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 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.
However, I’m not sure how to build on your interest in graphic novels. You all pick up our copy of the one graphic novel we have, “Bone” by Jeff Smith, which someone donated to our classroom a while back.
You flip through it, but you don’t read it.
Perhaps you find the frequent use of unfamiliar idioms too challenging.
Or perhaps I need to learn how to help you read graphic novels in class.
Do you also sometimes feel that memories related to your life as a teacher before the pandemic hit have faded or even disappeared? Materials you once prepared lie dormant, forgotten in some binder or box, their underlying rationale swirling murkily in your memory?
The amazing, world-renowned Penny Ur will be speaking at the conference!
After hearing Penny Ur talk at the ETAI Conference back in 2016, I was so inspired that I undertook a blogging challenge called 18/100, in which I reflected on one tip from each of the eighteen sections that compose Penny Ur’s book: “100 Teaching Tips”.
The combination of short sections in the book along with brief reflections really packed a punch.
I’m so looking forward to hearing her speak again next month!
Here is one of the original posts from 2016, part 17.
This is part seventeen of my blogging challenge.
As a veteran teacher, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why.
I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.
Tip Number 89: “Teach a lot of vocabulary”
* Note: I was sorely tempted to reflect on all the tips in the vocabulary section, but a rule is a rule…
I love it when practices we recommend for teaching Deaf and hard-of-hearing students are recommended for everyone.
Sight words are words you understand right away without the need to decode. Check out this quote from the book (page 106): ” It appears that a large sight vocabulary …is the main condition for successful reading comprehension”. When you have words at your disposal that lead to meaning effortlessly, you can focus on the content of the text must more efficiently.
The thing is, the sight vocabulary needs to be large. Even students with normal hearing cannot pick up enough vocabulary based on incidental learning and by seeing words in context in books. Vocabulary has to be taught and practiced. A lot!
Vocabulary flashcards rock!
They will “rock” even more if you include collocations!
Especially good for pair work – an opportunity for students to be teachers too. Meanwhile, you, the official teacher, can work with someone who needs extra help.
The only caveat is the issue of general knowledge. The students have to have a reasonable grasp of the concepts the words denote. Otherwise, the ability to quickly translate the words into their mother tongue does not contribute to reading comprehension.
Which may sound extremely obvious to you.
Unless you are working with Deaf and hard of hearing students…
ETAI’s ( English Teachers Association of Israel) upcoming international conference hasn’t even begun yet and I’m already having fascinating conversations because of it! One of the many benefits of ETAI conferences is that they often provide an opportunity for teachers in the field to meet and converse with influential researchers from the world of academia. (Details about the conference here).
Plenary speaker Prof. Emeritus Claude Goldenberg, from Stanford University kindly agreed to have a long distance conversation with me, in which we discussed bilingual literacy, hands-on experiences in the classroom and what the song “Mustang Sally” has to do with his retirement!
Naomi: You have done a lot of work related to literacy development in bilingual settings. What attracted you to language development and literacy in bilingual settings?
Prof. Goldenberg: I was born in Argentina. My family came to the United States when I was three and a half. I grew up bilingual. My parents literally did not allow me to speak English at home, even though as soon as I learned English I wanted to talk English all the time. They enforced a “Spanish Only” rule. I would complain, but they would say, “You’ll thank us one day.”
When I was growing up I never thought I’d go into education. In college, I majored in history but became interested in education as a way to help eliminate opportunity gaps in our society. My parents were living in San Antonio, Texas when I finished college. Since there is a large Hispanic population there, and I am fully bilingual, I thought I would have more tools to be helpful. So I began teaching in a junior-high-school in San Antonio. I had good intentions but wasn’t well prepared for teaching. Like many other people, I hadn’t realized before that time how teaching really is a profession that requires training. It was not easy!
However, I wanted to learn more about the reasons I was meeting students who were 13 or even 16 years old with poor literacy skills along with a lack of motivation and what I could do about this terrible situation. So I did two things:
I did my Ph.D. in the field of Early Childhood Education at UCLA, focusing on literacy, since it is one of the major foundational building blocks of education, and
after completing my Ph.D. I took a job teaching first-grade so that I could get a better understanding of teaching from inside the classroom.
You could say I was immersed in the world of early literacy and language learning, bilingual education and English as a second language.
Naomi: I have to admit that as a teacher I’m delighted to hear that you are a professor who has had actual hands-on teaching experience in the classroom! Is that connected to the choice of the title of your plenary talk: “Teachers’ Critical Role in Managing the Transition in English Language Education”?
