Category Archives: Uncategorized

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
 

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Harrow

“Doors with a capital D” according to the book.
Naomi’s Photos

This book was a “YES” “YES” kind of book with two “but” “but”s.

I knew almost nothing about the book when I began reading, just that it was advertised as a book that people who love books and believe in the power of words would enjoy reading.

That certainly caught my attention!

It’s a wonderful story about storytelling and about “Doors” (with a capital D) which really do appear in some form in every story when you start to think about it. It’s a tale where words have power and young people strive (naturally, against all odds) to write (write = create) their own life story, the way they want it to be.  There is a clear message that being “different” isn’t a bad thing. It’s a book full of different worlds, unusual places, characters and exotic objects all described in rich detail.

The book has even been shortlisted for the Nebula Award!

No, I’m not going into the plotline. Trust me, you don’t want to read more details about it in advance – let the story unfold at its own pace for you!

So, with all these compliments where do the two “buts”  come in?

Naomi’s Photos

Well, there can be too much of a good thing sometimes. While I delighted in the rich descriptive language, the amount of metaphors and similes used in this book is staggering! Sometimes I wished the author would simply let a character complete her/ his action or have a quiet moment without it being compared to anything…

The other comment has to do with length. I believe the book would be even better if it were a bit shorter – there are certain points where I felt the storyline got bogged down a bit.

Enjoy!

 

Where are my Students REALLY From?

Look closer…    Naomi’s Photos

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?

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This post was inspired by the following talk:

The power of digital storytelling | Emily Bailin | TEDxSoleburySchool

 

 

Saturday’s Book: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

A window of opportunity
Naomi’s photos

“Becoming”.

What a great title that rings so true – we aren’t one thing all our lives and that’s it. We change, we evolve, we “become”. I became a woman, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a blogger, a “dabbler” in photography, just to name a few. Who knows how many more things I will become in the future. A great point to make at the start of an autobiography!

The part that fascinated me the most in Michelle Obama’s tale of “becoming” is the part about her childhood and education. My mother had felt that section was too detailed but I was so interested in all of it. One one hand it highlighted the powerful role of parents who prioritized education for their children despite hardships and fostered curiosity and literacy skills.  On the other hand, it also highlighted the frightening aspect of  “lack of opportunity” and plain “luck”. Michelle Obama’s mother fought hard to get her daughter tested, out of classrooms where she wasn’t learning anything and into better educational programs.  And Michelle Obama worked extremely hard to excel in these programs. But what if she had been born a few years earlier? When there was no program that accepted talented inner-city children? Or was just as talented but didn’t secure one of the limited places? What if a child with her abilities had remained stuck in a classroom where no real learning was taking place?

These points are highlighted sharply in the story of an inner-city high-school Michelle Obama visited while she was The First Lady. The students couldn’t physically make it to school on some days because they were so afraid of the gang violence going on in the streets. She discussed the fact that education can be a “ticket out” but it isn’t so for everyone.

There are too many children out there who are left behind!

In short, I admired Michelle Obama even before I read the book and I found many more reasons to do so after reading.

I’ll be interested to read about what she “becomes” next – she can do and be whatever she decides to be.

Visualising School – Photo Pause

 

Visual notes from a busy teacher’s long days at school:

 

How to start the day with a smile…

(Just outside the school gate!)

Naomi’s Photos

 

When the sky meets the schoolyard…

(The front courtyard)

Naomi’s Photos

 

Shhhh… Just watch the drop…

(The view from my classroom window)

Naomi’s Photos

 

Tunnel of chairs – what’s on the other side? 

(More chairs…)

Naomi’s Photos

 

Evidence-Based Praise for Adolescent Students Struggling with EFL Reading Comprehension Tasks

Some need extra attention…   Naomi’s Photos

Raise your hand if you have high school students in your EFL class who:

* have a shockingly limited vocabulary.

* have trouble matching upper case / lower case letters (which makes using the electronic dictionary much harder).

* you suspect can’t really decode.

* still seem surprised (STUNNED) that you expect them to sit down and be ready for a lesson with actual pencils, notebooks, and books when the bell rings.

* take one look at a text and give up immediately – they can’t even look at it, they totally believe they can’t deal with it. They don’t even want to try.

Hmm, it seems we may face some of the same problems with our struggling EFL students in high-school.

The same students we are supposed to prepare for their national final exams…

Epstein family photos

“But this bridge will only take you halfway there–

The last few steps you’ll have to take alone”.

