Nov 22 2014

Saturday’s Book: “Goodbye Columbus” by Philip Roth

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Not the Japanese Garden you might think it to be  (Naomi's Photos)

Not the Japanese Garden you might think it to be
(Naomi’s Photos)

I made a mental note back in June, after having a conversation with Marjorie Rosenberg, that I needed to fill the hole in my education and read this classic book.

I’m really glad I did. There’s the main novella, which shares the title of the book and short stories. I actually enjoyed the short stories the most. In Goodbye Columbus the descriptions really moved me the ( the scenes that take place in the Newark Public library, and outside of it, are great!), while in the short stories the characters delivered the punch.

As I once mentioned, I tried reading Philp Roth when I was in my late teens and didn’t understand or relate to the books. I feel differently now that I’m older. I don’t think that the “young me” understood the nuances and subtleties, or what things represented at all. I can now see how skillful the author is at getting his message across.

On the other hand, I didn’t understand Roth’s book  ”Exit Ghost” and that was last June! I can’t blame that on youth!

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Nov 20 2014

Excuse Me, George Elliot!


Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos




As part of our literature program I’m about to teach the poem “Count That Day Lost”, by George Elliot, to very weak high-school students. Many of these students have learning disabilities in addition to their hearing problems. Others have other “issues”, such as difficulties at home.

My approach is to do a lot of pre-reading activities before the students lay their eyes on the poem itself.

I don’t usually post activities on my blog before I’ve tried them and tweaked them as neeeded, following the results. However, embarking on the literature program with these students promises to be quite a ride, so I’ve decided to post what I do as I go along.

The word “sun” and its connotations are very important in this poem so I plan to begin with a brainstorming session on that. I prepared a simple written worksheet for the activity, because having a discussion on the board requires a follow up activity in writing.  That is if I want them to pay attention to vocabulary in English! Here’s the worksheet.

Count lost sun map

Next I plan to move on to the concept of counting and to the fact that this poem relates to actions done in a day. . Thanks to Leo Selivan  for introducing me to the video this worksheet relates to.

Time to Count wrong side

I think it’s pretty clear what I want to achieve with the following slideshow. It looks so simple but it took me hours to figure out how to keep the message simple, use vocabulary from the poem and explain concepts with suitable images.

I hope I succeeded, I’ll know pretty soon!

Excuse me, George Elliot! from naomima



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Nov 16 2014

Visualising School – A RAINY Photo Pause

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


It rained buckets this morning!

The courtyard (Naomi's photos)

The courtyard
(Naomi’s photos)


The Teachers' Room

The Teachers’ Room


View from my classrooom

View from my classroom


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

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Nov 15 2014

Saturday’s Book: Phew! They AREN’T Throwing Apples & Zebras Down The Drain

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Throwing Apples & Zebras down the drain (Naomi's photos)

Throwing Apples & Zebras down the drain
(Naomi’s photos)

This isn’t a regular “Saturday’s Book” post. But it is about a book that for two days this week I thought had ceased to exist.

And I was very upset.

On Tuesday I got a phone call notifying me that the last copy of my program for teaching deaf and hard of hearing children (and other struggling learners) how to read in English as a foreign language, “Apples and Zebras”,  had been sold and there would be no more copies. Effectively, the book no longer existed.

I only have one copy at home.

I tried to tell myself that is the way of the world and coursebooks come and go.

Except there aren’t any coursebook writers fighting to write new materials for deaf children who need a fun program that won’t be based on the oral/aural approach, won’t compare minimal pairs of letters (the difference between n/t/d can’t be seen on the lips) and will have the children reading meaningful sentences early on. And there are certainly aren’t publishers fighting to publish for a population of approx 1000 books a year.

Obedient tree suffers quietly

Obedient tree suffers quietly

Nor are publishers interested in publishing self-explanatory, complete programs that can be taught by lovely  teachers who have never seen a deaf person in their life, and may not even be English teachers (sometimes they are special ed teachers), but agreed to teach a class of deaf children to completer their hours or “get a foot in the door”. We mustn’t forget the teacher’s aide who takes the struggling hard of hearing child out of the regular classroom which is busy chanting and merrily stomping their feet as they sing. What is she to do with the child who has learned all the body movements related to the songs but not the English in them? The child needs to learn to read quickly so he/she can have the text which will enable participation. What will guide her?

