Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

Goal 18: Sharing a Story about Take2 of the DISAPPEARING TEXT!

This goal of the 30 goals project is ” a piece of cake”! Participating in this whole challenge has been about sharing my story! Since I’ve begun the words seem to come pouring out!

So, today’s story is about my second attempt at adapting Jason Renshaw’s disappearing text strategy. I’m really excited about this. Tried it twice today!

Lesson one went very well. There were only 3 students (3 were absent!), two VERY weak 12th graders (20 year old girls) and one bright, 10th grade boy. Once again we created a text on the board about the holiday of Purim. The weak girls suggested the content (in Hebrew) and the bright 10th grader supplied a lot of the vocabulary and sentence structure in English. Again, 6 sentences.

Then we started erasing words. At first one by one they came to the board to complete the words. But then just the girls took turns at completing missing words and they turned to the boy who fingerspelled the spelling of the words for them. Suddenly these girls were paying attention to those pesky “is” “are” which don’t exisit in Hebrew. These are girls who don’t remember the meaning of simple words such as “walk”. But here, because they helped create the text, at least during the lesson, they remembered the meanings of the individual words and focused on whole sentences and structure! Wow!

Two hours later I became ambitious and tried the strategy again with a rambunctious group of seven  10th and 11th graders (with 2 other pupils doing other things in the back). These kids use four different coursebooks, big differences in level. It was noisy but they liked creating the text. They were surprised enough by the idea of me erasing words to be fairly quiet when I had them come one by one to complete two missing words each.

But then I had a bit of a problem. When I ereased words the second time, the pupils who weren’t writing gradually stopped following. There were seven of them and the process went too slowly. Ideally we should have split into groups for the second “word filling” time, but how was I supposed to do that? It’s a tricky issue to divide them into two equal groups (fair share of different abilities) and, since they just invented the text, I didn’t have the text to hand out to each group! They wouldn’t copy the text off the board – that most certainly doesn’t work with these pupils.

Any sugesstions?

I’m really pleased about the addition of this new strategy to my “toolbox”!

NOTE: This counts as completion of goal 16. Teaching frontally in such a manner is definetly a change in my learning center!

Goal 17: Help Them Shine

I see this goal of the 30 goal challenge as something different from what came up before regarding the need to look for some kind of academic success as a basis for future learning. This one is about making sure students know that their classmate is good at something, even if its hardly related to their English studies.

With some students I’m proud to report that my strategies work. Once again, I bless the YALP vocabulary program we’re using. When students tutor each other with the vocabulary flashcards, the “tutor” doesn’t need to know the vocabulary, the answers are on the other side of the cards! What matters to the students is who is the patient, encouraging pupil acting as a tutor. Some of the weakest pupils are good tutors (repeating for emphasis “some“. Nothing ever works for everyone in my class!)

Then there are the kids that are our “resident computer experts”. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re just wrapping up a literature project. The pupils needed WORD and powerpoint. Some pupils needed help with these programs. We have a computer in class (no Internet) so our “experts” were very helpful. This computer has WORD7 which is fairly new to me so they helped me sometimes too!

In addition, I think the fact that all levels and grades are mixed places slightly less of a spotlight on the students still working on 5th grade material in 11 grade. There are so many different books (different colors of the covers) being used that an easy book doesn’t stand out quite as much.

However, there are definetly situations when the weak students are acutely aware of where they are compared to the others (I have a 10th grader still on her ABC’s) and they don’t feel happy…

Comment on ” Going, going, gone (in)”

Jason Renshaw describes a lesson here based on the “disappearing dialogue” technique, which he used with a text created by the students with his guidance. I also read Anna’s  very helpful description of her adaptation of it here.

Had my first shot today at adapting this with 4 of my fairly strong Hard of Hearing 10th graders. I knew there would be problems but I also know that I need to try something out in order to understand how it ticks and what I need to adapt.
Instead of Christmas we created a passage about the upcoming Purim holiday. It  started off well. These are kids who have a better vocabulary and do speak a bit. However, they don’t understand each other in English and I had to write every single thing they said down. Which is fine for the first part, as we were creating a short reading passage. The difference between the vocabulary item “party ” and “celebrate” came up and that was good. They also confuse between “Present” as in “gift” and “present” as in “present simple”, which they practice (I said they were pretty strong!)

We wrote it using Passive as we’re working on that now.

After we read the finalized short text (6 short sentences). I erased all the verbs + aux verbs (6).  Then I made the mistake of having them copy the text and fill in the missing words. WRONG. I should have offered each one the board-marker and have them choose a missing word to fill in on the board. Then I could have erased more words and repeated the process. This way I was stuck. There was no way that I could give them new paper and have them copy it out again with more words missing – they DO NOT LIKE COPYING OFF THE BOARD.

By reflecting on this blog I find that I actually defined what I could have done differently and see how it could work even with the need to write everything down.  Especially if I let the pupils come to the board (some want to stay there!).

Since it’s a learning center, I had other kids in the background doing other stuff (two were taking a test and two were with a teacher’s aid). I’m eager to try the strategy again with Deaf students who don’t speak English orally (we use Hebrew and ISL in class).  But I’ll wait until I have assistance in the lesson again. I ususally don’t spend more than  a few minutes at a time by the board explaining something. This activity requires a frontal lesson and I can rarely include everyone in anything at the same time.

So, this post is a “to be continued one” too!

Goal 15 – “This Bridge Will Only Take You Halfway There”

Goal 15 of the 30goals challenge is “Be A Guide”!

This brought to mind a most relevant poem by Shel Silverstein:

The Bridge
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.

We can only be our students’ guides, we can’t do it for them.

