Category Archives: Uncategorized

“The Friendly Eraser” (with “a touch” of Dogme) Has Its Debut

In a recent post I asked if a “No-Tech” talk would lead to this:

yawn1At this week’s AWESOME ETAI Jerusalem Conference I paid special attention to how other people were using technology at the conference.

On one hand, while I may not have been the only presenter without a PowerPoint presentation, you didn’t need many fingers to count us. The  presenters whose talks I attended used the PowerPoint well! Fran Sokel (who was at IATEFL Brighton!!) used it to present quotes from research on Effective Teaching and Jane Cohen (from the British Council), for example, delighted us with images related to a thought provoking lesson plan for students on “Is Google making us dumber?” Believe me, there were many others, too!

In addition, how could you have such a hilarious Pecha Kucha without PowerPoint?

On the other hand, almost no one took notes during a talk on any form of computer (nobody was tweeting the lectures either!). The sponsors provided paper and pens and they were extensively used. I felt the power of my PLN when I was the only one who recognized WORDLE when used in a talk.

At my talk, teachers seemed genuinely interested in things they could do using only the whiteboard, the marker and the “friendly eraser”. I hear that more and more schools have a Smartboard in some classrooms ( I personally have not seen one yet) yet it seems that for a large percent of teachers the simple whiteboard is what they use the most.

My talk was about weak pupils in high-school, who have trouble concentrating during the best of times and particularly so when something “occurred” before class. Paying homage to Jason Renshaw and Mike Harrisson (see links by clicking on the Live Binder icon in the middle column of the homepage) we went through building a short text with the pupils with no previous knowledge (on the teacher’s part) of what would be the issue on their minds, despite their limited vocabulary. Then we “milked” the text in a number of ways using only the “friendly eraser” and the marker. I brought the first text, for the absolute weakest level, ready from my classroom ( and wrote it on the board). But I was getting more confident as the talk proceeded and created the next text with the teachers in the room on the spot (it was named “Never Buy an Engine from a Mermaid!)

I ended the talk by reading out Shel Silverstein’s short poem “This Bridge” (see Live Binder!).  I was trying to stress the point that other teachers don’t have to do these things the way I did them. I  read ideas and adapted them to suit my needs, thus making them my own. As it says in the poem “This Bridge will only take you half way there” one can’t expect  a strategy or a lesson plan to fit your class and your teaching style as it is. “The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.”

Oh! And I didn’t see anyone yawn!

An #ELTchat Summary – How To keep learners’ English going during the break?

DSCF0129                                                                                                               Photo by Roni Epstein

At a time when the school gates are being locked for the summer and the students are shoving their schoolbags into the darkest corner of their cupboards, the #ELTCHAT community gathered to discuss:

” How To keep learners’ (especially young learners and teenagers) English going during the break?

The discussion was very animated, inspiring and packed with ideas. A few of us thought it a shame that we hadn’t had this discussion a few weeks ago as the school year has already ended in some places!

This is my first #ELTchat summary so I hope I’ve managed to convey the great chat we had in a clear manner. You can read the transcripts here


Part One – A Preliminary Question: WHY?

The following question kicked of the discussion (and got quite a few Retweets!)

@Fuertesun: Can I start by asking Why can’t we lay off ‘em and give ‘em a break?

@pjgallantry seconded that and added: Yeah, why not give them a break? We won’t have anything to teach them in September otherwise. 🙂 @Fuertesun points out that: They’re at school all year in private classes etc. @eyespeakbrasil and @Shaunwilden agreed, reminding us that that’s why it was called a holiday! @Fuertesun elaborated:  Why can’t they be kids? I suppose my problem is that there is no research that you put homework in and get something out. Okay yes lifelong learning but they’re “minis”. I think the whole concept of summer is, that it’s a BREAK!

@ sandymillin highlighted an additional difficulty by asking: how likely are you to end up with the same students after the summer holiday?  In my case, chances almost nil (if at same school!)

