7 YouTube channels to spice up your lessons

 

International Picnic Day! (1)

One of the funniest and weirdest activities you can enjoy with your friends is a so-called YouTube party. Basically, you meet your mates and have regular fun until someone says “I totally have to show you something on YouTube…” And boom, the YT party begins because everyone has seen something to share with friends.

And, oh, the depths of the Internet you may visit…

If you teach teenagers or digitally aware adults you may enjoy a little YT party as well, just try to moderate the videos presented by students as some of the videos may turn out to be somewhat inappropriate.

If you want to avoid potential embarrassment, try to show some EFL-friendly channels. Don’t know which ones are worth recommendation? Well, I’ve shortlisted some nice channels and hope you’ll find them enjoyable.

1 Anglophenia

I really love this culture-oriented channel focused on British and American celebrations, festivals and customs. You’ll find here a lot of short, funny and witty videos on various topics – from British houses (the great mystery of double taps explained) to the practical guide on how to insult like a Brit.

2 English Like A Native

I came across this channel when I was looking for good videos with various accents – I heard Anna’s short film on Scouse and it was more than enough for me to spend the whole evening watching her videos. Funny and smart, discussing the wide range of topics from accents to the ways people shouldn’t pay compliments – I’m sure you’ll love it!

3 English with Lucy

Lucy is a very popular British English teacher who focuses on more “traditional” approach to learning English, talking not only about cultural aspects, but also improving skills, remembering vocabulary etc. I’d recommend lessons with Lucy as a great homework for my students.

4 Learn English with Papa Teach Me

Want to speak like John Snow (and still know something)? Or maybe you’d like to sound like Jason Statham? Just watch Papa Teach Me channel and enjoy the “how to” films full of funny examples, but also really useful information you may find valuable from teacher’s point of view (I do!) – cockney, RP, or real tutorial how to speak like the Lannister.

That would be easy, just send your regards on the tip of the knife…

5 Learn English Kids by British Council

In case the name of the channel isn’t clear enough, let me clarify: this is a great channel for the youngest learners of English. Songs, nursery rhymes, games, stories, lessons – everything you’ll ever need to satisfy the demands of even the laziest child (and his parents). You should also try British Council: Learn English Teens channel as it’s full of useful videos for teenagers.

6 BBC Learning English

Apart from the casual news, BBC has a variety of films on its Learning English channel. “Go the Distance” is a series of videos focused on learning online, the “We Say – You Say” section provides a detailed explanation on proverbs and sayings, 6-minute English sections on Thursdays are just great with interesting topics and great vocabulary chunks… Just try not to lose your head over all those inspiring videos!

7 Learn English by British Council

Short videos, proper lessons, useful tips and interesting people – you can find it all on this channel. You may bring it to your classroom when you feel a bit lazy – or you may ask your students to watch a video as their homework, which is always a better idea than telling them to find the channel and browse it by themselves. I really recommend the series “How to improve your skills”, especially for the beginning of a course.

If you know of YouTube channels that I haven’t shortlisted please let me know, I’ll be happy to watch them – and learn – more.

Enjoy!

 

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Bored in the classroom? Let’s visit England!

www.thatisevil.wordpress.com

I love visiting England and frankly speaking, it always feels like home, be it greyish Yorkshire or sunny Somerset. I’m not overly sentimental, but I try to convince my students that England isn’t always rain and fog (unfortunately, huh), English food can be delicious (oh, Sunday roast or sticky toffee pudding, how I miss you!) and English people aren’t even half as snobbish as in Downton Abbey.

Not all of them, at least.

What I lacked was a nice book focused not only on culture itself, but using cultural topics as an element of a proper, language-oriented lesson. I used to prepare such classes by myself (with a little help of the Internet), but when at IATEFL conference I saw a book, titled Let’s Visit England by Polonsky, I knew I had to buy it.

So I did – and it’s become one of my favourite books for B1/B2 students.

First impressions

I really like the layout as the book’s subtitle is Photocopiable Resource Book for Teachers and it’s clearly designed to be as copier-friendly as possible (including coil binding).

When I opened the book I saw the table of content and – boom, immediately Unit 1, “The Geography of the British Isles”. Wait, where’s the foreword? Actually, nowhere, as the authors – Roman Ociepa and Mateusz Kołodziejczyk – apparently didn’t feel like wasting space; and indeed: at the very end of the book we have… a map! A great table of units and all you can find there: general topics, collocations, highlights and fun corners – that’s really helpful when picking a topic, especially when you want to match it with a coursebook lesson. You can also find a short and simple note on how to use the book.

Having satisfied myself with technicalities (reading “how to use the book” section is quite important and saves you troubles, seriously) I got back to Unit 1… and almost immediately decided to use for my first classes with a group of B1+ teens.

What is it about?

There are 15 units in the book and each lesson is planned for 90-minute classes and contains exercises on reading, listening, speaking, writing and vocabulary. So we’re travelling through geography of the Isles, the history of the UK and specifically England, education, games, science, literature, films, popculture, cars and famous landmarks.

