7 Short and Simple Cool Down Ideas

short and simple cool down ideas

It’s the middle of winter, so if today isn’t the best day to share my favourite cool downs, I don’t know what is! I think warm ups are far more popular, but the exercises at the end of the lesson are equally important as they help students remember the things they’ve learned that day and close the lesson in a friendly, relaxed and enjoyable manner. Below you will find my favourite cool down ideas – maybe you’ll find them as useful as they were for my own students.

The good thing about the ideas below is that you only need pen and paper – and that’s it, enjoy!

Picture dictation

It’s a very simple activity, where one student draws a picture and then describes it to the other student… who has to draw whatever he hears, but without looking at the original picture! It’s really funny, creative and boosts not only memory (if you ask your students to include the words they used during the lesson), but also communicative skills.

Visual vocabulary

One of the funniest activities I know. Ask your students to make some visuals for the words they’ve learnt during the lesson, for example:

This will boost their long-term memory, but you may collect their pictures and use them for the next classes, maybe as flashcards or maybe as warm-ups.

20 Questions

It’s a very simple game, where one person thinks of a word and the whole group has to ask questions (maximum 20) that will help them determine the thing the first student thinks of. You can enjoy this activity in the whole classroom, smaller groups or even pairs. Apart from practising communication skills, you may give an extra challenge and ask students to include some grammar constructions they have learned.

Chain story

This activity is perfect to revise the vocabulary and create the story at the same time. You start the story (e.g. Once upon a time I met a talking cat.) and the students, one by one, have to continue the story, but they need to include any word they’ve learnt that day. It’s one of the funniest activities as it requires quick thinking (after all the story has to make sense). It’s also useful when it comes to developing communication skills and practising grammar and vocabulary.

Quick scrabble

We don’t have time for traditional scrabble, but we may create our own game. Here students work in pairs. One student starts by writing a word horizontally, and the other writes another word diagonally, but needs to use at least one letter of the first word (just like in the crossword). You may use it later in the classroom and ask students to write clues to their words (and then, during revision, use it as an exercise for another group). It’s a great activity for practising vocabulary,

Miming

It’s a brilliant activity for younger students, but I’ve met quite a number of adults who were also enjoying this exercise. You need to ask students to mime a word or a phrase they have learnt during the class, so that other students can guess it. The student who guesses correctly gets a point. You may also divide your class into two teams and make it a competition. It’s a nice game to revise vocabulary, but also practise some abstract thinking.

The longest sentence

Ask your students to write on the board as many of the words they remember from the lesson… and then ask them to work in pairs and make a sentence including as many words from the board as they can only think of. It’s a nice exercise to work on vocabulary and writing skills, but the sentences you’ll read will probably be quite funny.

As you can see, these simple exercises are short, easy and definitely funny. They are great not only as nice class finishers, but they help your students relax and have fun before they leave your enjoyable classes and move on.

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7 Free Online Courses in January

Have you already decided on your New Year resolutions? In case you plan to focus on your self-development, I have an interesting choice of online courses you may start this month. Some of them are more demanding and others are more fun, but I’m sure you’ll find something suitable. It may look like all of my ideas are connected with changing career, but it’s a New Year – if not now, when?

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

Start: 4/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to boost their career

Mindshift is a key word nowadays – you can see yourself more opened to new ideas and opportunities. If you think of changing your career or boosting it, you may find this course really inspiring. It’s always interesting to see that most obstacles are usually created in our own minds.

Successful Career Development by the University System of Georgia

Start: 4/01/2019

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: people who want to succeed in their career

Being teachers, we usually got our jobs by simply applying for them. This course, however, will help you find a job that you dream of. You will explore the idea of a mentor, the importance of networking and even the ways LinkedIn works. Among other useful abilities, I think the one described as “asking for help” may be quite an important one.

Converting Challenges into Opportunities by the University of California, San Diego

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who feel too much pressure at work

We all – both teachers and students – live in a really competitive environment. This course will familiarise you with the concept of Design Thinking and how out-of-the-box thinking may change your attitude to life obstacles. Ever since I took a short Design Thinking course with Luiza Wójtowicz-Waga I must confess it’s changed my approach to… challenges and opportunities.