For a moment there it seemed as if this question would put an end to the chat after it had hardly begun (there were murmurs about going to bed early!) but @Shaunwilden declared Haha, good point – ok break not an option :-).

And then we got down to answering @Feurtesun’s questions relating to “WHY?”:

@Sandymillin was the first to reply: Some students ask for things to do over break! It doesn’t have to be like homework! Giving them a break is good, but nice for them to have some fun things to do to keep it up. It’s important to keep them interested in the language…there’s so much fun stuff for English out there!@NoraTouparlaki points out that: 3 months in Greece is too much, students need something to do!  @eyespeakbrasil: and @Marisa_C  both agree with Nora and Marissa adds: it is a bit too long – a lot can be forgotten, especially by young learners. @KarenInGreece points out that: my students have a 4-month summer break from lessons. It’s too long not  to do anything, don’t you think? A lot is forgotten over that long break, especially if they don’t stay in touch with the language (i.e. books/movies).

@bcnpaul1 adds that in his opinion: giving them a break is good but they need something to keep them engaged. He agrees with Sandy that some students DO ask for things to do over the break. @Shaunwilden agrees that: for those that who want to study we should be able to direct them.

@ShellTerrell sums this part up by saying: I think we can suggest activities for students to keep up their English skills but we should really suggest since it is their break. As there seemed to be general agreement that summer activities shouldn’t be mandatory, the discussion moved on to…

Part Two – If it’s optional – how does that work?

* @Fuertesun agrees with @Shaunwilden that direction is fine: What I mean is that in my case I’ve never had a kid asking for stuff only parents. kids are always so busy here in Spain…

* @NoraTouparlaki comments that : kids will never ask for extras:) to which @Fuertesun replies: I don’t blame them! Nora’s rejoinder: me neither, but we have to persuade them that learning never stops. @naomishema It HAS happened to me that kids ask for something. not often but does happen! Some of the lonely kids would enjoy suggestions. there are kids that just move from tv / computer @NoraTouparlaki says that those children who DO ASK are the easy part of our task (did I detect a sigh in that tweet?).

* @ShellTerrell: I think we can suggest activities for students to keep up their English skills but we should really suggest since it is their break.

* @Fuertesun we always give out the same tired handout with the usual websites to look at, but they never do – needs to be more ‘why’ involved. “Why” is the question – trying to generate intrinsic motivation is the answer, in my opinion. If the summer ideas aren’t mandatory then those who are drawn to it can benefit . I wouldn’t make it mandatory.

* @bcnpaul1 stresses that we’re not asking for hours a day – just something small

* @pjgallantry of course, it depends on context – if the learners are in a NNES (Non-Native English Speaking) environment, they’ll need more than if they’re based in the UK, for example.

* @Shaunwilden raises an important problem:
  But then how do you deal with, after summer, when some want to show what they’ve done and other have nothing? @Fuertesun replies:they look like goody two shoes and everyone hates them!

I (yes, I’m @naomishema)  feel very strongly about this point, perhaps as I’m a special-ed. teacher:

In any case all ideas are problematic insofar as show and tell – one kid had a blast to tell about while the other kid did “Nada”! If not mandatory, kids don’t necessarily have to present to the whole class, Teacher can think of ways to showcase. Teacher’s praise would mean a lot to some kids! (to which @Fuertesun  warns that teacher’s praise is a whole different topic!) @naomishema suggest letting students present materials relating to things they would have liked to do, can be imaginary.

@Shaunwilden summed up the agreement that online sharing overcomes a lot of those show and tell issues

shadow children

Part Three –suggested activities


* @harrisonmike :How about setting up a reading list for your students of books they might be interested in like this ? OK, you don’t give them methodology books LOL. But direct them to teen fiction, graded readers, maybe set up reading in cafes… (see post links below) @Marisa_C adds: Anyone thinking of a summer library?  Books, books, books

* @bcnpaul1: find things they’re interested in and tell ’em to keep up with those things by looking at websites in English  = real world need. It doesn’t have to be ‘study’ maybe more of a ‘this is why you learnt stuff’ type focus. For example, most kids love music. Why not get ’em to come back with their favorite English songs of the summer with at least one student generated worksheet. @Vickyloras also supports using music. @chrisemdin A great summer activity that isn’t laborious & builds skills is to have youth listen to and break down lyrics to songs

* @vickyloras: Take them on a tour at a bookshop or local library before the holidays,to browse with them and help them find what they like.

