Books I Didn’t Post about in August: Pastoralia by G. Saunders & More

Naomi’s Photos

I have some good excuses for the current backlog. The books here are only part of it – another post coming shortly!

In August I was either (happily) doing things away from my computer or madly trying to create a great deal of teaching material that would help me deal with going back to school “COVID Style”.

But let’s step away from all that now and talk “BOOKS”!

Pastoralia by George Saunders

Pastoralia is the name of the book and of the first short story in this short story collection.

It is the best one. It is engrossing, surprising, and gave me the same “punch” as reading another George, George Orwell. The tale is set in a weird theme park where modern people are supposed to live/act like cavemen for extended periods of time, in a desperate attempt to make a living. As the relationships and actions of the characters involved (the “cavemen”, the park directors, their family members) unfold and become dramatic,  we find ourselves staring at a picture of aspects of American modern society, absurd yet very real and familiar.

It’s not that the other stories aren’t good. I would have enjoyed them more if I had read each one month apart. The stories are different from each other, especially “Sea Oak” (full of surprises!) although   “The End of Firpo in the World” also deserves a proper mention. That one could be used for discussions in training educators, and in parenting sessions (Yeah, I’m a teacher. Where were you, school, with this kid?!).

The trouble with reading George Saunder’s stories one after another is that while the events from one story to the next are totally different, the main characters have a lot in common. I’ve also read (several years ago) Saunder’s “10th of December” which is a good collection, but I had the same problem.

I don’t think I read the last story in either collection…

Nonetheless, let me make it clear – I do recommend reading this book!

Naomi’s photos
Origin by Dan Brown

Once you have read a book by Dan Brown you know what you are getting into when you choose to read another one, the structure is the same. It was an enjoyable audiobook to have for an August spent more at home than usual, though too long (over 19 hours!).  I enjoyed the first part more, especially the detailed descriptions of the Guggenheim Bilbao museum. At some point, Brown slows down the plot too much with his lengthy explanations. In addition, as someone who has taught Asimov’s story “True Love” many times, I was not surprised one bit by the ending.

Sometimes, a Dan Brown is what you need for your mood and you get what you expect to get.  That’s a good thing.

Naomi’s Photos
The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Skip it.

Sweet is an understatement.  AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

I read it because I was in the mood for “sweet and comforting “(before going back to school) and it was a free Kindle book from Amazon.

So many other books worth reading out there!

 

 

How Many “Chunks” Could a Woodchuck “Chunk” via Remote Learning?

 

LOCKDOWN!

 

Well, here we are again.

After two weeks of school, we’re moving back to remote learning.

It’s a very stressful time with many uncertainties.

However, there is one thing I know for sure – I will need lots of materials! Personally, I find creating teaching materials is somewhat comforting.  It is something I feel I  have complete control over while focusing my thoughts on pedagogy and being creative.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

Confusing times…
Naomi’s Photos

So, what am I sharing?

I don’t have a single picture of a woodchuck but here is a garland of ways to practice 25  “language chunks”. All “chunks” were taken from our Ministry of Education’s advanced word list, known here as “Band 3”.

Note: The “extra special task” is the last one…

I am making a concentrated effort to practice “chunks” intensively because looking these up in the dictionary is more complicated and can easily lead the students astray.

Two sets on Quizlet

  • The Vocabulary 400 Project – Chunks (English-English)

https://quizlet.com/_8nfa3w?x=1jqt&i=265hh

  • The Vocabulary 400 Project – Chunks (English-Hebrew)

https://quizlet.com/_8mzrq0?x=1jqt&i=265hh

A shared board on Padlet

Our Padlet board of chunks

The board is arranged in columns. The students are asked to write a sentence of their own in each column, according to the word at the top of the column.

A standard  “Live Worksheet”

The students fill in the missing chunks in sentences. Plain, simple but effective – I’ve been using it!

https://www.liveworksheets.com/gz1180997rg

Chunks in Context – A letter which is a “teaser” for a video

screenshot from the video “The Last Knit” by Laura Neuvonen

 

This task uses some of the chunks in context while having the students pay more attention (well, a little more…) to the spelling. The students also answer a few questions to make sure they are actually reading the text. At the end of the worksheet, they are given the link to the video.

https://www.liveworksheets.com/na1186961cs

 

More vocabulary exercises in the works – follow this space!

