Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

Visualising a Discussion Prompt for Students on Studying Habits at Home

Humor helps!
Naomi’s Photos

Suddenly, everything changed.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve moved to Daylight Savings Time, we are all actually on “Corona time”.

Who knows how long this will last…

Now that my Deaf and hard of hearing adolescent students (some of whom NEVER do any school work at home) have to study from their bedrooms/living rooms or kitchen tables, I needed an amusing prompt to enable me to discuss study habits with them.

It turns out having a blog is quite useful for finding forgotten goodies. I learned of this video years ago on Sandy Millin’s Blog. 

Just what I was looking for.

I can use it with all levels because this video works best without sound and without students reading the captions.

All you need to do is watch the video and ask the students what they do. The video is very clear.

The mustard dripping on the notebook is a great touch!

Honestly, even if your students hear EXTREMELY  well, you don’t want the sound here.

I did prepare a written “companion” to the discussion because I need that with my students. I’m not sure I can call it a proper worksheet because the level of complexity is mixed. But it wasn’t designed to be done by a student working independently. In any case, I’m adding the downloadable file below.

I hope you find the video amusing and useful!

Wishing you all the best of health!

How to Make Homework Less Work – Download by clicking on the title
 

 

Online Teaching for Students Who Never Read Instructions

We’ve got the students, without the classrooms
Naomi’s Photos

“If all else fails, read the instructions”.

I don’t know who actually said it first, but it seems that a great many people invest a great deal of effort in proving the veracity of this old adage.

My Deaf and hard of hearing students (ok, “MOST of’ , there are notable exceptions) prefer a different version:

“If all else fails, don’t do it .”

Reading the instructions doesn’t even enter into the equation. In  ANY language – not just in English as a foreign language!

I encourage, I point out the instructions, sometimes I refuse to help unless they read the instructions,  but without my intervention, the instructions usually remain unread.  Perhaps 10th grade is a bit late to start working on the importance of “reading instructions”, but I haven’t given up yet.

We’ve got to get the students “standing tall” and independent! Naomi’s Photos

Now that schools have closed because of THE VIRUS, I have discovered that I now have a golden opportunity (we have to be optimistic and look at the bright side, right? ) to get these students reading instructions!

Over these first crazy days of trying to adjust to online learning with my students, who are not only at every possible level there is, but  all their schoolbooks are the classroom I have learned three useful tips.

At least I’m learning new things every day!

  1. Start them off with a  task that has two parts. What needs to be done in the first part consists of an exercise of the sort where it is very very obvious what needs to be done.  Such as the following Live Worksheet, on the topic of words and phrases that I see often on national exams and confuse my students.

With a live worksheet, the students can do a worksheet online and check their answers on their own, while using content made by their own teachers. The students know exactly what to do.

**** You can see it here, but if you want to try answering it to see how it works, use the link here in green letters :  Confusing Words and Phrases

 

Confusing Words and phrases commonly seen in exams, an interactive worksheet by naomima

liveworksheets.com

2.  The second part of the exercise involves reading a simple instruction. If the students ignored it, you can first praise them for getting the first part right. Builds confidence! My own students were asked to send me translations of this completed exercise.

If your students DO send you a question, don’t answer instantly. Wait a bit. Besides the VERY important message that you want your students to understand regarding you not being on call EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY, let them look at the exercise on their own for a bit. When they don’t get an answer right away, they might actually try again. Try it!

3.  When you respond to the question, first ask them to explain exactly what was it in the instructions that was unclear to them, which part or which words. That makes both you and the students reread the instructions.

There’s a good chance that the students will now know exactly what to do.

If not, then YOU, the teacher, may realize that the instructions could be improved.

A win-win situation!

“Women’s Day”, Being A Teacher & “The Mermaid Chair” by Sue Monk Kidd

By Alice Lurio Axelbank

Yes, I admit it.