Prof. Goldenberg: My teaching experience ingrained in me the understanding that it’s one thing to do research and make pronouncements based on that research, even assuming it’s valid research. However, it’s the teachers who know the contextual reality of running a classroom and being in a school. Both perspectives are necessary for any improvements in the system.
Naomi: You mentioned English as a Second Langauge. I’m sure you are aware that in Israel, we teach English as a Foreign Language. Students here speak many different languages at home that may differ from the official language at school, besides learning English (including Sign Language! I teach students who are Deaf and hard of hearing).
Prof. Goldenberg: Yes, Israeli students come to EFL class with diverse linguistic backgrounds. Speakers of Arabic, for example, begin their schooling with spoken Arabic and then learn written Arabic, Hebrew and then English. Other students may speak Russian, French, Amharic or Yiddish at home. It is incredibly complex. Yet if you think of it as a Venn Diagram, there are overlaps between teaching a second language and a foreign language.
The point is that we need a common framework. Most of the world uses such a framework – it’s known as the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for languages). It’s a good place to start. English has become the Lingua Franca and Israeli students should be competitive on the world stage in English. In order to achieve that goal, we need to define the desired outcomes and then plan backward to see how to accomplish them.
Naomi:And the final question I ask all the speakers I interview; What do you do in your free time?
Prof. Goldenberg: I actually just retired on August 31. So I have a lot of free time. I like to travel. I like to drive cross country. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of over the past 10 months. For nearly fifty years I’ve had this dream of driving cross country and seeing things and talking to people.
I post about my travels on my blog called “Travels with Sally”. Sally is the name of my car. It is a Mustang and the name refers to a famous Blues / Rock and Roll song “Mustang Sally”. “Travels With Sally” is also a reference to the book by Steinbeck “Travels with Charley”.
Naomi: Thank you for taking the time away from Mustang Sally to talk with me! I look forward to hearing you speak at the conference!
Readers of this blog know that I love to write about books and do so regularly. But it’s not often that I get a chance to interview a children’s book writer and illustrator! Well, exciting things happen when the English Teachers Association of Israel, aka ETAI, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an exciting international conference! So, I now have the pleasure of introducing plenary speaker Anne Sibley O’Brien. from Maine, U.S.A., a children’s book writer, and an illustrator who has published 37 books featuring diverse children and cultures. (see details about the conference here).
Naomi: I was once ” the new kid’. My first reaction to the illustration was – “Oh, the teacher on the left is introducing the new student as someone who has something to offer in a relationship by saying that the new student likes to write stories! He’s not someone who simply needs to be pitied and will be totally dependant on others”.
Is that the kind of reaction you were hoping for?
Annie: Yes, exactly. The driving purpose of these two books is to portray the richness and fullness of the lives of people who become immigrants and refugees. They’re not blank slates who come with nothing and need to be filled up. I want people in receiving communities to recognize that new arrivals are already whole people, with a family, a language (often more than one), a history, a culture, interests, talents… and that they have so much to offer. They bring gifts.
I also want people to get a glimpse of how challenging the assimilation period is. In order to adjust to the new place, immigrants and refugees have to learn so many aspects of life all over again, and the more differences they encounter — race, language, culture, religion, etc. — the greater the challenge.
Naomi: Your books are about inclusion, accepting others and celebrating diversity. What made you so interested in this subject?
Annie: When I was seven years old, my parents moved my three siblings and me from rural New Hampshire in the States, to Seoul, South Korea. Working in Korea (my dad was a doctor) was a dream come true for them. I went from always blending in to suddenly standing out, feeling as if someone had turned a spotlight on me. I became fascinated by differences as a result of being “the different one” — but uniquely in a position of high status and extreme privilege, not the standard experience of being the Other!
At the same time, our family was being so warmly welcomed into the Korean community, from which I absorbed the idea that we are all one human family. That combination of experiences gave me my life’s work.
Naomi: You drew the illustration presented above yourself and all the illustrations for your books. What do you start with – the illustrations or the words?
Annie: I’ve illustrated 33 picture books, about half of which I also wrote, half by other authors. Recently I also wrote a couple of picture books that were illustrated by someone else — that was fun! When it’s someone else’s book, then the illustrations usually come second to a completed manuscript.
When it’s my own book, it completely depends on the project, and sometimes on the individual scene or page. I may have strong images and wait to find the few words I need to tell the part of the story that isn’t already in the pictures. Other times I have the story and need to find the images that will enrich, support, and amplify the text. Often it’s both processes in the same book, going back and forth between the two approaches.
