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

All I Wanted was to Create a Glossary, yet I Found Myself Embarking on a Journey!

Not quite what you expect to see… Naomi’s Photos

Additional Title: When I’m creating content on the computer and my students are using a cell phone…

I have no idea how often I’ll be meeting my students in person at school at the beginning of this year or teaching them online. I’m not sure anyone knows at the moment. My best bet for creating new materials seems to be creating ones that can be printed out and used in class or used online. Having something ready comforts me a bit amidst all this uncertainty.

Therefore I’ve decided that it would be very helpful for me to begin the school year with some texts that are divided into chunks and include glossaries. I have found that struggling learners also appreciate having the text in a “box” and, in cases of multiple-choice questions, having the question above the distractors underlined.

Part One – Creating the Glossary

Just like any student, I DID remember that I had once learned how to create a glossary, but many years have passed since then and I had no idea how to do it.

It turns out that creating a glossary in WORD is very easy. Here is a close-up of part of a text and the glossary: (Note: instructions for creating a glossary can be found at the end of this post along with downloadable files of this particular text).

Looks really respectable right? Not a messy jumble of words in a box under the text!

Part Two – The OOOH Discovery

I was totally taken by surprise when I accidentally discovered that once the glossary was created, hovering with your mouse over the word brings up the glossed translation without you having to shift your gaze to the bottom of the page! Having the translation appear above the word as you read is far less disruptive to the flow of reading!

It looks like this (note the little text box above the word):

 

Isn’t that convenient?

I was very excited! I was sure that once my students learned how to take advantage of this they would appreciate this feature. I do not recall ever hearing about this in any Ed-Tech talks I have attended.

Clouds Set In… Naomi’s Photos
Part Three – The First OH NO! Discovery

As I always do with any worksheet that I create and share with students and other teachers, I saved the document as a PDF. It’s a common practice used to avoid having your students mess up the text as they are working on it.

POOFF!

That cool feature of the glossed items hovering above the text that we’ve been discussing? It disappeared completely. 

The feature does not work when saved as a PDF document.

Part Four – The Second OH NO! Discovery

I asked myself – how often have I seen students ruin or erase part of the digital text they were working on? The only relevant experience I’ve had is when students used to work on the classroom computer. Almost all my worksheets on these computers have remained in WORD and I’ve had very few cases of students accidentally erasing the exercise or distorting the text.  Since the originals are saved it has never been “an issue”.

So…

I decided to try using a WORD document with the students, without saving it as a PDF file.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to try it out with two students who came to school for the second round of national exams that we had recently.

When they opened the document on their cell phones, not only did the “cool feature” not work, the entire glossary disappeared! No little numbers and words on the bottom of the page at all.

Sad.

The glossary looked great on the students’ cell-phones when I sent it to them as a PDF file.

Looking at the situation…
Naomi’s Photos
Part Five – Current Plans

My original goal was to have a text with a respectable glossary that would be clear on whatever device the students are using. That goal has been achieved.

I will save the WORD version of the worksheets on the classroom computers. The students do not have WORD installed on their phones but the classroom computers most certainly do. At least those who work in class will benefit from the extra features.

–  – – – – – – – – – — – – – – — – – – – – – — – – – – — – – – – — – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – – –

How to add a glossary to a worksheet
  1. Highlight the word you want to gloss and copy it.
  2. Go to the top of the page, above your toolbar, and look for the option “References”. Click on it.
  3. Click on “insert footnote”. A little number below a line will appear at the bottom of the page. It begins very low on the page but as you add more words it all moves up.
  4. Paste the word you copied. Then type in the gloss beside it.
  5. Be pleased!
Module C Summer “Bagrut” Exam, 2019, divided into chunks with a glossary

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Four PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part One PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Three PDF

Module C Bagrut Kindness Part Two PDF

 

 

 

 

 

A Multiple Book Post: Atwood, See, Buck, Luiselli and Yedlin

Mickey the Cactus
Naomi’s Photos

I’ve read so many books in the last month or so and each one actually deserves their own post, but that has become too large a task to handle. I actually even considered not writing about the books at all but I can’t do that – this blog is my memory aid! I’m the kind of person who remembers all kinds of details about a book but cannot remember the title of the book. Since my blog dates to Dec. 2010 I’ve often used the search function to check something about a book (like the answer to the question – which of Orhan Pamuk’s books with a name of a color in the title have I read?).