Strategic Career Self-Management by the State University of New York

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people interested in their career self-management

My parents worked in one school for 25 years – can you imagine? We change our workplaces more and more often with constant pressure and expectations. The ability to “manage oneself” will soon be the most important skill on the market. This course will make you focus on your portable skills and build your portfolio. If you need help in boosting self-confidence and defining your skills – this course may be a great option!

Success – Unleash Yourself by the University of Agder

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 9 weeks

For whom: people interested in successful careers

“Have you ever wondered why some people seem to attract success while others work very hard, but do not achieve what they want? Are you interested in changing your own life and being more successful?” – the authors of the course offer you a professional journey to the place where you’ll overflow with self-confidence and readiness for changes. New Year, New Me Big Style!

Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters by University of Maryland, College Park

Start: 07/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers and people looking for a new job

Sure, this course may be helpful if you think about changing your job, but I find it a great idea to use it with a group of students of EFL who will soon start looking for their first job. They will not only learn how to write good resumes, but also practise their writing skills.

Psychology of Personal Growth by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Start: 8/01/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people interested in CPD

The course will take you on a journey through the process of personal growth, starting with high hopes, through disillusionment, lack of belief and regaining self-confidence. You will focus on romantic love and explore its cultural background. If you want to explore your emotional life, this may be a good course for you.

As you see – you don’t think of changing your career, you may still enjoy those courses to boost your skills, self-confidence and motivation.

Enjoy!

English Idioms? A piece of cake! (book review)

One of the books I usually use in my classroom (sooner or later) is the one on English idioms. It’s quite difficult to make a nice lesson on idioms because you have to find some nice examples, create some fun exercises and set everything in context. But lo and behold! For there is a book with 60 units full of idioms that are ready to go. If you want to make a nice gift for a student (or a teacher) of EFL – here it is.

English Idioms in Use by Michael McCarthy and Felicity O’Dell is a great book that may be used both in the classroom and for self-study purposes. There are 60 nice units organised so well that everything is already set in various contexts. What is even better, the first chapter explains what idioms are and how important it is to know them.

Idioms to Talk About

The first part of the book deals with idioms according to the topic area that the are used to talked about. For example, there are idioms connected with anger (e.g. to be out for blood or ruffle someone’s feathers), dealing with problems (e.g. make do or bring to light), even structuring and talking about arguments (e.g. a can of worms or the acid test). I use this part when I see that the Use of English part in my coursebook might need some supplementation.

Idioms from the topic area of…

The second part focuses on idioms according to the image they are based on. Here, you can find idioms referring to colours (e.g. red tape or green with envy), weapons and war (e.g. bite the bullet or stick to your guns) or food (e.g. be the greatest thing since sliced bread or have a sweet tooth). I use this part when the topic of the lesson requires some invigoration (like combining idioms with, for example, the dreaded topic of environment).

Idioms using keywords

It’s quite easy to guess what this part deals with – you can find a lot of idioms referring to words like heart (e.g. someone after my own heart or have a change of heart), line (e.g. draw the line at something and draw the line under something) or ground (e.g. prepare the ground for something or suits me down to the ground). I found this part a nice idea for a last resort when my students don’t want to work on the lesson, I’m absolutely discouraged and the weather is really disastrous – that’s a nice way to break the routine and introduce something new.

Unit structure

Each unit is divided into two parts – theoretical explanation of idioms along with some exemplary uses, and exercises where one can practice the idioms. Naturally, there is the answer key to double check all the doubts, useful for self-study approach… and for lazy teachers, too.

Recommendation

There are a lot of idioms in English and some of them may be quite obsolete, however it’s always better to know them all, rather than not – especially if your linguistic level is quite high. To be honest, I find this book rather interesting to study myself, there is usually something new I come across. If I were to recommend an educational Christmas present for a good student or a teacher who needs more resources, I would certainly go for this option.