From “This Bridge by Shel Silverstein” 

I visualize most of my teaching work as a bridge that can lead the students up to the point where they are able to take the last steps alone and be independent. The students take the hand that I have offered and we walk together. That’s why I quote this poem so often on my blog!

However….

There is a problem when it comes to these students.

A BIG problem.

These students aren’t even on the bridge and many of them won’t simply take my hand and let me show them the way. In fact, they have to prove they are right in saying they unable to learn and won’t succeed by resisting help. It’s as if they haven’t heard the maxim “If you are in a hole, stop digging”!

I believe my first job is to get such students on the bridge.

Reading Comprehension strategies are useless to a student who won’t try.

The students know they are weak students, don’t lie to them or praise them in a way that isn’t true. RIG THE SETTING FOR SUCCESS, BUT DON’T LIE! Make sure there is “evidence” as to why the student was praised.

Here are some of the things I do in class to get the students to “step on the bridge” and feel that it is worth giving reading comprehension tasks a try:

Growth can come from unexpected directions…
Naomi’s Photos

Disappearing texts:

I create very simple basic texts on the board from some “tale” a student in class shares. I write the tale in English,  even if the student tells it almost completely in mother-tongue (eliciting words from the other students as much as possible). I focus on expressing a sincere interest in what happened to the student.  Like this text, for example:

What Happened to Sara This Morning?

Sara got up at 06:15.

She left the house at 07:15.

Sara didn’t take an umbrella.

When Sara arrived in Yehud it was raining hard.

Sara got wet.

Sara wants to call her Dad.

By erasing words, having students fill in the relevant missing words on the board in response to basic “WH” questions, I get the students to focus on the text and the words. They know the answers because they were involved in the process of creating the “text”. I finally erase the ENTIRE text and ask WH questions about it. The students can deal with it!

Answering in complete sentences is not the point! If students can answer a “when” question with “07:15” and a “who” question with “Dad” (and not vice a versa!) then I have a good reason to praise them. They are reading and answering questions!

Note: A visual explanation of how to use the disappearing text method with all students can be found in Jason Renshaw’s post, here:  Going Going Gone

There is life!
Naomi’s Photos

“Chopping” Real Exam Papers

The students know as well as I do that their final exams won’t have self-created texts on it. Bringing in a real exam paper from a previous year, chopped into “bite-sized” pieces, makes it easier to “swallow”.

Each paragraph of the text is pasted on a separate page, with only the questions related to that paragraph pasted below it. So now the text is chopped up into several short pages.

On page one there may be only one question but on page two we can show the students that THREE WHOLE QUESTIONS  can be answered based on SIX measly lines!

That is much less intimidating than seeing the whole text and a long page of questions.  Particularly if you highlight the “WH” question words, names and numbers in the text.

A student doesn’t need to answer all the questions to get a high-five  – remember? We’re talking about students who wouldn’t even start working on a text! Lay on the praise for every question answered. Make your check marks extra big!

In it together…
Naomi’s Photos

Divide the Dictionary Work (include the teacher!)

Many of these students gave up on their electronic dictionaries very quickly. Like any tool, you need practice in order to use it quickly and well, yet they won’t touch it. By writing unknown words from a paragraph on the board and dividing the work of looking them up, the students can be convinced to start the laborious process of typing the words they are in charge of.  It is slow work for them because some students have trouble matching lower and uppercase letters and they have to copy every single letter, one at a time. However, the more they do it the easier it will get.

It’s important that the teacher shows that he/she is also contributing to the joint effort and fills in some of the translations. While it’s good for morale, that’s not the point! The teacher chooses to translate the words that have several meanings and writes only the suitable one. The students do have to learn to deal with such an issue, but only after they have begun moving along the “bridge”!

Create your own version of a “Proud of You” board!

.

I know that most teachers don’t have the option of having a wall devoted to praising like I do.  I don’t know what you can do instead, but I’m sure you’ll think of something.

“The last few steps you’ll have to take alone” (Shel Silverstein)

 

 

Family ELT Travel Fun – “Paperback”, For Students too!

*Note: This is not a commercial post and I have no connection whatsoever to any company. Just sharing the joy.

The lookout
Naomi’s photos

Are you fond of games which require forming words in English?

Have you found that the younger generation prefers having extra “twists” to word games, such as cards with double letters (“ed” “en”) , cards that have powers to get you an extra card , replace or duplicate a card, and even earn you extra points?

Do you like games which can be less competitive and encourage the whole family to collaborate on figuring out a word with the hand dealt to one player?  Note: It can also be very competitive, it depends how you want to play it, despite Mom’s non-competitive bent…

Now bear with me for a moment.

