Student smelling their way to the Second Conditional

Today I  was finally able to begin using the first of the computer lessons I prepared over the vacation “Use Your Senses with the Second Conditional” (The link takes you to the lesson I posted 10 days ago, explanation and download-link).

If you were there...
If you were there...

From previous experience I knew that my students learn the technical side, the form of the Second Conditional easily enough but that they have trouble with the “hypothetical aspect”. Being born with a hearing loss often results in a language impairment. One of the common manifestations is a tendency toward concrete thinking.

It worked out well that I chose pictures of two extreme places where students have never been. None of them had heard of Namibia.

I explained to them about the second conditional but did not say that the questions they would have to answer were related to the senses. The first question relates to how they would feel if they were there. That seemed reasonable to them. But then they got to “what would you smell”. Some students immdiatly jumped to conclusions and read the word as “small” (most don’t know the vocabulary item “smell”). They also decided “sweat” was “sweet” and then could not understand what to do with the question. When I helped sort that out some of the kids were shocked – no one has ever asked them about smelling before!

Only when they read the suggested (funny ) useful words of “penguin-poo” “camel -poo” and had a good laugh (“phew, I don’t want to go there” some said) did the idea that they have to IMAGINE being there sink in. One boy was troubled by “dead fish” (in the suggested vocabulary) because he doesn’t like eating fish. Only when he got past THAT did he get the hypothetical aspect.

By the time they got to “what would you hear” they all knew to relate to what could be heard whether they can actually hear it or not ( a lot of students have cochlear implants and can hear lots of sounds, speech is more of a problem).

As they had to write the word “would” more than 10 times I hope that the connection between the form and the concept was made. Time will tell. They seemed to enjoy it and three boys were even arguing if wind made noise in the desert!

Two problems:

1) I had to write “useful words” as many of the students have such a limited world knowledge they wouldn’t know enough to imagine what could be smelled or heard. However, they did not try to add any ideas of their own (using their bilingual electronic dictionaries). Without words some would have been more creative, others would have gotten stuck. I suppose I need two versions…

2) Computer woes. For some reason not all pictures look as they should on the screen. In the photo from Antarctica you couldn’t even see the Zodiac-boat! The c omputer is new but the screen is much older – that way the computer looks older and is less attractive to possible thieves… Since all my other computer lessons won’t work (involving PDF and a video clips) I’m working on getting a compuer person to come in, so we’ll se if that can be solved.


Some people would say that I’m creating work for myself…

Notes for teachers on “How To Steal Like An Artist” By Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon wrote a brilliant piece (with great visuals!) called:


He refers to his post as “notes on writing and drawing”. I’d like to point out how they are also notes for teaching. I’m following his post point-by-point (the points are direct quotes, the photos are by Gil Epshtein)

1) Steal like an artist.

By Gil Epshtein

Great teachers don’t constantly strive to reinvent the wheel. They read, listen and talk to other teachers and let their students benefit from a wealth of accumulated experience and creativity. The great teacher uses whatever strategies and ideas are useful and suitable and makes sure to go where these can be found!

But what the teacher has heard can’t and shouldn’t be used exactly as it was presented. Each class is different and adpating the material is a creation of something new! As Austin Kleon says: “Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas”.

2) Don’t wait till you know who you are to start making things.

by Gil Epshtein

There is no magic formula. It isn’t only people who have written coursebooks or teachers who have taught for more than 7 years who can suggest material, strategies and innovations. Just like we try to tell our students not to be afraid to make mistakes, teachers must not be afraid to experiment with the ideas they have!

3) Write the book you want to read.


By Gil Epshtein


Which for teachers is:

Find / collect /create the materials needed for teaching the way you believe it should be taught.

4) Use your hands.


By Gil Epshtein


Don’t let issues such as “crooked lines” or being able to draw only “stick figures” dissuade you from making and using your own materials and games. When they are tailored for YOUR class, then they are worth more than commercial material!

