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”!



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!

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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.


(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.

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May 17 2014

Saturday’s Book: “Dancing Arabs” by Sayed Kashua

Filed under Books I enjoy!

A fascinating book.  A very candid tale about growing up in two worlds, belonging to both and to neither. A complex situation indeed.

Sayed Kashua tells about his childhood as a very sensitive, bookish child growing up in an Arab village in the center of Israel. Without being prepared in any way, he was accepted to a prestigious boarding school  (high-school) for gifted children in Jerusalem, suddenly moving into the Jewish school system.

I was particularly interested in his portrayal of the differences in the school systems both as a teacher, but particularly as a counselor who works with teachers from all sectors of Israeli society. I know many things have changed since he was a child, but some echoes of his childhood experiences remain.


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May 10 2014

Saturday’s Book: The Book that made me DIZZY!

Filed under Books I enjoy!

It’s not it, it’s me.

I didn’t want to write the title of the book in the subject line, as the problem really may be mine and not the book’s. I don’t feel I gave the book a fair chance.

It’s just that the book is about 8 people who are sharing a holiday house for two weeks. I love books that move the plot forward by presenting things from the perspectives of different characters.

But this is ridiculous.

EVERY SINGLE PARAGRAPH (after the first few pages) is from someone else’s point of view! There are eight different characters (of different ages, kids and adults) and by the time I adjust my thinking to the character currently telling the story its off to someone else.

After 40 pages of “The Red House” by Mark Haddon I decided I would try it again, someday, on a relaxing vacation. I did enjoy Haddon’s first book a great deal, I don’t want to write the book off.

4 responses so far

May 04 2014

When Computers Turn Against the Teachers

A tiny life blocked by a giant one. (I took this one!)

A tiny leaf blocked by a giant one.
(I took this one!)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I actually quite like computers. I’m the kind of girl who gets excited by Adele Raemer’s latest post Actively Teaching Passive” - using Google docs and QR codes to have students work independently is just the kind of issue I want to spend time on.

But at the moment computers are making my life miserable at school. And work overtime at home. To be more precise, it’s the computerized Moodle grading system.

First of all, there is its basic “meaness”. Going into the “add grades”  section isn’t enough for it. When you’ve finished doing all that is required in THAT section you have to go to another section and CRUSH (actually the literal translation would be “run over”, as in car accidents) the grades so that they will appear on everyone else’s sites. What’s wrong with the simple word “REPLACE”?!!

This tree seems to drop purple leaves.  (I took this one too!)

This tree seems to drop purple leaves.
(I took this one too!)

Then there is it’s computer trait of not dealing well with exceptions to the rule. To be fair, the support system did find a solution to how a weird teacher like me who teaches multi aged mixed classrooms can record attendance but the school administration can’t see it during pedagogical meetings. In addition, I needed the central support service to discover the awkward way I can check exactly how many lessons a certain student missed (not the normal way). The answer I had gotten before from inside the school was:

“What? You don’t record the absences by hand in your diary and then type them in?” 

But today was the LAST straw.

O.K. It can’t be “the last straw” because I’m stuck with the system.

I know how to type in the final grades and CRUSH them for processing before our national finals on May 15.

Honestly, I do.

The lovely computer lady at our school says that they weren’t there. They all vanished! I have to sit with her and read her the grades tomorrow.

Did it eat my grades? (Yup, took this one too).

Did it eat my grades?
(Yup, took this one too).

I contacted the central support (they do have a really friendly person there, I am so grateful for that). He said he could see most of them, but not all.


I did the same thing for all 10 groups, what is going on?

I never had these problems when I used to hand in a neatly organized piece of paper to the secretary…



6 responses so far

May 03 2014

Saturday’s Book: “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child

Filed under Books I enjoy!

Not my usual style of book, but my eldest has lately taken up Lee Child’s books and says this one is his best. I’ve read quite a few murder mysteries in the past and jumped at the chance to share a book.

My memories of previous murder mysteries are all jumbled together. Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, murder mysteries arranged according to alphabetical order, an orchid loving detective and even something with a Rabbi detective who has a murder to solve every day of the week. I’m not sure which memories go with which book. But this book is a bit different, I’m pretty sure of that.

It is 100% gripping, that’s for sure. In fact, I wouldn’t reccommend doing what I did, reading it during a school week. I read far too many hours a day as I couldn’t stop. Lot’s of clever things. Informative too. WAIT FOR A VACATION!

But, it is too violent for my taste. Some dead bodies are to be expected in this genre. There were quite a lot. There’s lots of info about guns and how to fist fight. There is action and sex, but very little humor.

I don’t remember ever saying this before, but I think it’s a guys’ book.


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Apr 26 2014

Saturday’s Book: “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Filed under Books I enjoy!

So very good.

Difficult topic. Really difficult. It’s a testimony to how enveloping and riveting the writing is that I stuck through the whole book (and had trouble putting it down) despite the weight of sadness in this book.

I actually feel as if the book fits into the framework of Holocaust Memorial Day, which we are commemorating tomorrow evening and on Monday. The book “Sophie’s Choice” often came to mind while reading this one.

I have to admit that I liked “The Bluest Eye” even better, but this is so very good.

Morrison deserved the Nobel Prize.



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Apr 24 2014

Struggling to Teach Vocabulary Horizontally

I took this one!

