Saturday’s Book: The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonasson

Yellow rules the morning!
Yellow rules the morning!

This book is by the same author who wrote “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared”.

I had read reviews that this second one is not as good as the first, and I do agree. However, I’m not sorry I listened to it (audibook number 11 of the gift subscription!) at all.

The book is too long and some parts are rather repetitive. In addition I found I had to “suspend belief” more than I did in the first book.

Nonetheless, the book is  entertaining and Audible’s reader surpasses himself. There are many characters in the book and he changes accents and intonation and made me feel as if there were a cast of readers! And he could pronounce those difficult Swedish names!

I wouldn’t read this book shortly after you have read the first one, but don’t skip it.

Seven Word Fun for an ELT Conference

A side order of beauty (I took this one!)
A side order of beauty
(I took this one!)

Dear Summer ETAI Conference Conveners,

I’m looking forward to this summer’s ETAI conference. I always enjoy these conferences a great deal (the Spring Conference was a treat!) and this summer’s topic is one particularly close to my heart: Music, Mime, Movies and More. Not only have you lined up an exciting guest speaker, Russel Stannard, but I know for a fact how much our local teachers have to offer. I’m excited about my own presentation as well. As I said, a lot to look forward to.

If you don’t mind, may I make a tiny suggestion for some additional fun?

Pink Surprise (Mine too!)
Pink Surprise
(Mine too!)

James Taylor, President of BELTA described a fun lesson plan in a  post on his personal blog entitled “Seven Word Biographies”He describes how he used these in class and where they can be found.

Seven word biographies are exactly what the title says they are. Here are two examples:

Malcolm Gladwell – Father said: “Anything but journalism.” I rebelled.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Eats/Loves too much…should Pray more.

Frankly, when I read the post ETAI came to my mind. We have such creative and witty teachers! And thanks to the conferences and our ETNI mailing list, many of us know each other!

If you agree, I could create a Google Form where teachers could send in their own 7 word biographies. This is much easier for me (as opposed to members sending me emails) and all the responses will appear in one place.  Then the response could be seen scrolling on a screen, or posted somewhere in the venue during the conference. In the recent Spring ETAI Conference there was a screen used for announcements.

I think we would all get a good chuckle between sessions reading biographies submitted by the members.

Here’s mine for the moment. I reserve the right to change it in the future:

Always reinventing myself while remaining a teacher.

I hope you find my little proposal possible.

Respectfully yours,

Naomi Epstein



Saturday’s Book Related Tale – from Soylent Green to Starbucks

I just read a fascinating (written so nicely!) article in the New Yorker Magazine about the new food substitute Soylent Green They claim you can live entirely on this stuff, but never mind that. I’m writing about the book connections.

First of all, when they described the 1973 movie with the same name a light bulb turned on in my weary brain! Images from that movie have been seared onto my brain, but I could not remember the name of it. I saw it years ago! What an ending! I was then surprised to discover that despite its age, our sons (both in their early haven’t watched it though (I’m adding “yet”). I hadn’t known that the movie was based on a book.

The founder said he didn’t want to change the name, despite the negative connotation of the movie. In the article he explains the benefits of the name and then sums up

“Anyway, a lot of young people never got the memo about Soylent Green’s being people….Remember Starbucks was the guy from “Moby Dick”!



I didn’t know that.

I began Moby Dick when I was a teenager and never went back to finish it. I did not recall that Starbucks was the first mate on the ship at all. I most certainly think of the coffee chain when I hear the name. I’m glad the founders of Starbucks dropped the idea of naming the company Pequod (the name of the ship). Starbucks has a better ring to it!

Note: Although I gripe sometimes about the waste time of cooking is, I can’t see myself living on that stuff!

Passive Learners vs. Introverts – A Comment


The introverts (I took this one!)
The introverts
(I took this one!)

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this week’s #ELTchat (lively moderated chats for EFL teachers on Twitter ) on the topic: How We Deal with Passive Learners. 

Fortunately, #ELTchat has awesome volunteers who write summaries for those of us who played hooky and missed the chat (I have  a really good excuse this time, honestly!) Lizzie Pinard’s  excellent summary can be found here.

It seems that the distinction between passive learners and introverts was found to be problematic. For me, there is a substantial difference in this respect between adult learners and children.

Going the extra mile (I took this one!)
Going the extra mile
(I took this one!)

All the adults I have taught (whether EFL or in courses on EFL for Children with Special Needs for teachers) have not only paid substantial sums to attend the courses but have had to “go the extra mile” in order to take the course. Many had to find sitters for children, others had to work more hours on other days while some students travelled from far away. The EFL learners I taught needed to take my course in order to pass an important test. Everyone had a reason for being in class. In this situation I felt I could clearly tell the difference between introverts and passive learners.

The introverts did not raise their hand, did not want to speak in front of the class and preferred to work on their own during group work. However, I could see their eyes focused intently on me when I was explaining things. They took notes. When I went over answers to questions the class had done on their own, they did not shout out  “Would you accept this answer as well”? But they came to me in the break and at the end of the lesson (or sent me emails) asking if their answer would also be recognized as correct.

(I took this one too!)

