Moving digital platforms is like moving to a new home – you have to sort your possessions, see what you would like to keep, what needs repairing, and what should be thrown out.
I’ve already sorted a large percentage of my EFL video lessons, so I’m sharing the link here today.
(There are still some videos waiting to be “unpacked”…)
The collection is literally for all ages.
The videos are not divided according to age or level, because there is no “right way” to divide them.
It all depends…
The video “The Egghunt” is clearly meant for younger children, in fact, it is the only video lesson I made explicitly for that age. The content is too “young” to use with my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students, even if the task might be just right for some of them.
However, the “Simon’s Cat” videos work with both younger students and teens, so it all depends on the language aspects you think are suitable for your purpose.
*** The short video lesson “Simon’s Cat – Expectations”, highlighting the verb “to expect” is brand new!
In comparison, the crazy knitting video, which appears in the “Chunks in Context” lesson, uses vocabulary from the “Band 3 vocabulary list” so that does serve as some indication of level…
The only video that is long (10 minutes!!) is there for a reason. Teachers might choose to show their classes the film “A silent Melody” to students as a way to bring up the topic of inclusion. Regardless of the task that I added with the video.
All other videos are short ones!
In short, many of the other videos can be used for a wide variety of ages.
You will just have to browse and see which ones are right for you!
Here is the link. I will be posting more!
***Important – In some cases, you will see a form for submitting the task. YOUR students cannot answer using the forms I have posted, their replies will get to me…
The students back in 2018 were motivated to write, we practiced vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in context. In addition, we focused on PRAGMATICS, which is something my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students certainly need to work on.
It wasn’t a repeat performance.
For starters, moving to a new apartment clearly doesn’t tug at students’ heartstrings the same way that having a new baby does.
I understood that but nonetheless, I handed out whiteboard markers, wrote a suitable title on the board, and attempted to inspire the students by acting out how pleased the teacher would be when she arrived at class and found all these good wishes on the board.
One student actually started off on the right track – he wanted to write: HAVE A GOOD MOOD APARTMENT! So that led to the kind of educational discussion I was hoping to have.
But then a student literally stood with her hands on her hips, gave me a sort of “Are you kidding me” look, and said very emphatically:
“She knows Hebrew.
I know Hebrew.
And YOU want ME to write to her in ENGLISH?!”
She proceeded to shake her head sorrowfully…
The OLD teacher in me immediately began thinking:
“Which of our old “Writing for an Authentic Audience” projects was worth revisiting? Or should I look into new options? Perhaps we could…”
These thoughts were drowned out by the NEW teacher in me shouting:
This past year was really difficult, despite being back in class. It was a struggle to have a sense of continuity when we actually never had the allotted number of lessons a week. Even those students who didn’t feel the need to skip at least one day of school a week were often absent due to class excursions, lectures, exams in other subjects / getting tutoring hours for upcoming exams in other subjects.
And of course, some students were also absent due to illness. I was too, as a matter of fact. The pandemic hasn’t disappeared yet…
The NEW teacher in me says “focus on building “islands of stability before thinking about anything else. ”
It doesn’t matter that my summer tradition has always been to find/learn some new tweak, practice, routine, or different take to start a new school year with.
I need to figure out how to bring back what actually worked well before the pandemic hit and was lost or dramatically downsized.
Look back, not forward, before this school year begins.
How’s that for being open to change?
Since I teach in a multi-level, mixed-grade learning center, some examples of what I would like to see once again in class:
… students coming to class, actually remembering what they are working on and independently pulling out the material they need.
… students practicing their vocabulary on Quizlet without asking what the icon for Quizlet looks like …
… getting the WORD STATION up and running again and ensuring the students use it regularly without asking me what to do …
… seeing students continue to use the one thing that actually was an island of stability for both the students and I throughout the years of teaching alongside a pandemic (including the distance learning part!) , the tool that enabled each student to log on and only see his/her personal assignments, called…
The wonderful off-the-school-grid Learning Management System I rely on, Edmodo, is shutting down.
