I “CLOUDED” my site too!

David Dodgson suggested making a WORD CLOUD  of one's blog.
Having seen David's cloud and Cecilia's Cloud and
Sandy Millin's CLOUD I decided to follow suit!
Here it is:

word blog cloud
I'm somewhat puzzled. Some things are obvious. The words
"goals" and "project"
are very prominent because of all the posts related to the
 30 goals project I'm participating in!

It makes sense to me that the words
"fascinating" "excited" "intriguing" appear because I feel
all these things about the new blogosphere

Family is very important to me though I suspect the word
 is fairly large because some of my Saturday's Books
have been devoted to books all the family can enjoy.

But why is the word "students' so much smaller than
on other people's blogs? I thought I had been
writing quite a bit about my students! Puzzling...

Goal 29 – Why I Didn’t Attend the “Virtual Round Table”

Goal 29 of the 30 goals challenge is “Present Your Ideas”. Which makes perfect sense since participating in this whole project emphasizes the benefits of sharing for everyone involved! I think sharing is part of a teacher’s psyche – especially those on blogosphere! We’re excited and have to spread the word!

I can’t tell you exactly what the VirtualRound Table (which took place this weekend) is because I didn’t attend, but it sounded to me like a “Sharing Fest”! LOTS of the fascinating and exciting new teachers I have recently “met” and whose blogs I follow dedicatedly participated with intriguing names of sessions! Saw some excited tweets too!

So, where was I?

Well, since we’re nearing the end of the 30 goals project I can say that the project promotes balance too. I know I did the right thing not attending, even though I was tempted.  What should I have given up? Not go to work on Friday and Sunday? Skip Friday night dinner with the extended family at my in laws? Not spend time catching up on my grading and attendance records that have to be typed  up? Not watch a movie with my husband?

Did the right thing.

Maybe next year it will coincide with Passover vacation.

Maybe there are other interesting online conferences coming up – hadn’t even known about this one till quite recently!

I plan to stick around!

Goal 27: The Shortest Post Yet!

Goal 27 of the 30 Goals project is “Establish a Web Presence”.

A photographer named Naomi Epstein from Chicago is at the top of the Google search list but then I am  here:

http://shemaenglish.posterous.com/ (Hebrew Counseling Blog)
http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/ (Professional Blog – English)
http://englishcenterlakash.wikispaces.com/ (Exercises for Students)

http://www.etni.org/hearing.htm (section on ETNI site for English Teachers)

Goal 26: The 30 Goals Domino Effect

Photo by Gil Epshtein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Perhaps Goal 26 :” Support a Movement” refers to organizations like our teachers’ union, or to ETAI, which is our TESOL affiliate (SUPER conferences!!).

But I believe the 30 Goals project can be called a movement that promotes educational reform. I understand that a lot of teachers are participating. Doing so leads one to examine things from new perspectives and calls for more reflection than I believe most teachers usually do. I have found (as someone that hasn’t missed a post!) that it is incredibly invigorating.

Through the 30 goals twitter list I’ve “met” other fascinating bloggers who are “infecting” me with enthusiam to try out their ideas (which is one of the reasons I’m running late with these goals, I have to try out these new ideas and post about it)!

After 25 years in the proffession I can say that when a teacher gets excited about something, that teacher won’t keep it to herself (or himself, as the case may be)! And then those dominoes start falling as the message travels!

Having more  and more teachers going into the classroom feeling  enthusiatic and invigorated is a huge boon to the education system!

Thank you Shelly Terrell for setting up this project!

Enthusiastic Comment about Mike Harrison’s “Reverse Reading Comprehension” Post

I  had my first chance to try Mike Harrison’s Reverse Reading Comprehension Strategy today, with “a twist” and it was a big hit!

The first period of the day gave me the perfect opportunity to try it. Three students were taking a test, three were absent and the remaining two are pretty much on the same level,  comparitively strong pupils. So I called them to the board. Each one of them got a whiteboard marker.

Part one

Instead of writing five or six questions I wrote one question on the corner of the board : Why did Branco dive to the bottom of the lake? After we went over the question (they didn’t know “lake” or “bottom”) they wanted to know who this Branco person was and how should THEY know why he did it. I replied that it was up to them to decide and to please answer the question. So they wrote (and then we corrected) the sentence “Branco wanted to study the fish“. I responded to that with question number two: What was he surprised to find at the bottom of the lake? Then they began to get interested. They had Branco find a treasure chest, take it home, discuss it with his wife and spend the money on a new house and car. They wrote five sentences, each one numbered as an answer to a question.