I’d much rather reflect on how the book I recently read ties in with “Women’s Day” (March 8) and what it has to do with me being a teacher, than dwell on the question of whether we’re going back to school as scheduled in two days despite the CoronaVirus.

Stressful times indeed.

Now, don’t get me wrong – “The Mermaid Chair” is a good book and I do recommend reading it.

But I didn’t think so at first.

The book seemed to start off with such a worn-out situation that I was seriously considering moving on to another book.  A woman, who supposedly has a “perfect” marriage (smart, good looking husband with a good income) and a lovely daughter, is very unhappy. She has to leave everything in order to “find herself”.  The woman does not work outside the home, she wanted to be an artist but can’t find her “voice’.

Painful fall?
Naomi’s Photos

So there I am reading the first part of the book and thinking “Really”? Leave the house, get a job, interact with people – who says that developing an independent career, a part of your life that is totally your own, has to contradict being married? Isn’t it obvious that today there are plenty of women who enjoy both? ”

I even imagined the main character becoming an art teacher working with special needs children who finds that helping others express themselves through art can be very rewarding. Particularly rewarding when you have a supportive family to come back to after some of the difficult days at school.

These thoughts led me to think about “women’s day’ and my choice of career. I will be eternally grateful to the women who fought hard to ensure that teaching was not one of the truly few respectable professions a woman could enter.

I became a teacher because I chose to be a teacher, not because there were no other options available.

As a female teacher in the national school system, I have never ever experienced any sort of discrimination based on gender, simply because the majority of teachers and administrators are women. There are no differences in salary to worry about and my opportunities to develop within the system have nothing to do with gender.

I am also fortunate to be able to come home to a family who expresses interest in what I do and perceives my job as my chosen carreer, not just as a source of family income.

The end of the day – a good time to think! Naomi’s Photos

This year, in these tense times of THE VIRUS, “Women’s Day” reminded me to count my blessings! Having a family I love and a job I enjoy are great blessings indeed!

To get back to The Mermaid Chair – the book is much more complex and far more interesting than it seemed to me to be in the beginning. I won’t give you any more spoilers, but Sue Monk Kidd writes in a very engaging way, there are story developments  I did not foresee and my “complaints” were resolved as I learned more.

I’m really glad I read the book.

 

Introducing George Eliot to Digital Storytelling with Story Jumper

 

Change the point of view…
Naomi’s Photos

Teachers in the school system are expected to take in-service training courses every year. One needs documentation to prove that you are continuing to learn new things.

So I do what I’m told.

I’m sure you won’t be the least bit surprised to learn that an accredited course entitled “Digital Storytelling” (given by Galit Stein) caught my eye this year. I’m always interested in learning additional ways to visualise materials for my Deaf and hard of hearing students!

My latest assignment was to take a literary piece I teach in class and visualise it digitally with Story Jumper.

 

I chose the poem “Count That Day Lost” by George Eliot, a piece that I teach to students studying at different levels, including some struggling learners. Some parts of the poem are not so easy for the students to understand and visuals can be useful when teaching it.

Story Jumper is a website that lets you create free virtual books with simple illustrating tools. The books can also be printed, but naturally, that costs money. The creations are easy to share, as you can see below.

While I’m fairly pleased with my “creation”, I think that Story Jumper is particularly suitable for students creating content, or adding visuals to existing content.  The process of matching visuals to a text encourages close reading. I’ve been doing that for years with my students and I find it to be very effective. Students would find the site to be very user-friendly – I didn’t need the tutorial to understand how to use it.  In addition, I think the feature of editing the characters would appeal to them.  I suspect that younger students would be more taken with it though.

 

As a teacher, I found the designing tools limiting, lacking in options for finer detailed work, particularly when compared to what I can do with PowerPoint. I don’t think my students really care if the end product looks like a book or a slide show.

However, slide shows can be harder to share – a Story Jumper book comes with a sharable link.

