolve into “meet the student” time, or yard duty,  “free periods” are devoted to grading, preparing material, running after the computer technician, searching for printer paper, attending staff meetings and answering students questions on WhatsApp while attending in-service training courses.

The ratio is different, of course – pufflings are “only children” – one puffling a season…

Oops…
Epstein Family Photos

3.  Sometimes pufflings need to be rescued

When pufflings are ready, they must leave their burrows for the first time. Having never seen the sea or been in the fresh air, they must now find the edge of the cliff by moonlight and the sound of the sea and fly away.

Most pufflings do all of this as planned.

Some don’t.

Some pufflings are led astray by human temptations, such as the sound of a generator or artificial lights. They need to be rescued from boiler rooms and kitchen cabinets and brought back to the clifftop.

Others set off in the right direction but get tangled in the nettles, their little feet becoming paralyzed. They are completely unable to move forward on their own.

Just like some of our students who lose their way. They need extra help, special attention or intervention, and second chances (or more!).  They have the ability to “make it”, but they can’t fly off without extra help.

Epstein family photos

4. A strong sense of place

Puffins return to the same place, year after year, after spending the winter out at sea.

Many teachers, myself included, return to the same school, the same classroom, year after year (after year…) ready to get new pufflings set on their path to the open sea.

No, it’s not boring and it’s never exactly the same.

Pufflings all look adorable to us humans but in the classroom, we sometimes have to remind ourselves to see the students as pufflings and find that “lovableness” in them that simply hasn’t yet manifested clearly…

There are more comparisons to be made but I’ll let you listen to the podcast yourselves.

Three cheers for puffins and teachers!!!!

 

 

Saturday’s Book: “About Grace” by Anthony Doerr

Faded glory…
Naomi’s Photos

This is a “Yes, but…” kind of book.

The “YES” part is pretty easy to describe:

  • Yes, it IS the same author that wrote “All the light we cannot see” . I enjoyed that book.
  • Yes, the style of writing is unique, the descriptions are rich and full of attention to detail. I’m sure that if someone wanted to adapt the book into a film, the visuals  would aspire  would be crystal clear.
  • The first part is great.
  • The author is skilled at ensuring you don’t jump ship mid way, even though the thought of quitting seemed quite attractive throughout the long middle section of the book.

BUT…

  • The plot that IS there REALLY requires you to suspend belief.
  • There’s very little plot and it moves slowly.  SLOWLY. The author must have wanted readers to truly have the sensation of time moving slowly…
  • It felt like the book was more about style than substance.

In short, I enjoyed the first part of the book. I did not succumb to temptation and quit because of the magnetism of the style and a desire to find out what really happened to Grace.

If this book was ever adapted into a movie I wouldn’t go to see it.

Saturday’s Book & “Reading Crisis”: “Hamilton” by Chernow

So many books… Naomi’s Photos

 

I can’t recall ever being in this kind of “bookish crisis”.

I have been interested in the book “Hamilton” since the whole Hamilton hysteria began. While I haven’t had the pleasure of attending a theatre production I certainly am familiar with the songs, the storyline and know a lot about the musical.

When the book actually landed on my table, I eyed it worriedly for several weeks. It’s a HUGE paperback edition. There are 820 pages though the actual text is only 731 pages. Believe me, the length of the book isn’t the issue, I have read longer books.  It is simply physically unwieldy. I assume this is the result of publishers wanting the print to be of a size that people over 50 would be able to read (I do appreciate that!) but try holding that in bed, or curled up on the sofa, or over lunch at a safe distance from your plate (in an upright position).

As someone who always says that a book is about the words, the story, the feeling and the message, irrelevant of t the physical form in which you enjoy it (printed, digital, audio) I felt very guilty about being dismayed at the shape of the book. I even considered buying a digital version but it did seem a waste of money considering that I actually have a printed copy on my table.

BIG… Naomi’s Photos

My bookish crises continued in the strangest manner after I began reading the book.

The book is really interesting and very well written. I loved it that the author chose to begin his book with the character of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. In fact, the author pays a lot of attention and respect to women and their role in Hamilton’s life and in the American Revolution.

I found the part about Hamilton’s early life in the Caribbean (and his parents’ lives) fascinating as I really knew very little about those islands at that time, not to mention the slave trade related to the sugar commerce on those islands.  It was mind-boggling to read how quickly the brilliant Hamilton reached the epicenter of things within a fairly short time after arriving in the US.

