Creativity is key! (book review)

I love creativity and I deeply believe every human being is creative (and not only human beings, honestly, the things my cats come up with…), and it’s one of the most vital aspects of our teaching job. As Alan Maley says, I passionately believe creativity to be central to learning, including language learning. When I saw his 50 Creative Activities published by CUP, I knew I had to take a look at the book.

not only in your classroom
My favourite book about creativity is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley

The publication is a part of pocket editions of Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers – and I’ve already had a great experience with Jack C. Richards’ 50 Tips for Teacher Development. Again, the book is really nicely organised, so that you know what area you want to focus on:

  • Creative Writing
  • Working with Music and Sound
  • Working with Drama and the Voice
  • Playing with Language
  • Hands-on Activities

Content

The author explains how he sees the difference between creative products and creative processes – his ideas aim to achieve both, so apart from learning a language, students will also work creatively on a real product. I find this approach quite interesting, especially for adult, more advanced students. I have met people who claim they specifically want to learn the language, and they are not interested in games, role-plays and projects – this approach will suit them as they will know exactly which skills they are developing through creative activities.

Well-known activities like Poem From a Picture (a vocabulary-building activity) evolve into Recipe Poems (with a brilliant example, namely A Recipe for Drought). One of more interesting activities is Making Metaphors, a simple but powerful task that will make your students get into style a’la Coelho (I seriously consider Coelho’s style an inspiration for many activities). For braver students, you may introduce the activity called Moved by Music and encourage some proper dance moves in the classroom.

All of the ideas have a clear goal, are definitely focused on language development and are a great means to convincing your students that a little bit of fun is still useful for language learning. To quote the author:

Many of the activities favour more aesthetic modes of expression, such as the visual arts, music, drama and voice-work, and literature. Inputs like these are, of course, inherently creative anyway.

Recommendation

The activities included in the book are not labelled with optimal CEFR levels – they can be adapted to different levels and groups. It’s a brilliant technique to make teachers work creatively before they introduce any activity in their classroom. They are ready to use, however you will need to adapt them to your own group. You’re given various ideas and inspirations that will bring different results depending on the students, their level, the chemistry between them, and even the mood they share.

If you’re not afraid of creative flow, unexpected bursts of laughter and good fun – this book is definitely for you!

Enjoy!

Image result for alan maley's 50 creative activities

Maley, Alan, 50 Creative Activities

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

CUP 2018

ISBN: 978-1108457767

Continue reading “Creativity is key! (book review)”

Memome for everyone – practising comparatives

You know I like activities requiring as little preparation as possible (no, I have never been a lazy teacher, I just need time to plan taking over the world). One of the areas that needed much preparation is explaining comparatives and superlatives, especially when the only language you’re using in the classroom is English, and you don’t want to translate the adjectives – you’d rather make your students create mental images of the English words.

I used to prepare some pictures that I could use to present the adjectives along with their comparative and superlative forms, but when it comes to some words, their meaning is quite arbitrary – like beautiful, bad or happy.

The internet somewhat helps, but sometimes you can’t trust it…

it should be “the kittiest”, obviously!

When a friendly neighbourhood Teacher’s Corner introduced a new game called Memome, I thought oh, it’s basically just a typical memo activity. And to be honest, I was right… but it turns out to be much more versatile. First things first, though: what is Memome?

A set of 30 illustrated cardboard cards with 15 English adjectives and 15 corresponding comparatives. It comes with an instruction how to play memo and basically you’re ready to use it. Simple? Definitely, yet you may use it in various ways!

Treasure hunt for kids

Image result for comparatives and superlatives meme

The thing that I like most about Memome is that it’s made of nice, thick cardboard, which means you can use the cards in various games and they won’t get destroyed in those clammy paws of our youngest students. For a while now I’ve been observing lessons for children and I must admit that quite a lot of teachers don’t let them move as much as they need to.
Memome can be a great solution here, because all you need to do is to hide all the comparative cards in your classroom, divide your students into groups, give them the cards with the basic forms and ask them to find the corresponding cards somewhere in the classroom. The group that finds their set first is the winner. Simple, easy and makes kids have fun – they love treasure hunts.

15 questions contest for teens

One might think illustrated cards won’t be useful when working with teenagers – which is nonsense, as teenagers will accept literally anything that will give them an opportunity to banter with one another. So the activity goes like this:

  • Divide students into groups
  • Distribute 15 random cards evenly among the groups.
  • Ask them 15 questions revising grammar or vocabulary. The group that answers first (and correctly) gets another random card from the remaining ones.
  • Once you run out of cards, each group has to make pairs of adjectives and their comparative forms. If they have matching cards – great! If not, they will have to make a sentence with a missing adjective (in its missing form) to replace the card.
  • The group that finishes first wins.


