“When Three is Better than Four” – A Comment

Can you see the third snail? (Naomi's photos)

Can you see the third snail? (Naomi’s photos)


Thank you Mr. Simon Mumford for validating my gut feeling that writing three distractors on a multiple choice exercise /exam is better than writing four!

In the article “When three is better than four” (IATEFL “VOICES”, March-April 2015, Issue 243) supports this claim with research findings and makes a very convincing case of his own.

Assuming that distractors are supposed to be relevant to the text (not totally ridiculous!) while clearly being the wrong answer, makes creating good distractors challenging. particularly if the question is about a small excerpt from  the text. According to Mumford, it’s not just an illusion that many distractors aren’t doing their job!

Oddly enough, this is the second time this week that I have encountered the topic of distractors! In a recent “The New Yorker ” magazine, (I get them late and am still reading back issues) there was a personal story about a middle-aged man learning to drive for the first time (he lives in New-York…). Before the written driving exam, his 2o year old son gave him words of wisdom regarding  multiple choice exams. The son stressed that two of the possible answers will be clearly wrong on every question, so even if you rely a bit on guesswork, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right!

I’m with Mumford – quality is much more important than quantity.

Here’s to three possible answers on multiple choice exams!

(Note: Around here multiple choice exams are known as “American Tests”!).

Saturday’s Book: “War with the Newts” by Karel Čapek

Naomi's photos

Don’t bark up this tree – it’s shedding!  Naomi’s photos

My husband strongly recommended this book, but didn’t want to tell me what it was about. He claimed I need to let the story unfold without prior knowledge.

He was right.

I can’t tempt you by doing exactly the same, but really, don’t go reading too much about it beforehand, on the Internet.

On the dust jacket it says that the author was Czech, and died just before WWII. It also says that he was a pioneer in science fiction and invented the word “robot”.

So at first I thought the book was a catchy sci-fi story. Very easy to read and get into.

I was mistaken.

Think “scathing social commentary”. “1984” with a sense of humor. The story is very cleverly told from different points of views and different genres.

A lot to think about.

Haven’t quite finished it yet, but didn’t want to wait till next week!

The End of A Teacher’s 365-Day-Journey-in-Place

Locking the 365 Project (Naomi's Photos)

Locking the 365 Project
(Naomi’s Photos)

Today is day number 365.

Day number 365 of taking a picture every single day.

Full disclosure: there were four days of the 365 in which my “pic-of-the-day” was not taken that same day. Two days were Memorial Days (Holocaust and Veterans) and I saved suitable pics that could be posted on such days. The other two were days that I had had such good photo days the day before that I succumbed to temptation and used one of them.

When you must take a photo every single day you learn to look. Take a good look. Especially when your project is about travelling-in-place. My challenge was to find something interesting in the places I have spent most of my time in for the last TWENTY SEVEN years, the high-school where I teach and the streets of my hometown, Kiryat-Ono.

I park by the school in the morning - and there's a Cattle Egret! (Naomi's  Photos)

I park by the school in the morning – and there’s a Cattle Egret! (Naomi’s Photos)

It turns out you don’t have to travel to see something new. I never imagined when I began that I would find so much to look at! I had no idea whether I could find something interesting every day for an entire year, and now, 365 days later, I have every intention of continuing to take pictures, right here, where I live and work.  There are colors and lines, interesting plants and unusual shadows, funny reflections, and an ongoing battle for coexistance between nature and the human inhabitants. Oh! And some very odd things left by people on the sidewalk…

Did the romantic picnic end in a break-up? (Naomi's photos)

Did the romantic picnic end in a break-up? (Naomi’s photos)

But it will be O.K if the pictures posted were not taken on the day they were posted. The project in that sense has ended.

My school pictures will continue to be posted here, on this blog, under the category “Visualising School – A Photo Pause”.

My pictures of my hometown will continue to be posted on my page – Pounding the Pavement in Kiryat-Ono

Many thanks to the 365 Project site and community, which taught me that you don’t have to travel in order to embark on a journey!

Saturday’s Book: “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown

This is the closest I got to snow yesterday! (Naomi's photos)

This is the closest I got to snow yesterday!
(Naomi’s photos)

I was fortunate to get this book as an audio gift from my wonderful sister-in-law Maureen.

The title is taken from a speech given by  Teddy Roosevelt from 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I was afraid that while I really enjoyed Brown’s TED Talk, a whole book dealing with the same issues would be repetitive and become something that sounds good theoretically, but not really applicable to real life.

