Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

Battling with a Rusty “BOT” in the Classroom – A Comment

The threat of rust…
Naomi’s Photos

So, it seems my classroom “BOT” has gotten rusty.

Not only did I not register that fact, I only learned of the cool acronym “BOT” for a teacher’s “Bag Of Tricks” after reading Lisa Wood’s blog post “BOT: Why Every Teacher Should Have One”.

Lisa Wood defines a BOT as a combination of items that could be used to help out in a sticky situation, solve a problem or respond to a need”.  You know, things to use in all sorts of unplanned situations that I feel a need to plan for, such as:

  • Half the class is absent (taking make-up tests,  flu season, etc.)
  • Some sort of disturbance or exciting event took place in the schoolyard/assembly hall before the lesson began and everyone is distracted.
  • Students have a big math test later on in the day
  • I want to conduct an impromptu review of a certain topic for a number of students.

I find Lisa’s SIXTEEN BOT items (some of which are completely new to me!) and suggested uses particularly inspiring because she teaches teenagers too! I can adapt some or create a different version of them to suit my needs. Check them out!!!

Cool dice!
Naomi’s photos

It was easy to have a BOT when I taught elementary school.  I needed them often in my special classes for Deaf and hard of hearing students.  I always had the following items with me:

  • Multi faced dice with extra numbers, in different colors and shapes (dice that are used for Dungeons and Dragons!).
  • Coloring sheets of various kinds (coloring according to instructions, connect the dot with the letters of the alphabet instead of numbers, etc)
  • Colorful magazines with “find me” items pasted on the cover. The children had to locate (and write down ) the page numbers where they found the items on the list which had been pasted on the magazine’s cover, such as “a man is eating a banana”, ” a blue sofa”  and  “two people are talking”.
  • More colorful magazines for kids to cut out items from and paste in their notebooks.
  • Sticky tac – the gum-like substance that lets you hang any picture or page on the whiteboard (or on a table, chair, etc) and then easily remove it again.
  • An envelope with the names of the students so that it would be clear that students’ turn was chosen randomly.
  • A picture of an American baseball player to stick on the whiteboard when playing whiteboard baseball”.

BUT WHAT ABOUT HIGH-SCHOOL?

What is the next move?
(Naomi’s Photos)

Some of these items made the transition well to teenagers, particularly the multi-faced dice which students like.  I have a few different board games (the kind with a track, start here end there) for reviewing vocabulary.

While coloring pages are out, I do have students who need to “defuse” (particularly girls, I have to admit)  who occasionally prepare colorful signs and cover sheets for materials in the classroom. You can’t beat coloring for indoor relaxation.

I never had ” a question box” like Lisa suggested, but I used to have a grammar name box, following something I read by Penny Ur.  I’ve forgotten about it and haven’t used it in ages. Maybe it’s time to renew it. It added spice to grammar!

There is only one remnant of the magazines with things to find on them. A beautiful hard-cover photography book has a permanent page of items to find inserted in the front cover. But that has become part of the curriculum – it appears on the 10th-graders’ list of extra tasks to complete for the semester grade (there are six a semester, mostly on our class website), so it’s no longer a BOT.

My best and favorite high-school BOT, which I call “the disappearing eraser” (also called  “reverse reading” “live dialogue” and “disappearing text”) requires no prep, just the whiteboard.

However, The word-puzzles, riddles, and particularly the once-beloved questionnaires (  you know the genre: “what kind of friend are you? ” etc.)  that we used to do, lie unused in the closet. I’ve become so concerned with time that I don’t pull them out anymore. So many lessons are canceled for school activities, many students have attendance problems and with my special needs students, progress is slow on the mandatory material.

I hadn’t even thought about the pros of cons of not using my BOT material anymore.  And I haven’t added new, energizing material in a long time.

Thank you, Lisa Wood’s for making me examine the BOTS!

How about you?

What are your BOTS?

 

Vocabulary Retrieval Exercises; Paper vs Digital – Which is Better?