It’s a simple activity, but it makes your students revise, communicate and have fun at the same time.

Philosophical statements for adults

I find Paolo Coelho and similar coaching-style mottoes an invaluable source of inspiration in my classroom. First, they are usually simply silly (one of the reasons they’re so hard to forget). I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, your Facebook wall is probably full of your friends posting stuff like this:

Image result for motivational quotes memes

…and today is another chance to fail, thanks!

Do you see my idea for the exercise? Ask your adult students to practice basic and comparative forms by drawing two random cards and making a motivational quotes a’la Paolo Coelho. You know, like taking bigger and more beautiful and transforming them into:

The bigger the tears on your face, the more beautiful my grave is.

or something like this

You may divide your students into groups, give them dictionaries and observe the chaotic flood of hilarious quotes!

But wait! There is more! make your own superlatives!

As you can see, simple 30 cards can be used in various activities… but since there are only comparative forms here, you may encourage your students to come up with their superlative forms. With children, I could do a project when they make some extra cards by themselves. With teenagers and adults, I would probably use some sentence-building, like:

Anna was the youngest in her family until her younger sister was born, however, they died young as their parents didn’t vaccinate them.

the end

Anyhow, I’m sure you’ll have fun with Memome.
Enjoy!

I received this product for free, courtesy of IceBreaker.

That is Evil! Valentine’s Day

My favourite colour is red, however every year, mid-February, I’m somewhat sick of it – you know, all those hearts, roses, ribbons, hearts… Did I mention hearts? Yes, it’s the dreadful Valentine’s Day!

Personally I had never celebrated this day until one day I told my then-boyfriend we’re skipping the date and I made an appointment with a guy who was supposed to lend me a film (Rurouni Kenshin OVA, not really overly romantic thing). Long story short, I met the guy who turned out to be pretty much into RPGs and proper metal music… and we’ve been together for nineteen years. And still not celebrating Valentine’s Day, as you can probably guess.

Image result for valentines day memes

So here it goes, if your preferred shade of red is rouge de Tarantino and you do appreciate love stories with a little bit of a twist, I’ve got something for you – a collection of evil (well, sometimes not so evil, just a tiny bit malicious) Valentine’s songs I collected on Spotify. To bring a wide variety of music genres I asked my friends to collaborate, so as a result you have the opportunity to listen to many various songs with only one thing in common: the twist.

I made sure all of the songs have lyrics you can easily find on the net (just Google the artist, song + lyrics) and quickly make your own fill in the blanks activity by removing some key words. And then you can have a lot of fun with your students, celebrating Valentine’s Day in a new, refreshing way.

Before you go full enthusiastic (never go full enthusiastic around Valentine’s Day!), let me be clear that my collection includes some songs that with quite explicit lyrics (child-friendly Spotify marks them with a letter E, you can’t miss it). You may also find some songs offensive which is definitely not my intention, however I’m the Evil Mistress of the World (in the Making), so I don’t think you could expect anything else from me.

Where to find my Spotify playlist? Just follow the link to my Facebook page (click!) and enjoy! And if you want to fill my little black and rotten heart with warmth, do like my page to keep me motivated, as the motivation of a blogger is fuelled with likes and positive feedback.

Which basically is quite sad, but here it goes, we all like counting our likes and shares.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day however you celebrate it!

7 Free Online Courses in February

All the people who are currently enjoying proper winter – I’m really jealous! In my place we’re more likely to see snowdrops than snowflakes and it’s really sad. Fortunately you can learn something new regardless of the weather (although it will be far more comfortable for those who can snuggle up enjoying some proper snowy evening).

I mean, I’m from Poland, whatever happened to the polar bears on the streets!

As usual, I found seven interesting online courses that are useful, enjoyable and free.

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by McMaster University


Start: 3/02
Duration:
4 weeks
For whom: people interested in self-development
Mindshift is the course that provides practical insights from science about how to learn and change effectively even if you’re an adult. This course is designed to show you how to look at what you’re learning so you can achieve your full potential. You’ll see that by using certain mental tools and insights, you can learn and do more—far more—than you might have ever dreamed!

How to Succeed at: Writing Applications by the University of Sheffield

Start: 3/02
Duration:
3 weeks
For whom: people who are applying for jobs or courses
Experts from The Careers Service at the University of Sheffield share their top tips to help you write exceptional applications, CVs (or résumés), covering letters and personal statements, you’ll also hear from employers and admissions tutors to find out what they really look for in a candidate.
I think it’s a great course for your adult student who think about moving abroad looking for a better job.

