Jun 21 2014


From “Welcome to Holland” to “Amsterdam Int.”

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Saturday’s planned book post will be delayed, as I just had to write about this.

Watchful - you never know (Naomi's photos)

Watchful – you never know
(Naomi’s photos)

In the fascinating book I am listening to (audio-book) “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon, the author says there is a piece called “Welcome to Holland”. He claims that   just about every parent and educator of special needs children has encountered this piece, written by a mother of child with Down Syndrome (Emily Kingsley),  not only once but frequently. It attempts to explain in a simple way what it means to have a special needs child. The author includes it in the book.

I’ve been involved in special education for all of my adult life and I had never heard of this piece. But then, I don’t live in the United States.

I was intrigued by this way of presenting the situation of discovering your child has special needs, and went to look up the piece on the Internet. I wanted to read it again.

I stumbled upon an expansion of the piece, Amsterdam International also written by a mother of a child with special needs.  Dana Nieder says:

“While Welcome to Holland has a place, I used to hate it.  It skipped over all of the agony of having a child with special needs and went right to the happy ending.

The raw, painful, confusing entry into Holland was just glossed over.  And considering the fact that this little poem is so often passed along to new-moms-of-kids-with-special-needs, it seems unfair to just hand them a little story about getting new guidebooks and windmills and tulips.”

This is powerful stuff. I really recommend reading both pieces. It won’t take you long. I’m still thinking about them both.

 

2 responses so far

Jun 17 2014


Helping Learners Visualize Progress – A Comment

Lizzie Pinard’s latest post: Helping Language Learners Visualise their Linguistic Development: Growing Learning deals with a subject close to my heart. How can learners see, VISUALISE, their progress? Students entire attitude changes when they realize that what we are doing together, what they are doing on their own, makes a difference.

Seeing Progress (Naomi's photos)

Seeing Progress
(Naomi’s photos)

Still, it’s a tricky business. Some of my attempts have worked. Others have not. Here are some comments on the issues raised in the post based on my experiences so far.

Is the design of a flower handout too “sissy”?

The “rule of some” is worth remembering.  Some students will find it appealing others will not. It is always so. On the other hand, I would never advocate having the teacher spend time on creating lots of different versions.

I would recommend two versions (and only two!). One, the attractive flower. The other, a simple chart of columns. I have found that simple charts, where students see the numbers of bars rise, to be very effective. The fact that it’s plain and straightforward makes it seem ageless (particularly important for teenagers and adults who are at a low-level). Let the students choose which one they prefer!

What about the self disciplined learners who don’t  need it?

Odd one out (Naomi's Photos)

Odd one out
(Naomi’s Photos)

In order to get the class excited and used to the visual recording system I would insist that for the firs two weeks (depending on the frequency of lessons) everyone do it. I would ask to see their flowers /charts and make an issue of it. But afterwards the responsiblity must shift to the students. The ones who feel that the marking is just extra work on top of all the work they are doing should be given the option to opt out.

How about an app?

I agree that at an app would be excellent for this. Easier to color in, visually appealing AND students NEVER forget their cell phones. They will always have their charts with them!

 

 

No responses yet

Jun 14 2014


Saturday’s Book: The Tipping Point by Gladwell

Filed under Books I enjoy!

The book’s full name is:

The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference

It’s a very interesting book.

Not surprisingly the part that I was most interested in was the part about the TV programs Sesame Street and Blues Clues (was not familiar with the latter). What research went into discovering what was effective and was not! Every little detail was considered!

What I’d really like to read is someone’s take on how to use these principles in the classrooms. How to make  messages  such as to say you actually studied before an exam (and to do so!)  cool, how to make things we’re trying to get the students to remember “stick”.

Hmmm…

2 responses so far

Jun 10 2014


That Pesky Phrasal Verb “Take Place”

The trouble with the phrasal verb “take place” is that learning isn’t taking place.

Or rather, remembering.

Closed for business (Naomi's photos)

Closed for business
(Naomi’s photos)

To borrow a term from Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”, I can’t seem to make it “sticky”.

This phrasal verb appears frequently in high-school exams here and is on my list of absolutely common phrases the students should practice and remember.

