Aug 03 2014

Saturday’s Books: “Azazeel” by Ziedan & “Horsey” by Aini

Filed under Books I enjoy!

When the crow calls... (Naomi's photos)

When the crow calls…
(Naomi’s photos)

Azazeel by Youssef Zeidan is an unusual book. It’s rather hard to describe. I”ll start with a quote from the back cover:

“Set in 5th century AD, Azazeel is the exquisitely crafted tale of a Coptic monk’s journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of massive upheaval in the early Church.”

While at times the book seems to go into a lot of detail regarding Christian theology, it is actually a historical novel about someone grappling with very universal questions, ranging from why is it so difficult for people of one religion to tolerate people who believe in another one, to why shouldn’t women be educated and influential. Also there’s quite a bit about why should monks have to stay away from women, but that’s not a universal issue. Hint, there are most certainly encounters with women in this book!

The book begins slowly but the pace picks up.

Reading about how the author’s book was received in Egypt, by Moslems and Copts (written by the translator into English) is fascinating.

The pic has nothing to do with the book, just took it today and like it! LOL!

The pic has nothing to do with the book, just took it today and like it! LOL!

Horsey by Leah Eini is completely different. It is a lighthearted engaging fable. She takes the basic storyline of “girl waiting for the man of her dreams to come riding by on his horse and rescue her” and gives it a feminist, funny and very horselike twist (if I say more about the twist I’ll ruin the book).  She plays with every possible phrase related to horses (O.K, I’m probably exaggerating. Many phrases). The book, written in Hebrew, takes place partly on a farm in Israel and partly in El Paso, Texas and the characters are larger than life. It was a good read for when I couldn’t sleep….

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Jul 29 2014

“Reading Videos” Sails with iTDi Summer School MOOC’s Kites

Flying High with iTDi

Flying High with iTDi

As you can see, the amazing iTDi Summer School MOOC, with its impressive variety of FREE sessions offering online professional development to teachers around the world, has chosen kites as it’s symbol.

Kites, to me,  symbolize the wide expanses of possibility, hope and energy, along with variety. Kites come in every shape, size and color. So do teachers. And their students.

iTDi recognizes that.

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos

My kite has been chosen to be included in the Summer School Mooc. My session on “Using Videos to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills” will be given this Friday, August 1, at three o’clock in the afternoon local time, which is one o’clock GMT. In the talk I’ll be discussing (with many examples) how videos without dialogue can help learners of all ages improve their reading comprehension skills and expand their vocabulary.

For more information, see here:


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Jul 14 2014

This Blog is Going on VACATION!

Filed under The Visual Corner

The lookout Naomi's photos

The lookout
Naomi’s photos

Or, should I say, this blogger is?

In any case, it’s not for long and I’ll be back.

I’m leaving you with this bird on the lookout. So pleased with this photo!

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Jul 13 2014

Saturday’s Book: Far From the Tree” by Solomon – Halfway Comment

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Not your regular tree

Not your regular tree (Naomi’s pictures)

The full title is “Far from the tree, parents, children and the search for identity”. What is it like to be parents of that child, that apple, that DID fall far from the tree?

I decided not to wait till I finish the book to write some more about it. In hardcover it’s almost a 1,000 pages long. I’m listening to it on my Ipod (almost 41 hours!) otherwise I never would have had time to read more than half. I’ve mentioned the book in previous posts as I have been listening for a while.

This is one of the most fascinating non-fiction books I have ever read. Actually, I think listening to it read by the author really adds to the experience. The author interviewed a large number of people (mainly parents) over a long period of time, and I feel that he is sharing his experience this way.

The book is very cleverly written (and I really like the title!). Although each chapter does follow a general format of a combination of interviews and information (both historical, medical and the related activism) about the “uniqueness” being discussed in that chapter, Solomon manages to present things differently each chapter. He also highlights common themes and connects new information with things previously discussed.

It’s a very American book. There are a few interviews from other places but basically it all takes place in the US. Especially regarding the chapters I know more about, Deafness and Schizophrenia (my husband is a psychologist, I was discussing it with him) I sometimes wanted to tell the author – it’s not like that (or so much like that) here! Some of the issues of activism presented are harder for me to relate to, especially those fighting for the right of adults who are seriously psychotic to starve themselves to death while living in horrible neglect because they didn’t ask to get treatment…

I find the book powerful and moving. I had originally thought I would listen to part, then listen to something else and go back to it. It sounded like the book would be too much to deal with at once.

I won’t stop until I’m done!