As someone who is interested in geneology, I was also very interested in how the author presented family information with incomplete data – relying on sources from the period but clearly stating what is known for sure and what is an “educated guess”.

The American revolution was a lot messier and precarious than what I remembered from my school days in Massachusetts and I have to admit (or confess?) that there is a great deal I didn’t know or didn’t remember – the initial goal of the revolution wasn’t complete independence as a new country, the assistance of the French was extremely significant or the story of the Benedict Arnold’s wife.

It was also a revolution that spanned 8 years.

At page 151 the end of the revolution is not in sight.

I found myself interested in the book while I was reading it, but reading it less and less.

And less and less.

And then not reading Hamilton but not reading anything else because I’m reading Hamilton.

Naomi not reading any books?

AARGH!!!

So, on August 1st I officially stopped reading Hamilton and am now close to completing another book.

There.

I admitted it.

May you be more patient than me, it really is a good book.

 

 

Converging Corners – Engaging with Vocabulary from “THE LIST” & the Literature Program / ETAI 2019

A few minutes before the presentation – ETAI 2019

Converging Corners: Struggling Learners, The Literature Program & The Vocabulary Lists

Presentation at ETAI 2019

I began my presentation by stating the following facts that represent the reality in my classroom of Deaf and hard of hearing students and holds true for many other teachers as well.

´* I must teach the literature program.

´* I have many struggling learners – progress in the program is slow.

´* Time – We never actually teach the allotted hours in a semester

´* There are official lists of specific vocabulary items that must be taught and practiced.

´ *All students need to engage multiple times with a word.   Struggling learners need to engage with a word more than everyone else!

THEREFORE – NEEDS MUST CONVERGE!

As I teach the literature program I provide opportunities for the learners to engage with the target vocabulary on the official word lists.

During the session, the teachers actively participated in several activities designed to do just that. The relevant links to posts, worksheets, and Quizlet Sets appear below.

Additional activities related to other literary pieces are “in the works” – follow this space!

Thank You, Ma’am

Pre-Reading Activity & New “LOTS” Worksheet

Full post related to the activity including links  and information related to the word lists: http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/01/03/counting-re-entry-of-vocabulary-items-thank-you-maam/

Shortcut to pre-reading activity:

Gift-of-time-pre-reading-Mam-p218o7-1e53wc3

Shortcut to New “LOTS” Worksheet:

Thank You Ma’am Open Questions-2ktog3e

“Matching Activity” 

By clicking on the  link below you will have:

  • information regarding the words from band 2 chosen
  • a  link to the chosen set of words on Quizlet
  • pictures of cards from the activity
  • an explanation of how the activity works
  • the sentences that appear on the cards.

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/02/20/the-joy-of-simple-self-check-activities/

A Summer’s Reading

By clicking on the link below you will have:

  • information related to the activity and the words chosen.
  • an explanation about the use of Control F as a helpful tool.
  • a link to the chosen set of words on Quizlet.
  • document with the sentences that appear on the cards.

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/02/03/using-control-f-to-add-sophies-voice-to-a-summers-reading-by-malamud/

Shortcut directly to document with the sentences that appear on the cards.

Summer Reading Perspective-1owtxz2

 

The Road Not Taken

Post describing the activity:

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/07/06/daring-to-dive-into-the-dilemma-the-road-not-taken/

A shortcut to the sentences in the activity:

The Road Not Taken Dilemma activity – band two

A link to the Quizlet set of the related words

https://quizlet.com/_6uazwy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daring to Dive into the Dilemma – “The Road Not Taken”

Are they both “just as fair”?
Photo taken by Naomi

One of the great things about teaching the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” to my Deaf and hard of hearing students is that they have some very powerful examples of “standing at crossroads” in their young lives. These are times when they had to make a decision and knew they would not get the opportunity to come back and try the other option.

For example, some of my students faced a dramatic choice at the end of junior high school (9th grade) – whether to study at the high-school close to their home along with their old classmates and continue being the only hard of hearing /Deaf student in the whole school, or to commute an hour or more to a high school that offers strong academic support and a peer group.  That’s a SIX day a week commute!

On the other hand, many of my students find it harder to take in the aspects of the traveler’s dilemma that are stated in the poem itself.  Not only can the traveler not take both roads and won’t come back another day, but both roads are actually just as fair, have been worn about the same. Even worse, the traveler can’t see what lies ahead as the road bends in the undergrowth!

