Category Archives: The Visual Corner

Has the DOG Run Away with My Ticket?

I was inspired by Magpie Moments “Using Tickets – an Unplugged Approach” lesson to try and adapt this lesson using authentic tickets. The idea for using tickets came from Sandy Millin’s very inspiring (Almost) Infinite ELT ideas blog.

I thought this would be suitable for a beginning of the year activity, when the students are making the switch from the freedom of what is known here as “The BIG Vacation” to the demands of the school year.

However, as I changed the original lesson more and more, I began to wonder if I have lost the “unplugged” aspect of the lesson and it is no longer “Dogme” – hence my question: Has the dog run away with my ticket?

I’ll describe the lesson I’m planning according to Anna’s framework.

Think about it

Anna says “… a topic like transport, journeys or events why not take a bit of time to find out what your learners’ experiences have been. Do they have any stories to tell? Or can they imagine some?”

While some of my teenage students are very active and are experiencing life just like other teenagers, others have an extremely limited life experience. I don’t want students to feel bad that some of their peers went to Europe over the summer vacation while they have nothing “cool” to tell. So I’m going to emphasize imagination. But in order to imagine things, you need to have some knowledge. I’m sure that if I asked those kids what types of tickets they could think of they would be able to think of only one type – either “cinema tickets” or “bus tickets” depending if the child ever rode on the bus alone. So there has to be a section of the lesson that precedes having them imagine things.

Get it ready

It’s great to plan this lesson now – it will be easy to collect a wide variety of tickets over the summer holidays – will ask my friends to help! Unlike Anna, I will not bring in blank colored papers – these are teenagers! A third of them will be new 10th graders, just beginning high-school. At the beginning of the year teenagers are especially concerned about their image – that would seem babyish to them!

Set it up & Let it run

As I teach in the format of a learning center, students will be working on this in pairs or groups of three. In order to be creative later, the students must first see how many different kinds of tickets there are. I plan to scatter a bunch of different kinds of tickets on the table, have the students choose tickets (each one numbered) and fill in a chart on a worksheet looking something like this:

Ticket Number

What is it for?

Which country is it from?

How much does it cost? Would you like to go there?

We did not have an oral discussion before the activity as we speak Hebrew and Israeli Sign Language in class and it wouldn’t serve as a language preparation. Yet we will be discussing background information as they work on filling the chart (unfamiliar names of countries & currencies, unfamiliar concepts such as “a fair”. etc.)

Round it off & Follow up

Now I go back to Anna’s lesson and turn to the WEG style table for the MAGIC TICKET. This will be with Velcro on the back so that it can hang on the wall. Actually there will be more than one sheet as this will be for all the kids, to be filled in over the first week. Each student fills out what he /she would do with a magic ticket to anywhere. The table will look like this:

Type of Ticket Where to? Why?
Dror
Tamar
Sarit
Noam

As the students are from wildly different levels and I basically want them all to do the activity, some students will need more help than others. But that’s the beauty of having it as a beginning of the year activity. In regards to the new 10th graders whose level I’m trying to asses – seeing how much help they need with this activity will give me a great deal of information about their level of English and general world knowledge. In addition, the students will be working in pairs or groups of three so they can help each other too.

Of course, there may be one or two who won’t cooperate at all…. Sigh!

There’s the lesson.

Have I lost the “Dogme” part by adapting it so much? I knew I was teaching “unplugged” that day the students came in wet and we worked on that on the spur of the moment. However, I can’t begin the school year, with a third of the students whom I haven’t met, in such a manner!

So, has the dog run away with my ticket?

Measuring Progress – Angle 3 of the Coursebook Conundrum

Before continuing my exploration of how “doing away with the coursebook” would influence teaching special needs children such as the ones I teach, just a quick look at the status of the previous two angles explored:

* Readers’ comments have made me feel much better about recycling vocabulary in a class without a coursebook (“Angle 2”)

* I remain as concerned as ever about the mainstreamed special-needs children and their tutors (“Angle 1”).

And now for “Angle 3” !

Statue27 Photo by Gil Epshtein

I teach a lot of reading & writing skills by having students answer questions about pictures.

I work on reading & writing skills by doing “Reverse Reading” activities on the board.

Students participate in the Y.A.L.P vocabulary project.