But to put all that aside, simply put – the book is “my baby” too. I worked very hard on writing it and on getting it published. Full disclosure, my second book for older struggling learners did not do well, but this one has been doing very well for over 20 years. Material writing is part of my identity. I’m in the midst of writing materials for my students for the new literature program and I love it.

Having the book disappear really hurt.

Thank goodness I was misinformed. The last book was sold and they have axed all the other publications for our population, but an additional 500 Apples and Zebras books have been ordered. When money is tight, why give up on something that actually sells well?

I needed to write about it because I still haven’t gotten over my feelings this week, even though I know its not true. For me, writing helps.


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Nov 08 2014

Saturday’s Book: “The Garlic Ballads” by Mo Yan

Filed under Books I enjoy!

There are a lot of parakeets in this book! (Naomi's photos)

There are a lot of parakeets in this book!
(Naomi’s photos)

Sometimes the smells in this book are absolutely overpowering.

I don’t recall ever saying that about a book. The writing here is so beautiful, the descriptions so vivid that I was utterly drawn in. And with everything so realistic the smells are too. Or mostly the stink.

And a lot stinks. Rotting garlic is just the beginning. Frankly, everything about being a poor garlic farmer in rural China stinks, physically and metaphorically. There’s a lot of misery in this book. I couldn’t leave it but some passages were so hard to stomach that I skipped a page here and there. But I had to see it through.

He deserved the Nobel Prize.

It reminds me a bit of when I read books by Toni Morrison. A lot of misery there too. Yet I am completely hooked. Hmmm, she was awarded the Nobel Prize too.

By the way, according to the translators note, Yan is actually the author’s first name. I have to admit when I first saw the book in the library I didn’t remember who he was. I even thought the author may be a woman, because the cover said: acclaimed author of “Big Breasts & Wide Hips”. But then, would a woman choose such a title? Who knows!

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Nov 05 2014

Mourning the Loss of a Student

I'll do my crying in the rain (taken from classroom window)

I’ll do my crying in the rain
(taken from classroom window)

On the first day of the new school year, last year, he walked in and examined the name I had written on his classroom folder. Then he flashed me that incredible smile of his and said: “I’ll be perfectly happy if you want to treat me like a famous Italian artist, but I spell my name Rafael”.

His friends called him Rafa.

Rafael did get celebrity treatment. When he opened the classroom door he would pause a minute, so the students and I could all celebrate his arrival for a moment. He would flash that smile of his and everyone wanted him to sit next to them. It would take him a few minutes to settle down because he had to joke with everyone first.

Because you never knew when he would come to class. The days (or weeks) when he was absent were spent in the hospital, undergoing cancer therapy. Or spent at home, being too weak to school. Or perhaps being protected from all those germs floating around a school.

The amazing thing was that Rafael easily made up material he had missed. He was one of those rare students you only encounter once every few years, who are intellectually in a class of their own. He was doing extremely well studying with hearing students, despite his hearing problem. The only reason he transferred to the special classes such as mine, in the 12 grade, was his need for flexible support, caused by his absences. In my EFL class he was studying at the highest level.

Rafael was a high-achiever and a perfectionist. During the last few months of school the frequency of his absences grew, but he continued to study at home. We corresponded a lot by email and he sent me his work for comments. He refused to skip anything, he wanted the highest grades. Rafael sat for all of his exams (some were administered at home by an examiner) and the results were spectacular.

I was told that all he talked about during his last days were how to calculate his grade average and which university choices were now open to him.

Rafael passed away this week at the age of 19.

It is difficult to comprehend.


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Nov 04 2014

Visualising School – Photo Pause

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

Water at school

View from my classroom window - right after the rain. Water dripping from trees.

View from my classroom window – right after the rain. Water dripping from trees.


 reflection of recycling bin in front yard puddles

reflection of recycling bin in front yard puddles


Flooding from one of the toilets - not nice but caused delightful reflections in the hallway

Flooding from one of the toilets – not nice but caused delightful reflections in the hallway


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


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Nov 01 2014

Saturday’s Book: “Kaplan’s Quest” by Steinitz

Filed under Books I enjoy!

As this is the second book I have read by Richard Steinitz (the first was “Murder over the Border”) I was prepared for an intriguing story, whose plot I could not guess.

I was not disappointed!