Not at all. It gets better the more you get into it.

I’m so glad it’s in audiobook format! it’s almost as if Brown is talking to me (the reader is great!) personally, and its very affirming to hear these messages and think about these things while making the evening salad every day!

I now consider my photo-storytelling project a form of Daring Greatly. I’m not posting photos because I think I’m the world’s best photographer. Hardly! I’m posting them to share a story of how one can find wonder, beauty and oddity every day in the small city in which I have been living for so many years. If I had waited till I get the art of photography down pat, the project would never have taken off and I wouldn’t even be seeing the things I now notice.


Visualising School – A Photo Pause

A teacher gets “new eyes” with camera in hand!

Combine wind and rain –   what do you get?

Naomi's Photos

Naomi’s Photos


Add some sun and get rain-pearls!

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos


Checkers, anyone?

Naomi's Photos

Naomi’s Photos


It pays to look carefully when exiting the school – there may be a butterfly patiently waiting for you!

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos


Mud and roses in the school corridor, after the 11th grade  fund-raiser…

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos


Note: This is an educator’s blog, so only school related pictured are posted here. To see what this teacher comes up with when pounding the pavement of her hometown, see here:

Pounding The Pavement in Kiryat-Ono

Confronting Your Groundhog Lesson

Naomi's Photos

Naomi’s Photos

Once again,  a post by Jen Marten has settled in my brain and won’t stop rattling there until I pay attention to it. This one is called “What’s Your Groundhog Moment” and it’s highly recommended (along with all her other posts!).

Do you remember Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? He had to relive the same day over and over again till he got it right.

Can you imagine teaching the same unsuccessful lesson over and over again till you got it right?




But wait a minute.

Imagine if your school had the kind of culture and the suitable framework where teachers could meet on a regular basis and “relive”  difficult lessons, without being afraid. Afraid of hearing “tsk tsk” or “honestly, how could you have reacted that way” not to mention (for some teachers) fear of losing your position.

Imagine the professional development the staff members would be getting, without hiring an outside specialist, by analyzing lessons together the way cases are brought to staff meeting in other professions (such as psychologists, to name one). Each time it would be another teacher’s turn, so no one would feel permanently in the “hot seat”.

The turn-taking is vital. I refuse to believe that teachers who never have unsuccessful lessons exist.

The trouble is that the schools I encounter don’t seem to give any space for such reflection. During the school-day there is very little time for such talk, or sometimes any talk at all! Staff meetings are devoted to “business at hand”, are often in the evening after a long day at school. Everyone just wants to get what needs to be done over with and go home.  In addition, it’s not at all clear to me that turn-taking would be enough to make everyone feel secure about discussing lack of success in front of others. It’s so much more convenient to close the door, be alone with your class and keep it that way.

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos

For me it seems counterintuitive but true – having a blog is the only place to confront those lessons that call for Groundhog Day treatment. While posting tales of problematic lessons online may seem like hanging dirty wash for all to see, in reality the teachers who actually read teachers’ blogs are those who are interested in reflection themselves. Their comments can be of invaluable help.

My blog is my little Groundhog Friend. We don’t have Groundhogs here, or Groundhog Day, or snow for that matter (well, occasionally is some parts of the country, never in mine!).  So many thanks to Jen Marten for lending me the image!


Saturday’s Book and a Half: “The Namesake” & “Winter’s Bone”

Naomi's photos

Naomi’s photos

I’m running late with my book posts!

I completed “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri last week. I delayed reading it for a long time (even though I enjoyed Lahiri’s first book) since I’ve seen the movie. It’s a very odd thing – I forget oh-so-many things (especially names and numbers) but my memory works impressively well when it comes to movies.

The book, of course, is much better than the movie, and has lots of details that weren’t in the movie. Her writing is captivating and flowing, easy to read. The story is heartwarming.

However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. Remembering all the main points of the plot did detract. I have received the author’s book The “Lowlands”  but am going to wait a few years till I read it. I read a synopsis of it in The New Yorker Magazine…

 “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell is fantastic. The story is about a plucky girl dealing with a very harsh life with few second chances. I have NO plans to see the movie made based on THIS book. But the writing , the descriptions, the way the story unfolds –  SPELLBINDING! All I want to do is read. I haven’t finished it. YET!

A Valentine’s Day Video Lesson: A Silent Melody

Many thanks to the lovely Beata Gulati for sending me this video in time for Valentine’s Day!