I took this one!

Perhaps “Timing”  really is everything. When you read something that relates directly to a problem you are grappling with, it can have a powerful impact. This is what happened to me in regards to Leo Selivan’s excellent post “Horizontal Alternatives to Vertical Lists”

To my delight, our Ministry of Education has published list of lexical items that beginning and intermediate students should know. This feature was taken out of the curriculum at some point and has now, after many years, made a “comeback”. As a special-ed teacher and counselor I can attest that this is very useful. The majority of deaf /hard of hearing EFL students here have difficulties remembering vocabulary. It does not help them at all that every classroom teacher and every tutor they encounter decides to focus on different vocabulary items.

The first word list, for the basic level, has 1,200 items.

I took this one!

I took this one!

Unfortunately, it is organized alphabetically. LONG list of unrelated words.

Now, I agree wholeheartedly with Leo Selivan that there’s no point in continuing to teach the words according to semantic families – colors, animals, etc. This has been done for years and I have not seen results that justify continuing in this manner. That’s why I was so excited by his post – I knew I wanted to organize words differently but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  In this post there are very practical suggestions and examples that I can use when preparing materials for the teachers I work with.

So, where is the struggle?


It would be so much easier for ME to locate the lexical items in the list that go together, that I would like to teach in conjunction, if the words were arranged in horizontal groups (semantically). I’ve sat down to work but I don’t know how to put them into meaningful chunks without sitting and categorizing them first, which is a dismaying thought.

Any suggestions?

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Apr 19 2014

Saturday’s Book: King, Queen, Knave by Nabokov & More

Filed under Books I enjoy!

I took this one!

I took this one!

My husband has been telling me for ages that I must read something by Vladimir Nabokov, but somehow Lolita didn’t sound particularly interesting. So, when I encountered this book at the library, which I had never heard of, I decided this would be my introduction to this author.

He was right (as he often is!). His style of writing is like no one I have ever read. There are passages that I just had to stop a minute after reading them, just to savor the imagery.

The storyline has some unpredictable developments and certainly held my interest. The beginning and the last fifty pages or so were the best. However, the characters themselves, were not characters I find interesting and did not think of them during the day when I wasn’t reading, like I do with other books I read. Frankly, I didn’t care about them in particular.

Two days ago we went to a play, adapted from Nabokov’s short story Lips to Lips, for one actor (it was at a theatre festival in old Jaffa). It was wonderful! I recognized the style right away. I believe I will try other books by Nabokov  - I had no trouble relating to the character in THIS story!

Now, for two books that I did not get along with:

1) The Bells of Bicetre by George Simenon

Perhaps this one is just a case of bad timing, of a book not suited to my current moods. The writing is nice and the reading flows, but I had no patience for it. A man who has had a stroke slowly, very slowly, reviews his life. Even though the book says he’s reflecting because of his illness the feeling is that the reflections are of an old man. BUT HE IS FIFTY FOUR! I’M ALMOST FIFTY ONE MYSELF! Maybe another time…

2) The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

This is the audio book I abandoned. I was tempted to take a lighter audiobook, a mystery, even a murder-mystery sounded fun (especially with the superlatives in the full-page ad in the New Yorker Magazine).

I listened to the first few hours and couldn’t stand it anymore. NOT MY STYLE AT ALL! The kind of story related to the kind of magazines I don’t read or the TV programs  I don’t watch.

Now to choose the last audio book left to my gift subscription….



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Apr 16 2014

EdTech to the Rescue for Homebound Student

Outside the Box (I took this one!)

Outside the Box (I took this one!)

EdTech is the only remedy I can offer my student who is ill (I wish I could offer good health!) – thank goodness it exists! I am now in the midst of discovering what works in such a situation.

While my student has been absent a lot all year, using technology remained a theoretical discussion because she is, frankly, brilliant. Whenever she did attend school she made up for lost time with incredible speed. I don’t teach frontally, so using tech to have her join the class lessons was not an option.

However now that the school year is drawing to a close, and the due dates of important papers is at hand, it became time to begin putting theory into practice. I’m supposed to go over a series of her drafts and guide her to the final product. And we are very busy doing just that!

Since she is hard of hearing (and not deaf) we did start with Skype but that was not convenient. There was a lot of “what was that?” ” Can you repeat that?” In any case, I needed to see the written version of her drafts. She doesn’t have the energy to type up the drafts (surprisingly handwriting is most comfortable for her) and doesn’t own a fax machine. So she began taking pictures of the texts with her phone and emailing them to me. At first she had the text in the body of the email and on the computer it was difficult to read. For some reason they were clearer on my iPod. So I held the iPod in one hand while typing comments in Word with the other.

Then we progressed to having her email the pictures as an attachment. I can now open them  with Picassa (which I use for my photos) and enlarge them. Much better. I’ve picked up speed. But still, I’m sure we could be doing better.

If the text was printed, I could paste it into one of those sites I’ve heard about that let you record comments and mark the text. At the moment I can’t recall a single name but I’ve seen such things used by others. The student is hard of hearing, I believe she might understand with a combination of speech and visuals (as opposed to the Skype). The problem is she is sending me PICTURES. JPEG files. I can’t think of a way around THAT.

Any thoughts?




4 responses so far

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