An Astounded Comment on “Copy Cat” by Anthony Gaughan

I always read Anthony Gaughan’s posts with great interest, and the post Copy Cat is no exception! But this time I was literally flabbergasted to read that he and his colleagues are criticized for modeling lessons to their student teachers.


O,K, I teach in an Israeli High-School, not a British Language School and don’t know my “Delta” from my “Celta”. For me “DOS” still sounds like something I used to have in my computer before Windows.  Perhaps I’m commenting on something I shouldn’t be due to a supposed lack of knowledge.

But I’ve been teaching for 26 years, have had quite a lot of student teachers (have one now, too!) and am a teacher’s counselor.

I have reached two conclusions.

The first is that no one can EXACTLY imitate the way you teach even if you want them to do so. Teaching is something that involves the teacher’s personality to a large extent. Over time the methods the trainee refers to as “my teacher’s methods” will only partially resemble mine. Every teacher develops his /her own style.

In addition, each trainee doesn’t have to keep inventing  the wheel! A new teacher needs to start with some useful, tried and true methods in his /her toolbox of teaching skills. Over time, according to the teaching situations and the students’ needs, the teacher will add other methods and perhaps even discard some of the early ones. But surely it is the responsibility of any training course to model lessons so that that trainees have what to start with!

it is most certainly desirable that trainees be exposed to a number of teachers modeling lessons. But I cannot imagine training done without it at all.

It’s Saturday! Musings on Movies Based On Books!

I really enjoyed reading the book “The Help” by Stockett over a year ago.

Tonight we’re going to see the movie.

I am one who usually says ” the movie wasn’t as good as the book”. I also try to read the book before seeing the movie because I ususally don’t want to read the book afterward (which, you might argue, doesn’t make sense because by the same token the book is supposed to be better!). I’ve come across the book “Beautiful Mind” several times while browsing in the library but haven’t taken it because I’ve seen the movie.

There have been exceptions though.

“Holes” by Sachar was a great book and a great movie.  I had been really afraid to see “The Kite Runner” because there are some very difficult scenes in the book which I had no desire to have presented to me in a more visual manner than they are already depicted. Yet the movie was done so well I found myself riveted.

I think the secret has to do with not trying to capture everything in the book.  Like the first Harry Potter film, which I felt was racing to cram in as many details from the book as they possibly could. Disappointing. When the directors give the characters the depth they need so that we understand who they really are, it is easy to deal with the missing details of the plot.

Of course, I expect the movie to stick to the basic story ! One of my biggest disappointments was the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen”. I have the book and read it with pleasure more than once (to my boys, too). However, the movie used the name and the fact that there were 12 kids and nothing else. I got the feeling that whoever wrote the script hadn’t even read the book!

So, will I enjoy the movie tonight? I’ll add a comment to this post when I get home!


Online Homework Makes Students Feel More “Noticed”

This is the second year that I have been giving homework online. I have discovered that it has unexpected benefits.

I give homework once a week on our class site. The homework is short, highlighting one specific point each time (for instance, the phrase “in order to” which is frequently used in texts and causes confusion”). I find that it is helpful for my students to highlight isolated points.

I began giving homework online because I wanted to be able to use color, pictures and video clips.

In addition, and just as important, I needed a better way to keep track of the homework. As I teach so many different levels at the same time, I found it very difficult to check everyone’s homework when their homework assignment was a  page in their course books (we have about 10 different course books in use for the different levels). There were times when I did not check homework or did not check everyone’s homework. And collecting the students books to check after school was no solution – they were too heavy to carry home!

Not only can I now report that I use pictures and video clips, every homework assignment is now checked and commented on in some way. Often the comments are short (“Excellent work!” “Keep up the good work”) but occasionally I comment on some personal content the pupil added.

But the amazing thing is, it isn’t the comments themselves that make the students feel noticed (though that certainly helps), it’s the fact that there is now a close watch on whether or not they do the homework! Obviously, I hadn’t been able to show them in the past (in a clear enough) manner that I care whether they do the homework or not. When a student got away with not doing homework because I missed him/her because of all that was going on in class, he/she did not feel noticed enough IN GENERAL, not just related to homework.

It is been less than a month into this new school year so I still remind and talk to the students who haven’t done homework before typing the information into the school online grade system. But even when I stop reminding and type the information in directly, the issue comes up in class in many ways.

Another unexpected benefit was the issue of copying. Although theoretically a student could email others the homework assignment I have not seen any indication of such behavior. Copying answers into the course book or worksheet is usually done on the same day of the lesson (think 5 minutes before class) not planned in advance. There were some students with whom such behavior was “an issue”. At home, they do the homework on their own.

There is, of course, the issue of the role Google Translator plays in their homework assignments (and whether or not my tasks are designed well enough to be effective despite of it), but that’s a topic for a different post.

last year it wasn’t easy to get the students used to the idea of online homework. Now that I have a computer connected to the Internet in class it is so much easier to get them onboard! Hurrah!

Using a “Homework Video” for Homework


I discovered this short video on Sandy Millin’s blog as part of her excellent summary of the #ELTCHAT on the topic of homework.

I always check out a video without sound to see if it is suitable for use with my students. In this case I actually recommend using this one without sound for hearing pupils – I think it is more amusing (and less stuffy) this way.

I liked the idea of discussing homework habits at the beginning of the new school year. I prepared two simple tasks, the “blue” version and the “red” version. As always, there is more L1 in the  “red” version and the task is even easier.

You can find the tasks under the Downloadable Goodies tab on this blog, included in the category “reading videos”.

