Does being a CREATIVE teacher Mean being a MASOCHISTIC one?

Epstein Family Photos

Scene One:

Wednesday; my hardest day of the week. I teach from 8 till 3:30, 8 lessons in a row.

It’s the end of 7th period   I have just used the last page of an impressively covered large memo pad we got from someone in the field of high-tech (he got it at some conference, I believe). 8th period had mercifully been cancelled and I should have been out of that classroom like a bolt of lightning (it was a stormy day, by the way!). If you had passed my classroom you would have seen me standing at the teacher’s desk, turning the cover this way and that, puzzling over what new use it could be put to as it seems such a shame to throw such a thing away.

It took me about 10 minutes before I resolutely decided that I could think about it tomorrow and leave!

Scene Two:

I read a post entitled “Google form as Choose your own Adventure Tool” and off I went, my fingers itching to create one of my own. Luckily (for me) I had no time to try this out before thinking about it virtually.

Hmmm, seems like quite a bit of work, creating all these different options for a storyline.

Hmmm, if I give it for homework, then there won’t be much to check as they can just send me the ending to their story. GREAT! However, how do I know that a pupil didn’t randomly choose options and then sent me whatever ending came out? Surely I would have to add something extra to address this issue. Sigh…

Hmmm, it would be better if kids created the options on their own because in the process of creation they are learning more that when taking it. However, with my students it is so much easier for them to do things after they have experienced them rather than to explain things theoretically. Therefore I would still have to create one on my own if I wanted the students to understand what to do. Did I say that seems like a lot of work?

Did I say that I would still like to try it?

Scene Three

I used word clouds for a homework task. Some of the students don’t have Java on their computers and cannot see the cloud. So I’m emailing them the cloud as a Jpeg attachment…

Those are examples from just one week!

Perhaps I should ask Brad Patterson if there is any etymological connection between creativity and masochism!

It’s Saturday! Musings on Reading in Public Places

Epstein Family Photos

This morning I got up at 04:50 AM (!!!!) and went with my husband to Ein Gedi (near the Dead Sea) as he was participating in the 10 km race there.

Naturally, I took my book with me.

Reading in a public place while waiting, is basically similar in all places, whether it is a waiting room in a clinic, your child’s swimming lesson or for a race to end.

It’s not the same as reading at home.

There are people walking by, claiming or vacating the seat next to you, there may be background music or loudspeakers with announcements (at the race there were all of the above).

More importantly, you have to keep an eye on the time. How long do you have left before your child exits that door or until you have to be ready with the camera at the finish line.

In short, reading without relaxation.

But, in my opinion, still worthwhile!

The trick to making the most of reading in such situations is having suitable reading material. I don’t think I would have managed to read an academic article (or anything else that requires serious concentration) this morning. However, I’m still reading the fascinating book “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht , a book which easily “draws me in”. So, despite stopping frequently, I was very glad I had brought the book!

Peering Through the (word) Clouds at Error Correction

The ITDI Blog’s focus on error correction couldn’t have come at a better time (though it seems to me that any time is a good time to talk about this ongoing issue) as it is very much on my mind at the moment.

This round of debating how to correct errors began with an “AHA” moment when reading the post “What’s it all about…” on the excellent Macappella Blog. There’s a really practical suggestion for using word clouds to review language.

Word clouds are very cool.

However, we use technology to teach, not the other way round and the ways in which I tried to use those clouds weren’t really contributing to the learning process. But Fiona’s suggestion offers the best of both worlds!

So, off I went!

I clouded the text my student-teacher has just taught about Gallaudet University, the university for the Deaf in Washington DC. I asked the students to create sentences using words from the cloud as homework. I did not set any limits beyond the fact that there must be at least one word from the cloud in every sentence.

Certainly reviewing language!

So, now that the sentences are beginning to appear in my inbox, we get to error correction.

Here are the sentences that one student sent (11th grade!)

  1. I am not know to speak English.
  2. My room mess.
  3. Have many students in the school.
  4. I am deaf, and my parents also deaf.
  5. USA biggest country.
  6. I hard communicate with my friends`s class.
  7. I am 16 old year.
  8. No everyone can study in Gallaudet  university.