The passive learners did not bother to listen when going over a quiz or task that had been returned, unless correcting it would improve their grade. They had no patience for explanations on why something was so, they just wanted me to write the correct answer on the board so they could copy the answers into the right places. They would return from mid-class break late regularly until I announced it would go into their grade. As one adult student last year said to me, after a group work activity; “You shouldn’t do group work. You don’t make me stop using Facebook during the lesson at such times. And it’s your job to do so”.

Children are a whole different ball game. I only teach children with special needs in the national school system. Children don’t choose to go to school and most of the subjects they study were not chosen by them. While I feel fairly confident I can recognize an introvert, I don’t feel the term “passive learner applies here. There are so very many reasons why a child may exhibit behaviors similar to what one would call ” a passive learner” when really what he/she needs help in other matters that get in the way.

Children, especially children with special needs, need to learn how to take responsibility for their learning. That is part of our job. They go to school for many years. Adults who haven’t learned this in school may need extra support which is not always possible to give in a one-semester course. Especially when the classes are large. Recognizing these students is the first step, I would say.

Saturday’s Book: “Dancing Arabs” by Sayed Kashua

A fascinating book.  A very candid tale about growing up in two worlds, belonging to both and to neither. A complex situation indeed.

Sayed Kashua tells about his childhood as a very sensitive, bookish child growing up in an Arab village in the center of Israel. Without being prepared in any way, he was accepted to a prestigious boarding school  (high-school) for gifted children in Jerusalem, suddenly moving into the Jewish school system.

I was particularly interested in his portrayal of the differences in the school systems both as a teacher, but particularly as a counselor who works with teachers from all sectors of Israeli society. I know many things have changed since he was a child, but some echoes of his childhood experiences remain.


Saturday’s Book: The Book that made me DIZZY!

It’s not it, it’s me.

I didn’t want to write the title of the book in the subject line, as the problem really may be mine and not the book’s. I don’t feel I gave the book a fair chance.

It’s just that the book is about 8 people who are sharing a holiday house for two weeks. I love books that move the plot forward by presenting things from the perspectives of different characters.

But this is ridiculous.

EVERY SINGLE PARAGRAPH (after the first few pages) is from someone else’s point of view! There are eight different characters (of different ages, kids and adults) and by the time I adjust my thinking to the character currently telling the story its off to someone else.

After 40 pages of “The Red House” by Mark Haddon I decided I would try it again, someday, on a relaxing vacation. I did enjoy Haddon’s first book a great deal, I don’t want to write the book off.

When Computers Turn Against the Teachers

A tiny life blocked by a giant one. (I took this one!)
A tiny leaf blocked by a giant one.
(I took this one!)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I actually quite like computers. I’m the kind of girl who gets excited by Adele Raemer’s latest post Actively Teaching Passive” – using Google docs and QR codes to have students work independently is just the kind of issue I want to spend time on.

But at the moment computers are making my life miserable at school. And work overtime at home. To be more precise, it’s the computerized Moodle grading system.

First of all, there is its basic “meaness”. Going into the “add grades”  section isn’t enough for it. When you’ve finished doing all that is required in THAT section you have to go to another section and CRUSH (actually the literal translation would be “run over”, as in car accidents) the grades so that they will appear on everyone else’s sites. What’s wrong with the simple word “REPLACE”?!!

This tree seems to drop purple leaves.  (I took this one too!)
This tree seems to drop purple leaves.
(I took this one too!)

Then there is it’s computer trait of not dealing well with exceptions to the rule. To be fair, the support system did find a solution to how a weird teacher like me who teaches multi aged mixed classrooms can record attendance but the school administration can’t see it during pedagogical meetings. In addition, I needed the central support service to discover the awkward way I can check exactly how many lessons a certain student missed (not the normal way). The answer I had gotten before from inside the school was:

“What? You don’t record the absences by hand in your diary and then type them in?” 

But today was the LAST straw.

O.K. It can’t be “the last straw” because I’m stuck with the system.

I know how to type in the final grades and CRUSH them for processing before our national finals on May 15.

Honestly, I do.

The lovely computer lady at our school says that they weren’t there. They all vanished! I have to sit with her and read her the grades tomorrow.

Did it eat my grades? (Yup, took this one too).
Did it eat my grades?
(Yup, took this one too).

I contacted the central support (they do have a really friendly person there, I am so grateful for that). He said he could see most of them, but not all.


I did the same thing for all 10 groups, what is going on?

I never had these problems when I used to hand in a neatly organized piece of paper to the secretary…



Saturday’s Book: “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child

Not my usual style of book, but my eldest has lately taken up Lee Child’s books and says this one is his best. I’ve read quite a few murder mysteries in the past and jumped at the chance to share a book.

My memories of previous murder mysteries are all jumbled together. Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, murder mysteries arranged according to alphabetical order, an orchid loving detective and even something with a Rabbi detective who has a murder to solve every day of the week. I’m not sure which memories go with which book. But this book is a bit different, I’m pretty sure of that.

It is 100% gripping, that’s for sure. In fact, I wouldn’t reccommend doing what I did, reading it during a school week. I read far too many hours a day as I couldn’t stop. Lot’s of clever things. Informative too. WAIT FOR A VACATION!

But, it is too violent for my taste. Some dead bodies are to be expected in this genre. There were quite a lot. There’s lots of info about guns and how to fist fight. There is action and sex, but very little humor.

I don’t remember ever saying this before, but I think it’s a guys’ book.