I want my students to pay attention to all that too.

AND

The students should be engaging in a meaningful way with words from the Ministry’s word list while they are learning the poem.  I firmly believe in integrating the practice of the vocabulary items on the list with the teaching of the literature program. ***

 

Suggestion cards
Response cards

SO

I identified 52 words from the Band 2 Word List to be used while teaching the poem and created a  Quizlet set with the words. 

I then created The Dilemma Activity, which can be used in many ways. While it can be used as a worksheet,  I preferred to use index cards (or sentence strips) as I find the activity suitable for acting a bit of dramatic flair!

The students are presented with the situation:

A traveler is happily walking along a road in a yellow wood when the roads diverge (“along” is a word on the word list).

He/She doesn’t know which road take and needs advice.

The traveler now needs to hear suggestions and respond accordingly. “Suggestion” is also a word on the list!

Suggestion card number 6

There are 7 suggestions to be given to the traveler, each one on a separate card. The suggestions are numbered and must be read in the correct order.  The responses are not numbered, and the students must match the correct response to the suggestion.

For example, here are the first two suggestion cards.

  1. Why don’t you take both roads?
  2. So take one road today and the other road another time.

And the matching responses:

  1. I can’t take both roads because I’m only one traveler.
  2. One road leads to other roads. I doubt I will ever come back. I have to make a choice.

The imaginary advisor is losing patience with the traveler, and by the time we get to the last two suggestions, exasperation should be clearly expressed in intonation and body language!

6. Don’t be so nervous, just choose a road. What difference could it make?

7. I give up – I can’t help you. You will sigh when you think about this in the future but choose a road NOW.

The matching responses are:

6. It’s possible that my choice will make all the difference. That’s why I am nervous.

7. You are right, I will sigh. But will it be a sigh of regret or relief?

You can download all the sentences related to the activity here:

The Road Not Taken Dilemma activity – band two

Enjoy!

*** A special post of links related to engaging with the word lists while teaching the literature program can be found here:

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/07/06/converging-corners-links-to-activities-combining-the-vocabulary-lists-the-lit-program-etai-2019-presentation/

On Literacy & Bilingual Education – An Interview with Professor Claude Goldenberg

ETAI’s  ( English Teachers Association of Israel) upcoming international conference hasn’t even begun yet and I’m already having fascinating conversations because of it! One of the many benefits of ETAI conferences is that they often provide an opportunity for teachers in the field to meet and converse with influential researchers from the world of academia.                     (Details about the conference here).

Literacy
Naomi’s Photos

Plenary speaker Prof. Emeritus Claude Goldenberg, from Stanford  University kindly agreed to have a long distance conversation with me, in which we discussed bilingual literacy,  hands-on experiences in the classroom and what the song “Mustang Sally” has to do with his retirement!

Naomi: You have done a lot of work related to literacy development in bilingual settings.  What attracted you to language development and literacy in bilingual settings?  

Prof. Goldenberg: I was born in Argentina. My family came to the United States when I was three and a half. I  grew up bilingual. My parents literally did not allow me to speak English at home, even though as soon as I learned English I wanted to talk English all the time. They enforced a “Spanish Only” rule. I would complain, but they would say, “You’ll thank us one day.”

When I was growing up I never thought I’d go into education. In college, I majored in history but became interested in education as a way to help eliminate opportunity gaps in our society. My parents were living in San Antonio, Texas when I finished college. Since there is a large Hispanic population there, and I am fully bilingual, I thought I would have more tools to be helpful. So I began teaching in a junior-high-school in San Antonio. I had good intentions but wasn’t well prepared for teaching. Like many other people, I hadn’t realized before that time how teaching really is a profession that requires training. It was not easy!

However, I wanted to learn more about the reasons I was meeting students who were 13 or even 16  years old with poor literacy skills along with a lack of motivation and what I could do about this terrible situation.  So I did two things:

  • I did my Ph.D. in the field of Early Childhood Education at UCLA, focusing on literacy, since it is one of the major foundational building blocks of education, and
  • after completing my Ph.D. I took a job teaching first-grade so that I could get a better understanding of teaching from inside the classroom. 

You could say I was immersed in the world of early literacy and language learning, bilingual education and English as a second language.