Wishing everyone the best of health!

So, You Say “KISS the Students” This Fall? Then “KISS the Teachers” TOO! (A Comment)

Time to go back to school!
Naomi’s Photos

Three days until school begins.

If I hear another recommendation for a “really great Edtech Tool” that happens to be “just what I need to help me go back to school in the new reality of a pandemic”, I will SCREAM!

“Scream” virtually, that is. I don’t scream – I write blog posts.

I have no doubt at all that many of these recommendations are excellent and teachers find them helpful. Educators around the globe are doing their best to be helpful and share everything they know and I’m truly grateful.

But whoa, slow down.

I can’t “digest” that much.

Going back to school this year is particularly stressful with all the Covid-19 safety precautions. I already have a number of Edtech Tools up and ready to roll and am going to focus on making the most out of using them with the students. Overload is a danger – I feel the need to keep it simple and straightforward.

So don’t talk to me about “EdTech”.

Give me a break!
Naomi’s Photos

Yesterday I let my guard down and Adele Raemer’s emphatic recommendation to listen to a podcast with the currently intimidating title of  ” 8 Tips for Teaching Online, from House of #EdTech” sailed through my barricades.  In my defense, I must point out that we’re talking about Adele Raemer, who chose to write the following on the welcome page of her popular YouTube Channel  “Digitally Yours”: “Take things at your own pace. Learn what you need, when you need it”.  My kind of message!

Okay, okay, I also listened to the podcast because I had a lot of boring housework to do –  timing is everything…

So,  what was one of the things that Christopher Nesi from House of #EdTech said?

Christopher Nesi said: “KISS the students”  – Keep It Simple, Silly!!!

As far as I’m concerned, everything he discussed related to the content of the lesson itself holds true regarding the tools used for blended learning or online learning  – keep it simple! A small number of tools that both the students AND the teachers can master well may prove to be more effective. It will certainly improve the teacher’s level of “sanity”. KISS the students and the teachers too!  Hey, “sane” starts with the letter “s” too – maybe we should add it to a teacher’s version!


Naomi’s Photos

I’ll leave you with one more thing Christopher Nesi talked about:

“Walk in your students’ shoes”.

While we can never really walk in another person’s shoes, now is a good time to think about what I do know about where my students are “really from”.

Forgive my reposting – now is the right time for it.

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My students spill out of taxi cabs each morning, rubbing their sleepy eyes after early morning pick-ups, napping or texting through the traffic jams on the long way to school.

Some are from homes where no one gets up before they do,  to see that they leave without breakfast and have packed nothing but party snacks in their school bag for the long day…

Others are from big hugs and best wishes for their day at school, armed with the knowledge that someone is interested in knowing how the day turns out.

They are from blindingly new cell phones, complete with accessories, screens lighting up their lives, from shame masked by annoyance at teachers who insist on such unattainable things otherwise known as pencils and schoolbooks, knowing notes to parents will go unheeded.

Some are from a lifetime of dodging communication pitfalls, guessing meaning from partially heard sentences, tiring easily by the necessity of being constantly alert, at home and at school. From relief at coming to a school where they are no longer the only student with a hearing aid in the entire school – always conspicuous, sure that whispered conversations are about them.

Are you listening?
Naomi’s Photos

Others are from a world full of hands in motion, sailing confidently in a sea of visual vocabulary from birth, signing their pride to be Deaf and their frustration with the world which doesn’t use Sign Langauge, while resenting school organized efforts to create shared experiences between hearing and Deaf peers.

Teenage students of mine come from long trips abroad with their parents during the school year, from dealing with the anger of the same parents for then doing poorly at school, while trusting these parents to bully their teachers into forgetting about the missed material, evading the demand for buckling down.

