18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 12. Pronunciation

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

This is part twelve of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 64: “Contrast with mother-tongue sounds”

Actually, with my deaf and hard of hearing students, comparing to mother-tongue sounds is needed too.

Since many of my students with a hearing loss don’t speak clearly in their mother tongue (some don’t speak with their mouths at all, but that’s another story) it is helpful to compare to the sounds they can say well in their mother tongue. And then, as the author does say, choose to work on the sounds which will most impede comprehension by a listener.

 

It’s great fun (but not always particularly useful) to practice the word “the” with the funny sound in the beginning that calls for sticking your tongue out.

mispronouncing “International words”, as the author calls them (words that are the same in many languages, such as radio and telephone) can lead to reading issues. When I taught elementary school, I always had to deal with children who worked according to the “don’t confuse me with the facts” principle.  Since they were positive that hamburgers are called “a-bu-geh”, they refused to accept that “hamburger” had anything to do with the food.

Nonetheless, pronunciation seems to aid retention of vocabulary, even for some deaf students. Spending some time on it may help retain the vocabulary, even if the clarity of speech doesn’t approve…

 

 

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 11. Listening & Vocab.

Do they communicate? Naomi's photos
Do they communicate?
Naomi’s photos

This is part eleven of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 57: “Don’t always pre-teach vocabulary

Listening.

(Pretend you are listening, not reading).

Listen up, I have two major comments here and I will only say them once (no second chance to hear it with a different voice / accent!):

  1. Really? Pre-teaching vocabulary before students encounter a spoken or written text doesn’t help comprehension very much? So most of the benefits I do see when I decide to pre-teach vocabulary  before a reading comprehension task have to do with the fact that the vocabulary items provide information about the content? Would I get the same results if I just gave the students information about the content in mother tongue? Especially since many of my students are so woefully lacking in the “general-knowledge-department”. I wonder. The explanations given are very convincing yet it would be fascinating to read more research about this (one reference is given in the book). How does a veteran teacher not affiliated with any university get access to such articles?

2. No, it’s not a typing error. The word “listening” does appear in the title yet I am focusing on the reading comprehension aspect. I’m a teacher of the Deaf, what do I know about teaching listening?!

Nonetheless, I read the entire section devoted to listening. And it’s good that I did. This proves the point I try to make before every teachers’ conference – don’t walk out on a lecture you think isn’t relevant for you or a skip a chapter in a book like this book. You never know when the information might come in handy, or spark off a completely fresh chain of thoughts!

 

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 10. Personalize

Naomi's Photos
Personally speaking, seeing Sunbirds is good for my health. Naomi’s Photos

This is part ten of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip number 54: Personalize

I didn’t expect this particular tip to include anything new  for me as I have written personalized worksheets for individual students many times over the years. Sometimes it’s the only way to reach a student and get him / her involved and moving.

But I have never tried personalizing the grammar exercises in the students’ books! I love ideas that are fun and don’t require advance planning. Though me being me, I’ve already decided to tweak it…

The author suggests having students replace names in the grammar exercises with names of people they know or even names of students in class.

Since students in special Ed classes are particularly sensitive and I have to ensure no student insults another ( even completely unintentionally!) I think I’ll create a “name box”. I’ll ask students to write down names of their favorite celebrities from any field on  pieces of paper and place them in the box. It will be good for the students to check how the names are actually written as my students (with their hearing and speech difficulties) often distort names. Then, when working on grammar, they can draw from the box to see who the sentence they must work on relates to.

I’m going to try this. I’m sure I have a small empty box in class. If not, I’ll send out the message to everyone to keep a gift chocolate box for me ( minus the chocolate…)

Have you tried it?

 

 

 

 

 

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 9. Homework

Good things can be hard... Naomi's Photos
Good things can be hard…
Naomi’s Photos

This is part nine of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 47: Check homework has been done

Oh yes, yes and again yes.

Whether or not you should give homework, how much to give and in what format are issues I’ve explored a lot on this blog. I’m still conflicted over these issues, even though Alfie Kohn was kind enough to refute the advantages I found and explain why I shouldn’t be giving homework  at all (“Squaring Alfie Kohn’s Reply with my Reality”) .

But that’s not the point of this tip.

If you do give homework, the students have to know that you care if they have done it. Most students will not work if their work goes unnoticed.  Penny Ur emphasizes an important distinction between checking to see that the homework has been done and checking the actual quality of the work.

I’m not the one to reflect on the various strategies suggested in the book for managing the issue of checking homework in large classes. I don’t teach large classes.

When I give homework, I check it. All of it.

Do you?

P.S: Those classes of adults that I taught? With the 38 students? I didn’t know any better (and hadn’t read the book!) so I took their homework home and checked it. All of it.

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 8. Options

Together but different Naomi's Photos
Together but different
Naomi’s Photos

This is part eight of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 42: Give basic task plus options

This is a tip from the section on teaching heterogeneous classes. I decided to pick the one tip that doesn’t quite work for me. At least not in the way described in the book – give everyone a task that is considered doable for everyone , and then have extra options for those who find it easy and complete it quickly.

Let’s take my video lessons as an example. As anyone who uses my video lessons knows, I have all the students watch the exact same video, but I prepare several versions of worksheets / activities tailored to different levels. That works really well. The video is the part that students comment on (or notice when they are curious about what their peer is doing at the computer station) and it isn’t an issue that the related worksheets / questions are different. Which is important when working with a class of special needs students at wildly different levels.  Generally speaking, they tend to be very sensitive. The rule of thumb is not to make it easy for students to compare.

