All posts by Naomi Epstein

Hi! I teach English as a foreign language to deaf and hard of hearing students in Israel and am a national counselor in this field. http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org

Fun for Children who are Seriously Sick – A Guest Video Post

The tired puppet – courtesy of puppeteer Ruth Levi
(Naomi’s Photos)

Veteran teacher Marlene Saban has kindly sent me a video lesson to share on the blog. She teaches both junior-high & high- school. A reading passage about a special camp (run by special people!)  devoted to bringing some joy to the lives of children grappling with illness, inspired Marlene to add a video as a lead-in exercise (in the case, a short advertisement) and another one directly related to the topic of the reading passage. Since no hearing is needed to understand the advertisement and the other video is meant to be shown without sound, (the students must read the captions in English!), Marlene’s video lesson certainly can be used with deaf and hard of hearing students too!

Marlene used this lesson with a strong class of students in the seventh grade ( 13 year olds).

Here is the lead-in advertisement:

Here is the main video:


Here is a downloadable document with Marlene’s lesson plan and worksheet.

Enjoy!

Fun for Sick Kids- by Marlene

Giving “Pride” a Concrete Expression

It started out small.
(The names of the students have been blurred).

There we were again. Once again my 10th grade student, whom we’ll call Dan, was throwing a tantrum in class over his test grade.

He got an 87.

Which is a very nice grade for a fairly high level exam. But it wasn’t a  grade of 100 or at least one that is over 90 , which is marked with a different color in our computer grading system.

The tantrum was somewhat milder than the previous incident when he threw the test into the trashcan, stormed out of the classroom and shouted some more, so as to attract the attention of more teachers.

Dan has a particularly loud voice even when he is not shouting. Not only does he come from one of those families in which the volume of  daily communication is turned up high, he is one of those hard of hearing people who hear themselves well when they speak very loudly. In addition, his tone is often very aggressive. This attitude has served him well in life and compensates a bit for his learning disability – it seems that people are willing to do a lot just to get him to quiet down. It is quite difficult to have meaningful conversations with Dan as he is always ready to go into “confrontation mode”.

I tried to tell him  before he got the test back that I was really proud of him. I knew he had actually studied for the test and had done all the practice work. I was there when the class took the test and I saw that he really had made every effort.

I told Dan that I was proud of him and that I wanted to post about his achievement on our “I’m proud of YOU!” board.

But the number of the notes on the board is growing…

Dan refused. He was gearing up for his tantrum. It’s purpose was to get me to add 3 points to his grade.

I didn’t. He tried to get my lovely co-teacher to do it but she wouldn’t do it either.

Two days later I had the opportunity to talk to him outside of class. I told him how disappointed I felt that he wouldn’t let me celebrate his achievement by posting on the board (I don’t post about students without their permission.). Dan replied that only when he gets a perfect grade of 100 he will grant me permission.

That’s when I had a moment of inspiration and said:

… and growing!

“I wouldn’t want to post about you if you had gotten a grade of 100.  No way. That would have meant the test was really easy for you. I want to post about how much effort you put into studying for this test (which was not easy) and then did really well. I don’t post about kids for getting perfect scores”.

He actually listened to me. Not something to sneeze at.

Then Dan smiled, started walking away and shouted back:

“Then you should post about me on the board!”

Saturday’s Book: “Waiting for Snow in Havana” by Carlos Eire

Unlocking secrets of the past (Naomi’s Photos)

I don’t usually write about books before I have finished them, but this one has blown me away from the very beginning. The only reason I haven’t finished it is that the need to finish a book is not yet a legitimate reason to stay home from work and forget about feeding the family…

It’s another one of these books that I happened on by chance at the library. Thank goodness for libraries – if I only read books I hear people talking about (or read reviews of ) I would be missing out on a lot.

Eire’s style in describing his childhood in Havana during the end of the Batista era (son of a judge) and the beginning of Castro’s takeover is spellbinding and unique. It is so vivid yet not sugar-coated; it’s not as if everything was the paradise Eire’s teachers tried to claim it was until “out of the blue” bad things happened. His method of describing childhood memories in Havana  and then throwing in comments, snippets highlighting the future trauma when his life changed completely, delivers quite a punch.

Eire was airlifted out of Cuba when he was eleven years old with his brother. He was allowed to take absolutely nothing but a change of clothes, not even photos of his family or a familiar object. Then he began a life of an orphaned refugee.