* @ShellTerrell For students who want ideas we can list them in a Wiki, blog, or even with a hashtag on Twitter  Anyone do this?

      @ThirdGradeTerri Love the hashtag idea. My students watch my tweetdeck  after recess and love #elemchat #edchat and they are 3rd graders

     (@naomishema: think though – what language should the summer ideas be listed on a site? maybe L1 and English? Otherwise ideas lost in translation)

* @Marisa_C: Children need to play – why not collect a number of games for them in a wiki

* @ShellTerrell: Social media is a great way to get them conversing like a Facebook page or weekly chat. If there is already a class blog, Wiki, Twitter, Edmodo or FB group, many students will just continue communicating there @mthornton added todaysmeet is great for this!   This suggestion lead to some discussion:

                       @pjgallantry:Chances are that the students already use social networking sites eg facebook, but in L1 – What’s the advantage to using English for them? @naomishema :since Facebook is in L1 AND GOOGLE TRANSLATOR is available (problematic translations don’t bug my kids) they surf without ENGLISH

                       Also, I raised a concern :Have you ever had issues with parents concerning joining an online community? who is supervising they may ask? To which @ShellTerrell replied that she discusses this with parents. She also explained: When I’ve asked parents for suggestions for the wiki of English games to play I’ve gotten great involvement”

                      General consensus among chat members that parental involvement and support important here! NOONE likes pushy parents!

* @eyespeakbrasil Augemented reality sites are cool – for self discovery. In addition, they could use voice recognition software to practice their listening, speaking, pronunciation, stress and fluency skills

* @NoraTouparlaki I’d sugggest using movies,cartoons  @Marisa_C: Get them to make a movie of their summer with drawings which they caption

* @Shaunwilden: they could use portable devices to record what they do on their summer holiday.Set  21st century equivalent of ‘what I did for my summer” that would appeal i.e. use phone, take pictures ,videos, have a blog as a journal

* @Fuertesun They can do the drawings or take pictures during their holidays – keep a scrapbook @pjgallantry an idea might be a ‘found language’ scrapbook – bits and pieces they’ve heard, seen, read, collected together. Which they could also make on glogster if they dont have a scrapbook 🙂

* @naomishema Students could make a slide show with summer holiday snapshots and write titles (or narrate, for the hearing kids!) lots of sites! @harrisonmike adds: Get them on #Flickr to share snaps from their holidays

* @NoraTouparlaki I’d say just get in touch with tourists:) trying to chat and make friendships! @Marisa_C adds teachers could organize a website to find a summer pal @nutrich: Make friends with foreign kids at the beach – that’s what some of my YLs did in Spain. It’s not class, it’s real life communication. that always helps!They try to speak in English and keep up their skills,as it’s the only common language! @nutrich My students are always proud to tell me about times they’ve spoken English to a tourist/someone else!

* @pjgallantry an online noticeboard such as this- might be a way to keep them engaged -posting as much/as little as they like

* @naomishema: wonder how many would continue reading a book or story  if we  read till the cliff hanger at the end of the year?

* @sedayyildirim during our revisions last two weeks, I want them to / be alert for the target language(music, internet, news) / practice & google

* @Marisa_C: Get them to make a movie of their summer with drawings which they caption

* @ShellTerrell: With parents I suggest a family game day where they can play English board games like Twister, Charades with kids @Shaunwilden adds: Other games include Clue, Apples to Apples, Taboo, etc  @ShellTerrellI also suggest English events. In Germany we have English Stammtisch, English clubs, English movie theatre, etc

* @naomishema: for young learners, make placemats with english vocab & drawings on it at end of year. Kids eat & learn all summer on them! When the things interest the children it is amazing what they absorb while eating!