Which direction?
Naomi’s Photos

Are you familiar with those reading comprehension exercises in which students are required to read the title of the passage, then copy the sentence from the text which answers the question in the title?

Well, if this post were such an exercise, here’s the sentence you would need to copy:

“I don’t know”.

While I am most certainly learning a whole lot of other things while trying to answer this question, the digital vs paper issue actually matters and cannot be ignored.

I’ve been working on creating short homework tasks for my mixed level  tenth-grade students focusing on vocabulary.  Since my students are Deaf and hard of hearing, their exposure to English as a foreign language outside of the classroom is severely limited.  In addition, there is never enough time inside the classroom to provide sufficient  repeated exposure of all the vocabulary items students need to know

Time…
Naomi’s Photos

Well, it seems that the issue of supplying sufficient repeated exposure to vocabulary items is a general one. According to Penny Ur’s article “Multiple review and vocabulary acquisition through reading “ teachers must make the most of the limited time available by focusing on tasks that challenge the students to actively remember a word’s meaning and produce it, as opposed to just recognizing it.  Penny Ur , in a teacher-friendly way, cites research and explains how such activities, known as “retrieval activities” require fewer encounters with a word before a student can claim the word for herself/himself. The short article is full of practical suggestions.

So, “retrieval activities” are the way to go, right?

But I’m also trying to combine what  I learned from John F. Fanselow’s book “Small Changes in Teaching, Big Results in Learning”, about how multiple readings of the same text promote the development of reading comprehension skills, vocabulary acquisition, syntax and more.

And I had the perfect text to work with.

Let’s travel the easy way! Naomi’s Photos

 

Kevin Stein, in Japan, wrote (and generously posted!!) a series of short stories for teenagers, which are composed almost completely of vocabulary items from our mandatory word list. The vocabulary in the stories is mainly from the elementary level word list (band one) with a few words from the two more advanced levels.  With Kevin’s permission,  here is a copy of the story  “How to Float”  and an additional color-coded copy with vocabulary items marked according to level.

How to Float by Kevin Stein

How to Float Color Copy– Kevin Stein

Here is the link to the Quizlet word list of the vocabulary items in the story, along with translations into Hebrew: https://quizlet.com/_6yv8lr

I began by giving the students homework tasks on paper. The students got the story in small sections,  a few sentences at a time, with letters and words missing. They were required to complete the missing information with the help of their Quizlet list. The students then had to answer four simple questions about themselves that used vocabulary items from those sentences. The questions were not about the text.

*** You can find the first three worksheets at the end of this post. 

Paper!
Naomi’s Photos

I chose to use paper – as an old-timer I still tend to believe that there is a connection between hand movement and activating the brain. In addition, when creating tasks to be given on paper I did not have to worry about the copy/paste issue, which would have defeated a significant part of the purpose of the tasks  – the students pay attention to every single letter making up the missing words.

The immediate benefit of using paper for the tasks took me by surprise – it taught the students how to use Quizlet, both on the technical level (now they know the word list can be arranged alphabetically, for example) and they also began to realize that when I give a Quizlet list it actually does help do the task on hand.

On the other hand, all the familiar disadvantages of giving homework tasks on paper began surfacing within a week. Besides the inconvenience of photocopying the tasks, keeping track of who got the worksheets and who was absent, it was a “great way” to quickly get to know which of my new 10th grade students copy homework from which students (it was easy to spot).

Ink!
Naomi’s Photos

So, moving on to digital homework …

Sending a link to a Google Form via WhatsApp to my class broadcast list (not a group!!!) is easy to do. No photocopying, no absentee issue. It also enabled me to continue with the tasks on two different levels without it being obvious to other students that there is a difference. Best of all, the copying of homework doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore as the tasks require active typing of words. Theoretically, they could copy but now it takes real effort (as compared to a printed worksheet). With Google Forms, I get the answers directly, nicely ordered in columns.