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Jul 10 2014

7 Words that Echoed Around the Globe

Filed under conferences

First stop: San Jose, Costa Rica

James Taylor, who is British, head of BELTA , (Belgium), posted  a delightful lesson plan for his students in Costa Rica, where he teaches. The lesson was called Seven Word Biographies, though actually it deals with autobiographies.

Second Stop: ETAI Summer Conference, Jerusalem

Sun or electric current?  In the venue's yard at ETAI, 2014

Sun or electric current?
In the venue’s yard at ETAI, 2014

Instead of using James’ idea in class, I posted a call for Seven-Word-Autobiographies of ETAI members. For me, being a member of ETAI is being part of a community, and I thought sharing these would promote this sense of community. It is fascinating to see how each teacher took the challenge in another direction. Here is the slide show which shown before Chief Inspector Dr. Judy Steiner’s  opening plenary and Russel Stannard’s closing plenary. Thanks to them both for agreeing to have it run before their talks!

7 word autobiographies at ETAI Summer Conference, 2014 from naomima
The reactions were positive! While some teachers didn’t notice the slide show was running at all, many chuckled and commented on it. Some told me that they liked it, or told teachers mentioned that they had seen their submission. A few said they had wanted to write but had trouble deciding how to phrase it.
Exiting the venue, afternoon shadows, ETAI 2014

Exiting the venue, afternoon shadows, ETAI 2014

Third Stop: In-Service Teacher Training Course, Jerusalem
A teacher (apologies, I did not catch the name, I was excited!) told me, on the first day of the conference, that she had used James’ original lesson plan in her course. Many of those teachers tried it out in their classes and it was a big hit!
More afternoon shadows outside the venue, ETAI 2014

More afternoon shadows outside the venue, ETAI 2014

Fourth Stop: Switzerland
On the second day I met visiting guest speaker JoAnn Salvisberg-Smith who is head of ETAS. When she heard how the slide show she had seen came to be, I was surprised at how pleased she was! It turns out that James is a member of the editorial board and to hear how his idea was successfully used in different ways here in Israel is just the kind of information she would like to include in their journal, in Switzerland! More writing for James to do, back in Costa Rica.
I wonder, where will the idea  go on to next?



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Jul 05 2014

Saturday’s Comment on an Odd Reading Idea

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Cinderella's slipper?

Cinderella’s slipper?

I recently read an article in the New Yorker magazine, by Christine Smallwood, about the book  “The Shelf: From LEQ to LES”  by Phyllis Rose.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“I thought of my adventure as Off-Road or Extreme Reading,” Phyllis Rose writes in “The Shelf: From LEQ to LES,” the latest stunt book, in which she reads through a more or less random shelf of library books. She compares her voyage to Ernest Shackleton’s explorations in the Antarctic. “However, I like to sleep under a quilt with my head on a goose down pillow,” she writes. “So I would read my way into the unknown—into the pathless wastes, into thin air, with no reviews, no best-seller lists, no college curricula, no National Book Awards or Pulitzer Prizes, no ads, no publicity, not even word of mouth to guide me.”

I haven’t read the book but I was thinking about the idea.

I wouldn’t do it.

Especially as the article says that Rose made herself finish the books, even if she didn’t like them.

I can see the adventure (though not on the scale of SHACKLETON’S  adventures! REALLY!) in randomly picking up a book and trying something I have never heard of. I’ve done that a few times in the library.

But I wouldn’t finish books if I felt the writing to be poor, the story ridiculous or just didn’t like them!

There are so many really good books out there that I haven’t read yet, why waste my time?

Would you?


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Jun 28 2014

Saturday’s Book: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Filed under Books I enjoy!

This is a good book.

And then it gets better.

This is the fourth book I have read by this author, despite the fact that this particular one is his very first book. **** (Added note – my mistake! See comment section!) “The Hungry Tide” and “The Glass Palace” were really good, and better than this one. But not by a lot. Like those books, this one is also a historical novel, rich in detail. However,  the only problem in the first part of the book was that it was a bit too didactical, trying to explain everything to the reader. But once the author assumed you already knew what was what and who was whom, things really get rolling. It is the author’s first book, after all.

I couldn’t put it down once I hit the middle part. I must go and get part two now – River of Smoke.

All the books that I have read by Ghosh were historical novels, though actually the book “In an Antique Land” is not a regular novel. It’s about the author, who is from India (a Buddhist) spending time living among villagers in Egypt (Moslem), researching ancient manuscripts about a Jewish Merchant from the 12 century.We learn of the tale of this merchant’s life.  One of the things I like about Ghosh is that he seems to show that people of different castes, religions and countries are basically all the same.