One word of warning before you read my “book” – sometimes when you click to turn the page it turns two pages at a time! I most certainly did not skip any lines of the poem, so go back and click again if necessary.

Here it is!

Book titled 'Count That Day LostbyGeorge Eliot'Read this book made on StoryJumper

 

When D.G., (The 10-Sided Dice) Presents Examples of Using Examples…

Why didn’t you mention me?

In theory, visualising a difficult concept is supposed to make it easier for the students to grasp it.

Naturally, achieving the desired outcome depends on visualising the material in a manner the students can relate to.

Many of my Deaf and hard of hearing students adolescent students have a lot of trouble answering questions constructed as “What is _______ an example of?” / “Why is __________ mentioned in the text?”

As in the following example:

Yossi got many gifts for his birthday. He got some books, three shirts and a helmet for his motorcycle.

What is a helmet an example of?

Some of my students would think the correct answer was:

“A helmet is an example of something you put on your head” or ” “…something you use for your motorcycle”

Yet the correct answer is:

“A helmet is an example of a gift Yossi got for his birthday”.

The students need to answer such questions on their final exams.

Sigh…

There has to be more than one way…
Naomi’s Photos

Till now I began by practicing such question types with the students in their mother tongue first, since understanding the question format itself and the thinking process required, is crucial.

Then we practiced answering sample questions in English. Here’s a downloadable worksheet I use.

what_is_this_an_example_of

All of this helped, it really did.

But not enough.

Some students still have difficulties in answering such questions correctly.

I wondered if visualising the issue in the context of a simple story would help the students, in addition to what we are already doing.

And so, the story of D.G., an angry 10 sided dice who doesn’t want to be called by his full name (Decagon), was born. When D.G. introduces us to his family, he presents us with many examples of such structures in context. He feels forgotten since no one seems to mention him…

Since a tale about a family of dice is so completely unconnected to a specific culture or age group, I believe the characters could be easily used with a wide variety of students.

Only time will tell whether the presentation will have the desired impact.

But in any case, brilliantly colored multi-sided dice are pretty cool, don’t you think?

You can download the presentation by clicking here:

Why didn’t you mention me

Note: This slideshow contains animated effects. My attempts at having the slideshow embedded in the blog while presenting all elements were, sadly, unsuccesful.

 

 

A Year is Ending? Hang On to those Old Calendars!

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle – whatever you call it, old calendars are USEFUL!

When I was a child people used the image of “yesterday’s newspaper” to symbolize something worthless (I haven’t heard any reference to that in a long time!) . Perhaps you think that last year’s calendars fall into the same category, and are worthless.

Not if they are repurposed for educational use!

Tell EVERYONE you know – save your old calendars for a teacher! Within two years, as long you smile and say “thank you”, you can have all your friends and relatives “trained” to save the old calendar they have just replaced for you.

I’ve been using old calendars in multiple ways in my classroom for years now and I have to admit – I’m still discovering new ways to use them!

Would you realize that the following were made from calendars if I hadn’t told you?

Take a look!

3 different uses of calendars in this picture!

These black “clear pocket” binders are used for supplementary material for the literature program. They are somewhat old and worn. Did you notice that:

  • …the binders are decorated /covered by large pictures taken from calendars?
  • … the numbers used to designate the level of the material in each binder were cut out from the borderline sections of pages of a calendar, (the parts under/above the squares depicting the dates of a certain month)?
  • …the sign on the storage box which says “LITERATURE”  was cut out of a stiff cardboard-like calendar, (either the top/bottom part of a page, or simply the reverse side of a page)?
Our “Proud of YOU” board

I’ve posted about the importance of the “Proud of YOU!” board in our classroom. The accordion-like border for the “breaking news” section comes from the edges of a calendar. The back parts of the pockets to hold the cards the students receive are from stiff-backed calendars. As you can see, some pockets were created from a calendar devoted to space photos, others from calendars devoted to seasonal flowers and several devoted to photos from Italy.  No consistency required here!

Dividers

This is a brand new use of old calendars. Our new Personal Exam Folders (which I recently posted about) were confusing to navigate, even though they have a table of contents. I needed dividers that would “stick out” above the pages. These are strips cut out of calendars with lined paper wrapped around the top. These were made by two 11th grade students. In most pages (except this one, actually) the divider slides in between two pages back that are back-to-back in the plastic pocket, so you only see the top part.

Before I overwhelm you with more ideas, let  me just say the following:

  • You can find more ways to use calendars (including one actively involving younger learners) on a previous post of mine on the iTDi blog, here:  “New Uses for Old Calendars”      
  • Full disclosure – I didn’t make most of this goodness on my own. I collect the material and ideas, define the needs, but many volunteers and students have done almost all of the actual cutting and pasting. I have two left hands!
  • Many thanks to Eric Cohen Books who supply English teachers with a new calendar every year. Many things were made from old calendars sent by them.

So, what do YOU do with old calendars? I’d love to hear more ideas!

Have YOU Added a “Stop Doing List” to your New Year’s Resolutions?

Happy holidays in this season of lights!
Naomi’s Photos

I’ve been revisiting this post from 2011 – it seems that I’m still working harder than my students! Perhaps I should post such a list in my classroom so that I will see it every day!

I really enjoyed Robyn Jackson’s practical approach to teaching as presented in her book “Never Work Harder than Your Students”. So now that I’ve just read her piece titled “Case Study – The Stop Doing List”, I find myself wondering if I could do that.

It sounds like the right thing to do. It makes sense – I’m sure there are things I shouldn’t be wasting energy on when there is so much else I should be doing. But how does one eliminate those things?

Dr. Jackson talks about 4 categories:

Time Wasters

Time
Naomi’s Photos

I don’t grade unnecessary assignments or do pointless warm-up activities but the example of getting into pointless arguments with students made me pause. I actually have a problem with students who AREN’T in my lesson who keep coming into my classroom. They want to talk to me about their schedule (which seems to change constantly) or have discovered that a different class was canceled and they want to have their lesson now (even though 10 minutes have passed!). I spend precious time and ENERGY getting them out of the room! This doesn’t happen every lesson but yesterday it was a real pain! I would love to eliminate this from my day but HOW?! The other teachers on my staff are unsympathetic – I’m the one who decided to teach in the format of a learning center…

Time Consumers

Robbing you of quality time!
(Naomi’s Photos)

The advice is to automate these activities. Once again, I’ve caused myself a great deal of trouble by having a learning center. The school has upgraded the online system into which attendance, grades, etc. must be entered. The other teachers can link the calendar to the class group saving time when typing in the information. However, my groups on the computer are simply divided by the students’ level. The students who are on the same level do not necessarily learn with each other. Consequently, they are absent on different days. To make a long story short, I have to locate each student separately in the computerized system and it is MUCH slower. Certainly, a time consumer but a way out of it has yet to be found.

Who needs to do what?
Naomi’s Photos

Empowerment Failures

Which work to delegate back to the students? This is a very important issue and the one I’ve had limited success in implementing. Maybe I should go back and read the chapter in the book again. I’ve tried using color-coded feedback for correcting reading comprehension exercises (similar to ones given on the students’ exit exams) but it didn’t work well enough. LONG story – another post! I HAVE begun experimenting (with some students) with “flipping the classroom” and that seems to show promise!

Naomi’s photos

The Important

The real teaching is supposed to stay!

At the moment I don’t know what I can eliminate from my “To Do” list – do you?

Revisting the Smell of “Penguin & Camel Poo” on Blog’s 9th Birthday!

So adorable but smelly…
Photo by Iddo Epstein

Actually, it’s not just smelling penguin poo and camel poo, you have to touch hot sand and cold snow, see footsteps and maybe even feel seasick…

I was doing the “Smelling Your Way to the Second Conditional” exercise with a student the other day, chuckling at his amazement when I told him that those adorable penguins are pretty smelly when you get up close, when it dawned on me – this is the perfect post to revisit on my blog’s birthday!

My blog turns 9 on Dec 8, 2019!

The exercise I created in April 2011, designed to help my Deaf and hard of hearing students grasp the hypothetical aspect of the second conditional, shows how my access to creative and inspiring ideas “EXPLODED” once I began blogging.

Sailing away!
Photo by Gil Epshtein

The inspiration came from  Ceri Jones’ post about using the senses to relate to a picture , and the format from  Jason Renshaw’s Valentines Day lesson , which I was already using.

I would never have had the opportunity to know that such posts (and countless others!) existed, written by creative teachers around the globe, some of whom now are part of my P.L.N (Personal Learning Network), without my blog.

So what has changed since 2011?

I now use this exercise mainly for reading comprehension, less as a “grammar exercise”.  The modal “would” is extremely common in texts and many students have trouble internalizing the hypothetical aspects of its use.  I find it works well with several levels.

In addition, I blog dramatically less than I used to and am seriously behind with my book posts. Yes, I am still reading a lot , but can’t keep up with posting about the books. Perhaps that has to do with the influence of another creative teacher, James Taylor, aka The Teacher James, who advocated the “Just Say Yes” attitude! I find I’ve got my finger into too many pies and don’t know what to do first…

Feeling the hot sand…
Photo by Gil Epshtein

Anyway, in honor of my blog’s birthday, here’s a downloadable link to the original “Smelling Your Way to the Second Conditional” lesson. This lesson is in full color so I don’t print it, we use it on a computer.

Smelling+your+way+to+the+second+conditional

Here’s to using your senses and having the good sense to blog!

Bringing “The Kitchen” Back into the High-School Classroom

More than one…
Naomi’s Pictures

Sometimes it takes a colleague to make you see the obvious – I haven’t been utilizing (or should I say “milking”?) “The Kitchen” activity enough in my high school classroom.

It seems I had fallen into the trap of using a resource for only one purpose, then losing the ability to see how useful it could be for other purposes.

What a waste!

TEACHERS NEED TO BE IN TOUCH WITH OTHER TEACHERS!

Debbie Ben Tura, in her in-service training course on “Creative Teaching”,  discussed the activity of bringing in various items that belong to a person, then describing an imaginary person who might possess such objects. For high-school teachers, that’s a  good way to practice using vocabulary that high-level students may need for writing an essay on their matriculation exams (what we call Module G).

OH!

Instead of bringing in objects, why don’t I unearth “The Kitchen” picture?

She turned her kitchen into a walk-in closet!

Mind you, it’s the hard copy that’s been buried in a binder in the closet.

I have been using this picture for years,  every single year, as part of a digital activity on our class “website” (actually on Edmodo).  I use it with 10th grade students new to the topic of inferences.  There’s a lot to infer here! The students respond well to the picture and particularly like discussing whether or not this woman could possibly have children (kids are always hungry – they agree with that!).

At the bottom of the post, you will find two downloadable versions of the worksheets I use, for different levels.  They are called “Kitchen Red” “Kitchen Blue”.

Neither one of my worksheets was designed for my advanced  Deaf and hard of hearing students, the students who need to know how to write 120-140-word essays describing a person, using a rich vocabulary.

My advanced students have never seen this picture.  It never occurred to me use it with them.

Well, now is the time to get them imagining and describing!


Note: The original “Kitchen” post (with the activity related to the skill of “inference” ) was posted on December 18, 2010.  It was one of the first posts on my blog, which I launched on December 9, 2010, almost nine years ago! I posted a lot in those early days – the “kitchen” post was post number 12! I’m glad I had the opportunity to revisit it now.

kitchen red        kitchen blue