One of the great things about teaching the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” to my Deaf and hard of hearing students is that they have some very powerful examples of “standing at crossroads” in their young lives. These are times when they had to make a decision and knew they would not get the opportunity to come back and try the other option.
For example, some of my students faced a dramatic choice at the end of junior high school (9th grade) – whether to study at the high-school close to their home along with their old classmates and continue being the only hard of hearing /Deaf student in the whole school, or to commute an hour or more to a high school that offers strong academic support and a peer group. That’s a SIX day a week commute!
On the other hand, many of my students find it harder to take in the aspects of the traveler’s dilemma that are stated in the poem itself. Not only can the traveler not take both roads and won’t come back another day, but both roads are actually just as fair, have been worn about the same. Even worse, the traveler can’t see what lies ahead as the road bends in the undergrowth!
I want my students to pay attention to all that too.
The students should be engaging in a meaningful way with words from the Ministry’s word list while they are learning the poem. I firmly believe in integrating the practice of the vocabulary items on the list with the teaching of the literature program. ***
I then created The Dilemma Activity, which can be used in many ways. While it can be used as a worksheet, I preferred to use index cards (or sentence strips) as I find the activity suitable for acting a bit of dramatic flair!
The students are presented with the situation:
A traveler is happily walking along a road in a yellow wood when the roads diverge (“along” is a word on the word list).
He/She doesn’t know which road take and needs advice.
The traveler now needs to hear suggestions and respond accordingly. “Suggestion” is also a word on the list!
There are 7 suggestions to be given to the traveler, each one on a separate card. The suggestions are numbered and must be read in the correct order. The responses are not numbered, and the students must match the correct response to the suggestion.
For example, here are the first two suggestion cards.
Why don’t you take both roads?
So take one road today and the other road another time.
And the matching responses:
I can’t takeboth roads because I’m only one traveler.
One road leads to other roads. I doubt I will ever come back. I have to make a choice.
The imaginary advisor is losing patience with the traveler, and by the time we get to the last two suggestions, exasperation should be clearly expressed in intonation and body language!
6. Don’t be so nervous, just choose a road. What difference could it make?
7. I give up – I can’t help you. You will sigh when you think about this in the future but choose a road NOW.
The matching responses are:
6. It’s possible that my choice will make all the difference. That’s why I am nervous.
7. You are right, I will sigh. But will it be a sigh of regret or relief?
You can download all the sentences related to the activity here:
“Wow”, I thought to myself as I moved between the students who were working individually on their reading comprehension tasks, “this student’s error is a classic mistake! Here is a great opportunity to remind the class of the dangers of ignoring parts of speech and the importance of using the dictionary wisely”.
So I called everyone’s attention to the board. In my 12th grade class of Deaf and hard of hearing students, all comments for the whole class must be made while standing by the board where everyone can see me, and I can write-up the words and sentences as needed. The students are used to me pointing out errors in this manner. They know I absolutely never ever make fun of a student. I also thank the student for giving us this opportunity to pay attention to some point. Since this happens once with one student’s error and then with another, the students are all well aware that they are all “in the same boat”.
The source of the problem was the word “felt.” One word led to multiple errors.
“I felt certain that my second attempt would be successful”.
The student had forgotten the meaning of this irregular verb so he looked up the translation in his electronic dictionary.
However, he did not pay attention to the fact that he was looking for a verb and that the electronic dictionary first presents translations that are nouns.
The student wrote down the noun meaning of the word “felt” (as in a type of cloth) which in Hebrew is a three-letter word “leved”.
The electronic dictionary does not use diacritics and the student understood those same three letters to mean a totally different word in Hebrew, “levad”, which means “alone”.
Therefore, the student could not understand the sentence in the text.
A textbook error to be presented to class, right?
Or, as it turned out, an excellent example of how explaining too much can totally confuse students and introduce other mistakes!
I should have just reminded the students of how to pay attention to the syntax and look up the word “felt” as a verb and left it at that.
When we looked at the meaning of “felt” as a noun it turned out that not a single one of those students knew what the material felt was. I didn’t have anything made of the material felt in the room to show them and none of the students were wearing anything made of felt (it’s a hot country, you know!). I started trying to explain. The only example I could think of at the moment was a “felt jacket”. I’m sure if they had touched the material it would have been familiar but they simply did not have a word for it in any language they used.
The fact that I had also been trying to explain how the first student had made an error with the meaning of the noun as well, confused the students even more.
No, there were no “felt jackets” mentioned in the sentence.
Yes, yes, I agree, jackets, made of felt or any other material cannot be lonely, so it is ridiculous to use the word lonely in the context of a jacket except that aren’t any jackets in the sentence.
Sometimes less actually is more – explain less!
The sentence remained on the board when the next class came in.
I simply pointed to the word “felt” and reminded the students how they could (and should!) know the word is a verb even if they forget it’s meaning.