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Jun 26 2014

Winding Up the School Year with New Eyes

Filed under The Visual Corner

My favorite color! (Naomi's photos)

My favorite color!
(Naomi’s photos)

It’s the end of June again, which means that another school year has ended and it’s my birthday again.

While last year’s early 50th hoopla was in April (attending and presenting at the IATEFL conference in Liverpool), this year I began giving myself a small, quiet, daily present at the end of February. And it will last an entire year!

I joined a “take a picture a day” project, otherwise known as The 365 Project. People do it for all kinds of reasons but my goal is very specific:

To notice something small, every day, in my regular surroundings.

I’ve been living in the same town and teaching at the same school since 1988. It’s easy to find interesting things when one travels to other places. I needed to see what’s new right under my nose.

It works! This project has already had an unbelievable effect on me. There IS something new under the sun every day, and one doesn’t need to travel to find it. Lots of new things in fact!

It’s a great gift to give to myself. It’s free too. A side effect seems to be that my photography skills are getting better. The first pictures were taken on an Ipod. Now I’m almost always with a camera in my bag!

Here are some things I hadn’t noticed at the Yehud High-School, where I teach.

End of school year from naomima

Here is the link to my daily project:

14 responses so far

Jun 21 2014

From “Welcome to Holland” to “Amsterdam Int.”

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Saturday’s planned book post will be delayed, as I just had to write about this.

Watchful - you never know (Naomi's photos)

Watchful – you never know
(Naomi’s photos)

In the fascinating book I am listening to (audio-book) “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon, the author says there is a piece called “Welcome to Holland”. He claims that   just about every parent and educator of special needs children has encountered this piece, written by a mother of child with Down Syndrome (Emily Kingsley),  not only once but frequently. It attempts to explain in a simple way what it means to have a special needs child. The author includes it in the book.

I’ve been involved in special education for all of my adult life and I had never heard of this piece. But then, I don’t live in the United States.

I was intrigued by this way of presenting the situation of discovering your child has special needs, and went to look up the piece on the Internet. I wanted to read it again.

I stumbled upon an expansion of the piece, Amsterdam International also written by a mother of a child with special needs.  Dana Nieder says:

“While Welcome to Holland has a place, I used to hate it.  It skipped over all of the agony of having a child with special needs and went right to the happy ending.

The raw, painful, confusing entry into Holland was just glossed over.  And considering the fact that this little poem is so often passed along to new-moms-of-kids-with-special-needs, it seems unfair to just hand them a little story about getting new guidebooks and windmills and tulips.”

This is powerful stuff. I really recommend reading both pieces. It won’t take you long. I’m still thinking about them both.


2 responses so far

Jun 17 2014

Helping Learners Visualize Progress – A Comment

Lizzie Pinard’s latest post: Helping Language Learners Visualise their Linguistic Development: Growing Learning deals with a subject close to my heart. How can learners see, VISUALISE, their progress? Students entire attitude changes when they realize that what we are doing together, what they are doing on their own, makes a difference.

Seeing Progress (Naomi's photos)

Seeing Progress
(Naomi’s photos)

Still, it’s a tricky business. Some of my attempts have worked. Others have not. Here are some comments on the issues raised in the post based on my experiences so far.

Is the design of a flower handout too “sissy”?

The “rule of some” is worth remembering.  Some students will find it appealing others will not. It is always so. On the other hand, I would never advocate having the teacher spend time on creating lots of different versions.

I would recommend two versions (and only two!). One, the attractive flower. The other, a simple chart of columns. I have found that simple charts, where students see the numbers of bars rise, to be very effective. The fact that it’s plain and straightforward makes it seem ageless (particularly important for teenagers and adults who are at a low-level). Let the students choose which one they prefer!

What about the self disciplined learners who don’t  need it?

Odd one out (Naomi's Photos)

Odd one out
(Naomi’s Photos)

In order to get the class excited and used to the visual recording system I would insist that for the firs two weeks (depending on the frequency of lessons) everyone do it. I would ask to see their flowers /charts and make an issue of it. But afterwards the responsiblity must shift to the students. The ones who feel that the marking is just extra work on top of all the work they are doing should be given the option to opt out.

How about an app?

I agree that at an app would be excellent for this. Easier to color in, visually appealing AND students NEVER forget their cell phones. They will always have their charts with them!



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