However…

  • I don’t know if the retention of vocabulary is better on handwritten tasks and the students are missing an opportunity.
  • I don’t want the students to write sentences using Google and paste them into the homework task. So, as far as I can see, I’m limited to two types of  tasks – completing missing letters in words  (Th_re   a_e    t_o     s_ops…) and rewriting sentences that have been written with no spaces (Therearetwoshopsand…)
  • I have a student who doesn’t have a working phone and doesn’t know when she’ll get one that works. I have two students that send WhatsApp messages and use Instagram but are otherwise totally befuddled by doing anything like comparing words in the Quizlet list to a task open in another “window” on their phone (other students were happy with the shift to digital!).
  • NOTE: I’m talking about phones because a significant number use their cell phones for everything and do not have working computers at home.

Yes, yes, I know I’m a Special Ed teacher with small classes. But preparing both a digital form and a printed version for every task, at two levels is a bit much… AARGH!

So, which is better for vocabulary retrieval tasks – paper or digital?

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Part One  – worksheet one – How To Float first para exercise

Part Two – worksheet two – How to float week two full copy

Part Three – worksheet three – How To Float Week three

Revisiting the Post: “What do Teachers Talk about in the Staff Room”?

The following post was first posted in 2011, but the dilemma is still very relevant. In fact, the topic is particularly relevant at the beginning of every school year, when teachers and their new students are still “sizing each other up”.

A rare quiet moment in the staff room…
Naomi’s photos

 

It’s funny how things tie in with each other.

I hadn’t thought much about our staff room since the school finally purchased more chairs. Due to the fact that I’m not one of those teachers who manage to be in the staff room the moment the bell rings, I often could not find a free chair. But that issue has been taken care of.

Tyson Seburnt’s interesting post “What’s a Staff Room to You?” made me realize that there are other kinds of staff rooms, reflecting a whole different approach to a staff room, one used for collaborating on school issues, for instance. Our HUGE room staff room is mainly used for eating /drinking coffee and talking. Although the room is enormous, most teachers sit around specific tables, in sub groups. During the so-called lunch break (25 minutes at 10:40 in the morning!) the noise of conversation is loud. But what are teachers talking about?

DSCF2743

If you had asked me that a week ago I would have said: Teachers’ offspring, fashion and television. Maybe some politics.

Right after reading the post, the head of our Deaf and hard of hearing staff department implored us not to talk about students during our breaks around the table.

Hmm, that’s right. I didn’t really pay much attention to it but we do talk about students, or rather “vent” our feelings about them.

She’s worried that sensitive information we know might be overheard by people who shouldn’t be privy to that information (not that you can hear much with the noise level during the break…)

“Would you believe that?!”
Naomi’s Photos

The very same day I read an article in EL (ASCD) magazine called “Respect – Where Do We Start” by Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin. The author talks about the negative influence of teachers sitting and complaining about their problematic students during lunch breaks. She says that these kind of conversations do not lead to the creation of constructive suggestions on dealing with students. The reverse may be true – hearing other colleagues also complain about a pupil makes the teacher feel more entitled to her negative feelings about that pupil. In addition, the author also claims that when teachers spend their free time talking about what brings them down and not what they feel good about it encourages our brains to think in more negative ways.

In short,  Beaudoin calls for a “no-talk-about-students” rule for lunch hour.

I see the author’s point but I’m not sure I agree. In fact, I’m not sure it is a rule we could live by. With all the support systems such as my AWESOME P.L.N and my patient husband who listens to me in the evenings, there is nothing like the support of your fellow teachers, who actually teach the same pupils, especially when  you exit a lesson ready to tear your hair out.

Do YOU agree?

Personal Exam Review Folders – Avoiding the PITFALLS

Oh, the places you’ll go!
Naomi’s Photos

It’s a great thing to be able to greet  students at the beginning of the year and then hand each one of them a  simple “gift folder” with an official-looking cover page on it, and say:

“Here, this is for you. Write your name on it. It’s your personal “exam review” folder.  See the table of contents? With the checkboxes? This tells you what material you will be adding to it, gradually, so that you can have all the material you need to review in one place, before your national exam in January /May.

