Saturday’s Book: “Notes from a Small Island” by Bryson

I wonder if they have these trees in England...
I wonder if they have these trees in England…

A delightful book which would make a great blog.

That’s the thing about reading travel books –  it would be even more fun to get a weekly installment in my inbox, finding out what Bryson has discovered / shared this week on his journey through England. I don’t what to miss any part of this delightful book, but it’s not a book to read a lot of in one sitting.

It’s a testament to how good a book it is that it hardly bothers me that the book is dated – 1994 if I understood correctly. While I’m sure some places no longer look at all like Bryson describes them, that’s not the point. He is informative in regards to past events (lots of curious information) and is funny. But most important, he shares a sense of excitement and wonder.

I was so pleased by the part about Durham! When I first met Sandy Millin virtually (and have since had the pleasure of meeting her in person!!) she told me a lot about what a hidden gem Durham was and then introduced me to Bryson. He LOVED Durham!


Uncovering Motives in a Video Lesson


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

“Uncovering Motives”, “Generating Possibilities” or perhaps “Inferencing”. I think all these Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) can be discussed with this lovely video.

These thinking skills make it seem like a good pre-reading activity for teaching the story “Thank You Ma’m” by Langston Hughes (in our literature program) despite the fact that the boy depicted in the video isn’t a teenager. The video isn’t childish so I believe the students will not have a problem.

Though frankly, I actually began working on the video as a way to use “modals” in context. So you’ll see that element there too.

Some of you may notice that this video wasn’t made on the EDPUZZLE site, which I love and use frequently. I’m taking an in service training course on EDTECH with Hishtalmoodle (highly recommended, interesting & with excellent support for participants) and it seems there is a lot of redundancy in the field of educational technology. Many programs offer similar services. As part of the course requirements I experimented using Zaption. I did not conduct an in-depth comparison of the two sites but am very happy with the large (and constantly growing larger) set of comprehensive features for use in class that Edpuzzle offers and did not find any reason to switch programs. In addition I am not happy with the way the Zaption is displayed when embedded in the blog. Please note that you must scroll sideways to see the questions.

Once again, thanks to the blog “Film English” for introducing me to this video.



Saturday’s Book: “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

I have known about this book for years. I’ve read about it, read articles about the author and have encountered many mentions of this book. But I never felt particularly motivated to read it. It’s about a brutal murder of a family, why would I want to read about THAT?!

Then my husband read a book by Capote called “The Grass Harp”. He liked it. Aha! Here’s a way to try reading this celebrated author without the murder story! So off I went to the library to look for it in English (I won’t read a translation).

However, the only book by Capote in English in our library was “In Cold Blood”.  The librarian literally gasped when I said hadn’t read it. “You must read it!” she insisted.

So I did.

Excellent! Got me hooked on page one! I’m so glad I finally discovered Capote – I now want to read everything he wrote. There is something so captivating about his writing – everything is so vivid. Sort of reading in full color.

My only complaint is that the book is too long. Particularly the last parts. But when you think that it came out in 1966, it’s easy to understand why it had such an impact. They didn’t have programs like Law & Order in those days. Here you get the perspective of everyone involved, all aspects and characters examined and presented. And of course, it is a true story. The impact of the murders on the community is so powerful. Unfortunately, the topic is as relevant today as it was then.

I recommend it!


Mnemonics Strike Again! Ouch!

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

I’ve been using less and less mnemonics over the years, as I keep getting “bitten” when I do use them.

I used to feel great about my creative teaching when I offered a little nugget to help the students remember a vocabulary item. Particularly if I have “acted it out” a bit in class.

What will go through? (Naomi's photos)
What will go through?
(Naomi’s photos)

For example, think of the word “medium”. A substantial number of my deaf and hard of hearing students claim they don’t know the meaning of that word. Well, I stopped responding by using my little “act” about looking at the letter “M” when buying a shirt (which they all knew signified “medium size”) precisely because the students remembered my act. Too well. I would then be faced with the problem of getting rid of the misconception that the meaning of the word “medium” is “buying a shirt”!

Today it was the teacher’s aide (who works with me sometimes) to get bitten. Turns out she had been very proud of her mnemonic for remembering the verb “got” in the sense of receiving. She used the letter “O” very dramatically to signify  the sound & expression you make when you are surprised by receiving a lovely gift.