Sometimes we play games.

These are all activities done without the coursebook.

Then along comes the pupil who flips through his coursebook and says :”Look how many exercises we’ve skipped! We haven’t learned anything this year!”

The more ambitious the students, the more they are concerned about comparing their progress to something clear and unambiguous. They can look at their grammar book and see which tenses /structures they’ve drilled. They can see which pages they have filled in their coursebook. The Y.A.L.P vocabulary project has its own tracking page which shows progress.

Progress in reading and writing activities cannot be measured in such a manner.

This morning I was explaining to a group of tenth graders about the different levels of the national exams in English they would be taking next year. In the easier exams the students can copy a sentence from the text as an answer but the harder ones require the students to actually form the answer on their own. This prompted one very ambitious, smart and tense girl (profoundly deaf, too) with a “horribly low” level of vocabulary,to accuse me of not teaching them how to write this year…

An End of the Year Lesson

banana girl

In the month of May at the high-school we move into exam mode. Some classes are cancelled when the entire grade takes an exam but usually only some of my students will be absent (different pupils each time, depending on the subject they are majoring in). The school yard is half empty during breaks and the general atmosphere is one of a year drawing to a close.

Both students and I really need some fun and variety at this point.

As soon as I saw Jamie Keddie’s lesson, Lessonstream,  on “How To  Books” I knew this could be easily adapted for my students. The topic seemed just right for adolescents!

As some of you know from previous posts the word “easily” was not an apt description as I ended up copying the PDF file to PowerPoint picture by picture, but it was worth it!

I created a simple laminated, re-usable worksheet. I didn’t want the activity to be too difficult and I didn’t want to make photocopies. I planned that the students would fill in the missing answers on a piece of scrap paper.

Version One looked like this:

how-to-1The translations of the book titles were supplied, in a different order from that on the slideshow. The students were expected to match the Hebrew translation to the English title, copy the title onto the scrap paper and then write down one piece of advice that might appear in each book.

I had them work in pairs and they really seemed to enjoy it. HOWEVER…

It was too easy.

I realized I was in trouble by the time the first pair had completed the task. Two more pairs of students completed it (ending the day) before the new version “appeared”.

If it had been a photocopied worksheet the pupils would have  copied the titles but in this format they simply wrote numbers. When they saw the word “school” they immediately matched it to “How to be an outstanding elementary school teacher” without reading the whole title or writing it all out. So, it became a writing activity since they only worked on the advice column.

That’s not a bad thing but certainly not utilizing a resource to its maximum potential.

Here’s Version Two:

how-to-2

This time, it wasn’t a laminated worksheet. I realized I had been thinking “old tech” . It’s a WORD document which the students have to keep open in another window.

Now the students took it for granted that they had to type EVERYTHING in and they had to really look at the information in order to match everything up.

The students still enjoyed it! They thought some of the titles were really funny and liked discussing what advice to give.

I had filled in “ Bring a Towel” as advice for the book “ How to Survive the End of the World” but not  ONE student had seen the movie “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!!!

Here is the WORD document.

How to books wksht2

* Photo by Gil Epshtein

Student smelling their way to the Second Conditional

Today I  was finally able to begin using the first of the computer lessons I prepared over the vacation “Use Your Senses with the Second Conditional” (The link takes you to the lesson I posted 10 days ago, explanation and download-link).

If you were there...
If you were there...

From previous experience I knew that my students learn the technical side, the form of the Second Conditional easily enough but that they have trouble with the “hypothetical aspect”. Being born with a hearing loss often results in a language impairment. One of the common manifestations is a tendency toward concrete thinking.

It worked out well that I chose pictures of two extreme places where students have never been. None of them had heard of Namibia.

I explained to them about the second conditional but did not say that the questions they would have to answer were related to the senses. The first question relates to how they would feel if they were there. That seemed reasonable to them. But then they got to “what would you smell”. Some students immdiatly jumped to conclusions and read the word as “small” (most don’t know the vocabulary item “smell”). They also decided “sweat” was “sweet” and then could not understand what to do with the question. When I helped sort that out some of the kids were shocked – no one has ever asked them about smelling before!