5) Side projects and hobbies are important.


By Gil Epshtein


Having hobbies are not only important for teacher’s sanity – they can lead to great things to do in the classroom. There are many blogs out there in blogosphere by teachers who are incorporating their love of movies, animals, photography or what not into their teaching!

6) The secret: do good work and then put it where people can see it.

By Gil Epshtein
By Gil Epshtein

As stated in point one – we learn by communicating with others, so share your work too! Go to conferences, write for your local jounal, write a blog, TWEET or whatever works for you!

7) Geography is no longer our master.


By Gil Epshtein


The teachers in your staffroom may not be interested in sharing but you will always find teachers online who are! it’s called building a Personal Learning Network. This blog is a testimony to the growing number of teachers I have found that enrich my teaching experience from the comfort of my home!

8) Be nice.

By Gil Epshtein

If you liked a recommendation – say so. If you didn’t, you don’t have to use it but that doesn’t mean you have to “trash it”! Communities support and encourage!

9) Be boring. It’s the only way to get the work done.


By Gil Epshtein


Which for teachers is:

Take a deep breath and deal with the boring, administrative side of teaching. Every school has technical demands which are boring and not always logical. But if you don’t stay within the framework of the school requirements you won’t have a job and then won’t be making an impact on anybody!

10) Creativity is subtraction.


By Gil Epshtein


Austin Kleon says “Devoting yourself to something means shutting out other things”.

For those teachers who have found their “online PLN” I take that to mean : Beware of Gold Rush Fever! There are SO many interesting things going on out there that one has to remember to study and adopt new things in small chunks, accepting the fact that you can’t possible take in everything that is being offered to you. You will have to ignore some and focus on really making the most of what you have begun experimenting with before taking in more new ideas.

I’m sure there are other lessons to be learnt from Austin Kleon’s post, but those are my ten!

Saturday’s Book – Great House by Nicole Krauss

I’m about halfway through the book and can’t quite make up my mind about it.

I LOVED her previous book “The History of Love” and couldn’t stop talking about it for a long time. However, this book sometimes has me engrossed while at others feeling a bit depressed. There are separate stories and in each one the loneliness, the silence is sooo great that I’m unhappy. Which could be taken as a sign of how well Krauss writes since I feel drawn into the story.

I don’t know if the stories will tie in with each other yet. I don’t need books to have happy ends but I do need some sort of resolution and hope that it isn’t just a collection of stories of the silences that exist alongside a HUGE desk. The book “Between the assisinations” by Aravind Adiga was like that – tragic stories connected only by the place, no resolution at the end. That one left me with an unfinished feeling to it.

I’m still reading – we’ll see!

Seems you can cloud your tweets now too!

htweet cloud

Looking at this “tweet cloud” this way is not the same as looking at it online – the bubbles expand and you can read the whole word inside each bubbles (bubble sizes reflect frequency) . If you want to do that you can go Tweet Topic Explorer

It was interesting to compare my blog cloud to this one. This time I’m happy with the size of the word “students”! And of course you can see some of the people I’m corresponding with – but there are others too ! Lucky me! Hope no one takes offence! The topics are varied and I’m quite happy with the results!

USE YOUR SENSES with the 2nd conditional!

Screen shot of lesson
Screen shot of lesson

Since I read Ceri Jones post about using the senses to relate to a picture I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I really felt that this could be a useful tool for expanding my use of visual materials but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to experiment with it.

I decided that the best way to begin would be by comparing two photos from very different environments. Ceri talks about (in other posts) about the importance of using pictures related to pupil’s lives but with my pupils I need to expand their world knowledge. In addition, I’m trying to get them to think, and not work by comparing words in a question to the text. Some kids default response is “dunno”.

I had used Jason Renshaw’s Valentines Day lesson and the striking format seemed perfect for the topic of senses. Jason has kindly permitted use of his format – THANK YOU JASON! I had some technical trouble – I know Jason has also posted a blank format without pictures but he used different colors and I was unable to change them. So, if you look closely, you can see I pasted pics over his small ones. That actually was a lot of work but I hope I can make a series of “senses” lessons so it will have been worth it.