It was just announced – in Mid August!
School begins Sept. 1st.
I’ve been using it for at least 10 years and have a vast amount of material organized into small units, for different groups, levels and individual students. I even have a small pedagogical library there!
The one thing that was not harmed by the pandemic (on the contrary!) is disappearing.
Do you know the genre of books in which a troubled/sad/lonely person’s life improves dramatically, as you read, mainly because he/she began reading books?
This isn’t that kind of book.
The narrator of this book has read voraciously for most of her 72 years. These books, their characters, and authors (not to mention some composers) have become the lenses through which she views life, struggles to make sense of life, or perhaps escapes from it.
This comes with a price.
And Aaliya, the narrator knows it well. Immersing herself in literature from around the world does not make her any less “an unnecessary woman” – a point she examines, perhaps “discusses” with her literary world.
Aaliya not only reads books but is a “closet translator” (completed translations are boxed away) – there are fascinating commentaries on translations and the process of translating.
But that’s not all there is in this book.
A life unfolds.
In a city.
Books and the City – that could be a subtitle.
Aaliya has spent all of her life in Beirut. Since she was born in the late 30s, she has lived through a great many very turbulent times. She watches the changes in her city, noticing, commenting, and often criticizing.
In fact, every element of life in the city, along with her colorful neighbors her relatives, and every character in Aaliya’s life, quite literally, comes under scrutiny using an amazing variety of literary characters.
The ending surprised me, in a good way.
I really enjoyed reading this book!
The unique style of writing drew me in immediately!
I’m not going to give you any more details – the author does it so much better than I, so why spoil the experience for yourself?
“The war had just finished and the passenger traffic in the ocean-going liners was heavy”.
The war in question is World War 1.
You may think that it doesn’t really matter that my Deaf and hard-of-hearing students haven’t a clue as to when that war ended (some are a bit surprised that there was a WW1 even though the numbering should have been a clue…) but it actually matters a great deal.
For starters, if I don’t emphasize the time frame my students cannot fathom why the characters are spending two weeks on a ship instead of hopping on a plane, spending their time ignoring the other passengers.
There would be no drama without the journey on the ship.
But then my students get the whole issue of nationalities mixed up.
And it all comes up in the first paragraph.
The narrator was traveling from San Francisco to Yokohama
My students assume the narrator was American (once we ensure everyone knows where these cities are located…) because who else travels from San Francisco?
After my students have already jumped to conclusions it’s much harder for them to internalize the information about the British Empire and who is or isn’t a real “British Gentleman”.
“… I should have looked upon it with less dismay if my fellow passenger’s name had been Smith or Brown.”
Those surnames do not indicate any nationality at all to my students…
In short, I created a new slideshow.
While there are a few spaces where students are required to fill in the missing information (“look it up, students!!), this is not a task meant to be completed independently, without teacher involvement.
While difficult vocabulary items can be glossed, setting the stage for the story is crucial.
There aren’t many authentic opportunities for a teacher in the school system to truly model seeing mistakes as an opportunity for growth and improvement.
You know what I’m talking about.
We teachers are always being told that we should teach the students to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes.
To view mistakes as a learning opportunity.
A truly important message for my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students learning English as a foreign language.
Yet we are expected to get this message across in a school system geared toward good grades and “getting it right”. A system in which the students trust me to know the material I am teaching them well.
So how do I show my students, at least occasionally, in an authentic way, how I make mistakes, try to understand what went wrong, and try again? And again and again?
Fast forward to the day after our recent annual national sports tournament day, for schools with programs for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students from around the country.
We’re back at school.
One 10th grade student catches me coming down the stairs on the way to the classroom:
(No hello first…)
” Why didn’t you take a picture of me when I was ‘doing’ the penalty kick?!! The teacher of the other school took pictures of her students! I saw you with the camera by the football field!”
The second 10th-grade student said “Hello” and “Good Morning”. And then (more politely) wanted to know why I only sent her one photograph of herself at the netball game, (standing still!) when she clearly saw me taking lots of pictures of her during the first part of the game.