But maybe it’s good to add something more to such a gift, like a good novel, chocolate or a pair of socks, of course… 

Idioms in Use
McCarthy, Michael and O’Dell, Felicity
Cambridge University Press, 2002
ISBN 978-0-521-78957-8

7 Free Online Courses in December

Winter is here – maybe it’s snowy in your place, but here in Poland it’s just grey and dull (and cold). I managed to find some fine hot chocolate, just to spend my evenings reading and learning. Like every month, I found a set of lovely free online courses, so you may spend your winter break learning something new. 

English for Teaching Purposes by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers planning to teach in English

This course on English and teaching methodology aims to help university lecturers do their teaching in English, in line with university internationalisation policies. If you are a teacher of a subject other than EFL, you might be interested in this course. Moreover, you will learn how to integrate all aspects of CLIL to put together their own English-medium course on their particular subject.

Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom by University of California

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers working in a virtual environment

If you teach in a virtual classroom, you know that assessment is still very much important, but it has to be approached in a different way than in the traditional classroom. This course will present formats of virtual assessments, assessing special populations, including at-risk, gifted, and special needs students, and learning management systems as related to performance and assessment.

ICT in Primary Education: Transforming children’s learning across the curriculum by the University of London

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in incorporating ICT in primary education

The materials in the course are based on studies carried out for the UNESCO Institute of IT in Education, Moscow. You will discuss a variety of useful tools and resources for integrating ICT as well as how children perceive the use of technology in a school context. You will also learn about learning design, infrastructure, negotiation with parents, communities of practice, policies, staff development, pedagogical innovations, differentiation, affordable access, and teaching support.

Shaping Your Professional Brand by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who are interested in building their own personal brand

If you think of building your personal brand, you may find this course particularly useful. You will learn how to manage your own approach and be prepared when things go wrong. An interesting item is a study on an effective strategy for apologising, and how to engage in disputes professionally.

Learning How To Learn for Youth by Arizona State University

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people who want to stop procrastinating and want to start studying

This course looks really awesome! You will basically learn how to learn – you will study the strategies that will turbocharge your learning, including test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets.

Magic in the Middle Ages by Universitat de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people interested in medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective of History and History of Science

This course looks like fun, especially with the approaching Solstice. Naturally, I wouldn’t encourage you to study magic – but I think such course may be quite interesting for long, winter evenings. You will learn which spiritual practices were allowed in medieval Europe and which ones were related to the devil.

For science, naturally!

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 10/12/2018

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students starting their university experience

If your students don’t really know what to do with themselves, I’d strongly recommend this course. They will be able to use this course to find out how to get the most from their university education, how to choose a course of study and how to investigate possible future roles and pathways in the profession they will eventually choose.

I hope you’ll find a nice course for yourself 🙂 

Self-reflect December Challenge

It’s almost December which means 2018 is almost over! How?! I mean, last time I blinked it was summer! And with the End Of Year Month I have an idea for a little challenge I want to share with you and make it a nice game where we can reflect on 2018 a bit.

I’ve never been good when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, but I think reflection is quite important when one wants to develop one’s skills and broaden one’s mind. Was it a good year? I guess it wasn’t a bad one, neither for me nor for you and if you look at the set of questions you will see how much you’ve learnt, how much you know and how inspiring this year has been.

You may download the picture with the challenges and do your own little self-reflect sessions. You may share it on Facebook (I’ll be definitely doing this challenge on my page!) or your own blog. The greatest benefit of such challenge is to sum up your whole year as a teacher, remember the best moments and believe 2019 will be even better.