I need to teach the second conditional form and I thought everything connected nicely.The instructions are purposely vague, I plan to use it differently with different students.

Here’s the  link to the lesson:

2nd conditional with senses

We’re on vacation so haven’t had a chance to try it. May need tweaking. If you have suggestions, can still make corrections!

Inclusion: A Comment on Tom Whitby’s: “A Third Rail Education Issue”

Tom Whitby has a very interesting post on the issue of Inclusion.

This is an extremely complex issue. A look at my classroom highlights some of these complexities.

Deaf and hard of hearing students at the high-school where I teach are placed in regular homerooms, but the time they actually spend learning with their hearing peers is compleltely individual. Some learn all subjects except gym (and homeroom hour) in the self contained small classes, with special teachers (by subject matter) situated  in the school, while other study varying degrees of hours a week with their homeroom class,   depending on the subject. There are 70 deaf and hard of hearing students and approx. 1, 700 hearing students at our school.

Some of the students came to the high-school from self contained classes in regular schools. Others were completely mainstreamed  till they came to us in 10th grade. Some of these transferred because of academic difficulties. Despite receiving tutoring, the older they became the harder it was to keep up with their hearing peers. Others did very well academically in the mainstreamed classroom.

Regardless of academic succes (or the lack of it) all of the students who came to us from the mainstream were lonely. Some students had hearing friends but felt, as adolescents, that their hearing friends could not understand them and be a “real” friend the way their hard of hearing peers could. Some students study most of their subjects with hearing students yet spend every second of the breaks hanging out with the other hard of hearing students.

I teach ALL70 students. This year we don’t have a single student who can deal with studying English as a Foreign Language on a high-school level with the hearing students. I know for a fact that some deaf and hard of hearing students that are mainstreamed take exams at the highest level of English and do well. But this is a minority. Studying English when the teacher talks, sings and lets the students talk in  a foreign language which is hard to lip read is a nightmare for many. The level of English of some of the pupils that come to me from the mainstream is very low.

Back to Tom Whitby’s post. He writes: “…but sometimes fairness to all, means unfairness to some.”

Now, lets look at Inclusion within the special classroom.

Some parents would rather their child be labeled as “deaf” of “hard of hearing” than other things. In recent years I have been getting pupils whose hearing problem is really the “least of their problems”. For example, a pupil who is hyperactive and when frustrated or angry by a small thing erupts in violence needs my full attention to keep him on task. What about the other pupils in the room? What about the sweet, polite girl who is really weak and needs my attention as a specialist but  I’ve  constantly got one eye on  this pupil or else “all hell will break loose” literally?

And what about the pupil who has organic problems and is sensitive to noise? Classes of deaf students are not (as you may think) quiet places. I teach in the format of a learning center. Hard of hearing students may talk too loudly. Deaf students tap their pens or their feet unaware that the noise is annoying. This student throws temper tantrums when the noise causes him to feel a headache.

Neither of the pupils I mentioned rely on sign language for communication.

I’m told that as a special ed teacher I must be “inclusive”. However, there are days which I wonder who we are being fair to with their placement.

Is Being a Creative Teacher & Being Efficient with Paperwork a Contradiction?

Or is it just me?

As part of my job as  a counselor I have to address, fill (with various papers) and mail out  315 envelopes to schools around the country, according to a list of names.  Some envelopes are filled with five pages, others with thirteen.

I’m incredibly slow.

It’s not that I’m disorganized. Rather just looking at the size of the pile gets me down.

I also get distracted with odd thoughts as I work, such as:

*Hmm, what an unusual name this student has. I wonder if she gets teased because of it.

*Hmm, this place is so small they don’t even have street numbers for the address.

*Who is this school named after? I wonder who he was…

And, of course, I am writing this post instead of working!!!