Wow! The Book “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water” by Cruz Could be about My Grandmother!

A long journey… Naomi’s Photos


My grandmother always said that someone could (and should!) write a book about her.

In a way, I think Angie Cruz did!

It’s such a cleverly written, well-told book and I was so fortunate to have chosen it as an audiobook – if you can, that’s the way to go!  Listening to the manner in which Cara Romero answered questions the way SHE wanted to answer them, getting to the point via 100 other stops along the way, stopping to emphasize that no one could do it /understand it the way she could – it felt so very familiar!

No, my grandmother wasn’t Dominican, though she did speak Spanish. She was from Brest – today’s Belarus, part of Poland and Russia in the past. Along with the Yiddish, Polish, and Russian of her childhood, she spoke Hebrew, and Spanish learned during her 7 years living in Cuba.

Both women immigrated to New York from a Spanish-speaking island.

But that’s just the beginning.


Where will this path lead us? Naomi’s Photos

Cara Romero always had to fend for herself and look after others, a resilient woman who had to struggle without the support of a husband. A woman who made some bad choices, managed to fall out with a lot of people, yet still retained a zest for life, and the energy to start over. Yet again. Then again.

Both women craved approval for their effort, for being who they were, and for the life they managed to create despite all odds, as both of them never got any such approval at home. Cara Romero of the book had a mother, who did not want to have children and was not interested in them. My grandmother was orphaned at the age of two and had the classic evil stepmother. Both Cara Romero and my grandmother stated repeatedly that they never had a childhood.

The desperate plea for approval shows up so clearly in those repeated statements (I’m not quoting verbatim, it was an audiobook!): Write this down. Everyone knows that Cara Romero does it better – if it is quieting the baby, being the one everyone turned to at work for advice, cooking, you name it…

Stubborn… Naomi’s Photos

I’m sure Cara Romero and my grandmother would have hated each other vehemently – two strong-willed women like them would have clashed within five minutes of being introduced…

Thank you, Angie Cruz! I loved the book!



When EFL Students Explore a “BIG” Question with OXPLORE

A mixed bunch… Naomi’s Photos

There are times when I wish that instead of teaching in the format of a “mixed-level-learning-center”, all my advanced students would come at the same time for a more “traditional” kind of class.

I could then present a topic for discussion, and we could have discussions in small groups which would lead to the writing task.

In such a scenario I wouldn’t have had to create the worksheet I am sharing today.

Reading Maria Theologidou’s post “Rediscovering Bookmark Favourites, Part 1” introduced me to many sites I was not familiar with, and I truly appreciated the little explanatory blurb for each site. However, one site, in particular, blew me away “Oxplore – The Home of the BIG Questions”. 

The deeper I delved into the site, the more excited I became.

Excited and frustrated.

ONE – Which one to choose? Naomi’s Photos

“‘Oxplore is an engaging digital resource from the University of Oxford. As the ‘Home of Big Questions’, it aims to challenge those from 11 to 18 years with debates and ideas that go beyond what is covered in the classroom” (from the “About” page on the website).

The material there really IS geared toward teenagers. There are short texts, interactive questionnaires, and videos. The graphics are friendly.


There are a great many “BIG QUESTIONS”‘ to choose from!


My advanced Deaf and hard-of-hearing students do not come to class with others on their level, so peer discussions are not an option.

I had to have a written task for them to do, individually.

It took me several weeks to come up with a version I could use.

At first, it seemed logical for me to choose a topic and prepare a task for that specific topic. This way I could ensure that subtitles /captioning of the videos, which my students rely on,  had correct English (the automatic captioning on YouTube is often riddled with errors and makes no sense). In addition, I could create specific questions for each section to ensure the students actually read information from different sections.

On second thought, me, the teacher, choosing the topic for the students was NOT a logical idea.

Not at all!

The site is geared toward choice, for students to go through the topics and choose the one to relate to.

Yes, but…

BOOKS!!! Naomi’s Photos

I ABSOLUTELY adore the video about the four ways books make us who we are. I really wanted all the students to watch it and write about it. The content is important,  the vocabulary used is enriching for these advanced students, and the engaging graphics are a treat. For some inexplicable reason, many of my smartest students with amazing language skills, think books are a waste of time…


So I compromised.

The first part of the worksheet is open-ended, and the students choose their topic. Three of my students are currently working on it (more to begin soon) and each one has chosen an entirely different topic!

The second part is related to the video.

It will be interesting to see how they react to it and what they write about it…

Here is the downloadable worksheet.

An Oxplore Big Question

Would you use Oxplore in class? How? Share your thoughts in the comments.