So here are super short comments about many books, in no particular order:

The Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See

I just finished the book last night. I read most of it in just a few days – it’s very hard to put down. I second what many of my friends have said – a fascinating book about strong women in an unusual social situation (men are unaccustomed to physical labor – women do EVERYTHING yet their status is still lower than men) living through turbulent times on an Island in Korea.  The women traditionally made a living by deep-sea diving without oxygen tanks or protective gear.  Frankly, I’m the kind of nerd who would have been fascinated by the story just with these aspects, and think the book would have been just as good with the two main characters remaining friends throughout the years and we learned of the change the new generations brought about – but I know that’s just me.

A GOOD BOOK!

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

For me this was a “companion book” to The Handmaid’s Tale, filling in missing gaps, but thankfully not delivering the same “punch to the gut” that the previous book did, as the vital information is already known. It explains things in more detail.

Atwood’s writing is, as always, a pleasure and I’m so glad the LIBBY library service had the audiobook! There are several different readers and Margaret Atwood herself reading little bits of it too! Having several readers adds to the experience.

A GOOD BOOK! Only to be read after The Handmaid’s Tale.

Peony by Pearl Buck

I haven’t read a book by Pearl Buck since I was a teenager! Back then I read both The Good Earth and Letter From Peking.  The pace is slow, unrushed, but I was interested in the details. The book is told from the point of view of Peony, a beautiful and intelligent Chinese bond-maid who belonged to a Jewish family in Kaifeng, China, in 1850. The impossible love story between Peony and David, (the family’s son)  is told on a backdrop of the family’s conflicted reactions to the gradual disappearance of the small Jewish community and its assimilation into the welcoming Chinese society.

The kIndle edition comes with a FASCINATING afterword written by a researcher who shows how cleverly Buck used the known facts about the community that was once there to bring the story to life. The researcher then adds information that was not available to Buck and presents surprising information about the descendants and research regarding the community from 1850 till the present day.

INTERESTING!

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

The truly unusual writing style and the skill in which the story is told kept me engrossed even though I found reading the book deeply upsetting. It’s all so visually clear and the punch is strong – the things that have happened to immigrant children traveling alone across the Mexican American Border is as tragic as I understood it to be from the media. The way in which the crises is related, the approach to it, is from such an expected angle and from unexpected points of view that reading the book is truly an experience, but a heart wrenching one.

I was glad I had read it but glad when I finished it too.

Stockholm by Noa Yedlin

I’m sure this book will be translated into English soon – the television adaption of the book has been very successful.

While at times the book can be too slow, it is mostly an enjoyable comic/drama with truly clever twists and great portrayals of people and their complex relationships.  The reader is introduced to five 70-year-old people who have been friends at least since their 20s.  When one of them suddenly passes away quietly at home, the others try to hide the fact for almost a week, since the newly deceased character was “shortlisted ” for a Nobel Prize in Economics. A person has to be alive when the prize is announced in order to get it (though not necessarily for the ceremony itself). As you can imagine (with a whole lot you might not be able to imagine on your own) hiding a dead body leads to unexpected complications… These situations naturally cause the characters to examine their relationship with the others in the group and look at themselves.

 

Saturday’s Book: The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Richardson

Growing Up
Naomi’s Photos

I know I have read a book worth reading when I’m still thinking about parts of it, several weeks and three books later.

Yes, I am way behind on my book postings again.

This is an excellent choice for an audiobook (courtesy of the WONDERFUL ) Libby library service.  A good reader and appropriate accents add a layer to the pleasure!

First of all, it’s a good story, well told with a plucky heroine.

The book takes place during The Depression Era, in isolated spots in  Kentucky but in many ways, this book could easily serve as a discussion for current affairs in the U.S.A.

The main character, an admirable young woman named Mary, is known as “Blue” because of a rare condition which causes her skin to be literally blue. This is true also of her parents and her “kin”, though precious few have remained alive in this impoverished place where life is harsh and racism is rampant. Being different can be a life-threatening condition.