A Smart Move
(Naomi’s Photos)

Our son taught us the board game “Paperback” and it’s a great thing at any age for a family to gather around a table to play together. Since this game is good for developing vocabulary in the English  language, I like the game even better.

But I didn’t think of traveling with it.

You know, space and weight in the suitcase, a table is needed and it takes some organizing of the piles of cards, etc.

Well, there’s an app for that.

For the first time in my life I bought a game app for the tablet.

And now the teacher-in-me is considering using the game, in app form, in class.

It turns out that the app solves more than the issue of making the game convenient to travel with ( we played on the airplane with the tablet in airplane mode) , it seems that it will also solve the following issues

* No precious lesson time wasted on setting up the game.

* The app basically teaches you the game as  you play, so no lengthy instructions or learning curve required. It tells you what kind of action is required next.

* It keeps score. That might sound obvious but since points determine all kinds of perks during the game, it’s important to know how to calculate the score. I’m very bad at score keeping in all games, sigh…

* The app won’t accept misspelled words or invented words. Your offspring or your students can play independently without you worrying that they are blithely giving themselves points for nonsense and reinforcing errors.

* There is a single player mode,  a student can play against a computer with three different levels of difficulty, thought frankly I haven’t explored this mode much yet.

In short, Paperback has won me over as a family game. I’m looking forward to trying it in class.

That is, if our English room ever gets those tablets we’ve been promised…

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday’s Poem: “The Armful” by Robert Frost

So many…
Naomi’s Photos

I received a phone call from someone I used to work with as part of my counseling job. It seems that a small box of papers of mine had been discovered in a cupboard that was being disposed of . The papers needed to be removed.

Among the papers from the late 90s and to around 2004, was a handout from a talk the amazing Aharona Gvaryahu had given. It must have been a talk on what it is like to live with learning disabilities but I don’t know for sure.  The only thing I kept  was this poem.

I hadn’t seen the poem since then and did not remember it existed.

But I immediately knew  why I had chosen to keep it.

It’s about me, isn’t it? It can be about you too, I don’t mind. Aren’t most of us in the same situation?

Enjoy!

The Armful by Robert Frost

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns-
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.

7 in 2017 – When Teaching Literature in EFL Intersects with Life

 

You know that teaching the literature component of the high-school EFL program has influenced you when…

  1. Getting a beautiful piece of artwork as a post reading task on the book “The Wave” makes you ridiculously happy…
  2. You foolishly carry too many books and papers in the hallway and manage to drop half. A few kind students, whom you’ve never seen before, help gather the scattered items. You thank them but what you really REALLY want to say is “Well, you can now count this day as not lost”! 
  3. The name of the game “Quoits” was a new addition to your vocabulary, but you are old enough to remember that “Patience” was the name for “Solitaire” when it was played with real cards.
  • Pondering age… Photo by Gil Epshtein

    4. When you reach the sentence about Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones’ icebox, it suddenly dawns on you that it might not be such a good idea to suggest that the kids talk to their grandparents for further information about ice boxes. If some of the students’ parents were once students of mine, then I’ll soon be the age of their grandparents.  I seem to have been in the classroom forever yet I never had an icebox…

  • Not a yellow wood but most certainly two roads diverged…
    Naomi’s Photos

    5. You find yourself pondering the fact that you actually took the road most taken by women, becoming  a teacher, a wife, a mother, a daughter (of parents in their “golden years”) , juggling roles while trying to exercise and blog too. Which naturally leads to the question whether I shall be telling this with a sigh of joy or regret ages and ages hence… Or perhaps the question of whether there will be anyone interested in listening…

  • A Smart Move
    (Naomi’s Photos)

    6. You have to bite your tongue every time you reach the end of the story “The Rules of The Game” – Waverly had no more moves to plot! I read “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan, I know what happened! From the moment Waverly supposedly insulted her mother, she never won a chess match again!!! Unlike Waverly’s mother, we teachers do give students second chances (and third, or more) but that isn’t something I can point out to the students because their story ends before that. Maybe it’s just as well…

  • Missing information… Naomi’s Photos

    7. You actually feel the weight of all the hours /topics cut from the national  curriculum, particularly history. Over the years more extensive background information of all sorts is needed for the stories and poems, ranging from the rise of the Nazi Movement to the fact that the early African-Americans DID NOT come voluntarily to the US as illegal immigrants who decided to stay…

Forget the students for a moment – how has teaching literature in the EFL classroom affected YOU?