Both students got the same candid reply:
“You know, I’m trying to learn artistic photography with a real camera (as opposed to a cell phone camera) and it was really hard for me to take pictures when you were moving so fast. Most of my photos were awful. You still have two more years at the high school. I hope you participate in lots of school events and I’ll keep trying. Maybe in the future, I’ll succeed in taking a good picture of you”.
The “net-ball girl” – “Okay, I’ll be competing again. You keep practicing and try again. I got one picture, that’s a good start”.
The “soccer boy” – “Well, I’m not blaming you but if it’s hard you should practice. Maybe next year you’ll do better”.
Maybe I will take better photos of sports events and other school activities next year.
Maybe I won’t.
Either way, bringing my camera will work out well!
I ALSO told the “soccer boy” that I got hit by a soccer ball kicked directly at my leg while standing by the field, which didn’t encourage me to stick around. He didn’t really find that detail relevant… A true photographer doesn’t let small discomforts get in his/her way, right?
One of the few “action photographs” I do have from the girls’ netball game is actually a funny one of a boy who barged in during the warmup time and caught the ball! You aren’t going to see it though – I don’t post pictures of my students anywhere online.
Ping: “Oh Pong, listen to this! I’ve got a new idea for the next school year. Let’s use…”
Pong (interrupting): Now hold it right there. Did you just say a new idea? As in a NEW IDEA? Weren’t you the teacher complaining about feeling overwhelmed and tired?
Ping: That was me…
Pong: So convince me why I should even LISTEN to this new idea when you can stick with what you already have. Go ahead, let’s see what you can come up with.
Ping: It doesn’t require much teacher preparation time.
Pong: Not bad. Keep going.
Ping: Making small changes, even “tweaks” to the routine always boosts my work-related motivation level, and I really need some of that after this school year.
And the students might learn something…
Pong: Okay, okay, good points. Let’s hear the new idea.
Ping: You see, we’ll have “Grammar Pens” to… (Pong interrupts)
Pong: Wait a minute. “Grammar Pencils” are “A THING”. You can Google them and find sites to purchase them from. Those pencils have confusing grammar points on them, such as “to, two & too” or “there, their and they’re”. Are you already planning out-of-pocket purchases for the English Room?!!
PIng: No, no, calm down. Absolutely not. This idea was just inspired by those products. Our students prefer pens and purchasing things like pencils makes no sense as they aren’t made for long-term use.
Pong: Whew… (sighs in relief).
Ping: You know those students who never bring a pen to class? I once read that in such cases a student should leave something of his/hers until the pen is returned at the end of the lesson. Such a method would be problematic to implement with some of our Deaf and hard-of-hearing adolescents (I don’t what anyone taking off their belt, for example!). However, I thought that perhaps I could still turn the situation into an educational experience.
So, before I let them use one of the English Room pens, they will have to tell me what the difference is between your/you’re, its/it’s, have/has, etc. I can add confusing vocab items such as long/no longer too.
Pong: What happens if they don’t know the answer?
Ping: We do what we always do, unrelated to this particular idea – I tell the student, and then the student has to tell it back to me.
Pong: How are you going to emboss/ engrave the target words onto the pens?
Ping: I’M NOT! Even if I knew how to do such a thing I wouldn’t. It’s the same principle that holds true for playing board games in EFL lessons – you don’t want the target item to appear in a fixed place. On a board game, if an instruction or a vocabulary item is written in the top left corner, the students quickly memorize what they need to say or do when they reach that corner, and stop reading the words written. If the words are permanently on “the red pen”, or the “large pen”, the students will just use such cues to retrieve an answer without focusing on the words written. The cards can’t have numbers on them, for the same reason.
I’ll place a little box with the target words on cards beside our pen holder. Easy to shuffle cards or pull out ones that are below/above a certain student’s level. You get a lot more repetition with cards, compared to “fixed words”.
Take a card, respond, get a pen – easy peasy!
