Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

Expressing Your Opinion – Revisiting the “Holstee Manifesto Lifecycle Video”

From “Lifecycle” to “lifestyle” Naomi’s Photos

I first learned of the Holstee Manifesto video on one of Sandy Millin’s blogs: (Almost) Infinite ELT Ideas back in 2012.

This video is far too useful to be forgotten.

The Holstee Manifesto Lifecycle video is short, suitable for teens, and can be used with the sound off. Though I must say that if your students don’t happen to be Deaf or hard of hearing like mine are, the music is a  welcome addition.

The video ties in nicely with the topic students my students are working on –  writing essays that express an opinion. It is chock full of statements that are easy to get students to respond to.

Turn on the light in their heads! Naomi’s photos

I really enjoyed the students’ comments. They seem shocked at the idea of not looking actively for the love of your life. They agreed, in theory at least, that if you don’t have enough time you should stop watching TV. They also supported the idea of trying to change things. One student thought that “sharing your passions” was a bad idea, passions should be kept private. I’m going to ask him and see what he understands “passions to mean”. “All emotions are beautiful” was criticized and jealousy was cited as an example of an ugly one.

One statement seemed to strike most of the students as stupid – “Getting lost will help you find yourself”!

I have revamped the old worksheet I made – it has been updated and is now a LiveWorksheet. You’ll find it below, along with the video itself and a link to the Holstee website with the text version of the video. In addition, I highly recommend checking out other suggested ways to use this video in class  – you will find them in the comment section of Sandy Millin’s post, as mention before.

Thank you, Sandy Millin!

Enjoy!

https://www.holstee.com/pages/manifesto

The link to the worksheet:

https://youtu.be/QDmt_t6umoY

 

“I’ll miss too much ‘school’ if I come to school tomorrow”. Things Students Never Said Before Covid-19

 

Missing Out…
Naomi’s Photos

1. “I’ll miss too much ‘school’ if I come to school tomorrow”.

A student explaining why he won’t be attending our English lessons at school tomorrow along with his  Deaf and hard of hearing peers. His “hearing” classmates are still studying remotely and he studies quite a few subjects with them.  He needs to stay at home in order to attend his online lessons.

Do you mean I have to actually DO something?!
Naomi’s Photos

2.  “Really? I have to THINK about what makes sense ON MY OWN”?

A student puzzled as to why she had lost points on her exam. She answered a question incorrectly after translating the word “plane” as a flat surface instead of an aircraft, despite a very clear context of travel and hints such as “….while on the plane to England…” The exam took place in class and the student had an electronic dictionary. The student admitted that far from my watchful eyes, during “the remote learning days,” she had been relying on Google to translate complete sentences instead of adhering to the “one-word-at-a-time” rule that I enforce in class.

Post flight mode
Naomi’s Photos

3. ” I have a piece of paper from the airport that says I don’t have to be quarantined, so don’t worry”.

A student who arrived in class directly after returning from an extended holiday in London the night before.  England was about to change its tourist status to RED because of the surging number of Covid 19 cases, which would make quarantine mandatory. However, my student returned 48 hours before the status change, armed with a document claiming that he could proceed with life as usual. This was at a time when the rest of us weren’t  even supposed to go to a neighboring city! As you may have guessed, I did not feel reassured by his document.  Thankfully, it’s been three weeks since then and we all  appear to be healthy.

Wait for me!
Naomi’s Photos

4. “I was about to join the volleyball league when Covid 19 started”.

A student’s response after being asked to use the target chunk “about to” in a sentence.

Social distancing
Naomi’s Photos

5. “Corona”

A student’s response (actually an incorrect response”) when asked to create a list of things that are important to do carefully.  This led to a great conversation with the  student regarding the need for a verb and the danger of jumping to conclusions when seeing the word “careful”.

It is interesting to note that not a single student mentioned anything related to the virus under the heading “Things I try to avoid doing”.  No “hugging friends” or “forgetting to take a mask”.

Tasks shown in picture  from this worksheet: https://www.liveworksheets.com/hu1281226qi

They are all here!
Naomi’s Photos

6. *** We are HAPPY to be at school!!!

This is not something most have my students have expressed in words or in sign language (though a few actually have done so), but are nonetheless showing us daily.  They are delighted to be back at school! Attendance has never been so consistently high, including the students with a rich history of absenteeism. Those who are unable to attend for some reason are notifying us in advance with a sorrowful tone.

That’s the best part of this whole crazy situation.

Do you have examples of things you had never heard students say before the pandemic hit? Share them in the comments!