Adolescent students of mine are from dependence on parents to navigate the world for them, from apron strings tied with double knots, cell phones bridging the distance, tightening the knots that need to be loosened.

My students are from a belief that I always                                                               know where they are really from.

Day in, day out, I give it my best shot.

 

Where are YOUR students really from?

Originally posted here: https://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2020/01/04/where-are-my-students-really-from/

 

 

 

 

The Right Book at the Right Time! “Meet Me at the Museum” by Youngson

JOY!
Naomi’s Photos
Many thanks to Vicky Loras for recommending this book!

Let me begin this post by making one point crystal clear:

I really really enjoyed reading this book.

I’m still thinking about it.

I’m glad it isn’t a library book (I purchased it on sale on one of the Kindle deals) because it’s a book I can see myself wanting to read again.

That’s something I don’t often say about a work of fiction. However, this book is about more than the barebones of its plot.

Plot? Since I’ve mentioned the plot,  I’d like to emphasize that I’m going to share very little of the plot in this post. I was in the blessed situation of not remembering a thing about the book beyond the fact that Vicky Loras recommended it (I’ve enjoyed the various books from different genres she recommended in the past so that was meaningful) and so every detail was new to me.

This book is an epistolary novel. That’s a word I would probably not use in a conversation as I don’t like a term describing something I  enjoy, reading books in the form of letters, that sounds like the word pistol. I’m very interested in non-fiction collections of letters as well. I find that people who invest in letter writing, see writing as a way to work out their thoughts and feelings.  Writing can help define but also face things.  I believe writing also encourages mindfulness as the desire to make another person understand often leads to noticing little details.

This is the situation in the book. Two people (old enough to be grandparents) who seem to have absolutely nothing in common, strike up a correspondence. He is an introverted, conservative Danish archeologist at a museum and she is an energetic British woman playing a significant part in running the family farm. A woman with very little free time. As you can imagine, the correspondence becomes very meaningful to them both.

When I read the first letter I was concerned that the book would descend into “cuteness” (Kitch” or “Shmaltz”) but I didn’t find it to be that way at all.  Perhaps I found the age of the characters to be something I could relate to, as they thought about their adult children.

In short, it was a great read for me at a time when I’m on vacation, stressed about the pandemic situation and find reflecting, noticing the little details of life, to be something I’m pleased to think about.

Enjoy!

All I Wanted was to Create a Glossary, yet I Found Myself Embarking on a Journey!

Not quite what you expect to see… Naomi’s Photos

Additional Title: When I’m creating content on the computer and my students are using a cell phone…

I have no idea how often I’ll be meeting my students in person at school at the beginning of this year or teaching them online. I’m not sure anyone knows at the moment. My best bet for creating new materials seems to be creating ones that can be printed out and used in class or used online. Having something ready comforts me a bit amidst all this uncertainty.

Therefore I’ve decided that it would be very helpful for me to begin the school year with some texts that are divided into chunks and include glossaries. I have found that struggling learners also appreciate having the text in a “box” and, in cases of multiple-choice questions, having the question above the distractors underlined.

Part One – Creating the Glossary

Just like any student, I DID remember that I had once learned how to create a glossary, but many years have passed since then and I had no idea how to do it.

It turns out that creating a glossary in WORD is very easy. Here is a close-up of part of a text and the glossary: (Note: instructions for creating a glossary can be found at the end of this post along with downloadable files of this particular text).

Looks really respectable right? Not a messy jumble of words in a box under the text!

Part Two – The OOOH Discovery

I was totally taken by surprise when I accidentally discovered that once the glossary was created, hovering with your mouse over the word brings up the glossed translation without you having to shift your gaze to the bottom of the page! Having the translation appear above the word as you read is far less disruptive to the flow of reading!

It looks like this (note the little text box above the word):

 

Isn’t that convenient?

I was very excited! I was sure that once my students learned how to take advantage of this they would appreciate this feature. I do not recall ever hearing about this in any Ed-Tech talks I have attended.

Clouds Set In… Naomi’s Photos
Part Three – The First OH NO! Discovery

As I always do with any worksheet that I create and share with students and other teachers, I saved the document as a PDF. It’s a common practice used to avoid having your students mess up the text as they are working on it.