Yes, you will be graded on it. A grade that really will be part of the grades that make up your final grade.

You’re welcome”.

My Deaf and hard of hearing students high school students need very clear “road maps” showing where we are going and what is expected of them.

And everyone likes getting a personal gift!

Quite motivating, right?

Over and Over
Naomi’s Photos

WARNING!  WARNING!

This wonderful plan of having students build their own review folder can backfire completely.

I should know.

I stopped trying to do this years ago because

(let’s be polite here)

the results were unsatisfactory.

Then what am I doing here sharing the personal exam review folders that my strong twelfth grade students will be getting on the first day of class?

Isn’t Einstein supposed to have said that it’s insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results?!!

Ah, but I’m NOT doing the same thing.

I think I figured out what went wrong before.

The hole in the cover… Naomi’s Photos

The Pitfalls

  1. I didn’t include a grade for completing the folders in the semester’s grade. Some students, particularly the strongest ones who did well on their first exam of the year, saw no reason to work on their folder. They could succeed without bothering with it, as far as they were concerned.
  2.  I didn’t ensure the students made every single element of the folder personal. The folders included photocopied – ready-made pages that the students got. They didn’t create their own sample sentences or even copy out such lists as
    “useful adjectives”  or “connectors” in their own handwriting (or typed it up themselves).  They didn’t really review material they hadn’t written themselves.

But all of the above is “peanuts” compared to the major mistake I made in the past:

The exam review folders were mainly or exclusively for reading comprehension skills. I included sample types of questions, warnings about common errors, useful vocabulary, and tips about which questions to do first or last.

However, reading comprehension is a very complex skill, particularly for my Deaf and hard of hearing students with their general language difficulties and lack of general knowledge.

You can’t break reading comprehension down completely into a discrete set of skills.

Thus some students ignored the review material and did well on the finals while other students reviewed the material thoroughly and still did badly. Those students usually score poorly on reading comprehension exams in their L1 as well.

Not good.

Look up!
Naomi’s Photos

So…

My twelfth-grade students, at what is called here “the five-point” level, have a writing task. They are required to write a 120-140 word composition on a given topic. Part of the grade is given for using advanced language elements such as “the passive voice”, “connectors” and “gerunds” or varied “rich” adjectives.

The students do not need to use every possible element in every composition but they certainly need to study and review these elements before the exam.

I discuss these elements with the students all the time.

I can define the elements and they are clearly connected to the final grade on the writing task.

And now I’m requiring students to personalize every single sample sentence.

Conclusion

Personal exam review folders will be given only for the writing tasks on the final exams, not the reading comprehension sections.

Here is what my 12th-grade students at “level G” will be getting.

 My Personal Exam Review Folder cover sheet

Table of Contents Module G 

I think it will rock!

I’ll let you know…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From “Planet Puffin” to “Planet Classroom”

I see you! Epstein Family Photos

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of puffins.

Puffins,  as in the birds, though I certainly like a great many Puffin Books as well! Puffins are beautiful, cute, and versatile – they can fly AND swim!

I understand these birds are incredibly popular in Britain and in many other countries, but they aren’t that well-known in my part of the world. My students are not the only ones who comment in puzzlement about the “strange duck” I use as a profile picture!

While the puffin may seem like an unfamiliar creature to my students, I have recently learned that our shared life in the classroom has more in common with puffins (and pufflings!) than I ever imagined.

How did this newfound knowledge come my way?

“Planet Puffin” is a wonderful podcast composed of short episodes of varying length (ranging from 5 to 15 minutes) and varied modes of presentation: “A regular podcast from PM on Radio 4 on all things puffin. Both the silly and the serious; the scientific and the cultural”.  Many thanks to Elizabeth Evans Cicconi for telling me about it!

