The “Magic E” Telephone – A Spin-off

Sunbirds certainly “talk” a lot! Naomi’s photos

When I read Teresa Bestwick’s short post titled “Minimal Pairs Telephone” I immediately knew that a variation of this would be a hit in my classroom.

The fact that it is such a  simple activity to prepare and that the activity is so easy for the students to understand makes it even more appealing.

In addition, it’s fun! Especially with the twist I added.

Teresa used minimal pairs. That’s out of the question when working with students who don’t hear well. The difference between words such as “fit” and “feet” is very hard to hear and to see on the lips.  So I decided to practice the “Magic E”. The words with the magic E have longer sounds and are easier for the students to hear and see. And there is a nice rule one can use.

Since I teach in the format of a learning center, I could not do this activity on the board with the whole class, the way Teresa did it. I needed this activity to be up on the wall to be done individually or in small groups during the week. So I used 10 index cards, and attached them to an existing activity board (little pockets for flashcards).

Magic E Telephone

 

Above each word there is a number, zero to nine.

First I asked each student what  the difference is  between the words that look mostly similar (hat /hate). They all noticed the letter “e ” at the end. I explained about the Magic E and its effect on pronunciation and said the words out loud. Then I informed them that I was going to say my phone number, but in words!

You may be surprised, but it isn’t so simple to think of a number and then say a word. I found myself wanting to point to each word and it goes slower than rattling off numbers. Try it!

Close up of Magic E Telephone

Then it was the student’s turn.  To make it more amusing, I asked the students to fold their arms and not point at all and just read off the words of their phone number. I pointed to each word I understood and they had to nod if I had understood them correctly. If they didn’t pronounce the word correctly they had to repeat my example.

The students loved it! I love it! It was great fun for them trying to meet the challenge of not pointing and not getting confused and they all tried hard to say the words correctly. I’ll see how many repetitions we can manage of this activity before moving on to the next one.

Two anecdotes:

One student got a new phone with a different phone number just before school. He could not recall his new phone number. I told him to use his old phone number. The student came back to me later in the day and said he found his new number and asked to repeat the activity!

This year I only have three students who are profoundly Deaf from Deaf families and don’t usually use their voice very much. I had planned in advance that any student who wanted could opt out of a speaking activity and learn to sign the vocabulary items in ASL (American Sign Language) instead. They wanted to speak the words too and did create a difference between how they said the words! No one else would understand their speech, that’s for sure, but even for Deaf students speaking helps retention.

Lost in a Book: “Speak Swahili, Dammit!” by Penhaligon

Full title: Speak Swahili, Dammit – a Tragic, Funny, African Childhood.

Naomi’s Photos

I discovered this book completely by chance and really enjoyed it. My son was explaining to me that Amazon actually has free Kindle books and was demonstrating how one finds them, when we stumbled upon this one. I had never heard of it, but at the price of $O.O , with such an intriguing title,  it was an easy decision to give it a chance.

James Penhaligon grew up in a truly remote, tiny cluster of homes near a mine by Lake Victoria. A child of British parents who picked up Swahili before English, he tells the story of an unusual childhood. He earned the right to use that subtitle, the tale is fascinating, funny and tragic. But it is more than just the story of his childhood, Penhaligon also tells the story of the region in East Africa, what was once called Tanganika, the battles fought there, how it changed hands and the very diverse people who ended up living there.

My only complaint is that the book is too long. Slightly less detailing of every escapade would have been better. Young James had many an escapade indeed!

I was so absorbed in the story, now that I’ve finished reading the book I feel I’m going to miss the characters! On the last page it says another book will soon be out , describing what happens next. However, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been published. I’m very curious regarding what happened when the mine closed and all the residents had to leave.

Back to Amazon, I discovered two things after finding this gem of a book:

When you scroll through the options for free Kindle books, Amazon starts suggesting  sleazy looking romantic novels with suggestive covers , supposedly based on your viewing preferences.  There are a ton of such books in the free section. ANNOYING!

This book, at least today, is no longer free. I assume that if they see people are downloading it they start charging for it again.

 

A TEACHER’S “PERIODIC TABLE”: 3. Lines

Full Title  – Pondering the “Periodic Table of Teacher Elements”  that make up a teacher’s life.

There are all sorts of lines…
Naomi’s photos

The spark for this series of posts was ignited by reading the book “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi. That book is unique, fascinating and powerful. These posts do not even attempt to hold a candle to the book, which I highly recommend reading.

Nonetheless,  the idea of exploring elements that make up a teacher’s life took hold…

If my claim that “lines” are an absolutely basic element of every teacher’s life took you by surprise, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When you taught the alphabet, did you draw lines on the board yourself or did you have one of those boards that have a section with lines? Are you capable of writing on the board in a straight line? I can’t…
  • Which behaviors do you draw the line at in class? Do you allow chewing gum but draw the line at using the cellphone?
  • To what degree are you required by the administration to toe the line in class? How much leeway do you actually have to decide what you teach, when you teach it and to add your own “flavor”?
  • What are your lines of communication with your students / parents / the administration?
  • How is your classroom organized? In straight lines? Traditional columns and rows?
  • What are your strategies for drawing the line between your private life and work? How do you shut the door on something that worried you at home and give your students your full attention in class? Or vice-a-versa?
  • Lines can become blurry, sometimes…
    Naomi’s Photos
  • How do you navigate that fine line between using humor in the classroom and ensuring that not a single student leaves the lesson feeling insulted?
  • Do you feel a student is out of line when he /she asks you whether or not you fasted during the holiday or if you are pregnant?
  • Do you let students get away with lines such as “My dog ate my homework”?
  • How often have you tried desperately to fit  some important phone calls into a ten minute break between classes, only to be told to hold the line? Then they say they’ll call you back, but of course, you can’t answer the phone because you are teaching?!
  • How much time do you spend online for work purposes?
  • How often do you say (perhaps feeling exasperated) in class “Pay attention to the line numbers!!! “.

I’m sure you can think of other examples along these lines. In the school in which I teach, I am not required to line the students up for lunch or recess, but perhaps that is a daily element for you. In any case, you are welcome to drop me a line with your comments!

Note: I use an apron when I cook for my family. It has lines on it too…

Lost in a Book – “Solomon’s Song” by Toni Morrison

Moving from darkness into “go safely”…
Naomi’s photos

Toni Morrison had me hooked by the end of the first paragraph.

Hooked from beginning to end, when I finally figured out at least a few of the layers of meaning that the title refers to. No spoilers here!

I found myself comparing a few elements of  this book to “The Bluest Eye” which is still my favorite book by Morrison.  “Solomon’s Song” has an educated African-American family of means at the center of the story.  It isn’t as gut wrenching to read as “The Bluest Eye” with its tale of a child caught up in endless cycle of poverty, lack of education and woe.  A book that was nonetheless mesmerising – I couldn’t put it down.

In Solomon’s Song, through the tale of four generations, one encounters a rich tapestry of tales over the generations. We have racial tensions, gender issues, politics and ideology, history and much more. The language used is different too.

The whole issue of people’s names and their implications is fascinating too.  The main character is called Macon Dead. His aunt is called Pilate…

This is the kind of book I would be happy to study in a literature course and discuss with others. There is so much food for thought in it!