The teacher’s aide today was deflated to find the student proudly telling her that she now remembers the word “got” – it means “gift”!


Any tips for “de-activating” memories?


Saturday’s Book: “The Wee Free Men” by Pratchett

Fantasy in every corner (Naomi's photos)
Fantasy in every corner
(Naomi’s photos)

What a pleasure to read!

This book is considered one for younger readers but then so is “The Phantom Tollbooth”. And I think both should be read by everyone.

A delightful mix of language fun, a tale including a journey of discovery, growing up and plenty of adventure. Oh, and don’t forget the humor!

It also gives a lovely nod to teachers! I Adore this quote:

“Now, if you trust in yourself…”


“…and believe in your dreams…”


“…and follow your star…”Miss Tick went on.


“…You’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye.”

Looking at “Productivity Guides” from a Teacher’s Perspective

Mission accomplished! (Naomi's Photos)
Mission accomplished!
(Naomi’s Photos)

Every now and then I get caught up in reading “productivity posts” – posts on how to be efficient, get everything done and feel good. I’ve never quite figured out the secret behind that.

The trouble is, these posts always seem to be for entrepreneurs, or at least for people who work in an office.

But I’m a teacher.

The most recent post I read is a very impressive and detailed one : The Complete Guide to Productivity  by Sean Kim.  He writes well and I enjoyed reading it. Surely you can relate to the attraction of lines such as the following: “If you would like to make more effective use of your time, maintain your energy levels throughout the day, and achieve your goals faster — read on”. I did and I’m impressed .  However, which of his suggestions can work for me, as a teacher?

Conditions are far from ideal (Naomi's photos)
Conditions are far from ideal (Naomi’s photos)

For starters, the points about scheduling are interesting. I have no control over my school weekly schedule, though interestingly, most of the lessons are scheduled in segments of 45 minutes. Theoretically then, after every two lessons (the 90 minute cycle) I need a break (according to the article). Which I get, sometimes. Other times, I rush to photocopy something, talk to the home room teacher or a student, or do paperwork. If no one is misbehaving, yard duty can be a semi break… The breaks are not 30 minutes long, that’s for sure!

It’s a dilemma. If I sit and chat during the breaks I will be more relaxed. But that comes at the cost of bringing home more work that must be done in the evening!

Stop or go? (Naomi's photos)
Stop or go? (Naomi’s photos)

I’m at complete odds with the author regarding the morning routine! For starters, cold showers are unthinkable! Whose with me on this? But I also can’t handle the “don’t check your email in the morning” advice either. Sean Kim makes a great case for not doing it, but enjoying my email and social media feeds over breakfast, before school is a great way to start the day for me. While I do have a smartphone and take quick peeks during the day at school, it’s usually nothing more than peeks. Actually, this way, I often don’t check my mail when I walk in the door after coming home from school, in the afternoon (or at least I only continue peeking). That’s when I prefer to eat lunch and read a book for a while before focusing again.

Kim also says that creative work should be done in the morning.

Hmmm. Depends on how you define creativity.

Teaching is one kind of creativity, and I do most of that in the morning. Though not every lesson is creative, and certainly not everything that I do in a school day has any creativity in it. The other kind, simply cannot be done at school, is pure creativity. Activities such as inventing video lessons, figuring out how a new tech tool might liven up a class, photo posts, slide shows and more, all happen late at night. I (and most of the teachers I know) do not sleep as much as this article suggests!

I was startled by the evening activity related to the “not to do” list! It never occurred to me! However, I do write down my tasks much more often than in the past, as I have become more forgetful. I totally agree with Kim’s recommendation regarding the “” task manager – so friendly and helpful! I use it all day.

One final point – I was totally unable to relate to the Pareto Principle in regards to teaching. Can you?



Saturday’s Book: “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

Scrappy! (Naomi's Photos)
(Naomi’s Photos)

What a book!

I couldn’t put it down.

A great storyteller who got me totally involved in her incredible childhood. While certainly a tale of woe, determination and achievement, one of the unusual aspects of this story (unlike other such tales that I’ve encountered) is that the Walls children’s minds were fed, it’s their physical bodies that were criminally neglected. They discussed dictionary definitions and had good language skills, knew about art, astronomy and much more.

I shouldn’t say anymore. It’s the story told from the child’s perspective that is so compelling. Best to learn the tale in the proper way!

Highly recommended!