The only thing they don’t discuss in the podcast are the similarities between “Planet Puffin” and “Planet Classroom”, so I take it upon myself to highlight the forgotten issue.

Epstein family photos
  1. Puffins look very different in the winter.  They lose the colorful beaks and the black mascara-like markings around the eyes. They lose their wing feathers and become flightless too.

Students and their teachers also exhibit marked changes in their looks between winter and summer, though the changes often progress in opposite directions.

In winter students often seem unable to fly – they simply don’t shine.  Their teachers despair over their inability to grasp the material, to behave themselves and wonder if the students will ever be able to fly independently. Yet by the time the summer finals arrive, the students flex their wings and fly, in glorious colors!

The teachers, on the other hand, retain their bright, energetic colors well into winter, perhaps all through winter. However,  by the time the summer finals come round, teachers’ feathers have faded and become dun-colored, their beaks sag and their movements seem sluggish.

Epstein family photos

2. So very needy

Pufflings are always hungry. They stay in their burrows while the parents fly off, again and again, day after day, to find fish for them. “Puffin parents can supply their young with fish more than 100 times a day”.

If we ignore the fact that students (particularly adolescents) seem always ready to actually eat, students are just as needy as the pufflings. In order to “feed” them properly, teachers find themselves spending far more time on their students’ nourishment than the allotted 4-5 teaching hours (per class) a week.  Breaks between lessons dissolve into “meet the student” time, or yard duty,  “free periods” are devoted to grading, preparing material, running after the computer technician, searching for printer paper, attending staff meetings and answering students questions on WhatsApp while attending in-service training courses.

The ratio is different, of course – pufflings are “only children” – one puffling a season…

Oops…
Epstein Family Photos

3.  Sometimes pufflings need to be rescued

When pufflings are ready, they must leave their burrows for the first time. Having never seen the sea or been in the fresh air, they must now find the edge of the cliff by moonlight and the sound of the sea and fly away.

Most pufflings do all of this as planned.

Some don’t.

Some pufflings are led astray by human temptations, such as the sound of a generator or artificial lights. They need to be rescued from boiler rooms and kitchen cabinets and brought back to the clifftop.

Others set off in the right direction but get tangled in the nettles, their little feet becoming paralyzed. They are completely unable to move forward on their own.

Just like some of our students who lose their way. They need extra help, special attention or intervention, and second chances (or more!).  They have the ability to “make it”, but they can’t fly off without extra help.

Epstein family photos

4. A strong sense of place

Puffins return to the same place, year after year, after spending the winter out at sea.

Many teachers, myself included, return to the same school, the same classroom, year after year (after year…) ready to get new pufflings set on their path to the open sea.

No, it’s not boring and it’s never exactly the same.

Pufflings all look adorable to us humans but in the classroom, we sometimes have to remind ourselves to see the students as pufflings and find that “lovableness” in them that simply hasn’t yet manifested clearly…

There are more comparisons to be made but I’ll let you listen to the podcast yourselves.

Three cheers for puffins and teachers!!!!

 

 

Converging Corners – Engaging with Vocabulary from “THE LIST” & the Literature Program / ETAI 2019

A few minutes before the presentation – ETAI 2019

Converging Corners: Struggling Learners, The Literature Program & The Vocabulary Lists

Presentation at ETAI 2019

I began my presentation by stating the following facts that represent the reality in my classroom of Deaf and hard of hearing students and holds true for many other teachers as well.

´* I must teach the literature program.

´* I have many struggling learners – progress in the program is slow.

´* Time – We never actually teach the allotted hours in a semester

´* There are official lists of specific vocabulary items that must be taught and practiced.

´ *All students need to engage multiple times with a word.   Struggling learners need to engage with a word more than everyone else!

THEREFORE – NEEDS MUST CONVERGE!

As I teach the literature program I provide opportunities for the learners to engage with the target vocabulary on the official word lists.

During the session, the teachers actively participated in several activities designed to do just that. The relevant links to posts, worksheets, and Quizlet Sets appear below.