Mary works as a “Packhorse Librarian”, traveling long distances every day to bring reading material to people who live in extremely remote places.  Not only remote, but some also live entirely off-the-grid. She actually traveled with a mule, not a horse, which is better suited to the difficult terrain. The parts I liked best were Mary’s (called Bookwoman by her patrons) conversations with people who were deeply suspicious of “book learning” – how she coaxed them to try and see for themselves how the information contained in them just might enrich their lives, perhaps even improve it. Sadly, it seems that the importance of a good education today needs defending among some people today.

The roving librarian job was just one of the jobs created as part of the government “New Deal” plans to help put food on people’s plates. Starvation was no figure of speech in that area – there were families counting the number of their children who died due to starvation (not to mention the stillborn children). Nonetheless, some preferred to accept their offspring’s deaths rather than cooperate with an interfering government who was offering a salary…

The author did leave me wondering what was the fate of the planned miner’s strikes. At the beginning of the book, there was much talk about the danger of attending a union meeting and the terrible working conditions (and short lives ) of the miners. But after the miner character passes away, we don’t follow that storyline anymore.

While I can be a bit “ornery” (to use a phrase from the book) and am perfectly able to criticize some things about the book, I am certainly glad I read it and recommend it too!

Negotiating A NEW Work Contract with THE NOTEBOOK – Planning for the New School Year

Asking difficult questions
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Note: This is part two of a series on preparations for a new school year full of unknown parameters. For part one click here: Looking for Footholds UNDER the Wave – Planning for the Next School Year

Naomi: “Thank you, Notebook for meeting me today, even though it’s your summer “hibernation” time”.

Notebook: (grumbling) “I don’t understand why you had to bother me! You have been renewing my contract automatically for the last 35 years and there have been no complaints about my performance in your classroom.  So why are we wasting my rest time?”

Seeing things as they are… photo by Gil Epshtein

Naomi: There’s no polite way to say this so I’ll just cut to the chase – I’m afraid I can’t renew your contract this year until you define exactly what it is you actually do. In what ways can you be useful to students today, in these uncertain times of a global pandemic?

Notebook: (sputtering with anger) “WHAT“?!! How dare you even ask me that? Students have always needed notebooks! And they always will. Even those conceited computers haven’t diminished our importance! Haven’t you read that when students physically write things down in their paper notebooks they remember the material better? Maybe you should spend your summer reading educational research material and learning something instead of needlessly disturbing my hibernation time. You can’t possibly be thinking of firing me!”

Naomi: (counts to 10) Notebook, calm down and stop shouting at me. I don’t want to fire you. I believe in the connection between the physical motion of writing and memory. But let’s face it. Things have changed. When the pandemic hit the country and we suddenly shifted to distance learning without prior planning, we didn’t use notebooks at all, because none of our students had them. They were all left at school. Then, when we started going back to school in small groups we had some students writing in their notebooks one day and using the computer the next when they were learning from home. It was very confusing and caused problems.  You can call the computers “conceited” or anything else you care to, but if you don’t define exactly what your new role will be in a school year that could be constantly transitioning between learning-in-class and distance learning, you will find yourself hibernating for long periods during the next school year! So I repeat the question – what is that you are good for? How can you still be useful for our Deaf and hard of hearing students?

New challenges to surmount
Photo By Gil Epshtein

Notebook: (after a long pause) “Grammar. Students write grammar rules, sample sentences, and their answers to grammar exercises from their books in me”.

Naomi: Now that’s something that can go directly into your new contract. Here we have a situation where you, the notebook, and the distance learning computer system can seamlessly complement each other without actually communicating with each other.

Notebook: (Brightening) Really? How?

Naomi: You enable students to practice grammar but also serve as a  storage place for rules and examples students might want to review before an exam. In class, students can use their notebooks. If they are learning from home, they can have the reference material on their computer systems and links to online grammar exercises. The exercises available in class and at home do not have to be identical, as long as they practice the target topic. Students need to be taught to access the reference material on their school’s computer system. Our students need to learn to use the “Backpack” function on Edmodo for this purpose”.

“We’re making progress! What’s next, Notebook?”

Define: “Doodling”
by Alice Axelbank

Notebook:  “Doodling”.

Naomi: What?

Notebook: Students doodle, draw hearts, tear off bits of paper, make paper balls…

Naomi: True. But that wasn’t in your old contract and certainly isn’t going into this one. NEXT!

“Describe a person you admire…” by Gil Epshtein

Notebook: Essay writing.

