An End of the Year Lesson

banana girl

In the month of May at the high-school we move into exam mode. Some classes are cancelled when the entire grade takes an exam but usually only some of my students will be absent (different pupils each time, depending on the subject they are majoring in). The school yard is half empty during breaks and the general atmosphere is one of a year drawing to a close.

Both students and I really need some fun and variety at this point.

As soon as I saw Jamie Keddie’s lesson, Lessonstream,  on “How To  Books” I knew this could be easily adapted for my students. The topic seemed just right for adolescents!

As some of you know from previous posts the word “easily” was not an apt description as I ended up copying the PDF file to PowerPoint picture by picture, but it was worth it!

I created a simple laminated, re-usable worksheet. I didn’t want the activity to be too difficult and I didn’t want to make photocopies. I planned that the students would fill in the missing answers on a piece of scrap paper.

Version One looked like this:

how-to-1The translations of the book titles were supplied, in a different order from that on the slideshow. The students were expected to match the Hebrew translation to the English title, copy the title onto the scrap paper and then write down one piece of advice that might appear in each book.

I had them work in pairs and they really seemed to enjoy it. HOWEVER…

It was too easy.

I realized I was in trouble by the time the first pair had completed the task. Two more pairs of students completed it (ending the day) before the new version “appeared”.

If it had been a photocopied worksheet the pupils would have  copied the titles but in this format they simply wrote numbers. When they saw the word “school” they immediately matched it to “How to be an outstanding elementary school teacher” without reading the whole title or writing it all out. So, it became a writing activity since they only worked on the advice column.

That’s not a bad thing but certainly not utilizing a resource to its maximum potential.

Here’s Version Two:


This time, it wasn’t a laminated worksheet. I realized I had been thinking “old tech” . It’s a WORD document which the students have to keep open in another window.

Now the students took it for granted that they had to type EVERYTHING in and they had to really look at the information in order to match everything up.

The students still enjoyed it! They thought some of the titles were really funny and liked discussing what advice to give.

I had filled in “ Bring a Towel” as advice for the book “ How to Survive the End of the World” but not  ONE student had seen the movie “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!!!

Here is the WORD document.

How to books wksht2

* Photo by Gil Epshtein

Saturday’s Book: Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

Photo by Gil Epshtein

Our local library has something special – a reader’s “gift” corner.

Any person looking for a “new home” for some of his /her books can place them in this corner, near the entrance. Sometimes the library itself adds books that they have multiple copies of but don’t seem to be leaving the shelf.

People place a wide variety of things there, ranging from old encyclopedia volumes, trashy novels, auto magazines and old textbooks. The books are in different languages.

Sometimes I find a real treasure there, like this book!

I’m enjoying it immensely! Paul Theroux travelled, in 1986 from London to China by train, and then extensively in China.  His descriptions are so vivid and he writes so nicely! He spent a lot of time talking to people (in their language!) which makes the tale particularly interesting.

There have already been several mentions of English teaching. He taught English in Singapore before this journey. In Beijing (in the book it is still Peking) he taught English at a night school for a while. In Shanghai he encounters a regular English day at a park – a grass roots “institution” where people converged to learn and practice English. This was before the arrival of the Internet…

My son pointed out that it is somewhat illogical that I began reading the “gift” book and not the other two books I brought from the library which have a due date, but who has to be logical all the time?!

*Photo by Gil Epshtein

Warning! Blogging Can have a NEGATIVE effect on your COOKING!


I’m a “slow” person. I do EVERYTHING slowly. While that certainly has some advantages as a parent and a teacher there are no advantages AT ALL when it comes to housework.

Since I work full time, do housework slowly AND blog, the title of the post: “How to Write Blog Posts Faster…”  really caught my attention. That post turned out to be not so relevant as the author is focusing on a different kind of blog, but his other post had a big impact.

Ivan Walsh talks about how he washes the dishes and does the housework while planning his posts. He also has a child! He treats blogging as something to be integrated into your life.

Now, I have ALWAYS thought about other things while doing housework (which is one of the reasons I do them so slowly) but reading how Mr. Walsh explains that it is the efficient thing to do was quite a liberating feeling. Especially as I have recently become involved in discussions on other blogs, not just my own.


Since reading that post I have baked a mushroom casserole without the seasonings.

I put the wrong seasoning into another dish.

I meant to cook two cups of rice. I ended up taking the rice jar, pouring one cup into the pot, putting the rice jar away and the measuring cup in the sink. Then repeating the process as I  remembered I needed another cup.

You get the idea.

I must say, though, his suggestion regarding using Live Writer is helpful – it’s much easier to deal with pictures here and the fact that you are writing offline is quicker in itself. People in my PLN advised me to try it and they were right!

So, how do I “turn off” blogging thoughts while cooking?

Thanks to my PLN my Classroom Computer will be Hooked Up to the INTERNET!!!!


Don’t hold your breath as it may take a few months, but when Rachel, the computer woman at my school promises something, I know it will happen. And its all because of you guys!

It began with my blog post regarding the things I do with a computer without an Internet connection. People in my PLN started pointing the way to things that I could use in this situation.

First I went to Rachel about TRIPTICO, which I couldn’t install via flash-drive. She wasn’t particularly interested.

Then I came back and told her about “Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals” that had movie segments that can be downloaded and watched offline on the classroom computer instead of me needing the video room. I asked that a movie player be installed so that I could use this site. She said that she would talk to the technician about it next time he came to school.

Then I sent her a letter with a copy of the PDF lesson I had downloaded from lessonstream on How To Books. I had been SO SURE that would work when I copied it from the flash-drive. I thought having a PDF reader was standard for every computer! But not mine…

That did it! She said that there was no point in doing what I asked (installing a pdf reader) because pdf must be updated all the time and she has found a way that the computer can be hooked up to the Internet and be done with it!


What I DIDN’T tell her though (counting on you not to tell her either!) is that I still wanted to use the PDF lesson NOW. So I copied each picture into POWERPOINT and burned it to a CD. Works! Hope to use it tomorrow! Sh…