Part Two

I erased words from the sentences, a fairly large amount and they split the work of filling them back in. Since these are fairly strong students and they just wrote the text themselves this was easy for them. I left this stage after one “erasing exercise”.

Part Three

I asked the students to turn these sentences into a news report. I told them we don’t have to write everything again, only certain things need to be changed. We looked at every sentece. The first answer now became the opening sentence ” A man named Branco dove into a lake in Italy” and so on. The rewriting took us to the bell.

Later on in the day I repeated the activity with two weaker students (going for a lower level of the national exams but nonetheless still strong enough to TAKE the national exams!). They also came up with a treasure test and had the pirates come and rob the treasure back from Branco. They had to work much harder to create each sentence and needed more corrections so our second stage was erasing words till the bell rang. Rewritng was not suitable here and they REALLY enjoyed the activity as it was!

I also tried the activity with one 12th grade students who reads FAR FAR better than he writes. He always forgets articles andmixes up tenses. However, this activity is a more socially oriented one and giving it to him  alone was a mistake. He wrote that Branco found shoes in the lake and then he threw them back into the lake. I’m sure that if he had had a partner he would have come up with a more interesting idea and then it would have been more fun. Even the policeman I ” sent” to the lake just said “you shouldn’t do that”!

I really feel that my students are benefitting from my PLN!

Goal 25 – Relationships are Built on LITTLE Things!

Goal 25 of the 30 goals challenge “Build relationshipes with them” made me smile. Good relationships are often built on little things, unrelated to curriculum. Let me tell you about the kid who:

* ALWAYS asks to use my pencil, never brings his own (17 years old, has a million health problems). I don’t say a word about it, just let him use mine every lesson!

* the shy kid with C.P. who comes to class 10 minutes BEFORE the bell rings as he sometimes needs a quiet place.

* the girl who oftens sleeps over at friends’ houses and comes to school with a ton of stuff and stores it in my classroom till the end of the school day.

* the kid who ALWAYS needs to go out for a few minutes each lesson. He gives me a signal and I let him go. We don’t even say anything.

* the EXTREMELY tense girl who is VERY stressed by math. I let her join extra math tutoring groups on English lesson time before major math exams.

*** I take the pictures at the Purim Festival (it was last Friday). I posted almost 70 pictures this year of the kids in their costumes and the festivities! I send pictures to any pupil that takes the trouble to politlely ask me for the pictures in better quality !

The Light and Dark Side of Goal 24

Goal 24 of the 30 goals challenge relates to supporting character development. An important topic and one I feel rather frustrated about.

On the light side, I’m proud to say that our school promotes volunteering for various causes. Our Purim Festival, two days ago, was also a fund raiser for a learning center for underpriveleged children. Some of the deaf students manned a stall, as they do every year. These kids are the same caring kids that volunteer for all sorts of things.

In addition, In Israel it is mandatory to put in 60 hours of volunteer work during 10th grade. In the past, most of the deaf students didn’t do it mainly because they live far away from school and have no flexibility due to the timetable of the transportation services. An energetic Lit. teacher changed all that and organized volunteer work for kids in school. My learning center is a good place for that (always posters and materials made of construction paper that need to be redone!) and till recently I had 5 kids coming in. Some do it gladly however some are sullen about it.

Some students also volunteer at the children and youth clubs that the “Shema” organization runs. That is awesome!


It’s a certain group of teenagers that are active and caring. The rest are incredibly self-centered. Worse, they lack curiosity about anything that isn’t related to them directly. The exhibit a lack of interest that sometimes drives me “up the wall”. If I sit next to a pupil and try to tell him /her a bit about the topic he’s working on many simply don’t care. So what?

One of the disadvantages of teaching a foreign language in a learning center format is that we almost never have class discussions. We don’t speak in English (discussion would have to be in Hebrew) and the levels of ability and sophistication are too wide to be bridged in many cases (we learn through reading).

Some of these students buy into the “don’t confuse me with the facts” doctrine. The most extreme example I ever had (but that was only one pupil, thank goodness!) was a student who would not be convinced that in other parts of the world it actually rains in the Summer. His classmate said that she visited Spain in the Summer and it rained on her but he refused to accept that.