Naomi: Sigh. This one is trickier. We’re going to divide this section of your contract into two parts – notebook use for students studying at the lower levels vs. higher levels.

Students writing at the paragraph level or very short texts that can be completed in less than a lesson (leaving time for corrections) can use their notebooks. They can then practice writing different passages from home using our Edmodo (which offers built-in extensive word processing functions! No installing required!) or shared documents (student /teacher share) on Google Docs. Whether we learn in class or at home they will still have sample passages that they wrote available to them.

However, advanced students writing essays of 120 -140 words will continue to be required to type up any essay they write in their notebook. In fact, some students became accustomed to writing their essays directly into the shared documents before the pandemic hit. It is simply so much easier to work on the many corrections to their writing that our students need which take more than one lesson.

You must admit it, Notebook – long essays with many corrections get very messy and hard to read clearly in you!

Photo by Gil Epshtein

Notebook: (dejectedly) Surely you need me for the students’ “Literature Logs”.

Naomi: (cheerfully) You should be pleased with this part of the contract! I’ve begun breaking down the tasks students need to do for each of the literary pieces we study into separate small items – each item appears separately on the Edmodo.  So one column may be titled pre-reading,  another item “page one of LOTS Questions”, “practicing comparing and contrasting” or “Bridging text and context”.  If we are in class, and the student completed a certain task in the notebook, I just have to note that in the Edmodo. It doesn’t have to be uploaded to the computer system, I can grade tasks I checked offline. The tasks done during distance learning don’t have to necessarily all be done directly on the Edmodo site either – for some students and certain sections I’ll be using Google forms with an add-on that turns the results into a Google Doc.

Cheer up, Notebook – It’s quite possible to do part of the tasks online and part in their notebooks, and you know that some students are very attached to you!

Are we done?

Hopeful…
Naomi’s Photos

Notebook: You forgot to mention the topic of vocabulary.

Naomi: Thankfully, that’s one thing the pandemic hasn’t interfered with. We will continue using Quizlet and  Edmodo for vocabulary practice, leaving the student to decide for themselves when and how often to use their notebooks for this purpose. You know that some students certainly prefer their notebooks while others emphatically do not.

That wraps it up, Notebook! You see, now we can confidently say that you are all still needed in our class, whatever may come next year!

Now go and hibernate in peace! I will try not to bother you!

Looking for Footholds UNDER the Waves – Planning for the Next School Year

What now? Screenshot of a small sandpiper facing a big wave, from Piper by Pixar, see below

 

Big waves coming right at you can be very scary.

Wave don’t tend to wait for you to plan, get ready, or even try a practice run, before making it crystal clear that you had better start swimming, NOW. OR ELSE.

I felt like the little sandpiper in the video  (see below) facing the big wave when the Covid-19 virus first hit the country and the school system.  Needless to say, I had not been really prepared for such a scenario, transitioning so quickly to complete distance learning with my Deaf and hard of hearing high-school students.  It was quite a jolt, to put it mildly.

I don’t want to feel that way again.

Trying to see what lies ahead… Naomi’s Photos

I’ve been told that one can’t prepare for the unknown, as none of us imagined preparing for a lockdown or for returning to school with masks and partial student attendance.

I’ve been told that since the unknown includes possibilities ranging from no distance learning at all to long periods of it, or some combination of partial F-2-F learning in small groups, it is futile to try to plan ahead.

In short, nobody knows what kind of wave will hit the school system in the future, when it will hit and how big its impact will be.

However, now that the school year is winding down (we’re in the exam- mode-only now in high-school) I feel that I have learned some useful things over the past months.

Like the little sandpiper in the video, while I can’t face down the big wave, I believe that by identifying the problems I was faced with and asking myself what can be done about them, I will find footholds to help me find my way under an unknown next wave. It’s not unrealistic at all to imagine that that whatever does come, distance learning will be the first thing the school system returns to.

The best place to start is always from you know, right?

So…

Time to work!
Naomi’s Photos

My first, most immediate problem was that my students did not have their books and notebooks with them at home– these are all kept in several boxes in the English Room!

I’m putting an end to that practice, even though I’ve been doing it for years and have found it to be useful with students in Special Education. Not only is it bad for sudden shifts to distance learning, but it is also not a good idea these days to have students handling other students’ books and notebooks as they rummage through the relevant boxes to pull out their personal ones.

