Visualising a Discussion Prompt for Students on Studying Habits at Home

Humor helps!
Naomi’s Photos

Suddenly, everything changed.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve moved to Daylight Savings Time, we are all actually on “Corona time”.

Who knows how long this will last…

Now that my Deaf and hard of hearing adolescent students (some of whom NEVER do any school work at home) have to study from their bedrooms/living rooms or kitchen tables, I needed an amusing prompt to enable me to discuss study habits with them.

It turns out having a blog is quite useful for finding forgotten goodies. I learned of this video years ago on Sandy Millin’s Blog. 

Just what I was looking for.

I can use it with all levels because this video works best without sound and without students reading the captions.

All you need to do is watch the video and ask the students what they do. The video is very clear.

The mustard dripping on the notebook is a great touch!

Honestly, even if your students hear EXTREMELY  well, you don’t want the sound here.

I did prepare a written “companion” to the discussion because I need that with my students. I’m not sure I can call it a proper worksheet because the level of complexity is mixed. But it wasn’t designed to be done by a student working independently. In any case, I’m adding the downloadable file below.

I hope you find the video amusing and useful!

Wishing you all the best of health!

How to Make Homework Less Work – Download by clicking on the title
 

 

Double Book Post: “The House of Spirits” by Allende & “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Owens

Nowadays art museums are on the sidewalks!
Naomi’s Photos

I enjoy a book that is so engaging that it “takes me” to another place and time period – the best way to travel while staying at home, right?

At first I thought both of these books were giving me that experience.

But I discovered that to be a mistaken assumption.

Only “Where the Crawdads Sing” kept me completely absorbed in the tale of the life of  Kya, a girl who was abandoned as a child and grew up in the marshes of North Carolina. The descriptions are so vivid, that this totally unfamiliar (to me! ) landscape is brought to life.  There are also some very interesting facts about nature, which are cleverly woven in to match the plot without slowing down its progress.

Perhaps not every turn of events is totally believable but that really didn’t bother me a single bit. I went with the currents and let the author lead the way.

Certainly, a great book to read when you aren’t supposed to leave the house!

Distortions…
Naomi’s Photos

I was pleased when I began “The House of Spirits”, I’ve enjoyed several books you could define as “magical realism” and was completely prepared to go wherever the author wanted to take me. Particularly as I don’t know much about Chile and it’s history and felt much more interested in that compared to what is going on in the world nowadays.

The book follows the life of the Trueba family,  clearly a “larger than life” family, a rich family complete with daughters possessing unusual qualities, old women with unusual skills and unfamiliar superstitions,  uncles with schemes for getting rich who manage to die twice and more.

Great!

Wikipedia says the book follows the lives of four generations of the Trueba family. I had to consult Wikipedia because I abandoned the book after generation three hit puberty.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

It became very repetitive.

Very repetitive.

There was way too much focus on the unsavory character of Esteban (who married into the family) and endless extremely detailed descriptions of his cycles of sexual desire and senseless violence.

So many disasters befell Esteban that I hoped the story would continue at some point without this character, (you know, move onto the next generation?) but he was invincible.

I read more than half the book and then quit.

Goodbye Esteban!

**** I’ve almost finished another book – post coming soon!

 

Online Teaching for Students Who Never Read Instructions

We’ve got the students, without the classrooms
Naomi’s Photos

“If all else fails, read the instructions”.

I don’t know who actually said it first, but it seems that a great many people invest a great deal of effort in proving the veracity of this old adage.

My Deaf and hard of hearing students (ok, “MOST of’ , there are notable exceptions) prefer a different version:

“If all else fails, don’t do it .”

Reading the instructions doesn’t even enter into the equation. In  ANY language – not just in English as a foreign language!

I encourage, I point out the instructions, sometimes I refuse to help unless they read the instructions,  but without my intervention, the instructions usually remain unread.  Perhaps 10th grade is a bit late to start working on the importance of “reading instructions”, but I haven’t given up yet.