A different perspective
Naomi’s Photos

Naomi: I have to admit that as a teacher I’m delighted to hear that you are a professor who has had actual hands-on teaching experience in the classroom! Is that connected to the choice of the title of your plenary talk:  “Teachers’ Critical Role in Managing the Transition in English Language Education”?

Prof. Goldenberg: My teaching experience ingrained in me the understanding that it’s one thing to do research and make pronouncements based on that research, even assuming it’s valid research.  However, it’s the teachers who know the contextual reality of running a classroom and being in a school. Both perspectives are necessary for any improvements in the system.

Naomi: You mentioned English as a Second Langauge. I’m sure you are aware that in Israel, we teach English as a Foreign Language. Students here speak many different languages at home that may differ from the official language at school, besides learning English (including Sign Language! I teach students who are Deaf and hard of hearing).

Prof. Goldenberg: Yes, Israeli students come to EFL class with diverse linguistic backgrounds. Speakers of Arabic, for example, begin their schooling with spoken Arabic and then learn written Arabic, Hebrew and then English. Other students may speak Russian, French, Amharic or Yiddish at home. It is incredibly complex. Yet if you think of it as a Venn Diagram, there are overlaps between teaching a second language and a foreign language.

The point is that we need a common framework. Most of the world uses such a framework – it’s known as the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for languages). It’s a good place to start. English has become the Lingua Franca and Israeli students should be competitive on the world stage in English. In order to achieve that goal, we need to define the desired outcomes and then plan backward to see how to accomplish them. 

Oh, the places you’ll go!
Naomi’s Photos

Naomi: And the final question I ask all the speakers I interview; What do you do in your free time?

Prof. Goldenberg:  I actually just retired on August 31. So I have a lot of free time. I like to travel. I like to drive cross country. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of over the past 10 months.  For nearly fifty years I’ve had this dream of driving cross country and seeing things and talking to people.

I post about my travels on my blog called “Travels with Sally”.  Sally is the name of my car. It is a Mustang and the name refers to a famous Blues / Rock and Roll song “Mustang Sally”.  “Travels  With  Sally” is also a reference to the book by Steinbeck “Travels with Charley”.

Naomi: Thank you for taking the time away from Mustang Sally to talk with me! I look forward to hearing you speak at the conference!

 

 

 

 

 

“Of Longing & Belonging” : An Interview with Anne Sibley O’Brien

Books.

Readers of this blog know that I love to write about books and do so regularly.  But it’s not often that I get a chance to interview a children’s book writer and illustrator! Well, exciting things happen when the English Teachers Association of Israel, aka ETAI, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an exciting international conference!  So, I now have the pleasure of introducing plenary speaker Anne Sibley O’Brien.  from Maine, U.S.A., a children’s book writer, and an illustrator who has published 37 books featuring diverse children and cultures.  (see details about the conference here).

 

An illustration from “Someone New”, by Ann Sibley O’Brien. The teacher on the left says: “Jin just arrived. He loves to write stories”. The teacher on the right says: “Emma, please help Fatimah feel at home”.

 

Naomi: I was once ” the new kid’. My first reaction to the illustration was – “Oh, the teacher on the left is introducing the new student as someone who has something to offer in a relationship by saying that the new student likes to write stories! He’s not someone who simply needs to be pitied and will be totally dependant on others”.

Is that the kind of reaction you were hoping for?

Annie: Yes, exactly. The driving purpose of these two books is to portray the richness and fullness of the lives of people who become immigrants and refugees. They’re not blank slates who come with nothing and need to be filled up. I want people in receiving communities to recognize that new arrivals are already whole people, with a family, a language (often more than one), a history, a culture, interests, talents… and that they have so much to offer. They bring gifts.

I also want people to get a glimpse of how challenging the assimilation period is. In order to adjust to the new place, immigrants and refugees have to learn so many aspects of life all over again, and the more differences they encounter — race, language, culture, religion, etc. — the greater the challenge. 
Joy in the classroom!
Figures by Yankol. Naomi’s Photos.
Naomi: Your books are about inclusion, accepting others and celebrating diversity. What made you so interested in this subject?

Annie: When I was seven years old, my parents moved my three siblings and me from rural New Hampshire in the States, to Seoul, South Korea. Working in Korea (my dad was a doctor) was a dream come true for them. I went from always blending in to suddenly standing out, feeling as if someone had turned a spotlight on me. I became fascinated by differences as a result of being “the different one” — but uniquely in a position of high status and extreme privilege, not the standard experience of being the Other! 