The vocabulary in these sentences was placed in correct contexts but the grammar is incorrect.

On the one hand I achieved my goal, the students had to think about those vocabulary items and generate sentences. The fact that the context is right means the items were understood. However, none of these sentences are correct.

Now I’m debating to what extent to correct or ignore these errors, as well as in what manner to correct the errors. There will be no frontal lesson to review grammar rules (long story) so the feedback will have to be made individually, either by email or in class.

In a past discussion regarding the topic over at Cecilia Lemos’s blog “Box of Chocolates” (Yes! She is the same one from the itdi blog) Cecilia and Tyson Seburnt suggested a technique that would be just the thing if I were teaching in a “normal” class situation. They suggested taking sentences from different students’ tasks and placing them on one page and having students help each other correct the sentences (with assistance as needed). However, I have not been able to adapt this for dealing with errors on homework tasks. The pupil whose sentences appear above, for example, doesn’t have classes with students at the same level!

Any suggestions?

Good Things are Worth Waiting For!

Photo By Gil Epshtein

Well, it seems that I’ll be following the Glasgow IATEFL conference from the comfort of home.

The competition has ended and I made it to second place!

I wish Nahla_Shaw all the best! Her posts were great!

I’m actually disappointed and relieved at the same time. I want to attend an IATEFL conference, both for the sessions and to meet my PLN face to face!

On the other hand, I found that just thinking of the logistics I would have to deal with in order to go during the school year (with our vacation beginning a few days AFTER the conference) to be quite stressful.

So, perhaps Liverpool, or maybe Harrogate will be the venue where everything comes together and you will see someone running around with a picture of a puffin on her bag!

Saturday’s Book: “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht

I can’t put the book down! It is SO good! I find myself totally immersed in the tale and have been going to bed far too late because I can’t stop reading!

Set in the Balkans, this book moves between the harsh realities of a troubled region to ancient traditions and the fantasic realms behind them.

Highly recommended!


B.t.w. – I am still listening to Dickens and will be ding so for some time. There are 15 cds and I’m at the end of number four.

Brad’s Blog Challenge – How and Why You Learned a Foreign Language

Brad presented us with another challenge (he seems to have a knack for that!): blog a story related to learning a foreign language.

Photo by Gil Epshtein

Last January, when my blog was only a month old, I posted about how I ended feeling a lot like a deaf person when I was sudying Spanish.

Since that was such a long time ago and the blog was still “taking its baby steps”, I’m posting this tale again.

Here it is:


On the blog Box Of Chocolates, which I really enjoy following, there’s an interesting guest post discussing whether or not the experience of learning a foreign language can help you understand your students better, called

Taking a Walk in the Learners’ Shoes

I had an interesting experience related to this. About 7 years ago when I was on a partial sabbatical, I took a beginner’s course in Spanish. My motivation was part historical (classic Eastern Jewish story, my maternal grandmother’s family scattered from Poland to Israel, USA and Argentina) and part practical (Spanish is supposed to  be an easy language to learn).

I wasn’t thinking of sharing my students’  experiences when I registered – after all, I’m not deaf and had not been expecting the course to enrich my experience as a teacher. Just hoped to learn some Spanish!

Well, I was wrong from the word “go”. I barely knew 3 or 4 words in Spanish when I started. My clasmates were shocked that I hadn’t known the Spanish word for heart! Hearing children in second grade know all sorts of words in English beore they start formal education. The deaf pupils literally start with nothing (some kids know the word LOVE but only in capital letters).

I had no exposure to Spanish outside the classroom. The only Spanish speaking friend I had at the time had recently moved away and I don’t watch the Spanish speaking Soap Operas.  Many (not all, never all) of my students are not exposed to English outside of the classroom, even though we live in a country where English is influential. They watch TV and movies with subtitles, use Facebook in Hebrew and don’t hear songs in English.

Just like my students I found it increasingly harder to remember the vocabulary. Each week required more effort on my part to review the words on my own. As I was also teaching, it was difficult sometimes to keep up when I had report cards and national exams to deal with.  Just like a sizeable number of my high-school students, who are often distracted by things going on at home.

