Visualising School – Photo Pause

A teacher gets “new eyes” with camera in hand!

Everything pointed to the school gate this morning!
Good morning! This is the way to the front gate – go girl!


Artistic student color coordinates the litter?! Spotted In the front yard
Artistic student color coordinates the litter?!
Spotted In the front yard


Mynah's delight - student's discarded sandwich (front yard)
Mynah’s delight – student’s discarded sandwich
(front yard)


Note: This is an educator’s blog, so only school related pictured are posted here. To see what this teacher comes up with when pounding the pavement of her hometown, see here:

Pounding The Pavement in Kiryat-Ono

More in the next post!

Squaring Alfie Kohn’s Reply with My Reality

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

In my previous post I dared to post some BUT arguments related to Alfie Kohn’s approach to homework. I used the word dare because I really admire both the man and his work.

Now I admire him even more because he has kindly allowed me to quote from his reply! So nice of him to take the time to do so!

However I’m in the midst of puzzling over his powerful, research based points and my daily reality in the classroom.

I made two basic claims that Kohn related to, in regards to my deaf & hard of hearing high-school students (we’re not talking about young children) and he doesn’t accept either of them. The background to the claims is that I only give a small amount of homework, once a week, of work that isn’t “busy” work, but rather is meaningful.

Claim 1: Homework provides practice and exposure to material in English beyond what I can do in class.

Kohn replies:

“To be honest, it’s not clear to me why those who are deaf would need, or benefit from, having to do more academic assignments after school when the research suggests there’s no benefit for students in general.  (And I think the other arguments against homework would also apply here:  the inappropriateness of having the school determine how kids spend their time when they’re not at school, and the importance of other sorts of development beyond academic:  social, emotional, physical, etc.)”

Naomi's photos
The school yard
Naomi’s photos

Claim 2: Homework given online lets me really individualize the homework without insulting the learners as they don’t see each other’s tasks. They all get tasks they can do and experience success.

Kohn replies:

“I might reframe the question as follows:  Can we figure out a way to individualize learning and help students experience success (at tasks *they* experience as meaningful) entirely during school hours — regardless of whether they have special needs?  I’m optimistic the answer is yes.  And if there’s really a good case to be made that homework is necessary, then perhaps we can make that case to the students so they can make the decision themselves rather than being compelled to do what the teacher alone decides is valuable”

These replies make me feel rather conflicted.

In the reality of my classroom setting, some students DO participate in sports or have an afternoon activity. A few have jobs. Some attend the weekly social meetings for our students run by Shema, the organization I also work for (but that’s only once a week!). However, quite a few students do nothing, absolutely nothing, after school. The students do not live near the school or their peers and some have no friends where they live.

In addition, the STUDENTS  (not to mention the parents) are the product of the system. Since I started with my clear, “every Monday homework task” system, on the Edmodo platform, I’ve heard from the students, EVEN THOSE THAT DON’T DO THE HOMEWORK (!!!) that they take the subject more seriously. The parents are pleased too! To me it  seems that my little homework task  lets students do their own thing and still benefit academically because it’s brief. When you learn a foreign language, it’s important to see it used outside the context of the classroom.

On the other hand, for those students whose home life is chaotic and no homework gets done there, we find ways to have it done in school. I’ve always seen that as subscribing to Robyn Jackson’s approach  (my paraphrase)- if the homework you give is only homework that is important, than it can’t go away until it’s done. I would assume that Kohn would say : Oh, if you can do that,  let all the students do it in school.

Naomi's photos
The school yard
Naomi’s photos

But we have so little actual lesson time at school – lessons are constantly being cancelled due to lectures, trips, sport days,  tests in other subjects and more! It’s a constant battle for time!

Everything makes sense. Sigh.

Robyn Jackson’s approach really helped me construct my homework system. Maybe I should draw on some more Chutzpah and ask for her help in squaring these conflicting issues?


Saturday’s Book: 16 Kinds of Snow by Kostrzewski

We don't have snow, only rain! And not much of that! (Naomi's photos)
We don’t have snow, only rain! And not much of that! (Naomi’s photos)

The full title of this E-Book is: 16 Kinds of Snow or How & Why Bilinguals do it Better by Wiktor Kostrzewski

It’s fun to read an e-book based on a blog, especially as I have actually met the writer in person. You can feel how, like in a blog, Kostrzewski draws examples from ongoing daily life to make his points clear. He uses a wide variety of springboards, from podcasts to romance. Makes me want to shout things out in response “Hey Wiktor – I listen to “This American Life” podcasts too!”

