Goal 26: The 30 Goals Domino Effect

Photo by Gil Epshtein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Perhaps Goal 26 :” Support a Movement” refers to organizations like our teachers’ union, or to ETAI, which is our TESOL affiliate (SUPER conferences!!).

But I believe the 30 Goals project can be called a movement that promotes educational reform. I understand that a lot of teachers are participating. Doing so leads one to examine things from new perspectives and calls for more reflection than I believe most teachers usually do. I have found (as someone that hasn’t missed a post!) that it is incredibly invigorating.

Through the 30 goals twitter list I’ve “met” other fascinating bloggers who are “infecting” me with enthusiam to try out their ideas (which is one of the reasons I’m running late with these goals, I have to try out these new ideas and post about it)!

After 25 years in the proffession I can say that when a teacher gets excited about something, that teacher won’t keep it to herself (or himself, as the case may be)! And then those dominoes start falling as the message travels!

Having more  and more teachers going into the classroom feeling  enthusiatic and invigorated is a huge boon to the education system!

Thank you Shelly Terrell for setting up this project!

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!

Goal 25 – Relationships are Built on LITTLE Things!

Goal 25 of the 30 goals challenge “Build relationshipes with them” made me smile. Good relationships are often built on little things, unrelated to curriculum. Let me tell you about the kid who:

* ALWAYS asks to use my pencil, never brings his own (17 years old, has a million health problems). I don’t say a word about it, just let him use mine every lesson!

* the shy kid with C.P. who comes to class 10 minutes BEFORE the bell rings as he sometimes needs a quiet place.

* the girl who oftens sleeps over at friends’ houses and comes to school with a ton of stuff and stores it in my classroom till the end of the school day.

* the kid who ALWAYS needs to go out for a few minutes each lesson. He gives me a signal and I let him go. We don’t even say anything.

* the EXTREMELY tense girl who is VERY stressed by math. I let her join extra math tutoring groups on English lesson time before major math exams.

*** I take the pictures at the Purim Festival (it was last Friday). I posted almost 70 pictures this year of the kids in their costumes and the festivities! I send pictures to any pupil that takes the trouble to politlely ask me for the pictures in better quality !

The Light and Dark Side of Goal 24

Goal 24 of the 30 goals challenge relates to supporting character development. An important topic and one I feel rather frustrated about.

On the light side, I’m proud to say that our school promotes volunteering for various causes. Our Purim Festival, two days ago, was also a fund raiser for a learning center for underpriveleged children. Some of the deaf students manned a stall, as they do every year. These kids are the same caring kids that volunteer for all sorts of things.

In addition, In Israel it is mandatory to put in 60 hours of volunteer work during 10th grade. In the past, most of the deaf students didn’t do it mainly because they live far away from school and have no flexibility due to the timetable of the transportation services. An energetic Lit. teacher changed all that and organized volunteer work for kids in school. My learning center is a good place for that (always posters and materials made of construction paper that need to be redone!) and till recently I had 5 kids coming in. Some do it gladly however some are sullen about it.

Some students also volunteer at the children and youth clubs that the “Shema” organization runs. That is awesome!


It’s a certain group of teenagers that are active and caring. The rest are incredibly self-centered. Worse, they lack curiosity about anything that isn’t related to them directly. The exhibit a lack of interest that sometimes drives me “up the wall”. If I sit next to a pupil and try to tell him /her a bit about the topic he’s working on many simply don’t care. So what?

One of the disadvantages of teaching a foreign language in a learning center format is that we almost never have class discussions. We don’t speak in English (discussion would have to be in Hebrew) and the levels of ability and sophistication are too wide to be bridged in many cases (we learn through reading).

Some of these students buy into the “don’t confuse me with the facts” doctrine. The most extreme example I ever had (but that was only one pupil, thank goodness!) was a student who would not be convinced that in other parts of the world it actually rains in the Summer. His classmate said that she visited Spain in the Summer and it rained on her but he refused to accept that.

With some of the students I’m still battling with respectful behavior in the classroom, never mind volunteering to help with something or being interested. If there is something that makes me lose my temper is to see students abuse materials in the classroom (tearing parts off a poster, scribbling on something, or drawing with the “white-out” I bought for use in class). A 12th grader (!!!) screamed at me last week because I insist on leaving the window partly open even when it rains because we need air in the class. She doesn’t pay any attention to her parents and she is only interested in me when she is in the mood to care about her grade. This pupil had to leave the class and was reported but that hasn’t made any inroads on her behavior when she’s annoyed in the past two and a half years.

In short, I feel that in regards to supporting character behavior, there are many pupils with whom my record is dismal.

Saturday’s Book “Shelter” by Susan Palwick

At the library this book caught my eye. The title seemed intriguing, the first paragraph more so, so I borrowed it without having any idea what it is really about.I do that often at our library. The Enlglish section is not bad for a library in Israel but not vey big. When I come looking for something specfic  that someone recommended it is most likely that I won’t find it. But if I come to browse I often find good books that I have never heard mentioned!

