All posts by Naomi Epstein

Hi! I teach English as a foreign language to deaf and hard of hearing students in Israel and am a national counselor in this field. http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org

“Naomi’s Visual Lessons” – A New YouTube Channel!

 

There.

I’ve finally done it.

I launched a YouTube Channel, called “Naomi’s Visual Lessons“.

What’s a “Visual Lesson” you ask?

A lesson that includes words to read, an audio narration of the written words appearing in the video, and LOTS of visuals that help clarify what is being explained.

See/ Listen / Read

Designed for clarity!

Note: Some lessons include a link to a practice worksheet after the student watches the lesson.

Hmmm, I wrote “lessons” in the plural form.

I have several lessons in preparation, and decades (quite literally!) of materials waiting their turn to be upgraded, but currently there is one Visual Lesson online:

Where will I find the answer?

Line numbers can confuse you if you aren’t careful! This video will show you which details to pay attention to!

Here’s the link to the worksheet to practice what you learned. https://shorturl.at/achk6 

Watch this space, more to come!

 

 

Time for a Book – The Adventures of a “Random” Button

Who shall enter? Naomi’s Photos

If someone came up to me today and said “I’d like to buy you a few books, which would you like?” I wouldn’t know how to answer.

In fact, I would get a bit stressed by the question.

In recent months I have had no idea which books would suit my mood. I would hate for money to be wasted on a book that I dislike and abandon quickly!

Yet I absolutely NEED to read.

The “Libby” library system harbors no ill will towards me even if  I return a book the next day and immediately take another.

No murmured complaint even when I quickly return the next book as well.

More importantly, “Libby has a  RANDOM search option!

Now that I’ve been experimenting with reading books I have never heard of (for the most part) using the random search option for quite a while, I’d like to share some “lows” and “highs” of my reading adventure.

Perhaps you might be interested in some of the books!

A surprise inside each one, all connected…
Naomi’s Photos
“Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard

I was a bit dubious about the chances of me finding a book about President Garfield interesting when I saw the option that popped up on my results page.. I have to admit that the only thing I knew about Garfield was that he was assassinated. However, it seemed somewhat encouraging that Alexander Graham Bell was a character in the story as well, so I clicked on the “BORROW” button.

The book was fascinating!

Did you know that President Garfield didn’t even run for the presidency when he was nominated by the party?

Or that Bell nearly returned home from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 without anyone noticing that invention in the dark far corner of an upper floor we know as the telephone?

Perhaps you knew that The White House in 1880 was a sagging, damp, rat-infested building that was making its residents ill, but I certainly didn’t.

And that the United States had THREE presidents assassinated before realizing they had to protect their presidents?

Though President Garfield didn’t actually die because of the assassin’s bullet…

I should stop here – elaborating would mean spoilers.

The book is a readable, engaging, and fascinating description of a period, with revelations related to medicine, politics, and law.

Who is the star? Naomi’s Photos

“Robin” by Dave Itzkoff  vs. “I Was Better Last Night” By Harvey Fierstein

I adored the actor Robin Williams and can remember how shocked and saddened I was by his untimely death. As I knew nothing about his life, I was quite pleased when this biography popped up as a suggestion written by a serious author.

Too serious.

I stopped reading when Robin Williams was in his mid-twenties. I was very interested in his childhood but beyond that period in William’s life, I found the writing uninspiring and sagging under the weight of too many details.

I also realized I didn’t want to see his life dissected by another in such a clinical manner. I’ll always remember him as Mork!

On the other hand, I found Harvey Fierstein’s autobiography to be quite interesting even though the name meant nothing to me when I began the book. A kid from Brooklyn that went far…

Fierstein narrates the audiobook itself which adds to the interest! He knows how to tell a story!

I hadn’t known that Robin Williams chose Fierstein to play his brother in “Mrs. Doubtfire” after seeing him “bomb” one night at an event!