No “lonely felt jackets” were allowed into the room!
There are all sorts of sophisticated self-check activities out there, ones that look stunning but seem to require artistic abilities that I don’t possess, props one needs to get a hold of (such as clear plastic covers of chocolate boxes) or are simply too time-consuming to create.
There are countless variations, such as using puzzle pieces and dominoes and many more. I truly admire these activities and their creators.
Such sophistication is simply not for me. Not anymore.
However, I did want an effective self-check exercise that I could make on my own, one which I could sneak in a few words from the Band Two Word List that students need to practice.
Particularly one which I could prepare easily.
Easy to prepare like the self-check activity involving two-sided index cards. A student begins with the card that says START, flips it over, matches it to its corresponding index card, flips that one over, and continues matching until he/she reaches the card that says THE END. If the student flips over THE END before all the cards have been matched then a mistake has been made, and he/she will have to backtrack.
I learned of this activity many years ago from Tal Papo. I’m sure many of you are familiar with it!
In my learning center for Deaf and hard of hearing high school students, the students progress at different paces. That means that each student is ready for a review activity related to the story they have just completed at a different time.
In this particular case, the story in question is called “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes.
The word “description” ignited the idea for the activity. The word “belong” fit in nicely too. The vocabulary items “crime” and “pair” are also on the list.
Here are the corresponding sentences. Remember! The first sentence is written on the back of the card that says START! The words “THE END” appears on the back side of the card that has the last matching sentence. In other words, sentences that match do not appear on the same card!
She was a large woman with a purse. ** A description of Mrs. Jones.
It was heavy and had a long strap. It was large. ** A description of the purse that belonged to Mrs. Jones.
He looked as if he were fourteen or fifteen, frail and thin. His face was dirty. ** A description of Roger.
In the corner, behind a screen, there was a gas plate and an icebox. There was a daybed too. ** A description of the room that belonged to Mrs. Jones.
He tried to steal her purse. ** A description of Roger’s crime.
A pair of blue suede _____________. ** A description of the shoes Roger wanted to buy.
She picked him up and shook him until his teeth rattled. She kicked him too. **A description of Mrs. Jones’ reaction when Roger tried to steal her purse.
She gave him ten dollars and then led him to the front door. **A description of Mrs. Jones’ actions at the end of the story.
There is something intimidating about looking at very long lists of vocabulary items, each list spanning several pages of words written in three columns. There is this feeling of being lost in a wood where the trees are made of words.
Fortunately, technology makes it so much easier to deal with such word lists. I found myself introducing the “control F” function on the computer to several teachers over the last two weeks. Holding down those two keys open a “dialogue box” that allows you to type in a word. If the word appears in the list, you will be magically transported to the right place. If those letters appear in other words as well, those places will also be shown, but the little number on the side of the “box” shows you the number of words available. There are arrows to move between the words.
It particularly came in handy while I was thinking about the character of Sophie, George’s sister in the story “A Summer’s Reading” by Malamud. She’s a very minor character in the story but I thought that adding her point of view could give me a useful way to review the story, practice vocabulary from the word list in context and the higher order thinking skill known as “distinguishing different perspectives” all in one go. It’s quite easy to imagine some things Sophie might have thought in reference to her brother.
I wrote sentences on index cards. Each sentence uses a vocabulary item from the list (a word or a chunk) and a few use two words. The words are highlighted in orange. I used 28 items from the Quizlet list. Each index card presents a statement one of the characters in the story may have thought or said. These are not sentences from the story itself!
My class of Deaf and hard of hearing students and I read each card together and then discussed who might have said/thought such a thing. It was really great to see how they explained to each other which parts of the sentences gave them the information they needed to decide from whose perspective it was written. The students were very involved in the activity without officially turning it into a game. The students could be asked to read the sentences out loud “in character”, but I haven’t tried that yet. Frankly, I was very pleased with the students’ reactions!
Here are examples of sentences from Sophie’s point of view. The activity also includes George’s and Mr. Cattanzara’s possible statements. For the full list of sentences, click on the title of the attached word document below (you can download it). I hope you find the activity helpful too!
“He won’t come out of his room. I don’t know how he can breathe in there! It is very hot.”
“I don’t understand. He says he is reading books but I don’t see any evidence around the house. Is he telling the truth?”
“Working in a cafeteria in the Bronx means that I’m not home during the day”.
“I wish he would get a job! it would enable us to stop living in poverty!”
“Our mother’s absence really made a difference in our lives. I have to live at home and take care of my father and brother”.
Or as George may have said, sadly:
“Getting some money from my sister is my only source of income“.
“Incidental learning” as in picking up vocabulary that wasn’t taught explicitly in class. Or an expansion of that – vocabulary items that were introduced in class, being reinforced in an unplanned manner outside the classroom walls.