400 Ways to Run Out of Milk – Vocabulary & Distance Learning

Forgotten / Naomi’s Photos

Full disclosure one – As a teacher of Deaf and hard of hearing students, I am back at school part-time (the rest of the school system is not back yet). Since many subjects are being crammed into half the hours, my high-school students are not getting anywhere near the required number of English lessons a week at school. So, the Vocabulary 400 Project has been relegated to distance learning.

Full disclosure two – I haven’t figured out all of the 400 ways to run out of milk yet, but I’m working on it.

Figure out“? “Run out of“?

Both of these chunks are included in our Vocabulary 400 Project  – an attempt to provide online exposure and an active way to engage with 400 advanced vocabulary items taken from a list supplied by the Ministry of Education.

So, why discuss milk?!

So what does it say here?
Naomi’s Photos

For me,  the chunks “run out of” always brings to mind “milk” first, even though I have often run out of both “time” and “patience” in the classroom over the years.

The activities I have been creating for the Vocabulary 400 Project attempt to help the students forge such automatic connections between the target words (or chunks) and vocabulary items that go with them, via tasks only using reading/writing.

I say “attempt”, as in “hope”, because my students’ lack of exposure to oral input (little to no incidental learning from other sources) make such a goal even harder to achieve than it already is.

The word “achieve” is on our list too.

Here are links to online worksheets from the project.

The first two worksheets are brand new.

NEW!
Naomi’s Photos

The others have been updated – I learned “the hard way” that providing links to Quizlet Sets on the worksheets is a very BAD idea. It seems that only people who sign into accounts on Quizlet can see the complete list of vocabulary items.

  1. Time to Make Lists!   https://www.liveworksheets.com/hu1281226qi
  2.  Are you tired of staying home? Let’s Go Camping!  https://www.liveworksheets.com/tp1269637hh
  3. Let’s go camping answer sheet    400 Vocab camping answers PDF
  4. The Last Knit – Chunks in Context   https://www.liveworksheets.com/na1186961cs
  5. Chunks – Part One   https://www.liveworksheets.com/gz1180997rg
Our Padlet board of chunks

I can’t share the link to the Padlet board as it has the students’ names on it. The board is arranged in columns. The students are asked to write a sentence of their own in each column, according to the  target word at the top of the column.

How to “run out of milk”:

  • Have some milk cartons leaking all over your doormat when the delivery person places the bags from the supermarket there.
  • Feed all the neighborhood cats.
  • Make insane amounts of pudding.
  • Prepare jars and jars of overnight oats with milk.
  • Forget to buy milk.
  • Spill milk all over the counter every time you use it.
  • Bring milk to work for everyone’s coffee.

Oh, there are so many more ways to run out of milk – feel free to add them in the comment section!

 

When Familiar Edtech “Unmasks” Hidden Curve Balls at a Masked Teacher

Unexpected surprises / Naomi’s Photos

Any illusions that I was playing it safe and mainly avoiding what George Couros refers to as “the discomfort of growth” by sticking to familiar educational technology,  have been shattered.

Fortunately, Couros’ post is called “Comfort in the Discomfort of Growth”. If I have “growing pains” that must mean I’m growing (aka LEARNING ) and that’s a positive thing to remind myself of.

Getting through September could have been even harder if I had been grappling with unfamiliar programs, right?

But first, let’s backtrack for a minute.

Yes, I AM a “masked teacher”!

Yup, that’s me, in the classroom.

As a Special Ed teacher, I continued teaching at school for a longer period of time, while others had been moved to remote learning. And I certainly keep my mask on in class. It’s a clear, see-through one so my Deaf and hard of hearing students can see my lips. At present we are also in remote teaching mode but I expect to resume teaching at school before the rest of the school system does.

So, over the summer I did my best to create /post material in a manner that would let students continue working whether they were in class or at home, on their phones (or in some cases, the computer).

But then technology, both hardware & software,  which I have been using intensively,  “unmasked” some hidden curve balls and started throwing them at me.

Where should I begin?

From the middle, of course! That will give you a “taste” of what I mean!

Naomi’s Photos

Imagine this:

I’m in our learning center with eight students. One of the two classroom computers is in use. Two students are using their cell phones to continue activities they began online. The others are using their books and notebooks.

Within minutes a 12th-grade student working on his phone is annoyed.  He had previously begun an exercise I had posted on Edmodo and wanted to continue working on the same task. Edmodo saves your answers automatically so it has always been easy to continue from where you left off.

At least, on the website it is easy.