* @vickyloras Especially for adult Ss, podcasts from newspaper,magazine and radio station websites – easy stuff to access and learn from.

* @sandymillin: You could get them to share fun youtube vids w/ e.o. Mine loved &

* @nutrich: Suggests that kids teach their siblings/ parents/ grandparents "let’s make grandad say English things!" etc

*@ BethCagnol I tell my kids (university age) to go to the States with their parents. Make it a family adventure. @ShellTerrell Some will travel to another country, we can have them do wallwisher/Linoit of useful travel phrases

* @ nutrich Boring car journey – label things in English, play games with siblings/ parents – cloud, tree, road, car, bus, lorry…..roadkill!

* @MikeCollins007: Why not do a treasure hunt of sorts using QR codes?

* @ hartle Sometimes do diving games in swim. pool for questions on waterproof cards, thn come out and ask them


Part Four – Useful Websites for Independent Learning

* @sandymillin: 3 great websites:, &  

Also, – good for games

* @naomishema: headmagnet –

* @flocabulary Our literacy scavenger hunt has a list of fun ways students can keep up their skills around town this summer:  Scavenger hunt ideas include "educational eavesdropping" and analyzing street art, amongst many others.

* @AzraelleM –

* @Marisa_C voicethreads for sharing storybirds, snapshots and more.

* @ShellTerrell online ELT communities like Gapfillers & My EC

* @ShellTerrell  Ecobugs is a free app that is also great with lessons from teachers on the site

* @ harrisonmike for sharing reading and getting recommendations. For sharing reading lists also I use #weread on #Facebook to share a bookshelf on my blog:

* @eyespeakbrasil  Mingoville

* @hartle: This is link to my class if anyone has students who are interested??

* @bethcagnol I list some parent/child games here

* @tarabenwell: MyEC to create blogs, videos, take part in audio, writing challenges etc. Also Hulabaloo with your YL

* @hartle: Summer Glogs a good way of doing show and tell

* @hartle my 6 lesson free online conversation course, young adults, uni welcome


Part Five – Organized Summer programs

This issue was brought up by @bcnpaul1: how many of your YLs get sent on summer camps in the UK – good or bad?

@Fuertesun:summer camps great. for experience not necessarily their English. Also points out that they are not all very expensive. @sandymillin I think there are good & bad points for it. not sure much eng. gets learnt but it is good exp. At same time they find the motivation. Do they carry that home with them?

@ShellTerrell :I think a lot go to English camps because I’ve taught in some every break with tons of kids. I like the idea of giving like a summer Advent Calendar of activities! Maybe thru Google Calendar or other social media way?

@bcnpaul1 YES it’s all about independence, making friends & positive associations with the language & finding love!!

@sandymillin We have one week summer schools at our school that some of our kids do – all project-based & fun. (12-week holiday)

@ vickyloras Sometimes I take them out during summer,we go to shops and chat only in Eng – then they like it and they do it w/friends too!


Part Six – Recommended posts on the topic

* @ShellTerrell wrote  a post using games to get students learning English in the summer

* @harrisonmike recommends @JezUden’s post on setting up reading in cafes:

* @Sandymillin:This was the lino I was making for an adult student who wanted to practice listening at home. Good for teens too:

* ShellTerrell: I found this QR guide by @coolcatteacher really useful

Saturday’s Trip!

Ramat Rahel -1

We went on an interesting guided tour today in Kibbutz  Ramat Rahel (southern tip of Jerusalem). They have ruins there that are thought to be 2,800 year old!
There are also unusual environmental sculptures by Ran Morin.
These are two of them. The one with the olive trees is in a clearing surounded by olive trees.

Ramat Rahel 2 Ramat Rahel-3

I Have Been Interviewed!