  • Day 1: your favourite activity from 2018
  • Day 2: most memorable story from 2018
  • Day 3: the best piece of advice you were given in 2018
  • Day 4: the moment in 2018 you felt proud as a teacher
  • Day 5: your favourite memory as a student
  • Day 6: the funniest story from 2018
  • Day 7: your favourite coursebook in 2018
  • Day 8: a new idea you implemented in 2018
  • Day 9: your favourite teaching aid in 2018
  • Day 10: the best joke you’ve heard in 2018
  • Day 11: the moment in 2018 when you felt proud of your student
  • Day 12: your favourite teaching website in 2018
  • Day 13: the person who inspired you in 2018
  • Day 14: the moment in 2018 you realised WHY you’re doing your job
  • Day 15: your greatest challenge in 2018
  • Day 16: your strongest point as a teacher
  • Day 17: most motivational idea/quotation/picture in 2018
  • Day 18: 3 reasons why you became a teacher
  • Day 19: your favourite teaching application in 2018
  • Day 20: a piece of advice you would give to a rookie teacher
  • Day 21: the best CPD book you read in 2018
  • Day 22: your greatest frustration in 2018
  • Day 23: one thing you want non-teachers to understand
  • Day 24: your most memorable teaching experiment in 2018
  • Day 25: your personal success in 2018
  • Day 26: one thing you plan to change in 2019
  • Day 27: your greatest discovery in 2018
  • Day 28: which superpower would make you a Super-Teacher
  • Day 29: one area to improve in your teaching in 2019
  • Day 30: how do you plan to start your first lesson in 2019
  • Day 31: the most important thing you want to remember tomorrow 🙂

Since I believe self-reflection is great not only for English-speaking teachers, Polish teachers will find the challenge available in our native language. Share it, spread it and let’s have fun together!


Enjoy!

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 12: This is for the Players)

 

Role-Playing Teaching (4)

It’s been a year since I started writing about RPGs and ways they could be used in the classroom. My blog is written primarily for the teachers, especially the EFL ones, but today I won’t write for the teachers, but for the RPGs players, as I think they deserve some explanations without the didactic background which is quite obvious for the teachers, but not so much for the rest of the world.

I spent last weekend attending one of my favourite fantasy fans’ conventions ever, Imladris. I participated in a discussion panel “Let’s Talk About RPGs” and was busted as a Person With an Idea – hence my post, where I’ll try to explain why exactly RPGs in a classroom rock, why EFL teachers are ready-made Game Masters and why using RPGs for teaching won’t make them dull.

Educational values

I know there are teachers who introduce RPGs sessions as extra-curricular activities, and I know there are schools that teach the language by playing RPGs – I’ve even heard of teachers who think of creating their own system designed to teach English. I want to incorporate RPGs in the classroom and that’s why I need to show how RPGs may support learning. And when it comes to learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) role-plays are natural elements of the classes.

Think of all the “act out the dialogue, you’re A and your classmate is B” – this is something you may work on and create a pretty neat exercise, just imagine that person A is James Bond and B is Marie Curie. See? Just a little bit of role assignment could create a far more interesting and creative dialogue, offering the opportunities for a way more engaging communication.

Moreover, it’s easier to communicate when you impersonate somebody else. You get more open, more creative and instead of thinking about which personal information you want to hide, you may go with the flow and use more complex structures and words.

And RPGs are so much more that this! Team building, making friends, making common background, learning how to make friends and deal with conflicts – it’s all there, RPGs have it all to improve not only learning the language, but also improving communication. Here all the shy 15 year old kids may experiment with various registers and learn the fun way all those things they really shouldn’t say.

Fun

RPGs are primarily source of fun. Believe me or not, a lot of teachers want to make their classes fun – but sometimes it’s quite difficult, as nobody teaches young teachers how to do it. We are taught how to plan our classes, how to follow the coursebooks and how to explain grammar – rookie teachers may lack a lot of practical knowledge, distance and chill. Imagine that after years of classes full of “your students have to respect you!” and “no respect, no teaching” you’re faced with a group of kids…. and don’t know how to start. Now, RPGs may bring a lot of fun, both for the students and for the teachers.

Why is fun important? Because we learn better and faster, when we connect education with fun. Jane McGonigal presented an awesome TED speech and wrote a great book (“Superbetter“) proving that playing games may save the world, least make education fun.