Goal 14 – Rose Gardens have Thorns

I read this challenge relating to classroom culture before going to school this morning and thought it about during the day. There were examples today of what is good about our clasroom culture and the necessary evils that come with it.

Since the classroom is designed as a learning center, there is a relaxed atmposphere. Kids do get up and move around, a certain amount of talking is acceptable because students can help each other or work together. It is actually easier with the students who are deaf as they aren’t bothered by the converstions going on in different corners. Some hard of hearing students talk very loudly (because then they hear themselves) and that sometimes bothers the hard of hearing students.The classroom is also much more decorated than your average high-school classroom (at least here!). I’ll post pics soon!

Overall I know the students like the atmosphere because they often want to” hang out” in the English room when they don’t have a lesson (I only let them do that when there aren’t many pupils or when they’ve come to volunteer). It’s often a pleasure to see them working together!

However, roses have thorns. Pupils talk to each other , they don’t sit facing the teacher, communicating through her.  Sometimes, like today, kids start arguing following a remark made by a student. Another pupil’s schedule was changed and he came at a different hour. We don’t “save seats” and he couldn’t  sit where he used to sit in previous lessons. He got very upset – in other lessons he gets the same seat! About twice a year actual physical fighting breaks out between boys with behavorial issues. SIGH…

Some teachers see me as soft on discipline beause of this. But in their lessons students are supposed to sit facing the teacher and all interaction is controlled!

I feel that the advantages of this system are greater and I’m sticking with it. But there are problems…

Goal 13 – Help them Reflect on Their Errors & My PLN

Errors, dealing with failure, is diffiuclt for anoyne, let alone the special ed students! Such an important, huge, complex and difficult issue with my pupils !

It took me a while to figure out how to relate to this goal without turning it into a term paper!

So I just want to share the beauty of this new PLN I have been building since I started blogging and joined Twitter. With the extreme variation in my classroom, I need a variety of ideas and strategies to use (NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, works for everyone). I need to discuss it, a lot, without boring people silly.

Already I have had a “spark igniting” conversation on this topic with Tyson Seburn following his post on the topic. I feel greatly encouraged that I will have fascinating people to hash out these issues with!

Parents / High-School / Special Ed. – Goal 12

People have been posting amazing things about Goal number 12 of the 30 Goals Challenge. This one is a lovely example and DON’T MISS Shelly’s presentation on the 30goals site!

But here I am again saying “Except…”

Parents with a special-needs child tend to be EXTREMELY involved in their children’s lives. Particulary those who have sent their children with a hearing-loss to a regular school.

They come to the program at my school when they are 16 and often stay till 21. Many are DYING for independance!


need to be taught that THEY are responsible for their behavior and education, not their parents. THEY have to take charge of their lives!

There are a few parents of tenth graders whom I talk to from time to time (I’m not a homeroom teacher). I rarely talk to parents of pupils beyond 10th grade. Many turn 18 in 11th grade!

B.T.W -My youngest is in 11th grade and as a parent I’m sick of “parent involvement” activities in the afternoon! So right – “involvement” is not “engagement” and I don’t need these school events in orer to do something with my son!

Goal 11 – The easiest goal so far!

Goal 11 of the 30 Goals Challenge is about giving the students choice.

By Gil Epshtein

Our classroom is in the format of a learning center!   Students choose where to sit, whether to work on grammar,  reading or the vocabulary project. Dates of tests are negotiated together and much more!

A book recommendation here:  Jonathan C Erwin’s “The Classroom of Choice, giving students what they need and getting what you want”.

Goal 10 – Beware of the “Michelle Pfeiffer Effect”


Goal 10 of these 30 goals deals with BELIEVING.

Since I teach Special Ed., starting new pupils off with challenges I know they are able to succeed at is a given. Success leads to self confidence and motivation which leads to success.

But these 30 goals are called challenges and the true challenge is that belief alone is not enough. You have to beware of what I call the “Michelle Pfeiffer Effect”. I phrase it that way based on many readings of  Dr. Robyn R. Jackson’s fantastic book “Never Work Harder Than Your Students” .

Michelle Pfeiffer in the film “Dangerous Minds” is  wonderful and inspiring. She walks into a very difficult high-school classroom and just believes in the students. After a few hard times , they all become amazing students.

Classroom reality is not like that (and not only because many of us don’t look like she does!). You can believe in the students and make them believe in themselves. But if you don’t figure out what the skills needed to bridge the huge abyss of knowledge they didn’t acquire till now are (when they weren’t such awesome students) they still won’t be able to reach their graduation goal. Belief must be combined with a good look at the reality and identification of the bare necessities they will need in order to deal with the level they are supposed to attain. Pupils who have missed years of REAL learning have huge gaps!

Dr. Jackson mentions  math skills as an example – if you can’t add or subtract you won’t pass calculus. My examples are from languages, I have to teach 10th graders wh questions even though they should have learned this a long time ago. I really recommend reading Chapter 3 of Dr. Jackson’s book – she explains it so clearly!

In short – belief is CRUCIAL but it can’t stand ALONE!

Goal 9: Global Connections

At first I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do goal no. 9.

I once participated in a lovely project called Friends and Flags where we connected with students from Finland and the US. We sent them real packages about our country. It was great but not suitable for my classes. It was A LOT OF WORK for me, I had a great connection with the teacher from Finland but the kids less so. And the physical packages arrived (as the program dictated) at a time of year when we were in exam mode for the final national matriculation exams.

Anyway, I created some poll questions on our class site. If we can get some students from abroad to take them, we can compare notes! Actually, we’ll see how many of MY pupils take the polls. I reserved the computer room for this Sunday so I dould have lots of kids take it. However, polls are blocked at school!

But this is about as big a global connection I can handle right now!