Anything to do with romance goes down well with my teenage students. This video has no spoken dialogue, the vocabulary level of the written English is simple, all is understood when watching the video in silent mode, and the heroine is Deaf! It’s as if the film has Valentine’s Day written all over it!

The use of that particular kind of alarm clock in the video doesn’t make sense. I “complained” about it to Beata but that’s just quibbling. Frankly, I think it is an opportunity to expose the students to the phrase “it doesn’t make sense!” If you watch the video and don’t understand why it doesn’t make sense, scroll down to the end of the post. I’ll explain it there.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Deaf people use an alarm clock that vibrates. The clock has to be placed on her bed for Swetha to be awoken by it.

Mobile Phones are Creating Havoc with EDTECH in the Classroom!

Who is messing with my Edtech?!! (Naomi's Photos)

Who is messing with my Edtech?!!
(Naomi’s Photos)

This week I took it personally. It felt as if both Apple and Google had conspired to orchestrate a well-coordinated blow to my use of Edtech in the classroom. All of my attempts to change with the times and adapt seem to be getting thwarted! I’ve tried to respond to each of the following “pings” with a “pong” but now I’ve lost the ball…

Ping: As smart phones have been getting more and more sophisticated, the number of my students who don’t have a working computer at home has risen. This year the number of students who don’t use a computer at home at all has risen dramatically. Most of these being students who come from families with financial difficulties yet sport the absolute latest models of cell phone in the market!

Pong: Fine. So, short, weekly online homework task in a format that can be done on the mobile device it is. The students won’t need  MS “Word”.  No excuses, as ALL my teenage students have phones!

I built homework tasks for my 5 different groups using Google Forms. So simple to use, looks beautiful, collects all answers in a nice table, can run Flubaroo Script to check it all quickly.

Hey,I can live with this!

Crumbling (Naomi's photos)

(Naomi’s photos)

Ping: Google Forms don’t work on Iphones! AAAARGH! Now a substantial number of students say they can’t do the homework because they have an Iphone!!!

Pong: I have no idea what to do about this one. Go back to paper homework? That, of course, would mean no video tasks or pictures in full color!!

While searching for the ball that Apple made me lose, Google showed up on the scene to make things worse:

Ping: Google rolled out new technology that allows you to take a picture of printed text (not handwriting, as far as I can tell) and get a translation of it.

Oh no!

My deaf and hard of hearing students are allowed to use electronic dictionaries. Frankly, they really need them and cannot work on grade level reading comprehension texts without them. However, these devices are expensive, sometimes they break or “die”,  need new batteries or simply  get forgotten at home. Mobile phones, on the other hand, are always available! So, during lessons (never on tests!) I often allow students to use their phones. While they are supposed to use it like an electronic dictionary (search word by word)  even if they trangress (until I catch them!) the students have to type in the words, letter by letter. And that is a way of engaging with the vocabulary items!

Or should I now say “was a way…”

Pong: Who’s playing anymore?! Lost the balls, the net, in danger of losing the table…

I don’t know what to do about this either. Luckily, the new tech is spreading slowly, most of the students still haven’t caught on.  I may have some time till the penny drops but I doubt it will take very long.

So what’s a teacher to do?





Saturday’s Book: “The Solid Mandala” by Patrick White


Naomi's Photos

Naomi’s Photos

This book is a “slow read”. And in this case I think that it is a good thing. I’ve been reading it for weeks and have been tempted to write a “mid-way-through” post but am glad I didn’t. The final third of the book ties everything together in a riveting manner, at a faster pace too. A lot of things fall into place.

First of all, it must be read slowly because of the incredible use of language. I sometimes stopped and reread a paragraph just because I was amazed that I now had some new piece of information and wasn’t quite sure how the author had conveyed it. Other times I had to think about what White meant when he used certain descriptions. His world of rich imagery, based on Britain and Australia (when the twins in the story immigrated they had to learn “Australian” ) is one I can understand, but some of it requires some conscious thinking first.

Then there’s the meaning of things. This book is much more than a tale presenting the lives of two inseparable twin brothers, who only together form a whole person. My impression is that the brothers also represent the two sides of religion. The formal, rigid, perhaps cold, “do this and don’t do that” side, vs. the warm and compassionate side, which reaches out to help people. I believe White means religion in general, and not just Christianity, because there is an important Jewish character as well.

Begin this book when you are prepared to give it time, and read all the way through.