Ready-made Game Masters

I’ve been a teacher and a Game Master and I must admit both roles are only too similar. Group management, encouragement and support, creativity and planning – it’s all there, ready to put in another use.

I’m not encouraging teachers to get their copy of D&D and start an epic campaign in the classroom of 25 students. No, it’s okay if we start with small steps – some communication exercises (including character building and game mechanics, why not?), some problem-solving activities. Everything in moderation, and to be honest, there is so much goodness in RPGs that we can use and adjust many ideas in various situations.

Aren’t games only for fun?

This was a very interesting viewpoint I’ve heard – RPGs are made to be fun, and using it in a school environment will make it by default boring. The classic tale – when a teacher tells you something is awesome, a rebellious student will immediately hate it.

The thing about RPGs is that people are born ready to play games. We do this as we grow, we emulate others, we experiment and ultimately learn to have fun. Naturally, everything should be taken in moderation, including RPGs – but looking at gaming industry and various uses of games like “Snow World” we can easily observe that this part of our humanity that loves games is being finally noticed.

No, I don’t believe education may make RPGs boring. On the contrary, I believe RPGs may make education more interesting.

All we need to do is try.

Teach’em with Rhythm

Teach'em with Rhythm

Rhythm of the language is crucial if you want to speak fluently. And what’s better to learn a rhythm if not implementing in in the class? One may think playing with rhythm is something only the youngest students will enjoy, but recently I’ve discussed this topic and I want to share some ideas even the most adult and mature students will find amusing.

Provided you, as a teacher, enjoy it, of course 🙂

Chants

I myself remember chants as slightly boring (dreadful one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four, five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes more), but you can add a little bit of zest to it and create your own chants, or even better – engage your students into creating them!

In one of my favourite board games, Mystery of the Abbey (perfect for EFL classes, if you enjoyed Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, you’ll love it!), there is a card that makes all the players chant literally everything they want to say, and as the plot is set in a medieval monastery, the chant is supposed to resemble church chants. Now, people I’ve played with forget the winners, the plot and the rules, but they never forget chants.

What I mean, pick a simple tune and make your own chant. It may a list of irregular verbs to the tune of Baby Shark – something your students would find amusing (silly, but not too silly). And maybe, one day, they’ll turn out to be new Al Yankovic?

You can find more on jazz chants on onestopenglish.com

We Will Rock You

One of the scenes in the new film Bohemian Rhapsody shows pretty much what the power of rhythm is about:

I’m sure if you start the beat, pretty much everyone will know which song it is. You can use it in your classroom as a warm-up activity, but you can do more than that. For example, give the rhythm while reading key vocabulary for the lesson and ask your students to repeat after you to the same rhythm pattern. Then change the pattern to a quicker one, asking them to catch up, then slow down.

You may ask one student to give a pattern while the rest of the group follows it repeating the words. If it’s too easy, prompt another student to change the beat so the group has to readjust.

This way will help you not only make your students remember the words better (connecting word repetition with rhythm boosts long-term memory), but also help them open up a bit. It’s easier to repeat the words with others, especially when you have fun at the same time! This is a big step for all those shy students who are afraid of speaking aloud – if you practice speaking with others, in a friendly atmosphere, it will be a great encouragement to start speaking on their own.

Body Language

Clap! And stomp! And shake it! Learning a language comes with mistakes, sometimes embarrassing – and it’s important to create an atmosphere of fun, where all the students can feel safe and free to make silly mistakes. Make them move a bit, so that they relax, clapping and stomping while repeating vocabulary is a nice idea.

The process of learning a new things is a very childlike experience, and usually adult learners want to seem serious, dedicated and focused. Engaging them into activities requiring using body language releases tension and makes people more open. They may feel quite embarrassed at first, but after a while they will feel more relaxed.

As to children and teens, it’s a great idea to include some body language while listening to songs or repeating vocabulary – they need movement and some jumping and stomping will be a great activity for them.

If you want to read more about the rhythm of English, try this article on fluentu.com.

Enjoy!