“Incidental learning” as in the Deaf student who showed me the word “racist” in a comment on a website after the word “racism” was introduced while teaching the poem “As I grew older” by Langston Hughes. (Happy Teacher!) Or the Deaf student who worked on a text related to online shopping which included a reference to “Amazon”. She was sure it was a reference to the Amazon River, which she had learned about in Junior High School. No one in her family had ever ordered anything from Amazon and any casual conversations she might have encountered in the hallway or on the bus mentioning “Amazon” were not heard.
In short, Deaf / hard of hearing students need extra exposure to words in class. Repeated exposure to vocabulary items (mainly in written form!) in context and lots of practice!
With that in mind, I’ve been examining the Ministry of Education’s words list for high school students for ways to count and increase the number of times I use words from the list in context, in writing.
And I have formulated a plan.
Or at least a way to begin.
Refreshing a small unit I prepared from the elementary school vocabulary list (see below the horizontal lines) helped me decide what not to do for the high school students while sticking to a “re-entry plan”.
For the unit for elementary school, I chose a random set of 20 words and word-chunks from the list which I felt I was able to effectively place in a meaningful, visual context (I used two words not from the list as well). Then I created a visual lead-in activity (slideshow), a short film without dialogue that ties the items together, then the same film again with questions using the vocabulary items, ending with a Quizlet word set to practice with.
For the high school students, there is no need to choose a random set of words to begin with or to create the context. I already have a context that I spend a great deal of time teaching anyway – the pieces in the literature program.
Not only do I know exactly which pieces I will be teaching over the next three years, I also have no particular interest in creating activities that don’t tie in with the literature program and could take up time that I don’t have.
There are some vocabulary items on the list, such as the word “poverty”, that stand out. These are words which I will put under the category of Across The Board – words I can use in many (or even most!) of the poems and stories I teach. Roger and Mrs. Jones from “Thank You, Ma’am”, are poor, as are characters in “The Treasure of Lemon Brown” and “A Summer’s Reading”. The concept of poverty can also be related to poems such as “As I grew older” and “Count That Day Lost”. I’m keeping a special eye out for those words at the moment. I haven’t thought of a good title for the words that are relevant to only one piece yet…
So, what’s my first step?
I’m about to begin teaching the stories “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes and “A Summer’s Reading” by Bernard Malamud. I’ve started off by comparing the word list to the former story. Here are the “Across The Board” words that I have identified as relevant to this story:
poverty / trust* / to struggle* / to escape / an offence / an entrance / an exit / a promise / literature / racism / to steal / tone / setting / share / witness / to survive / theme / to threaten / in return for / the main thing / to blame / to bear in mind / youth / get away with / it resulted in
Only “trust” and “to struggle” (out of the above list) are in the text of the story itself, though the word “escape” does come up frequently when discussing phrases such as “make a dash for it” that appear in the story. “Escape” is, naturally, also a very useful word when teaching a Summer’s Reading, but I’ll get to that story in another post.
Madam / God / Kitchen – these words are both in the text and on the list, but are “story specific”.
The next step is to go over the questions, activities, and exercises I have for this story. I have begun checking which questions I would like to rephrase or change so as to ensure that the items from the above list will be used.
FOLLOW THIS SPACE!
1) Here’s the list of vocabulary items FOR THE TEACHER:
That’s not fair!
2. Here is the lead-in activity for the students. It must be done BEFORE watching the film.
If you, dear reader, will bear with me for a few moments, I will try to briefly explain how “bears” can baffle a tourist.
Obviously, one must grin and bear the inconvenience of long flights and jet lag with grace, if one wishes to see the wild wonders of Alberta, Canada, including a few of its bears, in person.
That is, bears that are animals. Whatever the fur color, I certainly had in mind bears that are unconcerned with linguistics.
However, it seems that the region is “bear country” in more than one way.
Please bear in mind, as you read this, that people in Canada have a delightful reputation of being very polite. This politeness extends to the SatNav or GPS system that came with our rental car. It is the first such system we have ever encountered when traveling abroad that says “please”before the instructions, as in:
“Please turn right”
“Please bear left”.
For some unknown reason, “bears” were mainly invoked when turning left, not right, though not exclusively.
At first I found myself attempting to assess the angle of the turns – it had always been my understanding that for a fork in the road, or a slight veering to the left off the main road, one could say “ bear left” . But at a classic junction , with a 90 degree angle, one must “turn” , not “bear“. However, I could not find any correlation between the characteristics of the turn to the device’s use of “turn left” or “bear left”.
Since I couldn’t bear the thought that I had misunderstood the terminology all my life I turned to Google. As far as I can ascertain, the “bear” question seems to be a cultural issue – American English vs. British English. As a native speaker of American English my understanding of the usage appears to be quite common. That’s a comforting thought.