Only when they read the suggested (funny ) useful words of “penguin-poo” “camel -poo” and had a good laugh (“phew, I don’t want to go there” some said) did the idea that they have to IMAGINE being there sink in. One boy was troubled by “dead fish” (in the suggested vocabulary) because he doesn’t like eating fish. Only when he got past THAT did he get the hypothetical aspect.

By the time they got to “what would you hear” they all knew to relate to what could be heard whether they can actually hear it or not ( a lot of students have cochlear implants and can hear lots of sounds, speech is more of a problem).

As they had to write the word “would” more than 10 times I hope that the connection between the form and the concept was made. Time will tell. They seemed to enjoy it and three boys were even arguing if wind made noise in the desert!

Two problems:

1) I had to write “useful words” as many of the students have such a limited world knowledge they wouldn’t know enough to imagine what could be smelled or heard. However, they did not try to add any ideas of their own (using their bilingual electronic dictionaries). Without words some would have been more creative, others would have gotten stuck. I suppose I need two versions…

2) Computer woes. For some reason not all pictures look as they should on the screen. In the photo from Antarctica you couldn’t even see the Zodiac-boat! The c omputer is new but the screen is much older – that way the computer looks older and is less attractive to possible thieves… Since all my other computer lessons won’t work (involving PDF and a video clips) I’m working on getting a compuer person to come in, so we’ll se if that can be solved.

SIGH

Some people would say that I’m creating work for myself…

Notes for teachers on “How To Steal Like An Artist” By Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon wrote a brilliant piece (with great visuals!) called:

HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME)

He refers to his post as “notes on writing and drawing”. I’d like to point out how they are also notes for teaching. I’m following his post point-by-point (the points are direct quotes, the photos are by Gil Epshtein)

1) Steal like an artist.

By Gil Epshtein

Great teachers don’t constantly strive to reinvent the wheel. They read, listen and talk to other teachers and let their students benefit from a wealth of accumulated experience and creativity. The great teacher uses whatever strategies and ideas are useful and suitable and makes sure to go where these can be found!

But what the teacher has heard can’t and shouldn’t be used exactly as it was presented. Each class is different and adpating the material is a creation of something new! As Austin Kleon says: “Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas”.

2) Don’t wait till you know who you are to start making things.

by Gil Epshtein

There is no magic formula. It isn’t only people who have written coursebooks or teachers who have taught for more than 7 years who can suggest material, strategies and innovations. Just like we try to tell our students not to be afraid to make mistakes, teachers must not be afraid to experiment with the ideas they have!

3) Write the book you want to read.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

Which for teachers is:

Find / collect /create the materials needed for teaching the way you believe it should be taught.

4) Use your hands.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

Don’t let issues such as “crooked lines” or being able to draw only “stick figures” dissuade you from making and using your own materials and games. When they are tailored for YOUR class, then they are worth more than commercial material!

5) Side projects and hobbies are important.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

Having hobbies are not only important for teacher’s sanity – they can lead to great things to do in the classroom. There are many blogs out there in blogosphere by teachers who are incorporating their love of movies, animals, photography or what not into their teaching!

6) The secret: do good work and then put it where people can see it.

By Gil Epshtein
By Gil Epshtein

As stated in point one – we learn by communicating with others, so share your work too! Go to conferences, write for your local jounal, write a blog, TWEET or whatever works for you!

7) Geography is no longer our master.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

The teachers in your staffroom may not be interested in sharing but you will always find teachers online who are! it’s called building a Personal Learning Network. This blog is a testimony to the growing number of teachers I have found that enrich my teaching experience from the comfort of my home!

8) Be nice.

By Gil Epshtein

If you liked a recommendation – say so. If you didn’t, you don’t have to use it but that doesn’t mean you have to “trash it”! Communities support and encourage!

9) Be boring. It’s the only way to get the work done.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

Which for teachers is:

Take a deep breath and deal with the boring, administrative side of teaching. Every school has technical demands which are boring and not always logical. But if you don’t stay within the framework of the school requirements you won’t have a job and then won’t be making an impact on anybody!

10) Creativity is subtraction.

 

By Gil Epshtein

 

Austin Kleon says “Devoting yourself to something means shutting out other things”.