POOFF!

That cool feature of the glossed items hovering above the text that we’ve been discussing? It disappeared completely. 

The feature does not work when saved as a PDF document.

Part Four – The Second OH NO! Discovery

I asked myself – how often have I seen students ruin or erase part of the digital text they were working on? The only relevant experience I’ve had is when students used to work on the classroom computer. Almost all my worksheets on these computers have remained in WORD and I’ve had very few cases of students accidentally erasing the exercise or distorting the text.  Since the originals are saved it has never been “an issue”.

So…

I decided to try using a WORD document with the students, without saving it as a PDF file.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to try it out with two students who came to school for the second round of national exams that we had recently.

When they opened the document on their cell phones, not only did the “cool feature” not work, the entire glossary disappeared! No little numbers and words on the bottom of the page at all.

Sad.

The glossary looked great on the students’ cell-phones when I sent it to them as a PDF file.

Looking at the situation…
Naomi’s Photos
Part Five – Current Plans

My original goal was to have a text with a respectable glossary that would be clear on whatever device the students are using. That goal has been achieved.

I will save the WORD version of the worksheets on the classroom computers. The students do not have WORD installed on their phones but the classroom computers most certainly do. At least those who work in class will benefit from the extra features.

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How to add a glossary to a worksheet
  1. Highlight the word you want to gloss and copy it.
  2. Go to the top of the page, above your toolbar, and look for the option “References”. Click on it.
  3. Click on “insert footnote”. A little number below a line will appear at the bottom of the page. It begins very low on the page but as you add more words it all moves up.
  4. Paste the word you copied. Then type in the gloss beside it.
  5. Be pleased!
Module C Summer “Bagrut” Exam, 2019, divided into chunks with a glossary

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Four PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part One PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Three PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Two PDF

 

 

 

 

 

A Multiple Book Post: Atwood, See, Buck, Luiselli and Yedlin

Mickey the Cactus
Naomi’s Photos

I’ve read so many books in the last month or so and each one actually deserves their own post, but that has become too large a task to handle. I actually even considered not writing about the books at all but I can’t do that – this blog is my memory aid! I’m the kind of person who remembers all kinds of details about a book but cannot remember the title of the book. Since my blog dates to Dec. 2010 I’ve often used the search function to check something about a book (like the answer to the question – which of Orhan Pamuk’s books with a name of a color in the title have I read?).

So here are super short comments about many books, in no particular order:

The Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See

I just finished the book last night. I read most of it in just a few days – it’s very hard to put down. I second what many of my friends have said – a fascinating book about strong women in an unusual social situation (men are unaccustomed to physical labor – women do EVERYTHING yet their status is still lower than men) living through turbulent times on an Island in Korea.  The women traditionally made a living by deep-sea diving without oxygen tanks or protective gear.  Frankly, I’m the kind of nerd who would have been fascinated by the story just with these aspects, and think the book would have been just as good with the two main characters remaining friends throughout the years and we learned of the change the new generations brought about – but I know that’s just me.

A GOOD BOOK!

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

For me this was a “companion book” to The Handmaid’s Tale, filling in missing gaps, but thankfully not delivering the same “punch to the gut” that the previous book did, as the vital information is already known. It explains things in more detail.

Atwood’s writing is, as always, a pleasure and I’m so glad the LIBBY library service had the audiobook! There are several different readers and Margaret Atwood herself reading little bits of it too! Having several readers adds to the experience.

A GOOD BOOK! Only to be read after The Handmaid’s Tale.

Peony by Pearl Buck

I haven’t read a book by Pearl Buck since I was a teenager! Back then I read both The Good Earth and Letter From Peking.  The pace is slow, unrushed, but I was interested in the details. The book is told from the point of view of Peony, a beautiful and intelligent Chinese bond-maid who belonged to a Jewish family in Kaifeng, China, in 1850. The impossible love story between Peony and David, (the family’s son)  is told on a backdrop of the family’s conflicted reactions to the gradual disappearance of the small Jewish community and its assimilation into the welcoming Chinese society.