At the same time, our family was being so warmly welcomed into the Korean community, from which I absorbed the idea that we are all one human family. That combination of experiences gave me my life’s work.

Naomi’s Photos
Naomi: You drew the illustration presented above yourself and all the illustrations for your books. What do you start with – the illustrations or the words?

Annie: I’ve illustrated 33 picture books, about half of which I also wrote, half by other authors. Recently I also wrote a couple of picture books that were illustrated by someone else — that was fun! When it’s someone else’s book, then the illustrations usually come second to a completed manuscript.

When it’s my own book, it completely depends on the project, and sometimes on the individual scene or page. I may have strong images and wait to find the few words I need to tell the part of the story that isn’t already in the pictures. Other times I have the story and need to find the images that will enrich, support, and amplify the text. Often it’s both processes in the same book, going back and forth between the two approaches.
Imagination!
Naomi’s Photos
Naomi: I understand you visit schools a great deal. Have you found that the children are interested in discussing these topics?
Annie: Absolutely! Children have so much in-depth experience of in-groups and out-groups and issues of difference, even if they live in places where most people look like them and they haven’t had much exposure to the diverse cultures of the world. The subject of human difference is so often fraught with conflict, dis-ease, and discomfort, so I like to model ease in discussing race and culture, as an invitation — we can talk about this! 

Naomi: And the final question I ask all the speakers I interview;

What do you do in your free time? 
Annie: “Free time” is a bit of a slippery concept since I’m self-employed and there aren’t any preset boundaries around my schedule. It’s also funny because much of my work time is spent doing things — writing, drawing, reading — that other people consider being leisure activities. But I love to read, watch movies, walk or bike on our beautiful Maine island, go out to dinner, and best of all, spend time with our 5-year-old grandson!

Providing the Experience of “Language Immersion” – An Interview with Sarah Gordon

Time – 40 Years of ETAI!
(Naomi’s photos)

The English Teachers Association of Israel, aka ETAI, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an exciting international conference! As one who has learned so much over the years thanks to ETAI, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview the plenary speakers for the upcoming conference (see details about the conference here).

ETAI conferences have always been places to meet people who INSPIRE and Sarah Gordon is just such an educator. An educator who didn’t settle for musing “wouldn’t it be nice if…” but took an idea and actually made it happen.  Sarah founded Israel Connect, an organization that partners over Skype hundreds of students and mentors in the English-speaking world to provide students who study English as a foreign language in Israel with authentic English language immersion experiences.  In fact, Sarah has just been awarded the “Sovereign’s Medal for Community Service” for her work in Israel Connect. It is an honor awarded on behalf of the Queen of England for community impact.

Every drop makes a difference!
Naomi’s Photos

Naomi: How was the idea for the Israel Connect program born?

Sarah: I studied teaching for two years in Israel. I took English as my teaching specialization since it was an easy way for me to get credits due to English being my first language. After I left Israel to finish my teaching diploma in North America (I actually am a Math teacher by training) I kept in touch with a few friends in Israel who went on to become English teachers. One teacher was teaching in a school in a bit of a rougher neighborhood. We were chatting and she explained to me how difficult it was to get her students up to par in the meager 45 min of English they had. Many were very disadvantaged as their parents were learning Hebrew as a second language and they did not have the opportunity to travel much. I jokingly told her that here kids are so smart they spontaneously begin speaking English at age three! We laughed, but it is true, immersion is the best and most painless way to learn a language. I started by finding mentors in my community for three of her students who struggled academically and had behavioral issues, just for some homework help. Those students turned into top students, they started sitting at the front of the class and participating nicely, now that they felt confident and accomplished. My friend then asked for more mentors. She told me some of her friends and co-workers were jealous and wanted some of their students to be tutored as well. At this point, I realized we were onto something extraordinary. These are the results you wish for when you become a teacher. I realized I was in a very unique position to help people. I quit my job as a teacher and began working on this program full-time, standardizing the process so we could scale and deliver the program across the country. And as they say, the rest is history or rather a lot of really really hard work, and no one wants to hear about that.

Naomi: That is so amazing! An idea blossomed into an organization that helps so many students!