When nature sends you some LOVE Naomi’s Photos
“The Authenticity Project” by Claire Pooley

This is a “feel-good” book that is well written, with relatable characters. It was both amusing and touching. While it is no spoiler if I tell you there will be a happy ending, there are lots of unexpected turns along the way.  I enjoyed it!

” Choose Your Own Autobiography” by Neil Patrick Harris

I tried this on as an audiobook, narrated by the author, and returned it very quickly. The concept sounded intriguing but I found it distracting and uninteresting.

Harris IS a good narrator though, and I believe he has narrated several books.

Listen, can you hear it? Naomi’s Photos
“Nettle & Bone” T. Kingfisher

A clever fantasy book which I quite enjoyed, particularly as I listened to it as an audiobook, read by someone who could “do the voices” really well.

The author takes familiar elements from fairy tales and creates something entirely different and unexpected with these elements. The story is at times rather dark, other times amusing, always emphasizing a woman’s point of view, women’s various roles in society, and their power.

“Dear Prudence” by Daniel Lavery

Skip this one.

I thought reading about the unusual questions people sent to a newspaper “Advice Column” might be amusing so I hit the BORROW button.

However, beyond the opening one, I never made it to any more readers’ questions. The author embarked on a long autobiography which I was not interested in at all. Didn’t the editor tell him that it would be better to share his life story in bits, between the letters, perhaps related to them?

“EARLY RETURN” for that title!

Look carefully, things are not what they seem… Naomi’s Photostry
“This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub

This is a “What If” story of a 40-year-old daughter trying to come to terms with the impending death of her beloved father.

“What if” as in a form of “time travel” that allows her to go back in time and try different things which might lead to a different outcome, for her father and herself.

While I was less interested in the detailed descriptions of time spent as her 16-year-old self, and real life doesn’t give you chances to try out alternative realities, I could relate to the way she thought about and examined her relationship with her father, and how the death of a parent is inevitable at some point.

 “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami

I’m currently reading this one and it’s really good, I find it difficult to stop.

Things are not what they seem, unexpected twists at every turn. More “fast-paced” than what I remember of the previous Murakami books and very well written.

Thanks, Libby for suggesting this one – I’m hooked!

Let me know if you have read any of these titles!

 

When Students Jump To Conclusions – A new VISUAL LESSON

 

Make the right connections… Naomi’s Photos

There are days when I think I should begin awarding  certificates for “long jumps” – some of my students excel at jumping!

Jumping to conclusions, that is.

This ability of theirs manifests itself in many varieties, but I’ve chosen  to focus on one particular issue and create a new “Visual Lesson” with a companion worksheet.

“Line numbers” in reading comprehension questions are “eye catchers” for students. They can help the students find the correct answer or lead them astray if they don’t read the entire question carefully.

Quite a few of my Deaf and hard of hearing high school students would rather practice “long jumps” than read entire questions carefully…

Some questions are easy, such as these two:

According to lines 11-12, why was David surprised?

What do we learn from paragraph 1?

The answers can be found exactly where the line numbers indicate they will be.

Students are happy.

The teacher is happy.

All tied up… Naomi’s Photos

That is, until the students encounter a question such as this one:

“According to lines 11-12, Tammy chose to work in a profession
that was different from the one she studied at the university.
Why did she do that? Base your answer on paragraph II.”

Where will the answer be?

Students don’t let the fact that the answer  cannot  be found in lines 11-12  stop them from trying to contort the words in those lines into an answer…

The same goes for  “refer to” questions, as in:

What does the word “This” (line 6) refer to?

Do you also have students blithely extracting irrelevant chunks appearing in line 6 to answer the question?

Drilling the message in… Naomi’s Photos

So…

Time to whip out a new VISUAL LESSON!

Why do I call it a visual lesson?

The students see the explanations, read and HEARS them.

Yes, you read that correctly, “hears”.

Many of my hard of hearing students like having what is written narrated. I believe that students without hearing problems will aprreciate this as well.