The kIndle edition comes with a FASCINATING afterword written by a researcher who shows how cleverly Buck used the known facts about the community that was once there to bring the story to life. The researcher then adds information that was not available to Buck and presents surprising information about the descendants and research regarding the community from 1850 till the present day.

INTERESTING!

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

The truly unusual writing style and the skill in which the story is told kept me engrossed even though I found reading the book deeply upsetting. It’s all so visually clear and the punch is strong – the things that have happened to immigrant children traveling alone across the Mexican American Border is as tragic as I understood it to be from the media. The way in which the crises is related, the approach to it, is from such an expected angle and from unexpected points of view that reading the book is truly an experience, but a heart wrenching one.

I was glad I had read it but glad when I finished it too.

Stockholm by Noa Yedlin

I’m sure this book will be translated into English soon – the television adaption of the book has been very successful.

While at times the book can be too slow, it is mostly an enjoyable comic/drama with truly clever twists and great portrayals of people and their complex relationships.  The reader is introduced to five 70-year-old people who have been friends at least since their 20s.  When one of them suddenly passes away quietly at home, the others try to hide the fact for almost a week, since the newly deceased character was “shortlisted ” for a Nobel Prize in Economics. A person has to be alive when the prize is announced in order to get it (though not necessarily for the ceremony itself). As you can imagine (with a whole lot you might not be able to imagine on your own) hiding a dead body leads to unexpected complications… These situations naturally cause the characters to examine their relationship with the others in the group and look at themselves.

 

Saturday’s Book: The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Richardson

Growing Up
Naomi’s Photos

I know I have read a book worth reading when I’m still thinking about parts of it, several weeks and three books later.

Yes, I am way behind on my book postings again.

This is an excellent choice for an audiobook (courtesy of the WONDERFUL ) Libby library service.  A good reader and appropriate accents add a layer to the pleasure!

First of all, it’s a good story, well told with a plucky heroine.

The book takes place during The Depression Era, in isolated spots in  Kentucky but in many ways, this book could easily serve as a discussion for current affairs in the U.S.A.

The main character, an admirable young woman named Mary, is known as “Blue” because of a rare condition which causes her skin to be literally blue. This is true also of her parents and her “kin”, though precious few have remained alive in this impoverished place where life is harsh and racism is rampant. Being different can be a life-threatening condition.

Mary works as a “Packhorse Librarian”, traveling long distances every day to bring reading material to people who live in extremely remote places.  Not only remote, but some also live entirely off-the-grid. She actually traveled with a mule, not a horse, which is better suited to the difficult terrain. The parts I liked best were Mary’s (called Bookwoman by her patrons) conversations with people who were deeply suspicious of “book learning” – how she coaxed them to try and see for themselves how the information contained in them just might enrich their lives, perhaps even improve it. Sadly, it seems that the importance of a good education today needs defending among some people today.

The roving librarian job was just one of the jobs created as part of the government “New Deal” plans to help put food on people’s plates. Starvation was no figure of speech in that area – there were families counting the number of their children who died due to starvation (not to mention the stillborn children). Nonetheless, some preferred to accept their offspring’s deaths rather than cooperate with an interfering government who was offering a salary…

The author did leave me wondering what was the fate of the planned miner’s strikes. At the beginning of the book, there was much talk about the danger of attending a union meeting and the terrible working conditions (and short lives ) of the miners. But after the miner character passes away, we don’t follow that storyline anymore.

While I can be a bit “ornery” (to use a phrase from the book) and am perfectly able to criticize some things about the book, I am certainly glad I read it and recommend it too!

Negotiating A NEW Work Contract with THE NOTEBOOK – Planning for the New School Year

Asking difficult questions
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Note: This is part two of a series on preparations for a new school year full of unknown parameters. For part one click here: Looking for Footholds UNDER the Wave – Planning for the Next School Year

Naomi: “Thank you, Notebook for meeting me today, even though it’s your summer “hibernation” time”.