The student is using the app.  He has no problem accessing a new task but cannot find his previous answers and neither can I. I send him to the vacant computer – all his previous answers are right there, waiting for him to continue.

Okay, I think.  Now I can work quietly with the other students, as planned.

Oh no… / Naomi’s Photos

However, to my genuine surprise, the other student who is working on the computer calls me over repeatedly. She is working on a task on a LiveWorksheet, which the students find very convenient to use.  She has an additional window open – the student clicked on the link I had added at the top of the exercise, leading to a Quizlet vocabulary set, with vocabulary items needed for the task. Since she’s a strong student who actually followed instructions and had the “support material open, I did not expect any “distress calls”.

What could be the problem?

After trying to tell her how much I believed in her ability to do the task well on her own without coming over, then coming over and wasting time trying to explain sentences to her that she actually had understood,  I finally discovered the source of the problem.  A huge advertisement was blocking half of the word list on the set! No wonder she was frustrated – partial information is confusing! Surprisingly, we could not scroll down past the advertisement.  That had never happened before!

I asked the student to use the app on her phone while working on the computer.

That worked.

Meanwhile, some of the students who were “working with their coursebooks” were happily playing with their phones…

What to think about first…
Naomi’s Photos

The fact that the bell rang and we all went home didn’t mean that there weren’t additional curveballs in store for me. Ones that came before I had time to deal with the ones that had just been pitched my way.

The next day we moved to remote learning.  A student, whom I’ll call N. , sends me a message complaining that I didn’t give him the Quizlet set needed for the tasks. I go and check the Quizlet class and he’s certainly a member of the class. I send him a direct link to the set via WhatsApp (which he can access without any missing words, thankfully). He claims he doesn’t have this set in his app (he does have a different set I assigned though). He starts sending me pics of other sets he finds, of classes he isn’t a member of!

At some point, it dawns on me that he is going into “other recommended sets by the same teacher” which appears below the set he sees, instead of swiping right to see the additional sets in his class.

Problem solved.

The way in will not be easy to find… /Naomi’s Photos

I quickly understood that the student with a very old phone and no computer (who doesn’t install apps) needs the original WORD version of worksheets, not the PDF version which is a much better choice for almost everyone else.  But I ran into trouble with the rest of the class regarding a particular section on one out of a whole series of worksheets I had created.

This task required the completion of a few words inside a short text. How do you do that on a document saved as a PDF file?

When a student wrote to me asking how to fill in the missing words I admit, I was surprised. I hadn’t noticed this potential distance learning problem. My immediate solution was “Write the missing words on a piece of paper, take a picture and send it to me”.  Fortunately, later in the same remote lesson, another student completed the task on her cell phone, with the missing words placed in the task. She kindly made a brief video showing how she did that, along with permission to share it – having students solve problems like that is wonderful!

It’s a process…

In short:

  • I couldn’t teach in these crazy times without the wonderful Edtech I currently use.
  • Even “wonderful” can still be hard.  I’m learning too.
  • Even when I “get the Edtech right” – teaching nowadays is HARD. And it’s O.K to say that out loud.

Hang in there!

 

 

How Many “Chunks” Could a Woodchuck “Chunk” via Remote Learning?

 

LOCKDOWN!

 

Well, here we are again.

After two weeks of school, we’re moving back to remote learning.

It’s a very stressful time with many uncertainties.

However, there is one thing I know for sure – I will need lots of materials! Personally, I find creating teaching materials is somewhat comforting.  It is something I feel I  have complete control over while focusing my thoughts on pedagogy and being creative.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

Confusing times…
Naomi’s Photos

So, what am I sharing?

I don’t have a single picture of a woodchuck but here is a garland of ways to practice 25  “language chunks”. All “chunks” were taken from our Ministry of Education’s advanced word list, known here as “Band 3”.

Note: The “extra special task” is the last one…

I am making a concentrated effort to practice “chunks” intensively because looking these up in the dictionary is more complicated and can easily lead the students astray.

Two sets on Quizlet

  • The Vocabulary 400 Project – Chunks (English-English)

https://quizlet.com/_8nfa3w?x=1jqt&i=265hh

  • The Vocabulary 400 Project – Chunks (English-Hebrew)

https://quizlet.com/_8mzrq0?x=1jqt&i=265hh

A shared board on Padlet

Our Padlet board of chunks

The board is arranged in columns. The students are asked to write a sentence of their own in each column, according to the word at the top of the column.