So here’s the link to the self paced slideshow:

Where will the answer be?

Click on the words below to download the worksheet.

Where will the Answer Be 2

I hope you find the material useful!

***** As the intial feedback to adding narration has been positive, I plan to add narration to my previous Visual Lesson, on Essay Writing,

 

Time for a BOOK: “North Woods” by Daniel Mason+ 2 mentions

Different points of view / Naomi’s Photos

I went through a “reading crisis” in the last three months. I had no patience for fictional characters and their fictional angst and read less than I usually do.

The only two books I read were  both non-fiction:

“Unraveling – What I Learned About Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater” by Peggy Orenstein 

Who knew thread and cloth played such an important part in the history of humankind? I didn’t… I also related to her struggles to deal with her parents aging and ultimately passing away. The author and I are more or less the same age.

“Creativity Inc.” by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull

It was interesting to learn how Pixar came to be. I was particularly interested in the part about keeping the spark of creativity, actually high-quality creative work, alive. I abandoned the book when it became focused on the merger with Disney. I don’t run a business. I’m just a person who tries to be creative.

The land / People
Naomi’s Photos

“North Woods” by Daniel Mason has brought the joy of well-written fiction back into my life.

What a talented writer!

What a clever way to build a story!

Historical fiction with a twist.

The “constant” in the book is a place. A small house, land, woods and a river in Massachusetts.

The same place, beginning with the first white settlers in the region and then progressing in time.

Telling the story of the people who came and went, lived and died.

Telling the story of the land as it was shaped by the people AND how the land influenced the people’s lives.

You might think that having such a parade of characters would be repetitive and become tiresome.

You would be mistaken.

Mason’s characters are so vivid and convincing that I’m drawn to every single character at each phase of the historical progression toward the present.

A great book!

A Visual Study Guide – Essay Writing

Visualise It, by Naomi Ganin Epstein

Sometimes you need to begin in the middle.

Simply hone in on the problematic zones without starting at the top every single time.

When it comes to essay writing, most of my advanced students are great at writing opening paragraphs of opinion essays. Their concluding paragraphs are coming along nicely as well, they’ve clearly grasped the principles.

However, crafting the two “body paragraphs” in between is more problematic. The students are required to present their arguments clearly and support their claims with additional information and relevant examples.  They need to be aware of such minefields as not writing two paragraphs about the same argument (just using some different words) or contradicting themselves with their examples.

Before doing all of that, the students actually have to come up with ideas to present…

Students complaining that the school system is unfairly asking them to write about things they aren’t interested in, so how could they possibly be expected to have anything to say about the topic won’t get them very far…

As a teacher of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, I felt I needed a   guided writing sample essay based on visual explanations along with a task using visual cues for my students. Since I didn’t have a visual study guide, I created one…

Perhaps your students will find this helpful as well!

Note – it’s designed to be viewed on a cell phone, which is what my students do. If you tap on the screen, the “Canva” watermarks disappear.
It can be viewed on a computer as well.

https://www.canva.com/design/DAF2drd2hGI/3cx-vextzceMqhZ7CHhw-w/view?utm_content=DAF2drd2hGI&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=editor

 

 

 

Teaching in Times of War – Sharing Distance Learning Tasks

Feeling small…
Naomi’s Photos

With a very heavy heart, we teachers must now prepare for distance learning, amid the tragic events. Supporting each other and sharing materials is crucial, as none of us are at best (to put it mildly).

Yet we have a deadline – school must resume, online.

Here is a set of links to collections organized by level. In each collection, I am uploading material of mine relevant to that level. This is a space to follow, as I will continue uploading materials next week.

There are guided reading tasks, vocabulary exercises, and some lighter activities. There are no grammar activities.

More to come.

May quieter times resume soon.

May you all be safe!