Not only do I think this is a fascinating book to read at any time, I find it particularly relevant nowadays – Cuba’s new relations with the U.S.A and what it feels like to be  a refugee. I’m not so interested in his comments related to wrestling with tenets of the Catholic faith, but the book does tie into my current ROOTS research – my own grandmother lived in Havana for a few years in the fifties.

“Reading Videos” Strategy Sails Across the Waters

Reaching out across the waters!
(Naomi’s Photos)

I’ve been invited to speak at an international conference!

IV-th International Congress on Social Inclusion Implementations-versions and controversies,  April 6-7 2017., at the Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, Poland

I know I’m not being very modest about it but there is a great deal to be excited about:

  • It’s a conference about “Inclusion and Special Education”, and there will be a specific section on TEACHING ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE TO DEAF STUDENTS! A golden opportunity for me to finally meet teachers from other countries who actually face the same challenges I do every day!
  • I’ve been invited to the conference and will be giving a plenary talk and a regular session. My heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Beata Gulati, a wonderful teacher and an organizer, for her dedication to connecting the teachers who teach EFL to Deaf students and making this happen.

    My personal invitation!
  • The conference is on vacation time – I do NOT have to ask for anyone’s permission to attend the conference and miss school. As you can see, I’ve not gotten over the traumatic experience of doing that in order to speak at IATEFL Liverpool a few years ago…

I will be speaking about the use of videos  to promote reading comprehension skills and am also writing a paper on this topic for the post conference publication. This is where I need your help:

A question mark in the sand?! (Naomi’s Photos)

Judging by the large number of times my video lessons* (which I call “Reading Videos” ) have been downloaded, it seems that teachers who don’t teach Deaf students also find them useful. Strategies that are good for students with special needs and everyone else as well are particularly beneficial in settings of inclusion. It would be extremely helpful if you could take a moment and answer a very short survey regarding your use of these video lessons.

  • Reminder: You can find the video lessons by clicking on the title of the category on the left sidebar of the Home Page. Here’s the direct link to the category:
    http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/category/video-lessons/

Thank you!

 

From “100 Days of Rejection” to an “I’m Proud of YOU” Board

Wow, isn’t he something?
Naomi’s Photos

For some of my students, it is simply not enough for me to smile and say “Wow, that’s really clever of you, well done!” when they show me a video they made for a friend’s birthday. They need other students to know the teacher knows. More importantly, they need all the other students to see that I respect some things the student does even though everyone knows that in class he’s busy trying to pull girls’ pony tails, hide someone’s cell phone or off looking for his own lost school supplies.

Frankly, I myself need reminding too – we’re talking about 11th grade, did I mention that?!!

Then there are the good students, even the excellent students, who really need to hear  (or see, in my class of Deaf and hard of hearing students) a good word said about them that isn’t related to academic achievements. Some are so quiet that even their academic achievements aren’t well-known.

Word is spreading…
Naomi’s Photos

Duh, you may say (especially if you teach teens). EVERYONE, including we teachers, want to be noticed.

So why am I equally excited and worried about the new I’m Proud of YOU!” board now hanging in our English Room? My plan is to hang up notes, scattered around the board (wall wisher style) mentioning things students did as they happen, taking off old notes when it gets too crowded.

What could go wrong?

For starters – I really recommend watching the TED Talk below. I’m sure the teacher mentioned in the beginning of it had the best of intentions, but her intentions were not what mattered to the poor student. And my students need the board in order to add a tiny extra layer of protection to all the rejection many of them encounter in life.

The names of the students have been blurred.

At least, that’s what I hope.

I don’t want anyone to feel insulted.

I don’t want anyone to be made fun of.

I don’t want anyone to feel forgotten but it would be defeating the purpose if I hung up notes about all of my students on the same day. Everyone would lose interest in the board if it didn’t change. I plan to keep track of the names that go up.

Back to the TED Talk. My take away from it was that I should try.  I won’t be able to improve and make corrections if I don’t start! And I teach these students for three years, so I have time to make amends if needed.

The new board has been up for a few days but I’ve been out sick, so no students have seen it yet. I remain hopeful and concerned.

Updates will follow…

Saturday’s Book: “Three Bags Full” by Swann

Naomi’s Photos

This book goes into the “not for me” pile.

The novelty of the idea of having sheep as detectives who solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd wore off after three chapters.

I DID chuckle when reading the first chapter at the author’s choice of names for the sheep – she was clearly riffing on famous detective characters or other well-known literary figures.