For those teachers who have found their “online PLN” I take that to mean : Beware of Gold Rush Fever! There are SO many interesting things going on out there that one has to remember to study and adopt new things in small chunks, accepting the fact that you can’t possible take in everything that is being offered to you. You will have to ignore some and focus on really making the most of what you have begun experimenting with before taking in more new ideas.

I’m sure there are other lessons to be learnt from Austin Kleon’s post, but those are my ten!

Seems you can cloud your tweets now too!

htweet cloud

Looking at this “tweet cloud” this way is not the same as looking at it online – the bubbles expand and you can read the whole word inside each bubbles (bubble sizes reflect frequency) . If you want to do that you can go Tweet Topic Explorer

It was interesting to compare my blog cloud to this one. This time I’m happy with the size of the word “students”! And of course you can see some of the people I’m corresponding with – but there are others too ! Lucky me! Hope no one takes offence! The topics are varied and I’m quite happy with the results!

USE YOUR SENSES with the 2nd conditional!

Screen shot of lesson
Screen shot of lesson

Since I read Ceri Jones post about using the senses to relate to a picture I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I really felt that this could be a useful tool for expanding my use of visual materials but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to experiment with it.

I decided that the best way to begin would be by comparing two photos from very different environments. Ceri talks about (in other posts) about the importance of using pictures related to pupil’s lives but with my pupils I need to expand their world knowledge. In addition, I’m trying to get them to think, and not work by comparing words in a question to the text. Some kids default response is “dunno”.

I had used Jason Renshaw’s Valentines Day lesson and the striking format seemed perfect for the topic of senses. Jason has kindly permitted use of his format – THANK YOU JASON! I had some technical trouble – I know Jason has also posted a blank format without pictures but he used different colors and I was unable to change them. So, if you look closely, you can see I pasted pics over his small ones. That actually was a lot of work but I hope I can make a series of “senses” lessons so it will have been worth it.

I need to teach the second conditional form and I thought everything connected nicely.The instructions are purposely vague, I plan to use it differently with different students.

Here’s the  link to the lesson:

2nd conditional with senses

We’re on vacation so haven’t had a chance to try it. May need tweaking. If you have suggestions, can still make corrections!

Goal 30: Sneaking General Knowledge in Through the Back Door!

This is the last of the 30 goals challenge! It has become such a part of my life that I will miss it!

Although writing about a project was suggested (and turning my classroom into a learning center is certainly an ongoing long term project which I initiated), Sandy Millin’s post relating to stamps inspired me to take this post in another direction completely.

When our boys were young both my husband and I encouraged them to collect stamps. Stamps were not themselves the end but rather a great trigger for igniting curiosity about the world we live in. As the stamp collection grew so did their familiarity with the Atlas which in turn led to accumulating information about these places and the people who live there. Long after they stopped collecting stamps they remain very curious about the world.

Many of my own students have an extremely limited view of the world. Some students, due to the unfortunate combination of having a hearing problem and a problematic family background have a dismal lack of general knowledge. The passion I have been trying to pass on to them is this curiosity about the world we live in. I don’t know if some of the students will remember any of the English I taught but perhaps they will remember that in other parts of the world it rains in Summer!

I haven’t tried using stamps with them (I don’t know if I could have interested my own boys in stamps today – we rarely get any letters with real stamps on them anymore!) though after Sandy’s post I just might give it a shot! But here are some ways I try to sneak general knowledge in through the back door:

* When I teach comparatives and superlatives, I write sentences such as “The longest wall in the world is in China”. Then I add,  “It can be seen from space”. The year after the tragedy of the Columbia (the mission included an astronaut from Israel), this lead to a question from one of the 10th grade boys: “How do we know it can be seen from space?” I explained that astronauts had told us about it (I know, there are sattelites too, but didn’t mention that then).  The boy then exclaimed “But all the astronauts blew up so they couldn’t have told people about what they saw!” I then shocked him completely by my insistence that there had been other astronauts before the tragedy. “But Ilan Ramon was the first astronaut in the world” he protested!

* I’m blessed by having a brother in law who is a photographer. Until fairly recently, when he moved completely to digital photography, he would give me large quantities of photos that he printed that weren’t good enough. Besides using them to cover old binders and surfaces, livening up the worn things, there are educational purposes I use them for, which I’ll leave for another post.