I can use it with the highlighters/colored markers too!
Pong: If you’ve got all that worked out, why did you call me in? I usually only show up when there’s a problem.
Ping: (Sighs in regret)* There is a problem.
Actually, there are two problems.
Pong: Start with the easier problem.
Ping: It’s a learning center, so not all the students are doing the same thing. If a student began the lesson working on the computer, and then went on to something else, he/she may ask for a pen in the middle of the lesson, not at the beginning…
At the moment they just go over to the table and take one without my involvement.
Pong: Hmmm… What’s the other problem?
Ping: What about the students who ALWAYS bring their pens, pencils, erasers, dictionaries, markers, and anything else they might possibly need for the lesson?
They need to practice these items too…
Pong: Why don’t you ask your readers for advice? Maybe they can offer suggestions.
Do you have any suggestions for me to consider?
Can you guess which poem I have been teaching recently, yet again?
I had already read more than half of THE BONE FIRE when the war in Ukraine began.
It was certainly a timely book to read.
The story doesn’t take place during a war. It’s a book about the generation/two generations after a war. About generations who not only have grown up dealing with the war scars of their parents/grandparents but have spent their lives behind the iron curtain.
The story takes place in an unnamed Eastern European country that has very recently been freed from life behind “the iron curtain”. Those who know claim that it’s Romania.
The book is a combination of a coming of age story of 13-year-old Emma, recently orphaned, living with her mystical grandmother. While dealing with typical teenage angst (first menstruation, clothes, first crush, etc…) she must also deal with the harshness of an educational system scarred by the unforgiving brutality of a communist regime and the ghosts of war haunting her grandmother.
Yet her grandmother has special gifts and wisdom to pass down to Emma, gifts that become her own.
Beyond everything, the writing is unique and absolutely captivating. Except for one part in the middle when I felt the author got too bogged down in details of teenage angst for too long, I was very taken by how the story is told and the manner in which the plot progresses. I can’t analyze the storytelling technique the way the New York Times Reviewer does (a review I read after reading the book!) but I don’t feel I need to. What matters is how it made me feel.
Fortunately, my son purchased the book following the New York Times review and suggested I read it as well.
I’m so glad I did.
I only wish that war in an area that had experienced life behind the iron curtain wasn’t taking place as I was reading the book…
Before the pandemic, I rarely read blog posts that weren’t written by teachers of English as a foreign language.
As far as I was concerned, “enhancing my teaching skills” meant reflecting on EFL teaching practices, learning new techniques, and getting acquainted with additional teaching resources.
However, I find the ongoing experience of teaching alongside a pandemic quite stressful. As the months go by of yet another school year rocked by instability I find myself drawn to posts that fulfill a different need.
These are blog posts that support a teacher’s well-being and reflect on what it means to be a teacher.
When I see a new post from George Couros’s blog land in my inbox, I keep it unread until I can sit and give it my full attention. His posts are often about the conversations I’m not having with anyone but wish I did.
The post “Why People Keep Going”is one that needs to be more than just read. I need to personalize it, think about it, make my own version.
Retirement isn’t on the horizon yet (despite teaching for 35 years) so reminding myself of why I go to class each morning is necessary.
In addition, this blog isn’t called “Visualising Ideas” for no reason – I’m itching to liven up some of those grey visuals!
*** George Couros presented sixteen points in his post. I am reflecting on seven of them, and adding one of my own.
Some of my students are making clear progress, despite the difficult conditions. Therefore, even those students with the sketchiest attendance must still be getting something out of the lessons they do attend – I just haven’t seen the “shoots” burst out yet. I must hold on to that thought.
2. Future Focused
This is a point which I’m struggling with right at this moment. Having a clearly defined plan of what is expected of them and knowing “where we are going” this semester absolutely does mean something to my 11th and 12th graders. It matters. However, with my 10th graders it’s an uphill battle. It took an incredible amount of energy in the first semester ” to get the information to sink in”, including posting the plan in class, sending them individual messages talking to them and then the homeroom teacher…
Now a new semester has begun and I balk at having to repeat the process. Some students have already made it clear that I must – I should be preparing individual notes for the students instead of writing this blog post…
Yet writing this post reminds me that venting is good, tomorrow is a new day. Right?