Presentation skills: Speechwriting and Storytelling by Tomsk State University

Start: 17/02
Duration:
6 weeks
For whom: people who work with presentations
This course covers fundamentals of scriptwriting, argumentation and language. The main focus is not on how to fabricate a catching tale, but rather how to structure your ideas, facts and data into an interesting story you are going to tell during your presentation.

English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development by the British Council


Start: 10/02
Duration:
6 weeks
For whom: parents, educators, people interested in the area of child development and language acquisition
I have already recommended this course, but I find it really useful, especially for those, who have just started working with children. You will explore how young children learn English and investigate many more aspects of early childhood learning and development. You can learn how to best talk to young children; how to create the best environment for them to learn English as an additional language; and how to monitor their progress. Moreover, you will be offered tips, advice and downloadable resources.

IELTS Academic Test Preparation by the University of Queensland

Start: 4/02
Duration:
8 weeks
For whom: students and teachers preparing for Academic IELTS
This course will give you immediate access to over 80 hours of interactive practice materials covering each of the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each section of this course includes engaging multi-media presentations reviewing key test-taking skills, strategies and techniques along with authentic IELTS-style exercises and interactive activities.

Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment by the National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 24/02
Duration:
5 weeks
For whom: teachers, curriculum leaders, teaching assistants etc.
On this course you’ll learn how to identify your learners’ thinking, clarify learning goals and fine tune your teaching to progress your students’ understanding, both in and between lessons. If you haven’t worked with Formative Assessment before, you should start now and see how it can change your classroom for the better.

Urgent Optimism: How to Turn Foresight into Action by the Institute for the Future

Start: 10/02
Duration:
5 weeks
For whom: everybody 🙂
Your instructor (and my instructor as well, wouldn’t skip this opportunity!) is Jane McGonigal, the woman who’s changed my life and is likely to change the world (just take a look at my old note). What is the course about? You’ll learn how to create and share “preferred futures”, which are highly persuasive, compelling visions of the changes you want to make real. You’ll use them to identify obstacles, recruit allies, collect resources, and plan action to make your vision real.

I hope you’ll find something useful that will help you develop your Awesome Teaching Skills.
Have fun!

Aliens vs Humans (lesson plan)

Aliens vs Humans

Aliens are awesome, I guess. I haven’t met any real extraterrestrial yet, but then again I’m talking about classroom – and here aliens are alive and breathing. Ever since I read “How to be An Alien” by George Mikes as an EFL student, I realised learning a foreign language is basically learning about alien civilisation and sometimes one feels like Erich von Däniken discovering absolutely unbelievable things.

Anyway, I think teaching is pretty much like discovering aliens, getting familiar with them and trying to communicate with them – and as a bonus, aliens are a really nice topic to talk about in the classroom. After all, there are no good or bad answers, and everyone can share their wildest ideas!

This lesson is about aliens and humans, the way both sides may look at one another – but it may also be an example of introducing the topic of inclusion, prejudice and reminding the simple fact that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

Introduction: 10 minutes

Everyone knows something about aliens, so all you need to do is come up with some simple questions, for example:

  • What do you know about aliens?
  • Do you think aliens are rather friendly or not really?
  • What would you do if you met an alien?

Brainstorm: 10 minutes

Divide students into groups and ask them to do some brainstorming and make the following lists:

  • 5 questions you would ask an alien
  • 5 questions an alien would probably ask you
  • 5 positive and 5 negative things an alien would say about humans

Social media time: 10 minutes

This activity needs some help from social media. Some time ago Tumblr user Teaboot shared ‘supporting evidence’ to show us that actually, looking from a more objective point of view, we are an adorable little species:

Slajd1
slajd2.jpg

To tell you the truth, I feel an uncontrollable urge to smile happily whenever I read this post, and I believe your students will also warm up to the idea of creating 5 own “findings” about humanity – ask them to work in groups and prepare their ideas.

Roleplay: 10 minutes

Time for a little roleplay! Ask your students to imagine they’re alien scouts based on Earth and upon returning to their mothership, they are asked by their government officials to share their new exciting intel.

Each group chooses a representative to share their findings collected during previous activity, and the group that had the most original ideas, wins and gets promoted to Humanity Befriending Group.

Close up: 5 minutes

It’s easy to ask your students whether they have learnt something new during this lesson – probably not, as the whole idea revolve around the simplest habits and routines. As a homework, ask your students to look at their most difficult challenges from the perspective of a friendly alien, to see a bigger picture and smile a little bit.

Enjoy!