While rummaging through the pictures the students sometimes ask questions.  One pile of pictures happened to be from China. After seeing some pictures of huge parking lots filled with bicycles and pictures of street life, a pupil (17 years old!!!) asked me: ” There seem to be a lot of people in China. Are there more than in Israel?” We have a map of the world in the classroom and can see where the photos were taken. I particularly love it when a pupil looks at a photo and sighs, “Oh, I wish I could go there” and I reply, “you can! This one was taken right here in our beautiful country!

* I have a photography book presenting Israel from a bird’s eye view. The students have a page with sentences describing some minor element on pages of the book and they have to flip through it and write the corresponding page number. This leads to all sorts of questions. The sentence “On this page you can see animals that came from Africa” was very difficult for some students. The picture was of zebras at the Safari Wild Animal Park in Ramat Gan. They knew what zebras were and most had even visited the park. They didn’t know that they weren’t natives of the city of Ramat Gan!

I’m a long way from where I want to be – those of you who have read previous posts know that I’m often frustrated by some of the students lack of curiosity and interest in the world. But teaching English as a foreign language lends itself so well to learning about the world that I will continue to try to ignite sparks of interest! That’s my passion!

I “CLOUDED” my site too!

David Dodgson suggested making a WORD CLOUD  of one's blog.
Having seen David's cloud and Cecilia's Cloud and
Sandy Millin's CLOUD I decided to follow suit!
Here it is:

word blog cloud
I'm somewhat puzzled. Some things are obvious. The words
"goals" and "project"
are very prominent because of all the posts related to the
 30 goals project I'm participating in!

It makes sense to me that the words
"fascinating" "excited" "intriguing" appear because I feel
all these things about the new blogosphere
 experience!

Family is very important to me though I suspect the word
 is fairly large because some of my Saturday's Books
have been devoted to books all the family can enjoy.

But why is the word "students' so much smaller than
on other people's blogs? I thought I had been
writing quite a bit about my students! Puzzling...

Enthusiastic Comment about Mike Harrison’s “Reverse Reading Comprehension” Post

I  had my first chance to try Mike Harrison’s Reverse Reading Comprehension Strategy today, with “a twist” and it was a big hit!

The first period of the day gave me the perfect opportunity to try it. Three students were taking a test, three were absent and the remaining two are pretty much on the same level,  comparitively strong pupils. So I called them to the board. Each one of them got a whiteboard marker.

Part one

Instead of writing five or six questions I wrote one question on the corner of the board : Why did Branco dive to the bottom of the lake? After we went over the question (they didn’t know “lake” or “bottom”) they wanted to know who this Branco person was and how should THEY know why he did it. I replied that it was up to them to decide and to please answer the question. So they wrote (and then we corrected) the sentence “Branco wanted to study the fish“. I responded to that with question number two: What was he surprised to find at the bottom of the lake? Then they began to get interested. They had Branco find a treasure chest, take it home, discuss it with his wife and spend the money on a new house and car. They wrote five sentences, each one numbered as an answer to a question.

Part Two

I erased words from the sentences, a fairly large amount and they split the work of filling them back in. Since these are fairly strong students and they just wrote the text themselves this was easy for them. I left this stage after one “erasing exercise”.

Part Three

I asked the students to turn these sentences into a news report. I told them we don’t have to write everything again, only certain things need to be changed. We looked at every sentece. The first answer now became the opening sentence ” A man named Branco dove into a lake in Italy” and so on. The rewriting took us to the bell.

Later on in the day I repeated the activity with two weaker students (going for a lower level of the national exams but nonetheless still strong enough to TAKE the national exams!). They also came up with a treasure test and had the pirates come and rob the treasure back from Branco. They had to work much harder to create each sentence and needed more corrections so our second stage was erasing words till the bell rang. Rewritng was not suitable here and they REALLY enjoyed the activity as it was!

I also tried the activity with one 12th grade students who reads FAR FAR better than he writes. He always forgets articles andmixes up tenses. However, this activity is a more socially oriented one and giving it to him  alone was a mistake. He wrote that Branco found shoes in the lake and then he threw them back into the lake. I’m sure that if he had had a partner he would have come up with a more interesting idea and then it would have been more fun. Even the policeman I ” sent” to the lake just said “you shouldn’t do that”!

I really feel that my students are benefitting from my PLN!