 

Basic Level

https://wakelet.com/wake/FOL4-z3i_0LYQjjAol-jr

 

Towards Module A

https://wakelet.com/wake/OIcHlEdLSNO9ForZ3-N_3

Towards Module C

https://wakelet.com/wake/5c-v1eepky1SDW_7Cc59V

Towards Module E – Vocabulary

https://wakelet.com/wake/StYEJg2z_mV2lv205WRyW

Towards Module E – Reading

https://wakelet.com/wake/vpc9M9JdqzMnDYjWU2uk0

Towards Module G

https://wakelet.com/wake/CnPVk8cS_CR8OFI6u_j7t

Literature

https://wakelet.com/wake/-J-aVbycIhgz1Vf4Z5aJd

Romance

https://wakelet.com/wake/N2Ti-A7yPYekGRxolWvPZ

Puzzles

https://wakelet.com/wake/JiSAhCDDIXlt-HotNvJtB

 

“Backhanded Compliments” – Writing Practice to Highlight a Point

What did you just say? Naomi’s Photos

Some of my strongest Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students perk up and invest in a writing task if there is some snarky element involved.

Many years ago The  Washington Post had some sort of competition where they asked readers (in honor of Valentine’s Day) to submit rhyming pairs of sentences, the first very romantic and the other emphatically unromantic.  For example: “I see your face when I am dreaming. // That’s why I wake up screaming.

I made a note of the idea.

Over the years, whenever I challenged such very bright students to come up with such sentences,  I watched in awe as these students became animated, discussed synonyms for the rhyming (they even used a dictionary!), and only turned to me for help when they were truly stuck.

Rose-colored? Scarlet, to be exact. Naomi’s Photos

As a veteran teacher, I can truly understand why some of my Deaf and hard-of-hearing teenage students dislike all things “rose-colored” and what they perceive as “goody goody”.   This is particularly true for those very smart students with a hearing loss who “ping pong” between two worlds, that of their classmates with “normal hearing” and the one where you don’t have to use your voice to speak…

As much as I want to give the students space to express themselves, I also want to stress the need to “sheath their claws”, use their wit wisely, and avoid insulting other students, directly or indirectly.

That’s where “backhanded compliments” come in. Insults thinly disguised as compliments, such as: “That’s a beautiful photo of you. I didn’t recognize you at first”.

I heard that! Naomi’s Photos

I created the activity in this downloadable worksheet hoping to make the students more aware of the barbs that can hide in supposedly innocent compliments, and how to respond when such “compliments” are directed at them.

In addition, naturally, the students are reading, writing, and using vocabulary in context.

I hope you find this activity useful for your students as well! Let me know in the comments.

Click on the title below:

Backhanded Compliments PDF

 

 

Visualising Books – The Not-Quite Travel Books

So, you’re awake too? Naomi’s Photos

I wasn’t sleeping well the last few nights before setting off on our big adventure –  a 17-day trip to South Africa! I was too excited/nervous/stressed – I’m sure you know what I mean.

I barely slept on the flights either way.

I also tend to wake up very early on trips (not at home!) so I read quite a bit before the trip, on the trip, and upon returning.

Since arriving home, I have mainly been listening to audiobooks and reading print a bit less – when I have free time I go over my “gazillion” photos! After which I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow…

So, some quick comments on some books:

Oops… Naomi’s Photos

“Meet Me in Another Life” by Silvey

I wanted a light read for a sleepless night flight and it started off just right. Engaging without demanding too much concentration. Two young people meet over and over again in different versions of their lives.

However, somewhere around the middle, the book became incredibly repetitive and even boring. I didn’t like the ending at all. I don’t even know why I bothered to finish it…

Dramatic! Naomi’s Photos

“Lawrence and the Arabs” by Robert Graves

“Lawrence of Arabia”, the film from 1962 was actually one of the options of the in-flight movies. Not only hadn’t I seen it, but had completed the book about him by Graves just a few days before we flew out. I thought it was a stroke of luck!

Well, reading the book made me find the movie sorely lacking and I gave up on it at some point. Now the book, that’s where it’s at. It is FASCINATING!