While I am unable to say that all my students remember the other phrases on the list I have found that my efforts to make them more memorable have had an impact.

Not so with “take place”.

Is the source of the problem the fact that in Hebrew it translates into one word, not two? The phrasal verb “take partis remembered better (even though the common translation is into one word, there is an exact two-word translation). Even the phrase “in order to” which translates into three words in Hebrew only when you manipulate the word for “in” , gets better results.

Shadows won't do in this case! (Naomi's photos)

Shadows won’t do in this case!
(Naomi’s photos)

Perhaps the fact that pictures don’t help visualise this phrase the way they do with “how long”, “how many”, etc., compounds the problem.

Personalizing a phrase is usually a winning strategy. I gave the students exercises with questions such as:

* Where did our school sports day take place?

* When will the World Cup begin?

However, the students only looked at the WH questions and ignored the phrase “take place”.

Completely.

That cat that ignored me! (Naomi's photos)

That cat that ignored me!
(Naomi’s photos)

In fact, on texts the phrase usually appears in the past form “took place” (as in “the concert took place in London) , so there was no “carry over” from the question form, even if the questions were highly personalized and related to their birthdays and personal interests.

The biggest problem may simply be the fact that many students actually knew the word “place” from beforehand and therefore find it difficult to relate to it having another meaning when it comes with the word “take“. This, despite work done in class on common phrasal verbs. If you take the meaning of “take” + “place” it makes no sense.  That should be a red flag. However, a typical problem with struggling learners is that they don’t stop and think “that’s not logical, it can’t be right”.

This verbal phrase is incredibly useful. This issue must be tackled.

Any suggestions?

5 responses so far

Jun 07 2014


It’s Saturday! On Removing “Dialogues with Mothers” by B. Bettleheim from my Bookshelf

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Still life with bird

Still life with bird

About 15 years ago (judging by the ages of our sons) I picked up the book Dialogue with Mothers by Bruno Bettleheim from the “readers donate” corner at our library. He’s the author of the “Uses of Enchantment” which is a very interesting read, and the writing is lovely.

This one, from 1962, is very readable indeed. It is in written in a conversational style, letting the reader feel as if he/she had joined one of his parenting groups. The parents talk about difficulties in child rearing and he comments.

I read it back then, and never returned to reread it. Sometimes I felt I “should” but I didn’t want to. It outlived other books on my bookshelf simply because it never joined the category of books about which I say: “Really? You haven’t read this one? Here, take my copy!”

I am now listening to the audio version of the book “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Solomon (more on that in future posts). In the introduction to his book Solomon calls Bettleheim the most evil man in the world after Hitler. That is certainly taking it too far. But his claim that Bettleheim places the blame for the kind of person a child grows up to be completely on the parents’ shoulders, rings true.

I believe, without a doubt, that parents have a powerful influence on their children. But what makes them who they are and turn out to be is certainly not only due to that influence.

I re-donated the book back to the readers’ corner in the library.

2 responses so far

Jun 01 2014


Confused: Teaching Vocabulary “Horizontally” or “In Context”?

 

Out of context (but pretty!) I took this one!

Out of context (but pretty!)
I took this one!

Now that I have completed my first installment of an activity set related to the word list appearing in the updated curriculum, I feel confused by terminology.

I approached the preparation of  this first set of activities for tutors of children who struggle with vocabulary acquisition in class (with a hearing loss or not) with Leo Selivan’s post Horizontal Alternatives to Vertical Lists in mind.

My goal was to work on the vocabulary not according to semantic sets, (transportation, colors, food etc.), which is the vertical approach, but rather teach the words with other words they go with (horizontally). I hope it will aid retention.

I chose a short animated film that I feel is age appropriate (elementary school) and suitable for use in schools. It is the centerpiece of the activity set. The I then decided upon 23 vocabulary items that relate /appear in the film. The activities you see below present and practice these items in different ways. Additional activities may be added later.

The decision to have all the activities connected to the film is grounded in a belief that what is made memorable is learnt best. I do this often with homework assignments for my own students, with many elements I’m trying to teach, not just vocabulary. The visuals in films (I always use ones without dialogue!) add a powerful element.