Additional activities related to other literary pieces are “in the works” – follow this space!

Thank You, Ma’am

Pre-Reading Activity & New “LOTS” Worksheet

Full post related to the activity including links  and information related to the word lists: http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/01/03/counting-re-entry-of-vocabulary-items-thank-you-maam/

Shortcut to pre-reading activity:

Gift-of-time-pre-reading-Mam-p218o7-1e53wc3

Shortcut to New “LOTS” Worksheet:

Thank You Ma’am Open Questions-2ktog3e

“Matching Activity” 

By clicking on the  link below you will have:

  • information regarding the words from band 2 chosen
  • a  link to the chosen set of words on Quizlet
  • pictures of cards from the activity
  • an explanation of how the activity works
  • the sentences that appear on the cards.

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/02/20/the-joy-of-simple-self-check-activities/

A Summer’s Reading

By clicking on the link below you will have:

  • information related to the activity and the words chosen.
  • an explanation about the use of Control F as a helpful tool.
  • a link to the chosen set of words on Quizlet.
  • document with the sentences that appear on the cards.

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/02/03/using-control-f-to-add-sophies-voice-to-a-summers-reading-by-malamud/

Shortcut directly to document with the sentences that appear on the cards.

Summer Reading Perspective-1owtxz2

 

The Road Not Taken

Post describing the activity:

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/07/06/daring-to-dive-into-the-dilemma-the-road-not-taken/

A shortcut to the sentences in the activity:

The Road Not Taken Dilemma activity – band two

A link to the Quizlet set of the related words

https://quizlet.com/_6uazwy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daring to Dive into the Dilemma – “The Road Not Taken”

Are they both “just as fair”?
Photo taken by Naomi

One of the great things about teaching the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” to my Deaf and hard of hearing students is that they have some very powerful examples of “standing at crossroads” in their young lives. These are times when they had to make a decision and knew they would not get the opportunity to come back and try the other option.

For example, some of my students faced a dramatic choice at the end of junior high school (9th grade) – whether to study at the high-school close to their home along with their old classmates and continue being the only hard of hearing /Deaf student in the whole school, or to commute an hour or more to a high school that offers strong academic support and a peer group.  That’s a SIX day a week commute!

On the other hand, many of my students find it harder to take in the aspects of the traveler’s dilemma that are stated in the poem itself.  Not only can the traveler not take both roads and won’t come back another day, but both roads are actually just as fair, have been worn about the same. Even worse, the traveler can’t see what lies ahead as the road bends in the undergrowth!

I want my students to pay attention to all that too.

AND

The students should be engaging in a meaningful way with words from the Ministry’s word list while they are learning the poem.  I firmly believe in integrating the practice of the vocabulary items on the list with the teaching of the literature program. ***

 

Suggestion cards
Response cards

SO

I identified 52 words from the Band 2 Word List to be used while teaching the poem and created a  Quizlet set with the words. 

I then created The Dilemma Activity, which can be used in many ways. While it can be used as a worksheet,  I preferred to use index cards (or sentence strips) as I find the activity suitable for acting a bit of dramatic flair!

The students are presented with the situation:

A traveler is happily walking along a road in a yellow wood when the roads diverge (“along” is a word on the word list).

He/She doesn’t know which road take and needs advice.

The traveler now needs to hear suggestions and respond accordingly. “Suggestion” is also a word on the list!

Suggestion card number 6

There are 7 suggestions to be given to the traveler, each one on a separate card. The suggestions are numbered and must be read in the correct order.  The responses are not numbered, and the students must match the correct response to the suggestion.

For example, here are the first two suggestion cards.

  1. Why don’t you take both roads?
  2. So take one road today and the other road another time.

And the matching responses:

  1. I can’t take both roads because I’m only one traveler.
  2. One road leads to other roads. I doubt I will ever come back. I have to make a choice.

The imaginary advisor is losing patience with the traveler, and by the time we get to the last two suggestions, exasperation should be clearly expressed in intonation and body language!