Just to be clear, I had no particular prior interest in “Lawrence”. But when I saw that the book was by ROBERT GRAVES I knew I had to read it. Graves’ “I Claudius”, which I read years ago, left a big impression on me. His writing is engaging, clear, and down to earth while being informative and well-researched.

AND…

Unlike the Roman emperors, Graves actually KNEW the person he was writing about this time, and personally interviewed many of those whose lives crossed paths with Lawrence, including Lawrence’s mother!

Did I say it was FASCINATING?

Tropical! Naomi’s Photos

“Euphoria” by Lily King

This was a good choice as a travel book. It’s engaging and interesting. Three young anthropologists are caught in a love triangle amongst themselves in New Guinea, in the 1930s. Their own lives influence how they live and interact with the native tribes they are studying. while studying /entangling themselves in the cultures of the tribes they are studying. The story is loosely based on Margaret Mead’s character and from what is known about an incident that she was involved in.

The ending was quite dramatic.

A good book but not amazing – not the kind I think about for some time after I have read it.

You have to find your way… Naomi’s Photos

“Record of a Spaceborn Few” by Becky Chambers

Comfort food!

I listened to this as an audiobook (the reader is excellent, it feels like a play).

Chamber’s books are so comforting – yes there are real hardships when living in space and angst, but the overall vibe is optimism. A better society, a more inclusive society can be attained, a better world is possible.

Comfort food.

I enjoyed every minute

The book was written by a primatologist. Naomi’s Photos

“Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal

I can tell you right away – the answer is NO WE ARE NOT!

Absolutely not!

It’s mind-boggling to read of the assumptions people made in an effort to prove, no matter what, that humans are always better and smarter than animals.  I’m not a scientist and certainly am no animal expert, but some tales caused me to say “Really? Someone thought that? Someone lectured about it without even observing the animals in the wild”?

I read this after returning (after seeing so many animals it seemed a good choice).  The writing is very engaging and accessible to the non-academic public. I found it very interesting yet only read about 75% of the book. The point was very clear and I found that there was a limit to the number of examples of intelligent animal behavior I could take in.

I was convinced!

More books to come in a new post!

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

When Google Classroom & Kami Usher in “A Year of the Lion” for a Veteran EFL Teacher

Naomi’s Photos

It turns out, that sometimes a veteran teacher, a “puffin”, needs some support from a lion.

Who knew.

Just to be clear, I’ll always remain ” a puffin”.  As a veteran teacher of English as a foreign language to Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students, knowing how to fly and swim has been a big advantage. Those qualities along with loving bright colors  (my students are certainly “colorful”, in the metaphorical sense!) have enabled me to stay in the profession for so long.

Did you know that I’m beginning my 37th official year as a teacher? Everyone who corresponds with me or follows me online knows me by this picture, taken in Ireland.

Puffin profile pic, Naomi’s Photos

However, this “puffin-teacher” lost some of her plumage last year. It was a difficult school year.

(Ok ok, puffins actually lose their colorful beaks in winter, but plumage sounds better..)

I really need that plumage to grow back before the new school year begins. I’ll settle for at least some of it to grow back.

I need the energy to deal with the limited issues I CAN control at school.

Take the issue of attendance. I doubt a lion’s roar will convince students to revert back to their pre-pandemic mindset which didn’t include the assumption that going to school EVERY  SINGLE SCHOOL DAY  is pointless.

In fact, my supportive lion can’t even growl at the school that is trying to give the students everything that they missed during the pandemic – excursions, trips, lectures, sports days, etc. Those things are important.

Nope, not roaring for that. Naomi’s Photos

He won’t help me figure out (this “miracle” was never included in my training days)  how to teach everything required to students without actually meeting them for their theoretically alloted weekly hours…

BUT…

A big roar here! R-O-A-R!