A standard  “Live Worksheet”

The students fill in the missing chunks in sentences. Plain, simple but effective – I’ve been using it!

https://www.liveworksheets.com/gz1180997rg

Chunks in Context – A letter which is a “teaser” for a video

screenshot from the video “The Last Knit” by Laura Neuvonen

 

This task uses some of the chunks in context while having the students pay more attention (well, a little more…) to the spelling. The students also answer a few questions to make sure they are actually reading the text. At the end of the worksheet, they are given the link to the video.

https://www.liveworksheets.com/na1186961cs

 

More vocabulary exercises in the works – follow this space!

Wishing everyone the best of health!

So, You Say “KISS the Students” This Fall? Then “KISS the Teachers” TOO! (A Comment)

Time to go back to school!
Naomi’s Photos

Three days until school begins.

If I hear another recommendation for a “really great Edtech Tool” that happens to be “just what I need to help me go back to school in the new reality of a pandemic”, I will SCREAM!

“Scream” virtually, that is. I don’t scream – I write blog posts.

I have no doubt at all that many of these recommendations are excellent and teachers find them helpful. Educators around the globe are doing their best to be helpful and share everything they know and I’m truly grateful.

But whoa, slow down.

I can’t “digest” that much.

Going back to school this year is particularly stressful with all the Covid-19 safety precautions. I already have a number of Edtech Tools up and ready to roll and am going to focus on making the most out of using them with the students. Overload is a danger – I feel the need to keep it simple and straightforward.

So don’t talk to me about “EdTech”.

Give me a break!
Naomi’s Photos

Yesterday I let my guard down and Adele Raemer’s emphatic recommendation to listen to a podcast with the currently intimidating title of  ” 8 Tips for Teaching Online, from House of #EdTech” sailed through my barricades.  In my defense, I must point out that we’re talking about Adele Raemer, who chose to write the following on the welcome page of her popular YouTube Channel  “Digitally Yours”: “Take things at your own pace. Learn what you need, when you need it”.  My kind of message!

Okay, okay, I also listened to the podcast because I had a lot of boring housework to do –  timing is everything…

So,  what was one of the things that Christopher Nesi from House of #EdTech said?

Christopher Nesi said: “KISS the students”  – Keep It Simple, Silly!!!

As far as I’m concerned, everything he discussed related to the content of the lesson itself holds true regarding the tools used for blended learning or online learning  – keep it simple! A small number of tools that both the students AND the teachers can master well may prove to be more effective. It will certainly improve the teacher’s level of “sanity”. KISS the students and the teachers too!  Hey, “sane” starts with the letter “s” too – maybe we should add it to a teacher’s version!


Naomi’s Photos

I’ll leave you with one more thing Christopher Nesi talked about:

“Walk in your students’ shoes”.

While we can never really walk in another person’s shoes, now is a good time to think about what I do know about where my students are “really from”.

Forgive my reposting – now is the right time for it.

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

My students spill out of taxi cabs each morning, rubbing their sleepy eyes after early morning pick-ups, napping or texting through the traffic jams on the long way to school.

Some are from homes where no one gets up before they do,  to see that they leave without breakfast and have packed nothing but party snacks in their school bag for the long day…

Others are from big hugs and best wishes for their day at school, armed with the knowledge that someone is interested in knowing how the day turns out.

They are from blindingly new cell phones, complete with accessories, screens lighting up their lives, from shame masked by annoyance at teachers who insist on such unattainable things otherwise known as pencils and schoolbooks, knowing notes to parents will go unheeded.

Some are from a lifetime of dodging communication pitfalls, guessing meaning from partially heard sentences, tiring easily by the necessity of being constantly alert, at home and at school. From relief at coming to a school where they are no longer the only student with a hearing aid in the entire school – always conspicuous, sure that whispered conversations are about them.

Are you listening?
Naomi’s Photos

Others are from a world full of hands in motion, sailing confidently in a sea of visual vocabulary from birth, signing their pride to be Deaf and their frustration with the world which doesn’t use Sign Langauge, while resenting school organized efforts to create shared experiences between hearing and Deaf peers.

Teenage students of mine come from long trips abroad with their parents during the school year, from dealing with the anger of the same parents for then doing poorly at school, while trusting these parents to bully their teachers into forgetting about the missed material, evading the demand for buckling down.

Adolescent students of mine are from dependence on parents to navigate the world for them, from apron strings tied with double knots, cell phones bridging the distance, tightening the knots that need to be loosened.

My students are from a belief that I always                                                               know where they are really from.

Day in, day out, I give it my best shot.

 

Where are YOUR students really from?

Originally posted here: https://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2020/01/04/where-are-my-students-really-from/

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Waves 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!

 

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!