3. Recognize Other People’s Struggles
Bearing this in mind helps. A lot.
4. Work as a Team
The pandemic has placed a lot of constraints on meeting team members. Not only have many teachers have been out due to the pandemic, I basically stay away as much as possible from the staff room, eating my lunch in the English Room or outside. However, I have found that making an effort to seek out staff members during my free periods is truly one of things that keeps me going.
5. Manage Time
Actually, LETTING GO of “managing time” is what is keeping me going. I am getting dramatically less done (perhaps you have noticed that I haven’t posted about my books recently…) but I find I need more frequent breaks. Lot’s of tea. And time to play “Wordle”!
6. Find solutions
Ha! Until I sat down to write this post I hadn’t really considered that I have “my “Special Ed Teacher” skills here on my side! A student needs to take her test at a different hour from everyone else, while another needs a retest, yet another has lost his notebook, doesn’t have a pen, can’t remember his password to the class site – that’s nothing new for me. Pandemic or not – that’s a reality I can deal with!
Well, Mr. Couros (may I call you George?), I wouldn’t need this lengthy reflection on your post if the experience of meeting certain students 3 hours a month (instead of 4 hours a week!) hadn’t rocked my confidence in my ability to teach them more than they knew before they met me.
It’s a good thing I’m a blogger. Facing fears, in writing, is a step forward.
I do feel better.
The following point is not in the original post:
8. Move out of your comfort zone within the safety net of a beloved hobby
Part of taking a good look at myself as a teacher, reflecting what I can and what I must strive to do better, is , well, actually looking at myself.
So, this year’s challenge in my journey to develop my skills as a photographer includes placing myself in front of the lense.
In that post, I explained how the gaps in struggling students’ general knowledge about the world hinder their performance on reading comprehension tasks regularly.
“The gaps in general knowledge are most striking when it comes to texts related to environmental issues. There are many such texts in our practice books and exams.”
Well, the amount of trash/debris cluttering up outer space is also an environmental issue. It’s time to push the boundaries of the students’ world knowledge and help them visualize the topic.
But first, a quick detour.
I began this “general knowledge project” with the video about cows and the environment (see aforementioned previous post) adding captions on a website called veed.io.
It really wasn’t particularly challenging to add captions using this website!
Video number two, on the topic of wild animals moving into the city also worked when using the site, despite its length. The site allows you to “chop off” a bit! My students were interested in the topic despite the fact the video is longer than the one about the cows. A few of them even had stories of animal sightings to share. I shared a picture of a jackal that I had taken, too.
Here is the original video. I’ve added a link to the captioned version (Hebrew captioning) below.
This is a link to a slightly shortened version of the video with Hebrew captioning. The captions have been edited for length and clarity.
The same captioning site did not work well with the video below. The helpful captioning in English on the original (which I think is good for learners, regardless of the status of their hearing) is large and appears in different places on different scenes.
The topic of space debris and the dangers it poses when hurtling around outer space is much more complex and includes more terminology than the previous videos did.
It’s much easier to take in the clear visuals and read the text properly when you stop the video frequently.
But who wants to stop a video frequently on their own initiative? Especially if viewed in class?
Fortunately, I have a wonderful 10th-grade computer whiz volunteering in my classroom – Amitay Merhav. Amitay translated the captions and spent time trying different captioning options to find one that works for my students.
For this video, we decided to use Edpuzzle, which I used to use intensively, but haven’t done so in recent years.
In this viewing mode, you see the English captions first, then the Hebrew version, and then the video stops completely until you hit the “continue” button.
In short, the viewer controls the pace.
Captions in any language can be added this way.
Or questions about the text.
When the video stops there is time to think.
Here is the original video. The link to the version with Hebrew captioning, the one with the pauses, appears below.