Nice Dice Add Spice!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

In my recent talk on playing games, as part of the 30 goals conference, I mentioned how a teacher can add an extra element of fun simply by using unusual dice.

It occurred to me afterwards that not everyone may be familiar with these interesting dice.

By “interesting dice” I mean multi faced dice, such as those which are used by players of D&D, short for Dungeons and Dragons (which Google defines as a fantasy role-playing game set in an imaginary world based loosely on medieval myth). From the teacher’s point of view, what you need to know about the game is that it is globally popular and there are stores that sell accessories for it. Like these dice!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

More than 10 years ago I purchased one (just one!) beautiful purple die, with 10 sides. That means it includes the numbers zero and nine. The fun of throwing a really high number and the laughter ensuing when you throw “a zero” really adds spice to a game. As you can see, there are dice with all sorts of combinations, even ones that are in a series of tens (seventy, eighty), though I have not tried to use such numbers in class myself.

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

Two cautionary notes:

When working with young children with emotional issues, I would not use the zero as a zero, but rather call it the magical number that gives you an extra turn, instead of taking it away. If the teacher does not think of such things in advance, the game intended to be fun could end very quickly and badly.

The clear (see through) die-within-a-die is very cool (you don’t have to throw two dice!) but it is the only one I know of that is actually breakable.

So let the games begin!

Saturday’s Book: “Dear Life” by Alice Munro

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

This collection of stories is absolutely excellent.

Often sad, but excellent. Every word is meaningful, no pointless information. I got caught up in each story after reading the first few lines, and took my time reading the book. I wanted to think about the story I had just read before moving on.

I had read some of these stories before, as they were published in The New Yorker magazine. But it didn’t bother me at all. The power is in the details, in the careful choice of words, it didn’t matter if I had some general memory of the plot outline.

This collection includes stories which are autobiographical in nature. It’s fascinating to get an insight into a talented writer’s childhood.

I really enjoyed the book!

Belated Saturday’s Book: “The Humans” by Haig

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

It’s a nice book.

Yes, I know, “nice” is sort of a general term, not one to use when describing a book. In fact, the hero of the story says: “To like something is to insult it, either hate it or love it. Be passionate”.

But that’s just it. I heard it as an audiobook with an excellent reader who did the British accents of different people (and different ages) beautifully. The story of an alien who comes to earth and learns what it means to be humans is nice, kind of feel goodish, but not too much so. For example,  it is kind of nice (there, I used the word for the third time!) to stop and think about the question: “why do we make such a fuss about clothes”.

But it isn’t wonderful, or anything to be “passionate” about. Nothing to hate, either.

Just a nice book.

“Giving Back” – Looking at iTDi & The 30 Goals Conference

Naomi (1)

On the iTDi blog you will now find a powerful and moving set of posts about “giving back”. As the editor, Kevin Stein, writes in his introduction:

“Opening a door, a gentle nudge, an invitation to step outside our comfort zone, mentors do all this and more…The mentors in our community are an example of how the act of giving is also an act of receiving, how reaching out and helping someone else enriches us all”.

For me, participating in the 30 Goals Project was like gaining a set of mentors. Mentors who opened doors for me. Mentors who taught me to that pausing and reflecting would be good for my teaching and my soul. These same mentors also gave me a tool for reflecting – they helped me start blogging!

Now it’s time for me to give back!

I’m participating in the amazing 30 Goals free online conference for teachers. Proud to be there with all the other teachers who have donated their time and the richness of their experience.

My talk, on playing games when tutoring “one-on-one” will be given at the following link, on Sunday, 6 p.m. (That’s GMT +3).

“Message to Younger Teacher-Self”: Closing Plenary at ETAI 2015

Thanks to Jane Cohen for the photo
Thanks to Jane Cohen for the photo


After collecting over 50 responses from teachers of English as a foreign language from all over the world, I faced a challenging task. I had to present all these meaningful, funny, moving and useful short message to a younger teacher-self in a way that would not tire the audience at the closing plenary of the ETAI Summer Conference, 2015. After all, everyone (including me!) had just spent two action packed days of talks and presentations!

To make a long story short (long as in the number of hours I spent figuring this out), I fed all the responses into a “word cloud” generator, and used that as a means of grouping the responses. For example, “DON’T” actually turned out to be the most frequent word. Would this first group of messages (which included the word don’t) all be of the admonishing kind? As in “Don’t smile at the kids till after the holidays?”.  Nope! Take a look and see for yourself, below!

“LOVE” came out smaller in the word cloud, but the word itself calls for attention. I’m sure you think all the responses were of the “love your students” kind. Check it out – you were surprised by the first one, right?

“Salad” was quite small but demanded attention – what on earth does food have to do with advice for a younger teacher?

I’ll leave you to find out on your own.

Here’s the presentation!

(P.S. Was “moodhoovers” a new phrase for you too?! A great one!)

Saturday’s Book: “Past Perfect” by Jacob Shabtai

Spooky... (Naomi's Photos)
(Naomi’s Photos)

This is a strange book.

What’s even stranger is that I can’t put my finger on what stopped me from “abandoning the book”.

It’s not easy to read it. It’s written in the “stream of conciousness” style, with paragraphs being a very rare thing, a period spotted once or twice a page, while commas get special treatment. Everything is very associative and slow. Not a lot of action, either.


It really did seem as if I, the reader, was inside the hero’s head. That IS the way we think, in an associative manner. Imagine walking on the pavement and thinking about the things you have to do next, and in between you get fleeting, momentary thoughts such as :”Who let that dog run out without a leash?” or ” What a terrible color for a car!”

It just seemed that I couldn’t stop until I was officially “released”. So despite having a crisis at some point, I completed the book with a sense of closure. Not sorry I read it.

The Incredible Power of the Simple Homemade Dictionary

A Smart Move (Naomi's Photos)
A Smart Move
(Naomi’s Photos)

For a change, this is a reposting of post that just went up on my Key in the Apple blog. I don’t usually repost but I must tell you that I firmly believe that a homemade dictionary is every bit as powerful a tool for any learner who finds it difficult to remember vocabulary, as well as one with a hearing loss.

Students with a hearing loss are notorious for having trouble remembering vocabulary studied in an EFL class.

There are many strategies for working on vocabulary retention (more in future posts) but a beginner learner should learn to view the dictionary as an integral part of his/her studies, from day one. Students, especially the motivated students, get very distressed by the fact that they have forgotten the meaning of vocabulary items they know they have learned (perhaps even were tested on!). This distress easily turns into a belief that their English studies are doomed for failure and that it’s hopeless to try.

Students who have begun using a dictionary early on, know that there is a “life-belt” and while remembering words is more convenient, words forgotten aren’t going to stop them from understanding, and successfully completing, their reading comprehension assignments. Having confidence is an incredibly meaningful factor in predicting the student’s ability to successfully reach expected levels in his/her EFL studies.

Students at the Beginners level should begin with a “Homemade Dictionary”. This can be made from a simple notebook.
Each page of a notebook must be given a designated letter. Ready made alphabet notebooks can be found in stores. The student adds vocabulary items as he/she learns them, with a drawing or a translation into mother tongue. This dictionary should be brought to every lesson, along with the pencilbox and coursebook.

When the homemade dictionary no longer meets a student’s needs it is time to move onto “real” dictionaries. both printed and electronic.

Note: You will find a post on myths related to use of dictionaries with deaf and hard of hearing students in the previous post, under: “The lifesaver – the dictionary”.