Anyway, this book turns out to be science fiction, a genre which I haven’t read in a long time. It is very well written and I found the first few chapters fascinating. I’ve continued well past that and plan to continue reading the book, but I did feel somewhat disappointed after those opening chapters.

The beginning of the book gave the feeling of a theatre where all the players are in one place and through their dialogue the story, the relationships and their history unfolds. We (the readers) don’t go back in time. In the case the situation is a horrific storm in San-Francisco, A homeless man seeks shelter in what turns out to be  a talking house (an A.I). They are both interacting with a “translated” man who lives on the net.

But after “hooking me” the author doesn’t make the most of this situation, but takes us back in time to tell the story of the events in a chronoligical order. Did I mention that the book has 574 pages?! I would have had the entire story take place over the three days of the storm, in the house!

Still, It’s well written, I’d better wait and see what happens later. I’m only up to page 163!

Goal 23 – 10 ways I Utilize a Computer with No Internet Connection in the Classroom

Goal 23 of the 30 Goals Challenge is to integrate Technology Effectively. Here’ s what I do with our classroom computer, which has no Internet connection (we got this up-to-date computer less than a year ago):

1) Showcase students’ slideshows. Every year we would reserve the computer room and see the slideshows pupils made for their literature project. If you weren’t there that day, you couldn’t see them!

2) I do a lot of activities involving answering questions about pictures (for more info on that see “The Visual Corner” category). I used to look for pictures I could cut out of magazines because printing large color images from the Internet was not a viable option. Now I bring all the colorful pictures in on my flash-drive and they look clear and attractive!

3) I have a handful of students at the highest level who are working on writing sophisticated compistions of 120-140 words. These need to be written and rewritten. Most of them would much rather do that on WORD than by hand!

4) WORD has a dictionary. It isn’t as good as the electronic dictionary the students are supposted to bring and most certainly not as comfortable to use (actually, the kids hate it) but in some situations having the option to use it is a big help!

5) The students get homework online from our class site. Using screen shots from the site (with my trusty flash drive) I’m able to explain things related to the site and to the h.w assignments.

6) I have a hard of hearing student who is very dyslectic. I have one textbook that comes with a cd. The text is highlighted as it is read outloud. This girl hooks up to the computer directly with earphones (we don’t have speakers) listens and reads the text.  It is not uncommon at all for books to come with a CD but with my population of students I never purchased these CD’s before. They are unable to understand the speech on a CD player, but on the computer, in combination with the visual aspect, a few students can take advantage of the listening component. I must obtain additional CD’s in order to take advantage of this exciting new possibility.

7) I have a few simple games. Some are more educational, some are just for fun! That’s important too!

8) I use the computer to create worksheets. I used to write my ideas on a piece of paper and type them up when I got home. Now I create as much as I have time for during the short breaks when I don’t leave the Enlgish Room, take it home on my flash drive and continue from there! Much more efficient!

9) Since my class is a learning center, the computer functions as a work station for one or two students, thus enabling me to have more work stations. This is very important for classroom management.

10) Class image: the students think our class is more modern becasue we have a computer. However, they complain bitterly that they can’t check Facebook on it. I’m thrilled. When we go to the computer room I have to disconnect everything (well, sometimes) in order to exercise MY RIGHT to go to the teacher’s room when the bell rings – they want to spend the break on Facebook!

Guest Post: “Going Going Gone” with Low-Literacy Learners By Clare O’Nolan

I’m pleased to introduce my first guest on this blog – Clare O’Nolan!

Clare is an ESL and ESOL teacher and teacher trainer based in London. Interested in teaching underprivileged and homeless. Spare time scuba diver and birdwatcher. Clare tweets at @Clareonolan

I was lucky enough to be able to share my excitement about the adaptibility of the disappearing text method for special needs students (I’ve been posting about my experiments with it recently!) with Clare. Although she works with an entirely different kind of population we found that the system works for her too!

So, here’s Clare’s post!

(Note: The original Going Going Gone” post is from Jason’s Renshaw’s blog.)

My class and I had great fun with this last Thursday!

I used the 5 sentences from the current ‘chapter’ of material we are using. The students (5 women, 2 men from Afghanistan, Yemen, Morocco, Somalia & Bulgaria) had read it with me and the pictures before hand. Each sentence was boarded alongside the picture (instead of the questions in Jason Renshaw’s version) and drilled with slightly exaggerated word stress. I thought remembering the rhythm might help later with the word order.