Getting rid of the “book boxes” will bring back the problem of what to do when a student comes to class without his/her materials.

HOWEVER…

That is already a much smaller, identifiable problem that I can prepare for.  Particularly as I am already in the process of learning how to expand my use of a  “virtual notebook”, based on what I began doing during the distance learning.  For the short time that we were back at school after “lockdown”, some students simply continued using the online notebooks while in class which made the transition between home and class much easier, at least in regards to notebooks.  More information on my version of online virtual notebooks in an upcoming post.

Even if I make no meaningful progress dealing with any other issue except the one described above,  I will be better prepared for what may come when the next school year begins.

For some, offering “honey” simply isn’t enough…
Naomi’s Photos

The much more complex problem I had during distance learning had to do with those students who did not participate in the distance learning at all or did so extremely infrequently and inconsistently.  The reasons for this lack of participation, to the best of my knowledge, are varied.  I know of some, particularly girls, who took on the role of caring for the home and younger siblings. Other students come from homes where no one cares if they completely turn night into day and exclude themselves from all school-based activities (it’s worth noting that our high-school only began the virtual school day at 11:30 a.m, three and a half hours later than usual!).

These are not problems to be solved by preparing new materials or adding even more scaffolding to existing materials, which is my usual mode of action  – these students aren’t coming to “the table” so what’s on “the table” isn’t the issue. So how do I even approach such issues?

Little Steering Wheel… Naomi’s Photos

Writing this blog post has helped me focus my thoughts. Again, the place to start is to examine what is it I know and what I am able to find out.

The 12th graders just graduated. I haven’t met the new 10th graders yet.

But I DO know the students who will be my new 11th and 12th graders – these are the same students who experienced distance learning during a lockdown for the first time along with me!

So it seems that a good place to start is by creating a table with the following temporary titles for each column:

  • Name of  Student  (who did not participate)
  • Homeroom teacher’s preference (should I just update absences on the school system or does he/she want updates regarding attendance the same day?)
  • Is contacting the parents a viable option (with my students, sometimes it isn’t)
  • Have I had the opportunity to talk to the student Face -2- Face about the situation yet?
  • Any insights from teachers of other subjects who teach this student?

Have  I missed something?

Most likely I have.

But I certainly feel that now I know where to begin finding footholds, even under a wave.

It’s a good feeling.

Now watch the video!

 

Saturday’s Books: You win some, you lose some…

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I believe that this book is very popular and is (or will soon be ) a mini-series available for online streaming.

However, this book goes into my personal “you lose some” bin.

I truly agree that a great deal of credit should be given to Ng for well-rounded characters and a clever storyline that builds up – I have no criticism of any of that.

It’s just that I totally do not want to read about a wealthy family who appears to be a perfect one,   a family who has it all, and then all the hidden dark sides come out.  I’m not interested in the “let me see the pleasures the rich have and show me how those pleasures don’t make them happy” type of tale. They all boil down to the same thing, as far as I’m concerned.

I also do not enjoy reading about women fighting to uncover other women’s hidden secrets and harm them, or rich kids taking advantage of others without a second thought. While reading I began feeling that all that was missing was mud for the battle…

After reading more than a third of the book I wanted nothing more to do with any of the characters in the book and quit.  I didn’t even read the end of the book or a synopsis online to see how it turned out, I don’t want to know.

Not my cup of tea.

Watchful
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I began to suspect I had been mistaken in my choice of the audiobook by the end of the first chapter. Nonetheless, I didn’t give up on it for quite a few hours more (out of the more than 15 hours of narration) before returning it to the library.

I stopped reading this book not only because of the aspects of the book I really disliked but also because of the parts I actually did like.

I know that is a very odd statement to make but bear with me for a minute.

The book begins by portraying a young, rich, American woman arriving in London two years after World War Two. While the author states and restates that she is different from her family because she loves mathematics and doesn’t behave like a fashionable young lady (according to her ever so fashionable mother), the amount of detail devoted to the clothes worn, not worn, previously worn (or should have been worn) was driving me up the wall.  Clothes lead to detailed discussions of other “womanly” subjects that our poor clever girl was unhappy with. I will spare you the details as I was also unhappy with them.