We’ve got to get the students “standing tall” and independent! Naomi’s Photos

Now that schools have closed because of THE VIRUS, I have discovered that I now have a golden opportunity (we have to be optimistic and look at the bright side, right? ) to get these students reading instructions!

Over these first crazy days of trying to adjust to online learning with my students, who are not only at every possible level there is, but  all their schoolbooks are the classroom I have learned three useful tips.

At least I’m learning new things every day!

  1. Start them off with a  task that has two parts. What needs to be done in the first part consists of an exercise of the sort where it is very very obvious what needs to be done.  Such as the following Live Worksheet, on the topic of words and phrases that I see often on national exams and confuse my students.

With a live worksheet, the students can do a worksheet online and check their answers on their own, while using content made by their own teachers. The students know exactly what to do.

**** You can see it here, but if you want to try answering it to see how it works, use the link here in green letters :  Confusing Words and Phrases

 

Confusing Words and phrases commonly seen in exams, an interactive worksheet by naomima

liveworksheets.com

2.  The second part of the exercise involves reading a simple instruction. If the students ignored it, you can first praise them for getting the first part right. Builds confidence! My own students were asked to send me translations of this completed exercise.

If your students DO send you a question, don’t answer instantly. Wait a bit. Besides the VERY important message that you want your students to understand regarding you not being on call EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY, let them look at the exercise on their own for a bit. When they don’t get an answer right away, they might actually try again. Try it!

3.  When you respond to the question, first ask them to explain exactly what was it in the instructions that was unclear to them, which part or which words. That makes both you and the students reread the instructions.

There’s a good chance that the students will now know exactly what to do.

If not, then YOU, the teacher, may realize that the instructions could be improved.

A win-win situation!

“Women’s Day”, Being A Teacher & “The Mermaid Chair” by Sue Monk Kidd

By Alice Lurio Axelbank

Yes, I admit it.

I’d much rather reflect on how the book I recently read ties in with “Women’s Day” (March 8) and what it has to do with me being a teacher, than dwell on the question of whether we’re going back to school as scheduled in two days despite the CoronaVirus.

Stressful times indeed.

Now, don’t get me wrong – “The Mermaid Chair” is a good book and I do recommend reading it.

But I didn’t think so at first.

The book seemed to start off with such a worn-out situation that I was seriously considering moving on to another book.  A woman, who supposedly has a “perfect” marriage (smart, good looking husband with a good income) and a lovely daughter, is very unhappy. She has to leave everything in order to “find herself”.  The woman does not work outside the home, she wanted to be an artist but can’t find her “voice’.

Painful fall?
Naomi’s Photos

So there I am reading the first part of the book and thinking “Really”? Leave the house, get a job, interact with people – who says that developing an independent career, a part of your life that is totally your own, has to contradict being married? Isn’t it obvious that today there are plenty of women who enjoy both? ”

I even imagined the main character becoming an art teacher working with special needs children who finds that helping others express themselves through art can be very rewarding. Particularly rewarding when you have a supportive family to come back to after some of the difficult days at school.

These thoughts led me to think about “women’s day’ and my choice of career. I will be eternally grateful to the women who fought hard to ensure that teaching was not one of the truly few respectable professions a woman could enter.

I became a teacher because I chose to be a teacher, not because there were no other options available.

As a female teacher in the national school system, I have never ever experienced any sort of discrimination based on gender, simply because the majority of teachers and administrators are women. There are no differences in salary to worry about and my opportunities to develop within the system have nothing to do with gender.

I am also fortunate to be able to come home to a family who expresses interest in what I do and perceives my job as my chosen carreer, not just as a source of family income.

The end of the day – a good time to think! Naomi’s Photos

This year, in these tense times of THE VIRUS, “Women’s Day” reminded me to count my blessings! Having a family I love and a job I enjoy are great blessings indeed!

To get back to The Mermaid Chair – the book is much more complex and far more interesting than it seemed to me to be in the beginning. I won’t give you any more spoilers, but Sue Monk Kidd writes in a very engaging way, there are story developments  I did not foresee and my “complaints” were resolved as I learned more.