6. Don’t be so nervous, just choose a road. What difference could it make?

7. I give up – I can’t help you. You will sigh when you think about this in the future but choose a road NOW.

The matching responses are:

6. It’s possible that my choice will make all the difference. That’s why I am nervous.

7. You are right, I will sigh. But will it be a sigh of regret or relief?

You can download all the sentences related to the activity here:

The Road Not Taken Dilemma activity – band two

Enjoy!

*** A special post of links related to engaging with the word lists while teaching the literature program can be found here:

http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2019/07/06/converging-corners-links-to-activities-combining-the-vocabulary-lists-the-lit-program-etai-2019-presentation/

Are Cell Phones Killing Students’ Word Processing Skills?

Before the days of word processing…
Naomi’s Photos

At first, I thought it was an isolated phenomenon.

I tried to hold on to that thought but I really can’t ignore it anymore.

The number of students who don’t have a working computer at home is rising steadily.

And they don’t seem the least bit perturbed by that fact.

There have always been some students who didn’t own a computer, but that was clearly due to their family’s economic difficulties. In many such cases in the past, wonderful teachers and administrators were able to get a hold of computers for these students thanks to various donations. The students were glad to receive these computers – it was clear they really wanted to own one.

But now I hear the following more and more often:

Am I stuck in the past?
Naomi’s Photos

“We have a computer but it stopped working and we never got it fixed. Nobody wants to use it anyway, every member of the family has their own cell-phone”.

I talked to a student about the issue the other day and she tried to show me that everything the school system could possibly want CAN be done on the cell phone.

I am not convinced.

We have two computers in our English Room.  They are in use most of the day. The students have tasks in their Edmodo groups which require written answers and literature papers which some students choose to type (they are allowed to hand in these papers in handwriting if they wish). All of these require that the students use WORD (and PowerPoint!) installed on the school computers.

I now find myself teaching students how to toggle between languages on the keyboard – which used to be an absolute basic thing to know about using a computer in this country! They hit Caps Lock as a solution and then don’t understand why they can’t access sites that require a password that is case-sensitive.

Naturally, when you are only using the Caps Lock the text won’t progress nicely from left to right instead of right to left, especially if you are using numbers or bullets. That also causes problems when I point out they have forgotten a word and then the students can’t seem to add it in the right place.

Students also don’t align the text and the issue of spacing is completely ignored…

Today a student called me over to look at his work and I saw he had totally ignored the red and blue markings that “WORD” used to indicate errors.

Sigh…
Naomi’s Photos

There certainly still are students who know their way around a computer way better than I do but their number seems to be steadily decreasing.

So, is teaching word processing skills something I’m supposed to be adding to my curriculum for next year?

Sigh…

Do you teach such skills as well in your lessons?

 

 

 

 

 

When an Error Turns into a “Very Lonely Felt Jacket…”

Distortions…
Naomi’s Photos

“Wow”, I thought to myself as I moved between the students who were working individually on their reading comprehension tasks, “this student’s error is a classic mistake! Here is a great opportunity to remind the class of the dangers of ignoring parts of speech and the importance of using the dictionary wisely”.

So I called everyone’s attention to the board. In my 12th grade class of Deaf and hard of hearing students, all comments for the whole class must be made while standing by the board where everyone can see me, and I can write-up the words and sentences as needed. The students are used to me pointing out errors in this manner. They know I absolutely never ever make fun of a student. I also thank the student for giving us this opportunity to pay attention to some point. Since this happens once with one student’s error and then with another, the students are all well aware that they are all “in the same boat”.

Appearances deceive – a  boat that is a bench…
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The source of the problem was the word “felt.” One word led to multiple errors.

“I felt certain that my second attempt would be successful”.

The student had forgotten the meaning of this irregular verb so he looked up the translation in his electronic dictionary.

However, he did not pay attention to the fact that he was looking for a verb and that the electronic dictionary first presents translations that are nouns.