This decision led me to add three words that do not appear in the Ministry of Education’s word list. They are needed in this context (they are marked with an asterisk).

Which leads me back to my original question.

Have I simply put the words in context and not taught them horizontally? I feel the two terms overlap a great deal, but  perhaps there is a specific emphasis I should be adding?

I need to figure this out before continuing to create a new set of activities for this very long list of vocabulary items.

The Egghunt

1) Here’s the list of vocabulary items FOR THE TEACHER:

Egg buy Take care! hungry
Caveman* Hunt * Be careful! long
Spear* fall That’s not fair! angry
film smile How many sad
food watch sure
another break true
see

2. Here is the lead-in activity for the students. It must be done BEFORE watching the film.

Egghunt –Lead-in Activity from naomima
3) The animated film (no dialogue, remember?)


4) Questions related to the film embedded in the film, courtesy of Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle has made it so much easier to work with film. Now that the activities are embeddable I can use them for my counseling job (with students I don’t teach or meet), not just with my own. They keep updating the possible ways to use the films and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.

5) A dustbin classifying game using ClassTools.net

http://www.classtools.net/widgets/dustbin_2/NOwZV.htm

Thanks to Chiew Pang and his wealth of resources for introducing me to the game.

6) A set of the vocabulary items on Quizlet.com

http://quizlet.com/44000574/egghunt-vocabulary-flash-cards/

7) A “search-a-word” online activity which is temporary because I’m not pleased with the results. I may perhaps go back to the printed version as it didn’t limit me to so few words. Still thinking about that one.

http://www.proprofs.com/games/word-search/egghunt-vocabulary/

Here is a printable verison of this with QR codes.
Egghunt QR codes English

6 responses so far

May 31 2014


Saturday’s Book: The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonasson

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Yellow rules the morning!

Yellow rules the morning!

This book is by the same author who wrote “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared”.

I had read reviews that this second one is not as good as the first, and I do agree. However, I’m not sorry I listened to it (audibook number 11 of the gift subscription!) at all.

The book is too long and some parts are rather repetitive. In addition I found I had to “suspend belief” more than I did in the first book.

Nonetheless, the book is  entertaining and Audible’s reader surpasses himself. There are many characters in the book and he changes accents and intonation and made me feel as if there were a cast of readers! And he could pronounce those difficult Swedish names!

I wouldn’t read this book shortly after you have read the first one, but don’t skip it.

No responses yet

May 24 2014


Seven Word Fun for an ELT Conference

Filed under conferences

A side order of beauty (I took this one!)

A side order of beauty
(I took this one!)

Dear Summer ETAI Conference Conveners,

I’m looking forward to this summer’s ETAI conference. I always enjoy these conferences a great deal (the Spring Conference was a treat!) and this summer’s topic is one particularly close to my heart: Music, Mime, Movies and More. Not only have you lined up an exciting guest speaker, Russel Stannard, but I know for a fact how much our local teachers have to offer. I’m excited about my own presentation as well. As I said, a lot to look forward to.

If you don’t mind, may I make a tiny suggestion for some additional fun?

Pink Surprise (Mine too!)

Pink Surprise
(Mine too!)

James Taylor, President of BELTA described a fun lesson plan in a  post on his personal blog entitled “Seven Word Biographies”He describes how he used these in class and where they can be found.

Seven word biographies are exactly what the title says they are. Here are two examples:

Malcolm Gladwell – Father said: “Anything but journalism.” I rebelled.

Elizabeth Gilbert - Eats/Loves too much…should Pray more.

Frankly, when I read the post ETAI came to my mind. We have such creative and witty teachers! And thanks to the conferences and our ETNI mailing list, many of us know each other!

If you agree, I could create a Google Form where teachers could send in their own 7 word biographies. This is much easier for me (as opposed to members sending me emails) and all the responses will appear in one place.  Then the response could be seen scrolling on a screen, or posted somewhere in the venue during the conference. In the recent Spring ETAI Conference there was a screen used for announcements.

I think we would all get a good chuckle between sessions reading biographies submitted by the members.

Here’s mine for the moment. I reserve the right to change it in the future:

Always reinventing myself while remaining a teacher.