I Like to Move It, Move It (lesson idea)

I Like to Move It, Move It

Have you ever taken part in something we call YouTube Party? It happens when you meet friends, chat a bit and suddenly someone goes like “have you seen this video on YouTube?”… and you’re doomed; you know that for the next two hours you’ll be watching random stuff telling you more than you want about your mates’ interests.

I don’t really remember who took me to this unknown area of the Internet and showed me David Armand and his interpretative dance in Fast and Loose, a British TV series, but whoever that was, I owe them. Just take a look at something that never fails to put a smile on my face – the interpretative version of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen:

The curse (or the blessing) of a creative teacher is when you see such material you know it’s literally ready to wrap it up in some more or less educational principles and you’re ready to go with a lesson. So, naturally, here I am with some ideas that you can use to make your classes a bit more festive.

Guess the song

The most obvious activity that may work well with adults, as I don’t think many youngsters will know all the songs (you may find more songs here). Just show the video (make sure not to show the title) and ask your students to guess the song. You may do this as a group activity to encourage competitiveness or simply ask for answers whenever someone is ready to guess.

Try to identify the words

Once we guess the song, we can easily observe that the gestures are not random – some base on metaphors, others on puns etc. Watch a chosen song with your students and try to identify all the words. Then try to apply them to another song – it will be easier to guess it now!

Make your own “code” – and show it

If your students like this activity and are quite creative, why not encourage them to create their own “code” and act it out before the whole class? To make it easier, divide your class into groups and each group may come up with a different song – of course the song has to be kept secret, so the rest of the class will have to guess it together!

It’s a completely new song!

When you listen to the song for the first time, you’ll probably get some words oh, so wrong – but stick to them! Write them down and try to make a completely new song with them. Bonus idea? Try to sing the new song along!

I hope you liked my ideas on how to use interpretative dance in the classroom – if you and your students come up with more inspirations, please share them with me.

Enjoy!

Perfect Tips for Teacher Development (book review)

Perfect Tips for Teacher Development

You may already know I’m a fan of CPD. The more I teach, the more I realise I have to learn. The more experienced trainer I am, the more people I meet who show me how to improve and develop. Conclusion? Once you set foot on the path of self-development, you should be ready for a proper journey with all its grim moments of self-doubt and breathtaking accomplishments of the goals achieved.
Master Tolkien explained it perfectly well:

Image result for It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

When I saw Jack C. Richards’ 50 Tips for Teacher Development, I loved it from the very first moment. First of all, this book is a part of pocket editions of Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers – and the idea of pocket editions is just brilliant, as they give you a small book with short chapters full of succinct information, references and questions for self-reflection. Secondly, this book covers the whole process of CPD, starting with individual rookie teachers (what can I do to survive the day without killing my students?) and finishing with the entire school environment, and how it can be adjusted to help teachers grow (what can I do to make my teachers attend my workshop without resorting to blackmail?). Thirdly, all I needed to do was read the first sentence:

For many teachers, professional development is like the weather: it just happens, and, if you are lucky, it may happen somewhere near you.

Organisation

A well-organised book is something I love, and in case of 50 Tips for Teacher Development, I have nothing to complain about. There are 12 main chapters focusing on:

  • reflecting on own CPD
  • learning about own approach, learners and the whole construct of the lesson unit
  • expanding own knowledge
  • creating institutional professional development culture
  • sharing own experience.

Content

Each chapter consists of a few short “lessons” to read and reflect on. What I really like about those lessons is that each starts with a clearly defined purpose, which is very useful in a book with so many varied topics. You will also know the rationale of the activity along with the set of procedures helping you to carry it out.

You can take up this book being at various points of your teaching career. First, as a rookie you will start with gaining more insight into self reflection, learn how to become a better teacher. Then you will get some guidance on how to experiment with your experience, and how to readjust and fix the issues that may be improved. Finally, the book offers a variety of ideas on how to share your skills, knowledge and experience… including networking during conferences!

Pro-tip: coffee and alcohol work everytime (depending on the stage of the conference). Basically, you see someone standing alone and drinking something – you go and network!

Recommendation

I am absolutely convinced I would have skipped some professional mistakes had I read this book 15 years ago. So, naturally, I would like everyone to read it – and it’s such a small book it’s easy to buy and make notes in it. It’s great for an individual teacher, and for a director of studies trying to motivate own team to become better professionals.

Even after 15 years of teaching and learning how to become a better educator, I’ve still found a lot of things I can reflect on and implement to work on my skills. I hope this convinces you to get your own copy – especially if you’re still in the New Year New Me mood!

Enjoy!

Image result for Jack C. Richards' 50 Tips for Teacher Development

Richards, Jack C., 50 Tips for Teacher Development

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

CUP 2017

ISBN: 978-1108408363