Naomi: I understand you visit schools a great deal. Have you found that the children are interested in discussing these topics?
Annie: Absolutely! Children have so much in-depth experience of in-groups and out-groups and issues of difference, even if they live in places where most people look like them and they haven’t had much exposure to the diverse cultures of the world. The subject of human difference is so often fraught with conflict, dis-ease, and discomfort, so I like to model ease in discussing race and culture, as an invitation — we can talk about this!
Naomi:And the final question I ask all the speakers I interview;
What do you do in your free time?
Annie: “Free time” is a bit of a slippery concept since I’m self-employed and there aren’t any preset boundaries around my schedule. It’s also funny because much of my work time is spent doing things — writing, drawing, reading — that other people consider being leisure activities. But I love to read, watch movies, walk or bike on our beautiful Maine island, go out to dinner, and best of all, spend time with our 5-year-old grandson!
The English Teachers Association of Israel, aka ETAI, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an exciting international conference! As one who has learned so much over the years thanks to ETAI, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview the plenary speakers for the upcoming conference (see details about the conference here).
ETAI conferences have always been places to meet people who INSPIRE and Sarah Gordon is just such an educator. An educator who didn’t settle for musing “wouldn’t it be nice if…” but took an idea and actually made it happen. Sarah founded Israel Connect, an organization that partners over Skype hundreds of students and mentors in the English-speaking world to provide students who study English as a foreign language in Israel with authentic English language immersion experiences. In fact, Sarah has just been awarded the “Sovereign’s Medal for Community Service” for her work in Israel Connect. It is an honor awarded on behalf of the Queen of England for community impact.
Naomi: How was the idea for the Israel Connectprogram born?
Sarah: I studied teaching for two years in Israel. I took English as my teaching specialization since it was an easy way for me to get credits due to English being my first language. After I left Israel to finish my teaching diploma in North America (I actually am a Math teacher by training) I kept in touch with a few friends in Israel who went on to become English teachers. One teacher was teaching in a school in a bit of a rougher neighborhood. We were chatting and she explained to me how difficult it was to get her students up to par in the meager 45 min of English they had. Many were very disadvantaged as their parents were learning Hebrew as a second language and they did not have the opportunity to travel much. I jokingly told her that here kids are so smart they spontaneously begin speaking English at age three! We laughed, but it is true, immersion is the best and most painless way to learn a language. I started by finding mentors in my community for three of her students who struggled academically and had behavioral issues, just for some homework help. Those students turned into top students, they started sitting at the front of the class and participating nicely, now that they felt confident and accomplished. My friend then asked for more mentors. She told me some of her friends and co-workers were jealous and wanted some of their students to be tutored as well. At this point, I realized we were onto something extraordinary. These are the results you wish for when you become a teacher. I realized I was in a very unique position to help people. I quit my job as a teacher and began working on this program full-time, standardizing the process so we could scale and deliver the program across the country. And as they say, the rest is history or rather a lot of really really hard work, and no one wants to hear about that.
Naomi: That is so amazing! An idea blossomed into an organization that helps so many students!
Naomi: You currently reside in Canada and have a perspective on education in both Israel and Canada. Do you find significant differences between the attitudes toward education in both countries?
Sarah: The differences are massive. In Canada teaching is one of the best-paid professions, it is so in demand to find a teaching job that people wait on “subbing” lists for years. Classes are also smaller. In addition, in Canadian culture, being polite is a very strong cultural ideal. This is, in turn, is passed on and expected of students. That being said, in both countries no one teaches because it is an easy job, you teach because you think there is nothing more important than education. In both countries, teaching is work that comes from the heart and every teacher I have ever met gives it their 1000%.
Naomi: My final question is always the same for all the hard-working educators that I’m fortunate enough to interview: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Sarah: I do like to go to school and collect degrees, I guess you can call it a hobby.!
I’m looking forward to hearing more at Sarah Gordon’s plenary session at the upcoming ETAI conference!
We have noted with satisfaction the large number of teachers from your school who have attended at least one conference for English teachers during the past year. Your school is ranked among the top schools in our district in this matter. Clearly, your management policies foster an atmosphere that encourages continued professional development among your staff members for the benefit of the students entrusted to your care.
Since it is well-known that these conferences / mini-conferences take place in the afternoons and during school vacations, such a commitment to professional development among your staff members is particularly commendable.
We are encouraging other principals in our district to follow your example.