Notebook: (grumbling) “I don’t understand why you had to bother me! You have been renewing my contract automatically for the last 35 years and there have been no complaints about my performance in your classroom.  So why are we wasting my rest time?”

Seeing things as they are… photo by Gil Epshtein

Naomi: There’s no polite way to say this so I’ll just cut to the chase – I’m afraid I can’t renew your contract this year until you define exactly what it is you actually do. In what ways can you be useful to students today, in these uncertain times of a global pandemic?

Notebook: (sputtering with anger) “WHAT“?!! How dare you even ask me that? Students have always needed notebooks! And they always will. Even those conceited computers haven’t diminished our importance! Haven’t you read that when students physically write things down in their paper notebooks they remember the material better? Maybe you should spend your summer reading educational research material and learning something instead of needlessly disturbing my hibernation time. You can’t possibly be thinking of firing me!”

Naomi: (counts to 10) Notebook, calm down and stop shouting at me. I don’t want to fire you. I believe in the connection between the physical motion of writing and memory. But let’s face it. Things have changed. When the pandemic hit the country and we suddenly shifted to distance learning without prior planning, we didn’t use notebooks at all, because none of our students had them. They were all left at school. Then, when we started going back to school in small groups we had some students writing in their notebooks one day and using the computer the next when they were learning from home. It was very confusing and caused problems.  You can call the computers “conceited” or anything else you care to, but if you don’t define exactly what your new role will be in a school year that could be constantly transitioning between learning-in-class and distance learning, you will find yourself hibernating for long periods during the next school year! So I repeat the question – what is that you are good for? How can you still be useful for our Deaf and hard of hearing students?

New challenges to surmount
Photo By Gil Epshtein

Notebook: (after a long pause) “Grammar. Students write grammar rules, sample sentences, and their answers to grammar exercises from their books in me”.

Naomi: Now that’s something that can go directly into your new contract. Here we have a situation where you, the notebook, and the distance learning computer system can seamlessly complement each other without actually communicating with each other.

Notebook: (Brightening) Really? How?

Naomi: You enable students to practice grammar but also serve as a  storage place for rules and examples students might want to review before an exam. In class, students can use their notebooks. If they are learning from home, they can have the reference material on their computer systems and links to online grammar exercises. The exercises available in class and at home do not have to be identical, as long as they practice the target topic. Students need to be taught to access the reference material on their school’s computer system. Our students need to learn to use the “Backpack” function on Edmodo for this purpose”.

“We’re making progress! What’s next, Notebook?”

Define: “Doodling”
by Alice Axelbank

Notebook:  “Doodling”.

Naomi: What?

Notebook: Students doodle, draw hearts, tear off bits of paper, make paper balls…

Naomi: True. But that wasn’t in your old contract and certainly isn’t going into this one. NEXT!

“Describe a person you admire…” by Gil Epshtein

Notebook: Essay writing.

Naomi: Sigh. This one is trickier. We’re going to divide this section of your contract into two parts – notebook use for students studying at the lower levels vs. higher levels.

Students writing at the paragraph level or very short texts that can be completed in less than a lesson (leaving time for corrections) can use their notebooks. They can then practice writing different passages from home using our Edmodo (which offers built-in extensive word processing functions! No installing required!) or shared documents (student /teacher share) on Google Docs. Whether we learn in class or at home they will still have sample passages that they wrote available to them.

However, advanced students writing essays of 120 -140 words will continue to be required to type up any essay they write in their notebook. In fact, some students became accustomed to writing their essays directly into the shared documents before the pandemic hit. It is simply so much easier to work on the many corrections to their writing that our students need which take more than one lesson.

You must admit it, Notebook – long essays with many corrections get very messy and hard to read clearly in you!

Photo by Gil Epshtein

Notebook: (dejectedly) Surely you need me for the students’ “Literature Logs”.