Photo by Gil Epshtein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

I know I may sound like someone who is touting her own horn here, but I had a really fun video chat with Sandy Millin (in the Czech Republic!).

She’s been helping me into the world of twitter and online collaborative tools, patiently explaining all these unfamiliar acronyms used by teachers from language schools AND offering practical advice when commenting on my blog!

So, when after all that she insisted that she wanted to interview me, I thought I should let you know that it is here!

Warning! Blogging Can have a NEGATIVE effect on your COOKING!


I’m a “slow” person. I do EVERYTHING slowly. While that certainly has some advantages as a parent and a teacher there are no advantages AT ALL when it comes to housework.

Since I work full time, do housework slowly AND blog, the title of the post: “How to Write Blog Posts Faster…”  really caught my attention. That post turned out to be not so relevant as the author is focusing on a different kind of blog, but his other post had a big impact.

Ivan Walsh talks about how he washes the dishes and does the housework while planning his posts. He also has a child! He treats blogging as something to be integrated into your life.

Now, I have ALWAYS thought about other things while doing housework (which is one of the reasons I do them so slowly) but reading how Mr. Walsh explains that it is the efficient thing to do was quite a liberating feeling. Especially as I have recently become involved in discussions on other blogs, not just my own.


Since reading that post I have baked a mushroom casserole without the seasonings.

I put the wrong seasoning into another dish.

I meant to cook two cups of rice. I ended up taking the rice jar, pouring one cup into the pot, putting the rice jar away and the measuring cup in the sink. Then repeating the process as I  remembered I needed another cup.

You get the idea.

I must say, though, his suggestion regarding using Live Writer is helpful – it’s much easier to deal with pictures here and the fact that you are writing offline is quicker in itself. People in my PLN advised me to try it and they were right!

So, how do I “turn off” blogging thoughts while cooking?

Is Being a Creative Teacher & Being Efficient with Paperwork a Contradiction?

Or is it just me?

As part of my job as  a counselor I have to address, fill (with various papers) and mail out  315 envelopes to schools around the country, according to a list of names.  Some envelopes are filled with five pages, others with thirteen.

I’m incredibly slow.

It’s not that I’m disorganized. Rather just looking at the size of the pile gets me down.

I also get distracted with odd thoughts as I work, such as:

*Hmm, what an unusual name this student has. I wonder if she gets teased because of it.

*Hmm, this place is so small they don’t even have street numbers for the address.

*Who is this school named after? I wonder who he was…

And, of course, I am writing this post instead of working!!!

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

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!

Half of Goal 16 – To Be Continued!

Goal 16 of the 30 Goals Challenge is “Change Your Environment”.  I really agree that both the students and I need a change sometimes. So far the only thing I do is sometimes take the kids to the computer room. However, unless I plan really well the time spent there may be fun but not suitable for all the pupils at each level.  In addition, I now have one computer in my class (no Internet). That’s great because its often one or two pupils who need a computer activity and it becomes a work station.

So, I thought I would take a better look at the classroom and share some pictures with you. I’ve been thinking about moving the tables around, hmmm….

The door from the inside

That was the door from the inside. Now here is the YALP Project area. Inthe photo you can see the group diplomas I recently put up to add some spice (till now it was just individual tracking sheets).

YALP Group Diplomas

Now here are the BIG BINDERS. Each of the 70 kids has a personal plastic bag where they can keep pages or  where I put worksheets for them in advance.


Here are the regular binders with workplans, fun questionnaires (such as How romantic are you?), exercises, etc.


Some wall photos:

Vocabulary related to hearing lossWorld MapsWall photo

The old tables and chairs:

the desks

The picture of the broken window didn’t come out too well. There is also a picture of pages from a calendar stuck on the wall, depicting words in Enlgish, Spanish and American Sign lang. Some kids are interested in Spanish! Didn’t include a picture of the computer, its just a computer!

Last picture – the closet! Take note of the picture for “FALL”  – just right for the poem “The Road Not Taken”!

The closet