The regional inspectors / local school board
Possible replacement options for the first paragraph:
Dear Principal ____________,
We have noted with satisfaction that teachers from your school have presented at one conference for English teachers or more during the past year. Your school is ranked among the top schools in our district in this matter. Clearly, your management policies foster an atmosphere that not only encourages continued professional development among your staff members but encourages them to share their knowledge with others.
Dear Principal ____________,
We have noted with satisfaction that teachers from your school have attended / presented at an international conference for English teachers abroad during the school year. Your school is ranked among the top schools in our district in this matter. While you, obviously, have no say in the matter of the teacher’s pay being docked for the few work days they missed, your assistance in getting the paperwork necessary for such an endeavor approved is greatly appreciated. * Clearly, your management policies foster an atmosphere that not only encourages continued professional development among your staff members but recognizes the value of foreign language teachers keeping abreast of worldwide trends in this field.
Principals love it when their school is honorably mentioned.
Teachers who attend conferences and invest in continued professional development do it whether or not the principal or management cares.
But being noticed means a lot to teachers too…
Two notes which haven’t found a place in the letters:
Some teachers are only able to come to a part of a conference due to reasons such as family commitments, which means they don’t get any recognition for in-service training points (aka “Gmul). They deserve to be noticed too!
Presenting at an international conference or publishing in a recognized academic journal officially awards a teacher one complete in-service training point (aka an entire “Gmul”) instead of the usual fraction. De facto it is only worth a quarter point in your salary (30 hours)…
Warning – Excessive note-taking at an awesome ELT conference may lead to undesirable side effects, ranging in severity and scope. The following “treatment” may be taken prior to the conference , as “preventive medicine”, or after the first conference day of several in order to alleviate existing symptoms.
Possible side effects of untreated excessive note-taking
Excessive note-taking may seriously impair a teacher’s ability to digest new information. The act of keeping the eyes glued to the notebook /screen during an entire lecture can result in:
missing the fine points of nuance, which are expressed in mimicry and body language
inability to properly take in visual materials, viewed at a brief glance.
constant tension – hyper-state of alertness due to trying to keep up with every word the speaker says.
inability to focus on the main idea to be implemented, not on the specific details (which cannot be relevant for every class).
feelings of irritability.
LOSS OF ABILITY TO ENJOY THE CONFERENCE!
The BUDDY METHOD of Treatment
Stage one – Find “a conference buddy”
If you haven’t arrived at the conference with one prepared in advance, simply introduce yourself (with a smile!) to the teachers sitting near you before the first session begins. The attendees are not a group of random people – these are ELT teachers who made the effort to attend the conference because they want to benefit from it, just like you. Having several “conference buddies” works too.
Stage two – Talk Sessions
Arrange to meet with your “conference buddy” over lunch, on the commute home (if relevant) or perhaps skip a certain session slot. When you know you will be soon be briefly discussing what you just heard, you will find that jotting down key ideas, phrases, links will be enough. This matters because after you discuss what you heard, you “digest” it better and your brain can begin utilizing the information in order to make connections with your classroom reality.
Or in other words, you will probably never find (or bother to look at) all your conference notes three months from now. But if you discuss what you heard with someone it will leave a helpful “residue” in your brain.
Stage Three – Division of Labor
If coming home from a conference with a file (handwritten or digital) of notes is important to you, divide the sessions with your “conference buddy”. In each session one of you slows down, focuses on listening, looking (and feeling!) while the other takes notes. The “listener” can gently nudge the “note-taker” when there is a good visual stimulus he/she really must stop and look at. When you talk about the sessions afterwards, the one who was the note-taker can add information the listener took in and the note taker missed.
The “listener” is also in charge of prying the pen out of his/her buddy’s hand when the speaker has just given the link to where the entire talk can be viewed at any time.
Stage Four – Let Your “Conference Buddy” Drag You to a Session You Didn’t plan on attending.
Obviously, you won’t want to take notes during a session which is, theoretically, not relevant for you (perhaps it focuses on teaching younger learners than those you teach or is more suitable for private lessons while you teach classes). Focus on watching the speaker – what he/she said might not be particularly useful to you. However, how the material was presented to a roomful of adults and how the speaker drew the listeners into the topic might just spark some amazing ideas in your head as how to present something to your own students.
All of that can happen in your head without writing down a single thing.
IMPORTANT DOSAGE NOTES:
The “BUDDY METHOD” of treatment can be used repeatedly at multiple conferences without any negative side effects. It is free and available for ELT teachers around the world at all times. Frequent users of the method often exhibit tendencies to share the method, though the frequency of this phenomenon has not been documented.