Naomi: (cheerfully) You should be pleased with this part of the contract! I’ve begun breaking down the tasks students need to do for each of the literary pieces we study into separate small items – each item appears separately on the Edmodo.  So one column may be titled pre-reading,  another item “page one of LOTS Questions”, “practicing comparing and contrasting” or “Bridging text and context”.  If we are in class, and the student completed a certain task in the notebook, I just have to note that in the Edmodo. It doesn’t have to be uploaded to the computer system, I can grade tasks I checked offline. The tasks done during distance learning don’t have to necessarily all be done directly on the Edmodo site either – for some students and certain sections I’ll be using Google forms with an add-on that turns the results into a Google Doc.

Cheer up, Notebook – It’s quite possible to do part of the tasks online and part in their notebooks, and you know that some students are very attached to you!

Are we done?

Hopeful…
Naomi’s Photos

Notebook: You forgot to mention the topic of vocabulary.

Naomi: Thankfully, that’s one thing the pandemic hasn’t interfered with. We will continue using Quizlet and  Edmodo for vocabulary practice, leaving the student to decide for themselves when and how often to use their notebooks for this purpose. You know that some students certainly prefer their notebooks while others emphatically do not.

That wraps it up, Notebook! You see, now we can confidently say that you are all still needed in our class, whatever may come next year!

Now go and hibernate in peace! I will try not to bother you!

Looking for Footholds UNDER the Waves – Planning for the Next School Year

What now? Screenshot of a small sandpiper facing a big wave, from Piper by Pixar, see below

 

Big waves coming right at you can be very scary.

Wave don’t tend to wait for you to plan, get ready, or even try a practice run, before making it crystal clear that you had better start swimming, NOW. OR ELSE.

I felt like the little sandpiper in the video  (see below) facing the big wave when the Covid-19 virus first hit the country and the school system.  Needless to say, I had not been really prepared for such a scenario, transitioning so quickly to complete distance learning with my Deaf and hard of hearing high-school students.  It was quite a jolt, to put it mildly.

I don’t want to feel that way again.

Trying to see what lies ahead… Naomi’s Photos

I’ve been told that one can’t prepare for the unknown, as none of us imagined preparing for a lockdown or for returning to school with masks and partial student attendance.

I’ve been told that since the unknown includes possibilities ranging from no distance learning at all to long periods of it, or some combination of partial F-2-F learning in small groups, it is futile to try to plan ahead.

In short, nobody knows what kind of wave will hit the school system in the future, when it will hit and how big its impact will be.

However, now that the school year is winding down (we’re in the exam- mode-only now in high-school) I feel that I have learned some useful things over the past months.

Like the little sandpiper in the video, while I can’t face down the big wave, I believe that by identifying the problems I was faced with and asking myself what can be done about them, I will find footholds to help me find my way under an unknown next wave. It’s not unrealistic at all to imagine that that whatever does come, distance learning will be the first thing the school system returns to.

The best place to start is always from you know, right?

So…

Time to work!
Naomi’s Photos

My first, most immediate problem was that my students did not have their books and notebooks with them at home– these are all kept in several boxes in the English Room!

I’m putting an end to that practice, even though I’ve been doing it for years and have found it to be useful with students in Special Education. Not only is it bad for sudden shifts to distance learning, but it is also not a good idea these days to have students handling other students’ books and notebooks as they rummage through the relevant boxes to pull out their personal ones.

Getting rid of the “book boxes” will bring back the problem of what to do when a student comes to class without his/her materials.

HOWEVER…

That is already a much smaller, identifiable problem that I can prepare for.  Particularly as I am already in the process of learning how to expand my use of a  “virtual notebook”, based on what I began doing during the distance learning.  For the short time that we were back at school after “lockdown”, some students simply continued using the online notebooks while in class which made the transition between home and class much easier, at least in regards to notebooks.  More information on my version of online virtual notebooks in an upcoming post.

Even if I make no meaningful progress dealing with any other issue except the one described above,  I will be better prepared for what may come when the next school year begins.

For some, offering “honey” simply isn’t enough…
Naomi’s Photos

The much more complex problem I had during distance learning had to do with those students who did not participate in the distance learning at all or did so extremely infrequently and inconsistently.  The reasons for this lack of participation, to the best of my knowledge, are varied.  I know of some, particularly girls, who took on the role of caring for the home and younger siblings. Other students come from homes where no one cares if they completely turn night into day and exclude themselves from all school-based activities (it’s worth noting that our high-school only began the virtual school day at 11:30 a.m, three and a half hours later than usual!).