With some of the students I’m still battling with respectful behavior in the classroom, never mind volunteering to help with something or being interested. If there is something that makes me lose my temper is to see students abuse materials in the classroom (tearing parts off a poster, scribbling on something, or drawing with the “white-out” I bought for use in class). A 12th grader (!!!) screamed at me last week because I insist on leaving the window partly open even when it rains because we need air in the class. She doesn’t pay any attention to her parents and she is only interested in me when she is in the mood to care about her grade. This pupil had to leave the class and was reported but that hasn’t made any inroads on her behavior when she’s annoyed in the past two and a half years.

In short, I feel that in regards to supporting character behavior, there are many pupils with whom my record is dismal.

Saturday’s Book “Shelter” by Susan Palwick

At the library this book caught my eye. The title seemed intriguing, the first paragraph more so, so I borrowed it without having any idea what it is really about.I do that often at our library. The Enlglish section is not bad for a library in Israel but not vey big. When I come looking for something specfic  that someone recommended it is most likely that I won’t find it. But if I come to browse I often find good books that I have never heard mentioned!

Anyway, this book turns out to be science fiction, a genre which I haven’t read in a long time. It is very well written and I found the first few chapters fascinating. I’ve continued well past that and plan to continue reading the book, but I did feel somewhat disappointed after those opening chapters.

The beginning of the book gave the feeling of a theatre where all the players are in one place and through their dialogue the story, the relationships and their history unfolds. We (the readers) don’t go back in time. In the case the situation is a horrific storm in San-Francisco, A homeless man seeks shelter in what turns out to be  a talking house (an A.I). They are both interacting with a “translated” man who lives on the net.

But after “hooking me” the author doesn’t make the most of this situation, but takes us back in time to tell the story of the events in a chronoligical order. Did I mention that the book has 574 pages?! I would have had the entire story take place over the three days of the storm, in the house!

Still, It’s well written, I’d better wait and see what happens later. I’m only up to page 163!

Goal 23 – 10 ways I Utilize a Computer with No Internet Connection in the Classroom

Goal 23 of the 30 Goals Challenge is to integrate Technology Effectively. Here’ s what I do with our classroom computer, which has no Internet connection (we got this up-to-date computer less than a year ago):

1) Showcase students’ slideshows. Every year we would reserve the computer room and see the slideshows pupils made for their literature project. If you weren’t there that day, you couldn’t see them!

2) I do a lot of activities involving answering questions about pictures (for more info on that see “The Visual Corner” category). I used to look for pictures I could cut out of magazines because printing large color images from the Internet was not a viable option. Now I bring all the colorful pictures in on my flash-drive and they look clear and attractive!

3) I have a handful of students at the highest level who are working on writing sophisticated compistions of 120-140 words. These need to be written and rewritten. Most of them would much rather do that on WORD than by hand!

4) WORD has a dictionary. It isn’t as good as the electronic dictionary the students are supposted to bring and most certainly not as comfortable to use (actually, the kids hate it) but in some situations having the option to use it is a big help!

5) The students get homework online from our class site. Using screen shots from the site (with my trusty flash drive) I’m able to explain things related to the site and to the h.w assignments.

6) I have a hard of hearing student who is very dyslectic. I have one textbook that comes with a cd. The text is highlighted as it is read outloud. This girl hooks up to the computer directly with earphones (we don’t have speakers) listens and reads the text.  It is not uncommon at all for books to come with a CD but with my population of students I never purchased these CD’s before. They are unable to understand the speech on a CD player, but on the computer, in combination with the visual aspect, a few students can take advantage of the listening component. I must obtain additional CD’s in order to take advantage of this exciting new possibility.

7) I have a few simple games. Some are more educational, some are just for fun! That’s important too!

8) I use the computer to create worksheets. I used to write my ideas on a piece of paper and type them up when I got home. Now I create as much as I have time for during the short breaks when I don’t leave the Enlgish Room, take it home on my flash drive and continue from there! Much more efficient!

9) Since my class is a learning center, the computer functions as a work station for one or two students, thus enabling me to have more work stations. This is very important for classroom management.

10) Class image: the students think our class is more modern becasue we have a computer. However, they complain bitterly that they can’t check Facebook on it. I’m thrilled. When we go to the computer room I have to disconnect everything (well, sometimes) in order to exercise MY RIGHT to go to the teacher’s room when the bell rings – they want to spend the break on Facebook!