But then the book simply bored me completely.

I didn’t even bother to skip to the end for closure.

I couldn’t care less who murdered the shepherd.

When a Family is Eaten by a Giant Pizza

All tangled up…
Naomi’s photos

Recently, as I was about to begin teaching a pleasantly small group of students, 10 of my deaf and hard of hearing 10th graders walked in and sat down. “The program director said we have to study with you, now” they announced. Obviously another lesson had been cancelled…

So there they were. And I needed something I could do with them and the students who were already in the class. NOW.

Since the 10th graders had a section on the passive form on their upcoming exam, I thought a quick review might be something that would work for everyone, at least for starters.

So I wrote the title “Logical or Ridiculous” and the following sentences on the board, inventing as I wrote (sentence 5 is a flop, I must admit):

The actual board

The students were asked to say which sentences were logical and which were ridiculous and why.

The first sentence was: A family was eaten by a giant pizza. It caused a surprising amount of confusion which really set me thinking. A significant number of the students read it as if the sentence said ” the family ate a giant pizza”, which is a perfectly logical thing to do in their opinion (some students complained that I was making them hungry!). They simply changed the word order in their heads! You might think that they simply don’t know the passive form but in other ways the same students exhibited a good understanding of it. I was surprised and tried to get students to explain their thought process. I even added the red markings to emphasize the passive form.

But what came up was that a few students were actually trying to follow something else I tell them day in and day out in the classroom – you must be flexible with the word order when reading a sentence, so that it will make sense.

In Hebrew adjectives come after the noun, not before it. In Israeli Sign Language word order is a totally different ball game. I constantly remind the students to read the whole sentence and then change what is needed in their heads so it will make sense.

Different Angles (Naomi’s Photos)

Being flexible with word order is an important skill for these students otherwise they can’t make sense of a great deal of what they read in a text. Remember, most of these specific students don’t speak in English, they just read and write. But it is a serious disadvantage when encountering a sentence like this, particularly in the passive form, when they end up distorting the meaning completely.

Of course they also do other things, such as what they did with the sentence: This classroom will be erased by the teacher next week. Almost all the students read it as “The whiteboard will be erased by the teacher”… But that’s another issue.

I have to think about my flexible-word-order message.  How to address issues without over complicating it.

 

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” by Zevin

Naomi’s Photos

I loved it.

Completely.

The bare bones of the plot line could have easily gone in so many directions that I find boring, corny and unbelievable.  A lonely bookseller, tales of love lost & love found (several characters), the magic of children…

I’m the cold-hearted reader who jumped ship (never to return) shortly after the bookseller in “The Little Paris Bookshop” unmoored his book-boat-shop, remember?

But THIS book, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, is so well written. To paraphrase something said in the book itself – the right words in the right places, and not too many of them. The author trusts the reader to understand.

And so many books are mentioned, discussed and brought up in a context that makes want to read those I haven’t read yet!

Ah, there’s a wonderful world of books waiting to be read out there!

Belated Saturday’s Book “A Man Called Ove” by Backman

Naomi’s Photos

I actually read Backman’s second book first, so I immediately reached for this one when I found it at the library. I did so because I knew I would enjoy it.

And I did.

There are things one could quibble about. Way too many similes. Certain things that call for “a suspense of belief”. And honestly, truly, there are some awesome social workers out there, who do good work and help people ( the profession sort of needs defending after you read the book).

But those are really minor things. It’s a great story with characters you get involved with and feel truly moved.

Read the book and feel good.

I did.

 

Utilizing the Gift of Texting

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

ICYMI , EDO, IDC – Do you know what these abbreviations stand for? Do you care whether you know them or not?

I’m not interested in texting / Internet abrreviations for their own merit. I have no plan to have students memorise them. I’m interested in them  as a tool to expose my deaf and hard of hearing teenage students to some of the commonly used phrases they represent. Teenagers like abbreviations. In addition, I have a few hard of hearing students whose distorted hearing causes them to adopt very odd versions of what they think they heard on television… They are interested in such phrases.

For this acitivity students must first begin with the worksheet. On the worksheet they are asked to match abbreviations to their meanings. Then the students are asked to watch the lovely (absolutely lovely!!!) short video “The Present”. As they watch they are required to rewrite the text without abbreviations.

Enjoy!

Here is the worksheet: utilizing-the-gift-of-texting

Here is the video-lesson section: