Category Archives: Day by Day in the Classroom

Distance Learning – Practicing Wh questions in Context with Struggling Teens

Somewhere, over the rainbow,, life is “normal”
Naomi’s Photos

My Deaf and hard of hearing 11th and 12th-grade students should have been about 3 weeks away from taking their national final matriculation exams.

That was before COVID-19 of course.

Assuming that at some point the students WILL be taking these exams, we will continue to teach online after this holiday break.

My students who struggle the most, going for the lowest level of the exams, need a lot of practice with answering Wh questions about short reading passages.

When I say short I mean short.

“Short”
Naomi’s Photos

These are students who don’t do much without me sitting with them. Distance learning is hitting them the hardest. It will be more effective to use shorter passages.

So the exercises I am sharing below are “self-check tasks” of short texts with questions for reading comprehension.  Only Wh type questions.

In addition, I really want to emphasize the connection between the correct answer and the “Wh” question word used.  So each of the following exercises has two versions. One is a standard “answer the question” version. The other version includes the answers, but the question words are missing.

I hope you find these exercises useful!

 

Reading Ads Practice Paper One

Reading Ads Practice Paper One (b)

Reading Ads Practice Paper Two

Reading Ads Practice Paper Two (b) 

Reading Ads Practice Paper Three

Reading Ads Practice Paper Three (b)

 

Visualising School During “COVID-19 Times” – A Photo Pause

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The last day of school before shifting into “COVID-19 Time.

Leaning on the whiteboard

I had received this “Keep Calm and Carry On” sign as a gift a few months ago and hadn’t known what to do with it. I updated it and leaned it against the whiteboard, over the “How often” card.

Wasted effort.

Hardly any of my high school students came to school that day. Most of those who did come,  left early.

By noon,  the only students who could be seen in the empty hallways were those in the photos on the dozens of posters for the 12th graders’  final theatre productions.

Performances scheduled for dates that disappeared off the school calendar all at once.

Friday, March 13, 2020

 

No school today. The immediate future is so unclear that I manage to ignore it for most of the day. It’s SPRING – flowers everywhere!  A short walk around the neighborhood does me a world of good. I’ve dreamed about not working Fridays for years!

Sunday, March 15, 2020, and THE ENTIRE WEEK

PANIC!

Courtesy of puppeteer and teacher at our school, Ruth Levi (Naomi’s Photos)
All our material is in the classroom! Students can’t use this now…

So we’re supposed to begin teaching via the Internet immediately, right?  I’m all for it, but if I may ask:

How? Which platforms? When? How much? How often? Graded or ungraded? What about our final exams?

And what am I supposed to do about the fact that ALL of the students’ books, notebooks, practice material, readers (and much more!) is in the classroom?!

No “do the exercises on page 58  and send me your answers” for this teacher.

So far away from the students! (chairs on top of upturned desks in the schoolyard ) Naomi’s Photos

** I am so grateful to all the support I got from the school, my colleagues, publishers who are sharing material online and all the teachers around the world posting helpful information and advice!

Time and scheduling  take on new meanings

Whose schedule are we on – the teenagers or ours?
Naomi’s Photos (text in the photo from “Count That Day Lost” by George Eliot)
Student hands in an assignment at 23:05 pm! But what a wonderful answer!

 

The upside of spending hours on the challenges of suddenly shifting to distance learning completely


Naomi’s Photos

Rising to the new challenges that the sudden shift to distance learning requires is so time-consuming that it has left me with a lot less free time to follow the news and worry.

But best of all is a new kind of connection with the students  – they realize that we are partners who need to navigate our way together toward the goal of keeping up their schooling.

They admit to missing school!

And I miss them too!


*** Memories of the empty schoolyard in the past.

Naomi’s photos
Brilliance in the schoolyard

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?