Category Archives: The Visual Corner

Goal 30: Sneaking General Knowledge in Through the Back Door!

This is the last of the 30 goals challenge! It has become such a part of my life that I will miss it!

Although writing about a project was suggested (and turning my classroom into a learning center is certainly an ongoing long term project which I initiated), Sandy Millin’s post relating to stamps inspired me to take this post in another direction completely.

When our boys were young both my husband and I encouraged them to collect stamps. Stamps were not themselves the end but rather a great trigger for igniting curiosity about the world we live in. As the stamp collection grew so did their familiarity with the Atlas which in turn led to accumulating information about these places and the people who live there. Long after they stopped collecting stamps they remain very curious about the world.

Many of my own students have an extremely limited view of the world. Some students, due to the unfortunate combination of having a hearing problem and a problematic family background have a dismal lack of general knowledge. The passion I have been trying to pass on to them is this curiosity about the world we live in. I don’t know if some of the students will remember any of the English I taught but perhaps they will remember that in other parts of the world it rains in Summer!

I haven’t tried using stamps with them (I don’t know if I could have interested my own boys in stamps today – we rarely get any letters with real stamps on them anymore!) though after Sandy’s post I just might give it a shot! But here are some ways I try to sneak general knowledge in through the back door:

* When I teach comparatives and superlatives, I write sentences such as “The longest wall in the world is in China”. Then I add,  “It can be seen from space”. The year after the tragedy of the Columbia (the mission included an astronaut from Israel), this lead to a question from one of the 10th grade boys: “How do we know it can be seen from space?” I explained that astronauts had told us about it (I know, there are sattelites too, but didn’t mention that then).  The boy then exclaimed “But all the astronauts blew up so they couldn’t have told people about what they saw!” I then shocked him completely by my insistence that there had been other astronauts before the tragedy. “But Ilan Ramon was the first astronaut in the world” he protested!

* I’m blessed by having a brother in law who is a photographer. Until fairly recently, when he moved completely to digital photography, he would give me large quantities of photos that he printed that weren’t good enough. Besides using them to cover old binders and surfaces, livening up the worn things, there are educational purposes I use them for, which I’ll leave for another post.

While rummaging through the pictures the students sometimes ask questions.  One pile of pictures happened to be from China. After seeing some pictures of huge parking lots filled with bicycles and pictures of street life, a pupil (17 years old!!!) asked me: ” There seem to be a lot of people in China. Are there more than in Israel?” We have a map of the world in the classroom and can see where the photos were taken. I particularly love it when a pupil looks at a photo and sighs, “Oh, I wish I could go there” and I reply, “you can! This one was taken right here in our beautiful country!

* I have a photography book presenting Israel from a bird’s eye view. The students have a page with sentences describing some minor element on pages of the book and they have to flip through it and write the corresponding page number. This leads to all sorts of questions. The sentence “On this page you can see animals that came from Africa” was very difficult for some students. The picture was of zebras at the Safari Wild Animal Park in Ramat Gan. They knew what zebras were and most had even visited the park. They didn’t know that they weren’t natives of the city of Ramat Gan!

I’m a long way from where I want to be – those of you who have read previous posts know that I’m often frustrated by some of the students lack of curiosity and interest in the world. But teaching English as a foreign language lends itself so well to learning about the world that I will continue to try to ignite sparks of interest! That’s my passion!

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
 experience!

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...

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!

Larry Ferlazzo’s lists are a gold mine for eye-catching images. There are so many possibilities here! Just look at this as an example:

http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2009/07/07/the-best-images-of-weird-cool-neat-looking-buildings-ways-to-design-your-own/

Here’s one I chose for starters (some of my pupils are studying architectural – draftmanship). They liked it! Once again, there are two versions, the “red” one is easier and uses Hebrew.

The Basket Building – blue The Basket Building – red

Texting While Driving – another ” reading pictures” exercise

Texting While Driving

My deaf students are extremely efficient texters (what an amazing invention the cell phone is for them!). Yet I know some of my students text while driving!  “I can text without looking”  they say! True, but what about the reply?

When I saw this ad I knew I had to use it!

Here are two versions I prepared, the “red” one is a bit easier and uses some Hebrew.

Drive safely!

SMS driving red SMS driving

“Reading” Pictures

"Gifted"

As I mentioned in my previous post, I find pictures to be a useful tool for improving reading comprehension skills at all ages – you just need to use appropriate pictures.

One of the most important skills that  pupils must acquire is answering questions with answers that are relevant to the type of question asked. In order to have the pupils actually focus on understanding the questions we must separate the questions from the texts which are difficult for them. There are a number of ways to do this. Using pictures is one of my favorites.

One of things I do with high-school students is ask “Bagrut Type” (matriculation exam format) questions about an interesting picture. For example, take the question “Where could you find such a picture?” Many pupils tend to respond in a concrete manner; “I can’t find such a picture”.  Yet they must relate to the fact that if its an ad, it would probably be found in a magazine or newspaper, etc.

Pictures are also useful for practicing questions using common tricky phrases such as “the woman looks pleased”. Pupils tend to think that the word “look” only has one meaning and confuse “pleased” with “please”.

Here is one example I use. In future posts I will add more. I’m afraid I do not know who drew this picture (I found it ,slightly torn,amng postcards left to me by another teacher) and will gladly give full credit if anyone does know!

Gifted

Why am I “visualising ideas”?

Photo by Gil Epstein
Photo by Gil Epstein

As a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students I’m constantly “visualising ideas”. By “visualising” I mean a multitude of things.

For starters, there’s Sign Language, an absolutely visual mode. When something is large, when you sign you show just how big it is. And its not just your hands involved, its your facial expressions too.

But that’s just one aspect of it. About half my students don’t use sign language (many have cochlear implants). Yet just talking about something (whether using speech, sign language or both) is not enough for these pupils to really and truly understand ideas and concepts I’m trying to teach. Everything is always supported by the written word. In addition I use pictures, graphs or just plain line drawings. And to make those truly “visual” in the students’ minds I need a lot of examples (as closely related to the pupils’ lives as I can). In fact, I even have reading comprehension exercises based on pictures (more about that in another post)!

This need to visualize everything has become such a part of me (I’ve been teaching for more than 25 years!) that even when lecturing to hearing people I use pictures. I must admit the feedback has been very positive! As you see, I’ve even added a picture here!

.!