I put in extra special effort and finished the course pretty well. But not easily at all. Seven years ago, after  not using Spanish at all, I remember very little… But I do remember how I felt when I studied.

I think learning a foreign language is a very important experience for any language teacher!

Saturday’s Book: LISTENING to Dickens

The emphasis is on “listening” as opposed to “reading”.

“Listening” as in an audio-book of “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

I find that listening to Dickens has distinct advantages. The reader is excellent and I enjoy hearing the dialogues in the book with all the appropriate accents. I had no idea that so many words that began with the sound /v/ were once pronounced with a “w”!

On the other hand, this is not television. I can focus on Dickens’ rich language creating the scenes to be imagined in my mind. With tlelvision creating the scenes I would be focusing only on the storyline itself which is only part of what Dickens is about.

I find listening to be a great way to revisit a classic tale!

Using the Holstee Manifesto Video to Practice Expressions of Opinion

When I saw the Holstee Manifesto video on Sandy Millin’s excellent blog: (Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas I knew the timing was perfect.

My favorite kind of homework task is one involving a video. Such videos have to be short, suitable for teens and, of course, don’t require any listening.

Such videos aren’t a “dime a dozen”!

This one not only fits the bill but ties in nicely with the topic the strongest group of students is working on – writing opinion essays. I wanted them to practice using other phrases besides “In my opinion” or ” I think”.

This video is full of statements to agree/disagree with so I prepared a worksheet for it.

The students have begun handing it in and it’s great fun. These are 17 and 18-year-olds. They seem shocked at the idea of not looking actively for the love of your life. They agreed, in theory at least, that if you don’t have enough time you should stop watching TV. They also supported the idea of trying to change things. One student thought that “sharing your passions” was a bad idea, passions should be kept private. I’m going to ask him and see what he understands “passions to mean”. “All emotions are beautiful” was criticized and jealousy was cited as an example of an ugly one.

One statement seemed to strike most of the students as stupid – “Getting lost will help you find yourself”!

You can find the film clip on Sandy’s blog, on Youtube and on our class site, with my worksheet here: (bottom of page).

Thank you Sandy Millin!



Saturday’s Trip in the Sun!

Today was the first warm sunny day in almost  a month. So off we went to the Judean Desert.

Life is old here.

We saw what’s left of early monasteries (6th century) and the gorgeous spring that sustained them (it is very quiet there, even today!).

We saw the route where my Biblical namesake Naomi, along with her daughter in law Ruth, is believed to have travelled from Edom to Bethlehem.

And we just saw the beauty of nature and enjoyed the sun!

Here are a few pictures, all taken by my son, Omri Epstein:

          DSCF2945                       DSCF2956 

DSCF2950                         DSCF2953       

DSCF2964         DSCF2983        DSCF2969

The Simple Joys of FEBRUARY!

Epstein Family Photos (Norway)

I left the classroom today with a certain sense of satisfaction.

Right! It’s February!

It’s not just that is the last real month of winter around here.

Every year, February is  the time of year when I can finally begin to feel that most students (NEVER say ALL) are moving in the right direction.

The 12th graders are beginning to see the ” exit door” to high-school opening wide and many are really buckling down.

Most of the 11th graders who were problematic behavioral -wise in 10 th grade have decided they really want to try taking the upcoming 11th grade finals and have dropped some of their “wasting time” behaviors.


It’s the 10th graders who make February into FEBRUARY!

I finally feel that they have settled down and adjusted to life in high-school.

The move from Junior High to High School is quite a move for everyone (expecially as our school is SO large, 1700 students!) but for some it is really difficult. Particularly those students who came to us from the mainstream, where they were the only hard of hearing students in the entire school. They often were treated as “the poor things” and simply did not do many things that were hard for them. Teachers would take pity on them in tests, forgive them for being late , etc.

Here they had to adjust to a framework where the excuse “But I don’t hear well” simply doesn’t carry weight! Neither do any of the other 59 students in our program situated in a regular high-school!

The acting out, the tears and other forms of drama have seemed to die down. Life is so much easier without them!

Ah, the joys of February!