I hope you find my little proposal possible.

Respectfully yours,

Naomi Epstein

 

 

 

 

http://theteacherjames.com/2014/05/19/seven-word-biographies/

 

10 responses so far

May 24 2014


Saturday’s Book Related Tale – from Soylent Green to Starbucks

Filed under Books I enjoy!

I just read a fascinating (written so nicely!) article in the New Yorker Magazine about the new food substitute Soylent Green They claim you can live entirely on this stuff, but never mind that. I’m writing about the book connections.

First of all, when they described the 1973 movie with the same name a light bulb turned on in my weary brain! Images from that movie have been seared onto my brain, but I could not remember the name of it. I saw it years ago! What an ending! I was then surprised to discover that despite its age, our sons (both in their early haven’t watched it though (I’m adding “yet”). I hadn’t known that the movie was based on a book.

The founder said he didn’t want to change the name, despite the negative connotation of the movie. In the article he explains the benefits of the name and then sums up

“Anyway, a lot of young people never got the memo about Soylent Green’s being people….Remember Starbucks was the guy from “Moby Dick”!

OOPS!

Guilty.

I didn’t know that.

I began Moby Dick when I was a teenager and never went back to finish it. I did not recall that Starbucks was the first mate on the ship at all. I most certainly think of the coffee chain when I hear the name. I’m glad the founders of Starbucks dropped the idea of naming the company Pequod (the name of the ship). Starbucks has a better ring to it!

Note: Although I gripe sometimes about the waste time of cooking is, I can’t see myself living on that stuff!

No responses yet

May 17 2014


Passive Learners vs. Introverts – A Comment

Filed under On Education

 

The introverts (I took this one!)

The introverts
(I took this one!)

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this week’s #ELTchat (lively moderated chats for EFL teachers on Twitter ) on the topic: How We Deal with Passive Learners. 

Fortunately, #ELTchat has awesome volunteers who write summaries for those of us who played hooky and missed the chat (I have  a really good excuse this time, honestly!) Lizzie Pinard’s  excellent summary can be found here.

It seems that the distinction between passive learners and introverts was found to be problematic. For me, there is a substantial difference in this respect between adult learners and children.

Going the extra mile (I took this one!)

Going the extra mile
(I took this one!)

All the adults I have taught (whether EFL or in courses on EFL for Children with Special Needs for teachers) have not only paid substantial sums to attend the courses but have had to “go the extra mile” in order to take the course. Many had to find sitters for children, others had to work more hours on other days while some students travelled from far away. The EFL learners I taught needed to take my course in order to pass an important test. Everyone had a reason for being in class. In this situation I felt I could clearly tell the difference between introverts and passive learners.

The introverts did not raise their hand, did not want to speak in front of the class and preferred to work on their own during group work. However, I could see their eyes focused intently on me when I was explaining things. They took notes. When I went over answers to questions the class had done on their own, they did not shout out  ”Would you accept this answer as well”? But they came to me in the break and at the end of the lesson (or sent me emails) asking if their answer would also be recognized as correct.

Lost

Lost
(I took this one too!)

The passive learners did not bother to listen when going over a quiz or task that had been returned, unless correcting it would improve their grade. They had no patience for explanations on why something was so, they just wanted me to write the correct answer on the board so they could copy the answers into the right places. They would return from mid-class break late regularly until I announced it would go into their grade. As one adult student last year said to me, after a group work activity; “You shouldn’t do group work. You don’t make me stop using Facebook during the lesson at such times. And it’s your job to do so”.

Children are a whole different ball game. I only teach children with special needs in the national school system. Children don’t choose to go to school and most of the subjects they study were not chosen by them. While I feel fairly confident I can recognize an introvert, I don’t feel the term “passive learner applies here. There are so very many reasons why a child may exhibit behaviors similar to what one would call ” a passive learner” when really what he/she needs help in other matters that get in the way.

Children, especially children with special needs, need to learn how to take responsibility for their learning. That is part of our job. They go to school for many years. Adults who haven’t learned this in school may need extra support which is not always possible to give in a one-semester course. Especially when the classes are large. Recognizing these students is the first step, I would say.

4 responses so far

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