Partners
Naomi’s Photos

Naomi: You currently reside in Canada and have a perspective on education in both Israel and Canada. Do you find significant differences between the attitudes toward education in both countries?

Sarah: The differences are massive. In Canada teaching is one of the best-paid professions, it is so in demand to find a teaching job that people wait on “subbing” lists for years. Classes are also smaller. In addition,  in Canadian culture, being polite is a very strong cultural ideal. This is, in turn, is passed on and expected of students. That being said,  in both countries no one teaches because it is an easy job, you teach because you think there is nothing more important than education. In both countries, teaching is work that comes from the heart and every teacher I have ever met gives it their 1000%.

Step outside the classroom…
Naomi’s Photos

Naomi: My final question is always the same for all the hard-working educators that I’m fortunate enough to interview:  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Sarah: I do like to go to school and collect degrees, I guess you can call it a hobby.!

 

I’m looking forward to hearing more at Sarah Gordon’s plenary session at the upcoming ETAI conference!

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Story of San Michele” by Munthe

In Axel Munthe’s home, San Michele
Naomi’s Photos

This book “took me” on an exciting, wild journey with the author and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s always full of life,  fascinating, funny at times or quite sad and moving at others.

While the book is presented as Munthe’s memoirs, describing his time as a young Swedish doctor who studied under Charcot in Paris at the end of the 19th century, his work in Italy, various wild adventures and his love affair with the Isle of Capri and the home he built there, San Michele, it should not be seen as a factual biography.

According to the Wikipedia entry about the man and the book, it seems Munthe omitted all sorts of things (such as the fact that he was NOT single and even had children…)  and may certainly have exaggerated some of his adventures. Nevertheless, there is no dispute regarding the fact that while Munthe earned a great deal of money from the rich he constantly used his skills as a doctor to serve the poor without any remuneration and was a great lover of animals.

In Axel Munthe’s home at San Michele
Naomi’s Photos

Frankly, Munthe was a wonderful storyteller and it doesn’t bother me that the lines between what actually happened and what he would have liked to have happened were blurred. The book is a great read!

Once again, as I have said before, I’m “book lucky”.  I recently visited Munthe’s house (well worth visiting!). On returning home I discovered that the book is already in the public domain and is available for free download on various platforms. It’s great to read a book I enjoy that ties in with my trip like that!

Are Cell Phones Killing Students’ Word Processing Skills?

Before the days of word processing…
Naomi’s Photos

At first, I thought it was an isolated phenomenon.

I tried to hold on to that thought but I really can’t ignore it anymore.

The number of students who don’t have a working computer at home is rising steadily.

And they don’t seem the least bit perturbed by that fact.

There have always been some students who didn’t own a computer, but that was clearly due to their family’s economic difficulties. In many such cases in the past, wonderful teachers and administrators were able to get a hold of computers for these students thanks to various donations. The students were glad to receive these computers – it was clear they really wanted to own one.

But now I hear the following more and more often:

Am I stuck in the past?
Naomi’s Photos

“We have a computer but it stopped working and we never got it fixed. Nobody wants to use it anyway, every member of the family has their own cell-phone”.

I talked to a student about the issue the other day and she tried to show me that everything the school system could possibly want CAN be done on the cell phone.

I am not convinced.

We have two computers in our English Room.  They are in use most of the day. The students have tasks in their Edmodo groups which require written answers and literature papers which some students choose to type (they are allowed to hand in these papers in handwriting if they wish). All of these require that the students use WORD (and PowerPoint!) installed on the school computers.

I now find myself teaching students how to toggle between languages on the keyboard – which used to be an absolute basic thing to know about using a computer in this country! They hit Caps Lock as a solution and then don’t understand why they can’t access sites that require a password that is case-sensitive.

Naturally, when you are only using the Caps Lock the text won’t progress nicely from left to right instead of right to left, especially if you are using numbers or bullets. That also causes problems when I point out they have forgotten a word and then the students can’t seem to add it in the right place.

Students also don’t align the text and the issue of spacing is completely ignored…

Today a student called me over to look at his work and I saw he had totally ignored the red and blue markings that “WORD” used to indicate errors.

Sigh…
Naomi’s Photos

There certainly still are students who know their way around a computer way better than I do but their number seems to be steadily decreasing.

So, is teaching word processing skills something I’m supposed to be adding to my curriculum for next year?

Sigh…

Do you teach such skills as well in your lessons?

 

 

 

 

 

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