When do YOU “turn left” and when do YOU “bear left”? When do YOU invoke bears in your driving instructions?
Full disclosure: I’ve never began a post this way before.
There’s no real reason to continue reading this post. Hana Ticha’s lesson “Everyone is a Genius” has everything you could want a lesson to include – vocabulary, grammar, syntax, discussions, general knowledge and FUN! The quote chosen has a such a nice educational message too. So why adapt it? What happened to “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Just go on to Hana’s post!
I had to adapt the lesson because I wanted to use it in my learning center for Deaf and hard of hearing students. Each lesson is for a jumble of 10th, 11th and 12th graders, at all possible levels. This activity is not for all them.
In addition, due to my students’ hearing problems, I would have to write out each clue, as they woudn’t be able to follow the spoken language. That would be cumbersome and time consuming.
In short, I needed a version that students could work on fairly independantly, with me guiding and helping from time to time (and then hopping of to help someone else).
So I typed up the lines for each letter of each word of the quote, so the students would have that information as a hint. I also added the first letter of most of the words (not the grammatical ones). I also wrote clues for about two thirds of the words. Some are very simple clues, others demand more of the student.
I’ve done it with a few students so far. One by one (not in the same lesson). They are all students who enjoy a challenge, students who are curious.
They loved it!
Filling it in led to them asking great questions. The students tried to use “he” instead of “it” for the fish, which led to a review of the difference between “it’s” and “its”. One very deaf student was puzzled by the word in the clue for tree “leaves” which he was positive was only an irregular verb in the past. The whole idea, naturally, of an “f” (leaf) changing to a “v” (leaves) is strange to him. Another student was sure that “everyone” should be plural but could tell that the number of letter spaces didn’t match the word “are” and figured out on her own that the following word must be “is”. The only word they all had trouble figuring out was “if”, even though they got the “will”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have a clue for it, and then it will draw more attention to the conditional form.
The students really enjoyed the detective work! However,they all needed my help in understanding what the point of the quote was. One thought it meant he shouldn’t go off on “wild goose chases” such as looking for fish on trees…
All the students who have done it so far are kind of “loners”, students who don’t always “fit in”, for different reasons. Once they got the point of the quote, they really approved!
As you can see, the amazing iTDi Summer School MOOC, with its impressive variety of FREE sessions offering online professional development to teachers around the world, has chosen kites as it’s symbol.
Kites, to me, symbolize the wide expanses of possibility, hope and energy, along with variety. Kites come in every shape, size and color. So do teachers. And their students.
iTDi recognizes that.
My kite has been chosen to be included in the Summer School Mooc. My session on “Using Videos to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills” will be given this Friday, August 1, at three o’clock in the afternoon local time, which is one o’clock GMT. In the talk I’ll be discussing (with many examples) how videos without dialogue can help learners of all ages improve their reading comprehension skills and expand their vocabulary.
Now that I have completed my first installment of an activity set related to the word list appearing in the updated curriculum, I feel confused by terminology.
I approached the preparation of this first set of activities for tutors of children who struggle with vocabulary acquisition in class (with a hearing loss or not) with Leo Selivan’s post Horizontal Alternatives to Vertical Lists in mind.
My goal was to work on the vocabulary not according to semantic sets, (transportation, colors, food etc.), which is the vertical approach, but rather teach the words with other words they go with (horizontally). I hope it will aid retention.
I chose a short animated film that I feel is age appropriate (elementary school) and suitable for use in schools. It is the centerpiece of the activity set. The I then decided upon 23 vocabulary items that relate /appear in the film. The activities you see below present and practice these items in different ways. Additional activities may be added later.
The decision to have all the activities connected to the film is grounded in a belief that what is made memorable is learnt best. I do this often with homework assignments for my own students, with many elements I’m trying to teach, not just vocabulary. The visuals in films (I always use ones without dialogue!) add a powerful element.
This decision led me to add three words that do not appear in the Ministry of Education’s word list. They are needed in this context (they are marked with an asterisk).
Which leads me back to my original question.
Have I simply put the words in context and not taught them horizontally? I feel the two terms overlap a great deal, but perhaps there is a specific emphasis I should be adding?
I need to figure this out before continuing to create a new set of activities for this very long list of vocabulary items.
1) Here’s the list of vocabulary items FOR THE TEACHER:
That’s not fair!
2. Here is the lead-in activity for the students. It must be done BEFORE watching the film.
4) Questions related to the film embedded in the film, courtesy of Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle has made it so much easier to work with film. Now that the activities are embeddable I can use them for my counseling job (with students I don’t teach or meet), not just with my own. They keep updating the possible ways to use the films and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.
7) A “search-a-word” online activity which is temporary because I’m not pleased with the results. I may perhaps go back to the printed version as it didn’t limit me to so few words. Still thinking about that one.