At first it takes some getting used to though. Blog posts are designed not to be particularly long and in the beginning I was repeatedly surprised that a chapter was over, I sort of expected more in a book.  In that sense  I liked the second part of the book better, which was written for the book and not as a blog post.

Reading the whole book did give me a complete picture, as Kostrzewski details ways to deal with the decision to learn a second language and stick with the plan. It’s helpful information both as a teacher (though he does have teachers of language schools in mind I believe, and not school-teachers in national schools) and as someone who still toys with learning Spanish for her own use one day. Kostrzewski  sounds like a real person, that understands you and the juggling act that is life.


Daring to Say “but” to Alfie Kohn about Homework

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

I use the word “dare” because I have the utmost respect for Alfie Kohn and his battle against children being made to do unneccessary busy work in the afternoon (aka homework) after having spent all those hours in school. I’m glad someone is highlighting the adverse effect this has on many parent/child relationships.

And the Washingtom Post article my friend Ruth Sheffer pointed out to me :“Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? Findings from New Research is a fascinating read. Shows you how carefully one should look at researches too. I totally agree with his stand regarding elementary school children.


The article doesn’t mention English as a foreign language.

Nor does it mention struggling learners and students in Special Ed.

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

For starters, when teaching English as a foreign language, I need to expose the students to the English that exists beyond the physical walls and virtual walls (time constraints), of our classroom. I need them to see that they are able to use their English in some manner online, even when I’m not beside them.

I give my high-school students a short online homework assignment ,once a week, every Monday,  using the platform Edmodo. I often use short films or refer to foreign exercise sites. Sometimes the task calls for checking out links with color photos from distant places Things that are difficult to do in class. This exposure goes beyond the English language itself, it relates to culture and general world knowledge. Information. Some of my deaf and hard of hearing students ask about driving on the “wrong” side of the road after noticing that in a British made video. Or ask about phrases we didn’t learn in class that they encountered.

Even more important, online homework gives me a chance for personal attention and scaffolding, in a manner that simply cannot be done in class. Students do not compare online homework. Therefore no one is insulted. All the students watch the same video as part of their homework , but the task they must do with it varies. Some students get word banks, more explanations in mother tongue, less questions, etc. A few may even get an entirely different task. I also give practice on material that will appear on their tests.

All the students get tasks that they are able to do.


And success breeds success.

And this success is motivating because I check their homework. It doesn’t work if I use an automatic software to check it (well, once a while is o.k!). The students want my reaction. They feel “noticed” and that I care whether or not they have taken the time to do the task and what they think of it. Since it’s not busy-work, connections to what is being done in class are found .

This is not to say that all my students do their homework. Yet every year, as the school year progresses, the number of students who do their homework rises (after a dismally low number at the start of every school year. Sigh.).

I haven’t conducted a scientific research and I’m not objective. But it sure seems clear to me that those who do their weekly homework task benefit from it.

Struggling Learners are ONE of the HOT TOPICS at IATEFL Web Conference


Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

IATEFL is highlighting hot topics relevant to ELT teachers everywhere, in its exciting upcoming free web conference.

I’ll be putting the spotlight on creating  opportunities for struggling learners to experience success while working with the whole class.

My talk, The EUREKA Moment, will be given on Oct. 18th at

14:30 GMT time, 15:30 BST time or 17:30 Israeli time.

An “Almost Sunday” Book: “Quiet” by Susan Cain

Full title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet Time (Naomi's photos)
Quiet Time (Naomi’s photos)

It’s an “almost Sunday” book not just because the hour is late and it IS almost Sunday, but also because the book is sort of a mix of reading for pleasure and for work. And work belongs in weekday posts…

I listened to this as an audio-book and for once, I’m not going to say that was a wise choice. It’s very difficult to skip paragraphs here and there on an audio-book…

It’s not that the book isn’t interesting. It is an interesting topic, relevant for me both in my personal life and my work as a teacher. The researches quoted and the advice given regarding how to treasure the powers of introverts is great. For example, at our recent ETAI teacher’s conference we heard how much we should be doing group work, as this is the way the job market will expect our students to function. In the book, Cain emphasizes the price of such practices. It seems that companies are moving away from these huge open plan crowded work spaces. Not only is it not suitable for some students’ style of learning (or people’s style of working) we’d be missing out on all the important products that are born of quiet concentrated thinking. And that kind of thinking requires space, time to work alone.

However, the book is too long. There is a lot of emphasis on the world of business. But what really bothered me was that her important points were made too many times with too many examples. “I got it” the first few times!