That being said, students usually like getting options. It gives them a satisfying feeling that the worksheet / activity is shorter if there is something to skip over. In such a set up, all students do the same amount of items, but they are not of equal complexity.

Why “usually“?

Choosing an option requires the student to read more…

What happens in your classroom?

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 7. Pair Work

Quite a pair! Naomi's Photos
Quite a pair!
Naomi’s Photos

This is part seven of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 34: “Use pair work a lot”

This tip is so validating!

I’ve always found pair work to be more effective, since in groups some students always seem to be taking the back seat. There are some that take over right away while others more or less wait for the dominant ones to come up with the right answers.

I found this to be particularly true in the courses I taught adults (normal hearing but struggling learners with a lot in common with the weakest of my deaf and hard of hearing students). Classes of 35-38 adults to be exact. Dividing them up into groups went quickly enough but I simply could not get them all to participate equally. Some were wasting time.

One student even complained that I wasn’t making him stop using Facebook!

Frankly, I ascribed the fact that students were much more focused on their tasks during pair work (as opposed to group work) to my background as a Special ED. teacher. I assumed it worked better because I had more practice with pair work. Groups can be very tricky in mixed level special Ed. classes.

It seems my background is not the only reason I prefer pair-work!

Do you prefer it too?

 

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Nowhere City” by Alison Lurie

 (Naomi's photos)
(Naomi’s photos)

 

I’m aware of the fact that I have lately become more critical when it comes to books, but this time my problem is a bit different.

I found the writing to be skillful and rich, the characters well-built and they develop as the story progresses. The first chapters were engaging and drew me in quickly.  In fact I would be willing to try reading another book by this author. The back cover mentions a Pulitzer Prize for one of the author’s other books.

However, after reading half the book I simply felt bored.

Perhaps it is because the story feels so dated ( it was published in 1965). The young couple who , in the 1950s, leaves New England to go to California. As far as their friends are concerned they have disappeared into oblivion. There they encounter people who are supposedly free of the constraints of the straight-laced life in New England, people with minimal clothing and different values & morals. Many seem to be living in messy homes with lots of pot but they are, supposedly, somehow, more real. Lurie uses terms like Beatniks and Starlets and seems trying to explain to a reader, who hasn’t yet met the sixties, a thing or two.

I just really couldn’t work up an interest in what happens to this couple any further and abandoned the book…

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 6. Grammar & Brevity

Avoid obstructions Naomi's Photos
Avoid obstructions
Naomi’s Photos

This is part six of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 26: “Keep {grammar} explanations short”

Can I have students read this tip about keeping grammatical explanations short and expanding as needed, when needed? Please?

This tip reminds me of what September is always like in my mixed grade learning center. Can you picture the following? I’m sure you can!

Naomi (to a really struggling learner in the 11th grade, T.): “Well done T.! You remembered to use the “ing” because it’s happening now!”

T.  flashes a big smile.

New 10th grader (sitting nearby): “MY teacher in my OLD school called it the Present Progressive, and said we could also use “ing” to express events in the future and for something I think was called Gerunds. Here T. I remember all the rules by heart, do you want me to write them up for you in your notebook”?

T.  Smile is gone. Body stiffens. Expression darkens. Stops working.

Naomi inner voice:  Oh no! How do I get you away from T.?! Now! 

Naomi out loud (to new 10th grader): Your old teacher would be so proud of you that you remembered that information. It’s really nice of you to want to explain it all but T. is doing brilliantly and why don’t we get back to what you were working on? You can use “ing” in your answers and show me how much you know”.

T.  Relaxes. Starts working again.

Can you picture it?

 

 

 

 

 

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 5. Learning-Rich Games

Looks can be misleading! Naomi's Photos
Looks can be misleading!
Naomi’s Photos

This is part five of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 22: “Check games are learning rich”

A teacher can never be reminded too often of this tip. It’s so very easy to be seduced by an attractive looking game that has English on it, only to discover that it should have come with a warning label: “Can be played without understanding a word of English”.

Students, especially those with a learning disability, are experts at playing games using cues that aren’t the practice target. If you want your students to actually practice identifying the prepositions, make sure that all the pictures that correspond to the preposition “on”, don’t have a dog in them while all the pictures corresponding to “in” have a cat in them. Picture cues or color coding are a dead giveaway.

If you use a board game with activity instructions printed on the board itself, (instead of on cards which can be shuffled) the game may become useless after the first round. The students are quick to remember “if you land here you go forward three, if you land there you go back two…) and then they stop reading the English on the board completely.

A tip to bear in mind each time one plans to use a game.

 

18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 4. Errors

Smiley Crane (Naomi's Photos)
Smiley Crane
(Naomi’s Photos)

This is part four of my blogging challenge
As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why.

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 17 : “Do Correct Mistakes”

Yes, yes and again yes.
Yes with struggling learners, students with special needs and adults who have had years of negative experiences with English.
Correct gently, be sensitive, mix with lots of encouragement and praise what is good, but do correct.
Why?
Here’s what I have found.
Correcting means attention.
Students crave attention, particularly those learners who are having a hard time.
Correcting means you listened to them or really read what they wrote.
Exercises with an auto correct function on the computer can be helpful, but in small dosages. The students want to know that I am paying attention to what they are doing, that I noticed they finally remembered to add “ed” after having to correct it so many times, etc.

Note: Corrections are most effective within a short time!

This is a tip close to my heart and day by day experiences in class! What are your feelings about error correction?

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