The student wrote down the noun meaning of the word “felt” (as in a type of cloth) which in Hebrew is a three-letter word “leved”.

The electronic dictionary does not use diacritics and the student understood those same three letters to mean a totally different word in Hebrew, “levad”, which means “alone”.

Therefore, the student could not understand the sentence in the text.

A textbook error to be presented to class, right?

Or, as it turned out, an excellent example of how explaining too much can totally confuse students and introduce other mistakes!

Lost my way…
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I should have just reminded the students of how to pay attention to the syntax and look up the word “felt”  as a verb and left it at that.

Sigh…

When we looked at the meaning of “felt” as a noun it turned out that not a single one of those students knew what the material felt was. I didn’t have anything made of the material felt in the room to show them and none of the students were wearing anything made of felt (it’s a hot country, you know!).  I started trying to explain. The only example I could think of at the moment was a  “felt jacket”.  I’m sure if they had touched the material it would have been familiar but they simply did not have a word for it in any language they used.

The fact that  I had also been trying to explain how the first student had made an error with the meaning of the noun as well, confused the students even more.

No, there were no “felt jackets” mentioned in the sentence.

Yes, yes, I agree, jackets, made of felt or any other material cannot be lonely, so it is ridiculous to use the word lonely in the context of a jacket except that aren’t any jackets in the sentence.

Aargh!

Sometimes less actually is more – explain less!

The sentence remained on the board when the next class came in.

I simply pointed to the word “felt” and reminded the students how they could (and should!) know the word is a verb even if they forget it’s meaning.

No “lonely felt jackets” were allowed into the room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Quasimodo to “The Magic of Validation” – A Comment

Sad…
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Watching the footage of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday was really difficult – so very sad.

Like countless others, I found myself thinking of Quasimodo, the main character in Hugo’s famous book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and of Walt Disney’s animated film, who spent his life living at the cathedral.

Quasimodo’s thoughts or feelings interested no one.  You might say his voice wasn’t heard. Speaking of hearing, you may recall that Quasimodo was deaf, a hearing loss caused by being in close proximity to the church bells on a permanent basis.

Deaf…hmmm… I can imagine Quasimodo being a student of mine… I would like to believe he would be “heard” in our classroom.

Hmmm…

Looking up…
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Luckily, Jennifer Gonzalez channeled such thoughts of mine pertaining to alternate realities into the infinitely more practical realm of the classroom and staff room in her post “The Magic of Validation” (thanks to Adam Welcome for pointing the way!).

I mean actual reality. Gonzalez takes the somewhat abstract sounding concept of validation (which we’ve all heard about before) and breaks it down into sections, including why validating matters, how it is done and why we resist validating. Her examples could be taken from almost any classroom or staff room.

Schools are a place in which conflicts arise – diffusing conflicts before they escalate into unnecessarily explosive situations with “negative snowball side effects”  is a highly relevant skill.

We need to hear Gonzalez’s reminder, again and again (and spread the word!) that validating a colleague’s feelings does not mean you agree with his/her opinion and are now going to do everything her way. Validating a student’s opinion does not mean you have to be “touchy -feely“: “Okay, validation doesn’t have to look and sound like you’re in a therapist’s office. You can develop your own style. It can sound tough, it can be quick…” 

If Gonzalez can quote her gym teacher, I can quote my gym teacher too (I’m most certainly not doing CrossFit, by the way!): “I know this exercise is hard for you, Naomi. That’s exactly why it is important for you to keep doing it!”

Too many to count?
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Gonzalez doesn’t talk about the numbers of students in a class. I’m concerned that class size matters. How do my colleagues who teach classes of 40 students manage to make every student feel heard? Don’t ask me – I’m a teacher of Students with Special Needs, my classes are small! Perhaps part of the answer lies in this quote from the post “The thing to remember is that validation is not necessary in all interactions…

You see, people want to be heard. Despite rumors to the contrary, students and teachers are people too.

If only poor Quasimodo had the opportunity to be heard before it was too late …