Since I teach in the format of a learning center, grades 10-12 jumbled together, teaching every level from A-B-C to gifted students at the highest levels, a digital learning management system has always been crucial for me to keep track of who had done what and when. Even if the students hadn’t done the work on the computer itself (some preferred their notebooks) they would mark it in the system.

I had such a system for more than 10 years until it suddenly closed, just before the previous school year began.

It seemed so unfair that the year in which I was turning 60 would be the one in which I had to rely heavily on my memory…

60 may be the new 50 but not when it comes to memory. At least that’s how I feel about it.

Then I met the lions. Up close. Two males and several females.  On a safari “big birthday trip”.

Obviously, they brought me luck!

NOW you are talking! Naomi’s Photos  These are all pics of the same male lion.

When I returned home, my amazing colleague Riki Klein found the answer to the problem I had been unable to solve – how can a teacher from our school use Google Classroom?

R-O-A-R of joy!

I’ll have a learning management system again!

And since I already know how to use one, I’ve been playing around with programs that integrate with Google Classroom that appear to be included in our deal  – it seems we have KAMI!

Kami is a  SUPER easy annotating tool, which seems particularly useful for children and struggling students. Not only does it have a clear control panel using symbols, but you can also add voice notes or have it read out text to you!

Those are just the features I’ve learned about so far!

In addition, it has a large amount of fun templates.

Look what I quickly prepared instead of my decades-old “About Me” worksheet! Each student can see what I created and then has a blank copy to make his/her own.

* See the complete picture by clicking below the picture.

See the full picture by clicking below

All About Me T-Shirt

Remember!

This blog isn’t a tech advice blog, explaining how to use a tool after I’ve become an expert at using it. I am also not affiliated with any company nor are there ads on this blog.

I write about being a full-time teacher. This post is about sharing the excitement of having new things to bring into the classroom, that I didn’t have to work for hours to create. Perhaps these are “fireworks”  – I can’t yet gauge how often I’ll be using Kami and for which purposes.

But I’m eager to find out.

And that’s the point.

After the last school year, it feels so good to be going back to school with cool tools to be excited about.

This Puffin is quite happy to share space with such a friendly lion!

Excitement is infectious you know.

Have you used Kami? Let me know what you do with it!

 

 

 

 

Videos for EFL Students – Combining Language & Good Citizenship

 

Issues of language, citizenship, and critical thinking for the 2020s?

The amazing Amos Paran will be speaking about these topics at the upcoming ETAI 2023 International Conference & Mediterranean Symposium !

So what do I have to offer on the topic?

How about some videos for different levels?

Here you go!

“Saving Grace” – Advanced Students

I have been using this video every single school year since I was first introduced to it (in 2014!) by Kieran Donaghy, of Film English, whose presentation I had the pleasure of attending at a conference.

Not only is the topic an important one, but the video is also completely accessible for my advanced Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.  Everything in the film is written – my students don’t need to rely on automatic captions which are often riddled with errors.

I don’t use a specific worksheet for it. Sometimes we read it together and talk about it. Other times I  have the students choose 10 sentences with advanced vocabulary to explain and then they are asked to describe the problem presented in this video and what is being done to help.

 The Power of Words

An oldie but a double GOODIE.

The language part in this video comes from the worksheets, not really from the video itself.

But the students’ reaction to it is priceless.

They always say, IMMEDIATELY,  that the purpose of the video is to remind you to help people who are blind.

That’s a good message to have come up in class.

But that is NOT the purpose of the video.

That’s a great lesson in careful “reading” – we “read” videos too!

I believe that a discussion about how the words you choose to use affect the people you interact with certainly relates to good citizenship!

The power of words updated.docx

A Love Story in Milk

Okay, I admit it.

The main focus of this super short exercise is identifying the main idea but isn’t bringing up the topic of recycling something we are delighted to do in class?

I learned about this video (and the additional one in the worksheet) from Jamie Keddie ( LessonStream ).  I  had the great pleasure of attending his talk at a conference and have been following his work ever since.