Steinitz had me join a quest traversing several countries – Israel, Germany France and Canada, and a travel back into time. World War Two in both Germany and Occupied France. I had never given any thought to the fact that there were Jewish athletes in pre-war Germany. And that some vanished inexplicably? “Inexplicably” as in “not in the manner you imagine for that time and place at all”? Slowly, with true detective work, the young hero uncovers and connects the puzzle pieces explaining his great uncle’s disappearance so many years ago.

Historic detective work of this kind requires patience and I found that sometimes the book required some patience as well. There are parts where Steinitz gets bogged down in too many details and explanations. But my patience was well rewarded and I’m glad I read the book .

Oh – I did guess that the boy gets the girl! And that’s not a spoiler, that’s a heartwarming pleasure!

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Oct 30 2014

Visualising School – Photo Pause

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

Everything pointed to the school gate this morning!

Good morning! This is the way to the front gate – go girl!


Artistic student color coordinates the litter?! Spotted In the front yard

Artistic student color coordinates the litter?!
Spotted In the front yard


Mynah's delight - student's discarded sandwich (front yard)

Mynah’s delight – student’s discarded sandwich
(front yard)


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

More in the next post!

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Oct 29 2014

Squaring Alfie Kohn’s Reply with My Reality

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos

In my previous post I dared to post some BUT arguments related to Alfie Kohn’s approach to homework. I used the word dare because I really admire both the man and his work.

Now I admire him even more because he has kindly allowed me to quote from his reply! So nice of him to take the time to do so!

However I’m in the midst of puzzling over his powerful, research based points and my daily reality in the classroom.

I made two basic claims that Kohn related to, in regards to my deaf & hard of hearing high-school students (we’re not talking about young children) and he doesn’t accept either of them. The background to the claims is that I only give a small amount of homework, once a week, of work that isn’t “busy” work, but rather is meaningful.

Claim 1: Homework provides practice and exposure to material in English beyond what I can do in class.

Kohn replies:

“To be honest, it’s not clear to me why those who are deaf would need, or benefit from, having to do more academic assignments after school when the research suggests there’s no benefit for students in general.  (And I think the other arguments against homework would also apply here:  the inappropriateness of having the school determine how kids spend their time when they’re not at school, and the importance of other sorts of development beyond academic:  social, emotional, physical, etc.)”

Naomi's photos

The school yard
Naomi’s photos

Claim 2: Homework given online lets me really individualize the homework without insulting the learners as they don’t see each other’s tasks. They all get tasks they can do and experience success.

Kohn replies:

“I might reframe the question as follows:  Can we figure out a way to individualize learning and help students experience success (at tasks *they* experience as meaningful) entirely during school hours — regardless of whether they have special needs?  I’m optimistic the answer is yes.  And if there’s really a good case to be made that homework is necessary, then perhaps we can make that case to the students so they can make the decision themselves rather than being compelled to do what the teacher alone decides is valuable”

These replies make me feel rather conflicted.

In the reality of my classroom setting, some students DO participate in sports or have an afternoon activity. A few have jobs. Some attend the weekly social meetings for our students run by Shema, the organization I also work for (but that’s only once a week!). However, quite a few students do nothing, absolutely nothing, after school. The students do not live near the school or their peers and some have no friends where they live.

In addition, the STUDENTS  (not to mention the parents) are the product of the system. Since I started with my clear, “every Monday homework task” system, on the Edmodo platform, I’ve heard from the students, EVEN THOSE THAT DON’T DO THE HOMEWORK (!!!) that they take the subject more seriously. The parents are pleased too! To me it  seems that my little homework task  lets students do their own thing and still benefit academically because it’s brief. When you learn a foreign language, it’s important to see it used outside the context of the classroom.

On the other hand, for those students whose home life is chaotic and no homework gets done there, we find ways to have it done in school. I’ve always seen that as subscribing to Robyn Jackson’s approach  (my paraphrase)- if the homework you give is only homework that is important, than it can’t go away until it’s done. I would assume that Kohn would say : Oh, if you can do that,  let all the students do it in school.

Naomi's photos

The school yard
Naomi’s photos

But we have so little actual lesson time at school – lessons are constantly being cancelled due to lectures, trips, sport days,  tests in other subjects and more! It’s a constant battle for time!

Everything makes sense. Sigh.

Robyn Jackson’s approach really helped me construct my homework system. Maybe I should draw on some more Chutzpah and ask for her help in squaring these conflicting issues?


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