I’m really glad I read the book.

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Harrow

“Doors with a capital D” according to the book.
Naomi’s Photos

This book was a “YES” “YES” kind of book with two “but” “but”s.

I knew almost nothing about the book when I began reading, just that it was advertised as a book that people who love books and believe in the power of words would enjoy reading.

That certainly caught my attention!

It’s a wonderful story about storytelling and about “Doors” (with a capital D) which really do appear in some form in every story when you start to think about it. It’s a tale where words have power and young people strive (naturally, against all odds) to write (write = create) their own life story, the way they want it to be.  There is a clear message that being “different” isn’t a bad thing. It’s a book full of different worlds, unusual places, characters and exotic objects all described in rich detail.

The book has even been shortlisted for the Nebula Award!

No, I’m not going into the plotline. Trust me, you don’t want to read more details about it in advance – let the story unfold at its own pace for you!

So, with all these compliments where do the two “buts”  come in?

Naomi’s Photos

Well, there can be too much of a good thing sometimes. While I delighted in the rich descriptive language, the amount of metaphors and similes used in this book is staggering! Sometimes I wished the author would simply let a character complete her/ his action or have a quiet moment without it being compared to anything…

The other comment has to do with length. I believe the book would be even better if it were a bit shorter – there are certain points where I felt the storyline got bogged down a bit.

Enjoy!

 

Introducing George Eliot to Digital Storytelling with Story Jumper

 

Change the point of view…
Naomi’s Photos

Teachers in the school system are expected to take in-service training courses every year. One needs documentation to prove that you are continuing to learn new things.

So I do what I’m told.

I’m sure you won’t be the least bit surprised to learn that an accredited course entitled “Digital Storytelling” (given by Galit Stein) caught my eye this year. I’m always interested in learning additional ways to visualise materials for my Deaf and hard of hearing students!

My latest assignment was to take a literary piece I teach in class and visualise it digitally with Story Jumper.

 

I chose the poem “Count That Day Lost” by George Eliot, a piece that I teach to students studying at different levels, including some struggling learners. Some parts of the poem are not so easy for the students to understand and visuals can be useful when teaching it.

Story Jumper is a website that lets you create free virtual books with simple illustrating tools. The books can also be printed, but naturally, that costs money. The creations are easy to share, as you can see below.

While I’m fairly pleased with my “creation”, I think that Story Jumper is particularly suitable for students creating content, or adding visuals to existing content.  The process of matching visuals to a text encourages close reading. I’ve been doing that for years with my students and I find it to be very effective. Students would find the site to be very user-friendly – I didn’t need the tutorial to understand how to use it.  In addition, I think the feature of editing the characters would appeal to them.  I suspect that younger students would be more taken with it though.

 

As a teacher, I found the designing tools limiting, lacking in options for finer detailed work, particularly when compared to what I can do with PowerPoint. I don’t think my students really care if the end product looks like a book or a slide show.

However, slide shows can be harder to share – a Story Jumper book comes with a sharable link.

One word of warning before you read my “book” – sometimes when you click to turn the page it turns two pages at a time! I most certainly did not skip any lines of the poem, so go back and click again if necessary.

Here it is!

Book titled 'Count That Day LostbyGeorge Eliot'Read this book made on StoryJumper

 

Saturday’s Book: “Raised From the Ground” by Saramago


(Naomi’s Photos)

Mau-Tempo means “bad weather” in Portuguese.

Mau-Tempo is also the last name of the family whose lives we follow for many years in 20th century Portugal.

Bad weather is certainly a suitable way to describe the difficult times this family of uneducated farm laborers lived through. Miserable times, to be exact.

That’s not a spoiler – it’s pretty obvious from an early stage of the book.

But the magic that kept me reading from cover to cover is the manner in which the tale is told.  Saramago wrote about the type of people he grew up with. He combines an intimate knowledge of details regarding every aspect of their life with sympathy and warmth , creating a sense for me of having watched these people in a movie, they feel so real.