These are not problems to be solved by preparing new materials or adding even more scaffolding to existing materials, which is my usual mode of action  – these students aren’t coming to “the table” so what’s on “the table” isn’t the issue. So how do I even approach such issues?

Little Steering Wheel… Naomi’s Photos

Writing this blog post has helped me focus my thoughts. Again, the place to start is to examine what is it I know and what I am able to find out.

The 12th graders just graduated. I haven’t met the new 10th graders yet.

But I DO know the students who will be my new 11th and 12th graders – these are the same students who experienced distance learning during a lockdown for the first time along with me!

So it seems that a good place to start is by creating a table with the following temporary titles for each column:

  • Name of  Student  (who did not participate)
  • Homeroom teacher’s preference (should I just update absences on the school system or does he/she want updates regarding attendance the same day?)
  • Is contacting the parents a viable option (with my students, sometimes it isn’t)
  • Have I had the opportunity to talk to the student Face -2- Face about the situation yet?
  • Any insights from teachers of other subjects who teach this student?

Have  I missed something?

Most likely I have.

But I certainly feel that now I know where to begin finding footholds, even under a wave.

It’s a good feeling.

Now watch the video!

 

Saturday’s Books: You win some, you lose some…

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I believe that this book is very popular and is (or will soon be ) a mini-series available for online streaming.

However, this book goes into my personal “you lose some” bin.

I truly agree that a great deal of credit should be given to Ng for well-rounded characters and a clever storyline that builds up – I have no criticism of any of that.

It’s just that I totally do not want to read about a wealthy family who appears to be a perfect one,   a family who has it all, and then all the hidden dark sides come out.  I’m not interested in the “let me see the pleasures the rich have and show me how those pleasures don’t make them happy” type of tale. They all boil down to the same thing, as far as I’m concerned.

I also do not enjoy reading about women fighting to uncover other women’s hidden secrets and harm them, or rich kids taking advantage of others without a second thought. While reading I began feeling that all that was missing was mud for the battle…

After reading more than a third of the book I wanted nothing more to do with any of the characters in the book and quit.  I didn’t even read the end of the book or a synopsis online to see how it turned out, I don’t want to know.

Not my cup of tea.

Watchful
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I began to suspect I had been mistaken in my choice of the audiobook by the end of the first chapter. Nonetheless, I didn’t give up on it for quite a few hours more (out of the more than 15 hours of narration) before returning it to the library.

I stopped reading this book not only because of the aspects of the book I really disliked but also because of the parts I actually did like.

I know that is a very odd statement to make but bear with me for a minute.

The book begins by portraying a young, rich, American woman arriving in London two years after World War Two. While the author states and restates that she is different from her family because she loves mathematics and doesn’t behave like a fashionable young lady (according to her ever so fashionable mother), the amount of detail devoted to the clothes worn, not worn, previously worn (or should have been worn) was driving me up the wall.  Clothes lead to detailed discussions of other “womanly” subjects that our poor clever girl was unhappy with. I will spare you the details as I was also unhappy with them.

The plot moves between two-time frames, moving between the past and the “present”.  The parts relating to a network of female spies in Occupied France during World War Two is interesting and is what kept me from returning the book to the library much earlier. How such spies were recruited and trained, what they were expected to do –  certainly women to be respected! However, I don’t need to tell you that horrible things happened during that war. There is no lack of foreshadowing to indicate that harrowing experiences await the brave spies.

I realized that the combination of “aggravating” and “harrowing”, narrated in such a vivid way, word-by-word,  did not make me look forward to listening/reading the rest of the book.

So I didn’t read the rest of the book.

But for this one, I did read a synopsis.  I was curious, I admit. Some of my guesses were spot on. A synopsis was all the detail I needed in this case.

Just for the record – I’ll be posting about two books I  enjoyed soon. I am enjoying my current reads as well!

 

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