The plot moves between two-time frames, moving between the past and the “present”.  The parts relating to a network of female spies in Occupied France during World War Two is interesting and is what kept me from returning the book to the library much earlier. How such spies were recruited and trained, what they were expected to do –  certainly women to be respected! However, I don’t need to tell you that horrible things happened during that war. There is no lack of foreshadowing to indicate that harrowing experiences await the brave spies.

I realized that the combination of “aggravating” and “harrowing”, narrated in such a vivid way, word-by-word,  did not make me look forward to listening/reading the rest of the book.

So I didn’t read the rest of the book.

But for this one, I did read a synopsis.  I was curious, I admit. Some of my guesses were spot on. A synopsis was all the detail I needed in this case.

Just for the record – I’ll be posting about two books I  enjoyed soon. I am enjoying my current reads as well!

 

How to do VERY BADLY on your final exams!


Naomi’s Photos

My Deaf and hard of hearing students have their national matriculation exams in a few weeks.

For some of these 11th graders it will be their first matriculation exam, ever.

I felt they needed a reminder of the “do’s and don’ts” of taking such exams.  I felt it would be more effective and certainly more interesting to present the advice as ways to do poorly on the exam (or worse!) instead of suggestions and warnings.

Therefore, this slideshow is NOT intended for students to review on their own. It is meant as a way to go over important points with the students before the exam.

As always with my students, I tried to present these points in a visual manner, to enhance clarity.

NOTE: The tip regarding “sections on the exam that you don’t have to do” might not be relevant for teachers of students who do not get accommodations due to their hearing loss.

Wishing all our students the best of luck on their exams!

 

 

One Pandemic – MANY BOOKS! Thurbon, Grossman, Gaiman, Castel-Blum & Patchett

Diving into a book!
Naomi’s Photos

Note: The book I began reading on the very first day of “Sheltering in Place”, The Time of Our Singing by Powers has its own post (click on the title to view it).  It took me time to read all 642 pages of it! Since then my pace of reading has picked up (even though I am physically back at school!) because I’ve begun listening to audiobooks when I do the housework in addition to reading books (printed or on Kindle) when I’m resting. All audiobooks thanks to the LIBBY Program at the library.

Since I’m already in the middle of TWO more books, I gave up on the idea of having a separate post for each book.

So here goes!

It’s a long, harsh journey…
Naomi’s Photos…

 

The Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

Thubron is a great travel writer! Not only does he know how to draw a reader in with his vivid descriptions, he includes DIALOGUES. Thubron, who was in his early sixties during his rough backpacking journey, speaks Russian and has a basic command of Mandarin. He presents us with conversations with people living (or barely making a living, sadly) in every single spot he visits, thus combining history with the present day.  Well, more or less the present day. The travels took place at the beginning of the 21st century, and things have changed since then in some respects. Double time travel – 20 years ago and centuries ago!

I enjoyed it!

Just PUFF!
Naomi’s Photos
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is a fun book, particularly if you listen to it as an audiobook, read by Neil Gaiman himself. He’s a wonderful reader who brings to life the wide range of characters he created for adult readers, both in the traditional English countryside and beyond THE WALL in FAIRY. FAIRY is a land in which witches, unicorns,  ships that sail the skies, dangerous trees, wicked spells and so much more all exist alongside the human world we know.

A fun book, a change of pace from usual reading material, but part of the time what I enjoyed more than the plot was listening to Gaiman’s delightful use of language.

Mixed emotions
Naomi’s photos
Life Plays with Me by David Grossman

I read this book in Hebrew but I’m positive that it will soon be translated into English. Grossman has won much international acclaim and his books have been translated into many languages.

To be more precise, I listened to it as an audiobook. The reader was WONDERFUL!  The combination of the writing that had me completely riveted along with the amazing reader left me feeling as if I were perched on  Gili’s shoulder, with the ability to hear her thoughts. Gili is the character who tells the story of her family, as she knows it, as she felt it and as she learns more about it.  The events that took place in the post-WWII years in the Serbia /Croatian region had a profound effect on the characters and their descendants.

I found the book and the main character, the 90-year-old Vera, very moving.

I really recommend this book!!!

Pyramids…
Naomi’s Photos
An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel Blum

I was somewhat disappointed by this book though am not sorry that I read it.