1st round: removed unstressed function words; dismay all round – replaced them on the board by eliciting from students. (More dismay – we did it!)
2nd round: removed same words again plus prepositions. (Less dismay this time.) I gave the students a copy of what was left on the board as a 1/2 page handout. They worked in pairs to restore both sets of words by writing in the gaps. We checked as a class using the board again, them reading aloud.
3rd round: removed all previous words plus verbs from the board. This  version was shown on the second 1/2 of the handout and the students filled the gaps again. They took longer but succeeded. (Proud dismay all round!)
4th round: fast worker only. On another handout provided I had taken out everything except initials for the names and the nouns in the story. She had to write back in all the missing words. (Success.)

I found it useful for little things like showing them collocations are waiting, for a bus, are going, to the zoo etc. They practised the connection between what they saw (familiar pictures), what they heard (reading aloud), and what the wrote to fill in the gaps.
I tried to avoid your problems with too much copying from the board (!) but fell into the trap of not allowing for large handwriting in the gaps. I needed to leave more space. Also whilst wanting to show how many words were missing, I confused them with dashes like this ——– (they assumed each dash was a letter) when I should have used a line _______ . I also like the way the task could be easily differentiated for the variety of abilities, even in this small class. I will definitely do it again with the next chapter of our material.

Saturday – Japanese Authors

Since our thoughts are with the people of Japan and the devastating events they are dealing with, I’ve decdided to write about the Japanese authors I enjoy.

I’ll start with Kazuo Ishiguro, though he left Japan as a child and grew up in England. It’s just that I recently read his book “Never Let Me Go” which I couldn’t put down. A small book which I really recommend. The other book I read “When we were Orphans, is not a “quick read” but also highly recommended.  I never read the book ” The Remainder of the Day” – I just saw and liked the movie!

I REALLY enjoyed reading both “Kafka on the Shore” and “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami. Actually the first book I read by him was “Sputnik Sweetheart” which wasn’t as good, so I’m very glad I didn’t give up on the author!

May the news coming from that direction improve soon!

Goal 21: Cuba, “Kubbeh” and Creative Writing

Photo by Gil Epstein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

I don’t do creative writing with pupils whose vocabulary in Enlgish is so small (in 10th grade!) that we could sit down and count it.

However, since I’ve entered the world of blogosphere and started experimenting with all this new stuff, interesting things have been happening. And since, as usual, these 30 goal challenges seem to be have a direct link to current events in my classroom, here’s a brand new story related to goal 21: encourage creativitity! I thought I would write about slideshows some of the kids made for the poem “The Road Not Taken” but there’s not really much to tell.

A story in three parts (so far):

Part One

Our beloved retired volunteers, Linda and John ( a married couple) were away for 3 weeks. When they returned, Linda sat down next to a very weak 10th grade hard of hearing pupil, who we’ll call H.,  who wanted to know where she had been. I told H. that she could ask Linda what she wanted to know and that we would write a story about it together.

When H. heard that Linda had just returned from Cuba she exclaimed ” But that’s a name of a food” (Kibbeh in Israel is pronouinced Kubbeh)! We put a hold on the activity until Linda took H. to the map on the wall…

H. asked the questions in Hebrew and I wrote out Linda’s answers in simple English. Here’s the story we produced:

Linda went to Cuba and Costa Rica. It is far away. She had fun. She saw beautiful birds. She went for one week.

H. hadn’t known the words “went” ” fun”  “far away” or “birds”.

We read it twice and then I erased one word in each sentence.  We did this several times (each time only one word a sentence) . H. really concentrated and was very proud of herself that she completed the missing words. Linda copied the story off the board and she put it in the binder.

Now, that may sound educational but hardly creative writing.

Part Two

Later in the day H. had another lesson, without Linda. Using the story we wrote about two vacations she went on, replacing info in the original story (such as: Eilat instead of Cuba, dolphins  instead of birds, one week instead of three). She was very focused.

Part Three

Two days later she came to class, pulled out the story and said: What are we going to do with MY STORY today?

I think that counts as creative writing!

This story isn’t over! To quote Tyson Seburn ” One of the best things you can do with material is milk it for all it’s worth!”

Goal 20: Share Your Resources

Once again this challenge of the 30 goals challenge seems to be related to current events. I just got the ” speaker form” for this summer’s ETAI conference (our local affiliate with TESOL).  I may be immodest here, but for a teacher who teaches a very specific population, my lecture at last year’s conference was very well attended. It seems that my assumption that strategies and materials I use are applicable for others  in different teaching settings is correct (make no mistake, when I tried to focus my lecture on pupils with hearing problems in the regular classroom, the largest attendance I had was four people!).

So, that wasn’t very modest of me but thinking about it did actually make me feel better. Today was a “burn-out” today. It rained really hard this morning and some girls didn’t bring an umbrella and (big surprise, right?) got wet and then got all upset about it!

So here’s a taste of one of the strategies I spoke about at last year’s lecture, using pictures to help weak high-school students prepare for their national matricualtion exams.

General explanation and picture activity one:


The most popular “reading picture” activity


If you want more, check out the “visual corner” category on this blog.

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