Saramago’s telling includes beauty and even humor in this tale of woe, with unique metaphors and vivid descriptions.

The author tells this story from different points of view, moving seamlessly, (sometimes in the same sentence!) from one character to the other.  This feat particularly blew me away. There’s an escalating dialogue between a group of hungry local men, trying to strike in order to get a slight raise, and a group of desperate workers that have come farther away, eager to take their place no matter how bad the conditions are.  This entire confrontation scene shifts constantly from words spoken by one side to the counter-arguments of the other side, yet is all perfectly clear. Words such as “he said” “they replied” are not used in this book.

This is one of Saramago’s earliest books but was translated into English after he won a Nobel Prize and passed away.  The politics are clear and his indignation raw. No message is shrouded in allegory. I understand that publishers didn’t think a translation of this book would sell well  – a mix of his trademark slow, run-on sentences with politics.

I’m glad it was translated.

I’m glad I read it.

When D.G., (The 10-Sided Dice) Presents Examples of Using Examples…

Why didn’t you mention me?

In theory, visualising a difficult concept is supposed to make it easier for the students to grasp it.

Naturally, achieving the desired outcome depends on visualising the material in a manner the students can relate to.

Many of my Deaf and hard of hearing students adolescent students have a lot of trouble answering questions constructed as “What is _______ an example of?” / “Why is __________ mentioned in the text?”

As in the following example:

Yossi got many gifts for his birthday. He got some books, three shirts and a helmet for his motorcycle.

What is a helmet an example of?

Some of my students would think the correct answer was:

“A helmet is an example of something you put on your head” or ” “…something you use for your motorcycle”

Yet the correct answer is:

“A helmet is an example of a gift Yossi got for his birthday”.

The students need to answer such questions on their final exams.

Sigh…

There has to be more than one way…
Naomi’s Photos

Till now I began by practicing such question types with the students in their mother tongue first, since understanding the question format itself and the thinking process required, is crucial.

Then we practiced answering sample questions in English. Here’s a downloadable worksheet I use.

what_is_this_an_example_of

All of this helped, it really did.

But not enough.

Some students still have difficulties in answering such questions correctly.

I wondered if visualising the issue in the context of a simple story would help the students, in addition to what we are already doing.

And so, the story of D.G., an angry 10 sided dice who doesn’t want to be called by his full name (Decagon), was born. When D.G. introduces us to his family, he presents us with many examples of such structures in context. He feels forgotten since no one seems to mention him…

Since a tale about a family of dice is so completely unconnected to a specific culture or age group, I believe the characters could be easily used with a wide variety of students.

Only time will tell whether the presentation will have the desired impact.

But in any case, brilliantly colored multi-sided dice are pretty cool, don’t you think?

You can download the presentation by clicking here:

Why didn’t you mention me

Note: This slideshow contains animated effects. My attempts at having the slideshow embedded in the blog while presenting all elements were, sadly, unsuccesful.

 

 

“If she had been there, she would have been saved”

“She hated strangers talking about her as if she wasn’t standing right beside them”.

When the nest vanishes…
Naomi’s Photos

 

An excerpt from the short story

The Mathematics of One Winter Blanket / Naomi Epstein

…. “Two sisters

One agricultural boarding school

Three hours of study each morning

Five hours of farm work.

The older sister, trapped in the shadow of her sister’s beauty.

The younger, so blond and with such white skin that she was noticed everywhere, at once.

The summer sun seemed to leave no impression.

The younger sister was unaware that the combination of those long blond braids, wide eyes and frank expression was beautiful. All she knew was that in the late 1940s her looks made people, strangers, talk between themselves about her: “Look at this one. If she had been there, she would have been saved, she would have been spared”. She hated strangers talking about her as if she wasn’t standing right beside them. And those braids – years of pain at the hands of her mother’s hairbrush. Yet she kept silent, always the obedient daughter, the only one in a family of five doing her mother’s bidding, always at her mother’s side.

You can read the complete short story here:

https://www.wattpad.com/826469436-the-mathematics-of-one-winter-blanket

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