The topic is an interesting one but the book feels uneven, with parts that held my interest along with parts that felt unnecessarily long and not particularly connected.

The parts I enjoyed reading were about the different hopes and dreams of  Jews immigrating from Egypt to Israel and what happened to those dreams afterward.  Most of what I had known of the Jewish community in Egypt came from Egyptian writers.

However, the parts relating to the character (who is only referred to as “the eldest daughter”, to emphasize her identity crises) and her inability to “find her way” felt interminable. It was unclear why she suddenly became the main character of so many chapters of the book – in previous chapters the point of view shifted between various characters and was more engaging.

Can’t let go of that house…
Naomi’s Photos
The Dutch House by Anne Patchett

As may recall, Patchett is one of my favorite authors. This is a good book, all her books are good,  but on my personal ranking of books written by Patchett, this one is close to the bottom.

As always I enjoyed the way her she gives you personal drama while staying away from “soap opera” tear-jerkers or predictable endings and there were certainly some twists that I did not see coming.  But at the center of the story is a house, While I agree that it is a very unusual looking house with unusual things inside and it certainly has an important role in the story, I grew tired of hearing about it. Perhaps I don’t watch enough period dramas…

By the way, I used the word “hearing” and not “reading” because I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Tom Hanks.  Hanks is a fine reader but this isn’t one of those books that listening to it adds an extra element of enjoyment (such as listening to Trevor Noah narrate his own book “Born a Crime”!)

Happy Reading!

Just for FUN – It’s Towel Day!

Just before THE pandemic broke out, I was asked to present something about a holiday in a creative manner. It was for a great in-service course for teachers I took with Debbie Ben Tura on the topic of creativity in EFL Teaching.

So I chose the “holiday” TOWEL DAY!

Here it is!

Book titled 'How to Celebrate 'Towel Day''Read this book made on StoryJumper

 

 

Returning to the Classroom, Covid-19 Style – A Photo Pause

Mixed emotions
Naomi’s photos

 

YAY!      Schools will resume teaching “normally” as of tomorrow at full capacity.

OMG!    Schools will resume teaching “normally” as of tomorrow at full capacity.

Note: Full capacity at the high-school where I teach is about 1800 students.

It’s a ROLLER COASTER!     Last-minute decisions,  conflicting and incomplete information – teachers and school administrators can be ready for anything, adapt to whatever is needed at a moment’s notice, right? Isn’t that why educators are one of the most respected professions in the world? Right, huh?

Honey makes the medicine go down…
Naomi’s Photos

I say “YAY” because I’m thrilled to teach the way I was meant to teach – being with the students in the same room! A lesson in which we can all focus on the task at hand,  with all our resources available,  leaving technology to be used when, where, and how we want to use it, only when it serves our purpose.

A FACE-to-FACE lesson where we can smile at the students as they enter class, compliment one, encourage another who seems to need it even though no word was spoken, or even just silently point to the whiteboard where the dates of the national exams are written when they ask for the umpteenth time.

What DO the doctors say?!!  Naomi’s Photos

Smile?

Did I say “smile“?

What about THE MASKS?!!

If it is safe now to have so many students in one place for an entire school day, in close proximity, why isn’t it safe for them to ride on a school bus to school? The students won’t come without transportation and the drivers won’t bring them at half capacity.

Who is actually going to come tomorrow? And the day after? And what about those who don’t? And those students and teachers who really can’t return?

Have medical professionals, epidemiologists, been consulted during the “thoughtful process of planning” the reopening of the school system? The fact that I’m looking for a “rhyme and a reason” may be highly Quixotic of me but knowing that doesn’t help me sleep any better.

Is wearing a mask for a full school day at all feasible?

Thanks to an administrator at school I got a mask with a clear plastic window so my Deaf and hard of hearing students can see my lips. Can I spend a whole day with a piece of plastic over my mouth?

I guess I’m going to find out.

Sunny? It’s going to be “a scorcher”!
Naomi’s Photos

The principal sent a recommendation to spend breaks outdoors as much as possible, so as to avoid crowding in the teacher’s room.  Students should go out as well.

Unfortunately, the first serious heatwave of the year has just begun. It’s a scorcher worse than our usual seasonal ones. The weather forecast for the area of our school tomorrow will be a whopping 40 degrees celsius! 

For once I can foresee the future – the schoolyard will be empty!