I’d love to hear what you did with this video, if you decide to use it!

Saturday’s Book: Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

I do this sometimes – read a number of books by the same author in one year. This is the last Fannie Flagg book in the library.

This one is not quite as good as “Welcome to the World Baby Girl” and ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” and I think she overdid it with the length of the book – 500 pages! However, she has a gift. While the author  seems to simply be occupied with telling the most mundane details of every day life whenever I stop reading I’m amazed at how things connect to life in the U.S today, the “Tea Party Movement” for example.

Certainly a book I want to finish.

May still be reading it next week too – have only read 300 pages!


Comment on Willy Cardoso’s Post “London Writing”

Once again a post by Willy’s Cardoso has kept me up late feeling I just HAVE TO write and examine why it has struck a chord with me.

At first glance, you may be tempted to make some false assumptions regarding my connection to this post, named “London Writing” . Since you know I’m not in London let me make it clear that I don’t play the guitar (love to listen to music but just played the piano badly for a few years). In addition, I haven’t met any of the people Willy mentioned (though I DID have an interesting conversation about David Crystal in the remote island of Skellig Michael in Ireland and then corresponded with Professor Crystal about it!).

Willy Cardoso writes:

“…encounters I would have with amazing and inspiring ELT professionals, with whom I was able to socialize and learn thanks to this blog and to Twitter. I know I wouldn’t have done so much in this first year here if it wasn’t for the people I met through blogging…”

ABSOLUTELY TRUE! Ties in with my previous post about the long reaching power of my PLN.

Another quote:

“It was a year of writing…The more I blog, the more I learn. The more I blog, the more I position myself in the profession and in the world, and then I change, I find new perspectives, watch my language and bite my tongue. All in all, I’ve found a channel of self-expression so important to any professional life, but extremely important to the education profession.”

It’s only been nine months since I began my blog but it has had a profound impact, as Willy put so well into words for me. I feel the same way. And I never would have guessed it would be so because how many teachers-of-English-as-a-foreign-language to deaf students are there out there? Yet, I feel I am “growing” in the same way that Willy describes!

One more quote:

“…I don’t know who is actually on the other side…Hence, I rarely have a reader in mind,” – yeah, me neither. I know a few and am grateful that they read. Basically I’m writing because I need to write yet there is great power in every comment left on my blog. Writing that is noticed seems to lead to more writing.


So, I’ll end this post by wishing Willy Cardoso the best of luck with his M.A. I finished mine 15 years ago and can say that I’m glad I have it.

P.S Here’s one my favorite photos from London (notice the “School of English” sign in the background) by Gil Epshtein



My PLN ACTUALLY Got My Classroom Computer Hooked Up to the Internet!


As my PLN is SUPER HELPFUL I was determined to make the most of my classroom computer even though it wasn’t connected to the Internet. With such support I had lots of useful suggestions to try.

Well, my PLN has turned out to be quite a formidable source of influence, even from afar! On May 3rd I was told that the woman in charge of the computers had decided that I’d better be given an Internet connection and AS OF TODAY MY CLASSROOM IS CONNECTED TO THE WORLD!!!

If you want to know how this came to be, I’m reposting the May 3rd post describing the sequence of events. You can read it here.


Imagine me handing out virtual champagne, or orange juice, whichever you prefer!  I know the picture below represents  neither of them but THAT got me very excited and feeling the power that having a network of teachers has given me gets me very excited too!


Thank you everyone! I plan to continue “picking your brains”!

What Do You Talk About in the Staff Room?

It’s funny how things tie in with each other.

I hadn’t thought much about our staff room since the school finally purchased more chairs. Since I’m not one of those teachers who is in the staff room the moment the bell rings I often could not find a free chair. But that has been taken care of.

Tyson Seburnt’s interesting post “What’s a Staff Room to You?” made me realize that there are other kinds of staff rooms, reflecting a whole different approach to a staff room, one used for collaborating on school issues, for instance. Our HUGE room (there are approx 140 teachers at our school) is mainly used for eating /drinking coffee and talking. Although the room is enormous most teachers sit around specific tables, in sub groups. During the so-called lunch break (25 minutes at 10:40 in the morning!) the noise of conversation is loud. But what are teachers talking about?


If you had asked me that a week ago I would have said: Teachers’ offspring, fashion and television. Maybe some politics.

Right after reading the post, the head of our deaf and hard of hearing staff department implored us not to talk about students during our breaks around the table.

Hmm, that’s right. I didn’t really pay much attention to it but we do talk about student. or rather “vent” our feelings about them.

She’s worried that sensitive information we know might be overheard by people who shouldn’t be privy to that information (not that you can hear much with the noise level during the break…)

The same day I read an article in EL (ASCD) magazine called “Respect – Where Do We Start” by Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin. The author talks about the negative influence of teachers sitting and complaining about their problematic students during lunch breaks. She says that these kind of conversations do not lead to the creation of constructive suggestions on dealing with students. The reverse may be true – hearing other colleagues also complain about a pupil makes the teacher feel more entitled to her negative feelings about that pupil. In addition, the author also claims that when teachers spend their free time talking about what brings them down and not what they feel good about it encourages our brains to think in more negative ways.

From what I understood, Beaudoin calls for a “no-talk-about-students” rule for lunch hour.

I see the author’s point but I’m not sure I agree. In fact, I’m not sure it is a rule we could live by. With all the support systems such as my AWESOME PLN and my patient husband who listens to me in the evenings, there is nothing like the support of your fellow teachers, who actually teach the same pupils, as you exit a lesson ready to tear your hair out.

Do YOU agree?