What I like about the book is the variety of exercises – starting with warm-ups, we have vocabulary exercises, a bit of word-building, some collocations, fill-in-the-blanks etc. You don’t have to use them all, mind, but they’re varied enough not to get bored easily. And even though word-formation exercise is something you may skip, I’d suggest you spend some time on the Fun Corner – really engaging tasks, being educational and funny – frankly, my favourite part of the unit.

Best things in the book

There are so many delicious morsels in this book! Music – not only about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but Black Sabbath, David Bowie and Kate Bush also got recognised. “How to read numbers” – an adorable section in each lesson, great thing. There’s Agatha Christie mentioned as a best-selling novelist which is just lovely. But the thing that touched my heart was a simple mention in the fill-in-the-blank exercise about Invictus by Henley that it was used in Mass Effect 3 (along with Casablanca and Star Trek, but still – it’s pure gold when someone in an EFL book refers to a game).

Any problems?

Well, it’s a bit too short (15 units only) and the structure is quite repetitive (text-vocab-questions-word-building-collocations-project-retelling the story-highlight-fun corner) and while I perceive such a plan as nothing more than a suggestion, I know many teachers would go exactly, well, by the book – which may simply kill the potential of the exercises. So if you’re an inexperienced teacher, remember to add something from yourself – change some instructions and the whole lesson will be more enjoyable.

Recommendation

I can recommend this book to every teacher for all B1/B2 students – teenagers and adults alike. I’m sure it’ll bring a lot of fun, provoke a lot of discussions and will be a nice way of introducing Cross Cultural Communication.

The thing is, Polonsky encourages to visit not only England, but also Scotland, Ireland, the United States… and even Poland! So I’m sure even if you’re not into this publication, you’ll find something to your liking.

Enjoy!

Let’s Visit England, Photocopiable Resource Book for Teachers by Roman Ociepa, Mateusz Kołodziejczyk; Polonsky 2016; EAN/ISBN: 9788363630010

7 free online courses in October

7 Free OnlineCoursesin October

September is over, and October brings long evenings when you can drink tea or hot chocolate and read books… or learn, of course! With leaves falling in many beautiful colours, let me shower you with lovely online courses, that are free to participate and open for everyone. And if autumn cosiness makes you slightly lazy, the courses I want to show you will wake you up and inspire for a nice change!

1 Storytelling for Change by the Ariel Group

Storytelling is an extremely popular topic nowadays – teaching, coaching, even sales reps operate on using stories, as they make your message memorable, give your audience something to relate to, and above all capture their attention. You will get familiar with important storytelling tools, and create a rehearsed presentation that can help you connect with your audience and inspire change.

The course starts on the 10th of October and takes 8 weeks.

2 Teaching Flipped by University of Utah

Flipped Classroom in one of the most popular ways of introducing Blended Learning. This course is taught flipped/MOOC-style by veteran flippers and MOOCers to give you experience with the tools and learning methods. By the end of the course you should have a good idea of how to flip your own course plus you’ll have the tools to do it well.

The course starts on the 2nd of October and takes 8 weeks.

3 Coaching Learning, Leadership and Change by Case Western Reserve University

Coaching can inspire and motivate people to learn, change, and be effective leaders, among other roles in life. The course focuses on “coaching with compassion” (coaching someone to their dreams and desires) as the most effective form of the process. You will learn about psychology and neuroscience behind coaching which may be very useful not only for a teacher, but also for a DoS.

The course starts on the 9th of October and takes 5 weeks.

4 Launching Innovation in School by MITx Microsoft in Education

Innovation in school is a very popular topic nowadays – each school wants to be unusual, and sometimes a teacher is simply asked to introduce and innovative change – and left alone. Now, this course is for school leaders of all kinds (from teacher-leaders to principals to superintendents) who are launching innovation in schools – starting new efforts to work together to improve teaching and learning. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and share experiences!

The course started on the 28th of September and takes 7 weeks.

5 Growth Mindset: How to Help Your Child Learn, Grow, Thrive by The Institute for Wellness Education

Carol Dweck introduced growth mindset and introduced a new approach to education as a lifelong process. In this mini-course, you’ll learn the psychology and science of how mindset works to shape child’s future, and the life-altering power that a growth mindset offers. You’ll learn powerful skills to help develop a growth mindset that will set the stage for children to develop and thrive throughout life. Perfect not only for teachers, but also parents.

The course is self-paced, which means you can take it anytime you wish.

6 Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing by University of London, UCL Institute of Education and Dyslexia International

This course is perfect for those teachers who want to learn why some children have so much difficulty with reading and writing (an issue often called “dyslexia”), and to learn more about best practice in teaching literacy to all in light of recent scientific discoveries. You will study not only theory, but also practical approach.

The course starts on the 2nd of October and takes 6 weeks.

7 Teaching Literacy Through Film by the British Film Institute and Into Film

Almost every student likes watching films in the classroom, but teachers (and parents) aren’t so sure that this is the best educational help. Recent research, however, has shown that film can be a powerful tool to help improve children’s reading and writing. In this course, you’ll find out how you can help your students learn with film using various approaches and activities.

The course starts on the 16th of October and takes 4 weeks.

 

I hope you’ll find something interesting – I personally pick Coaching Learning, as being a DoS means constant changes and challenges, especially when it comes to relationships with people. If you choose the same course, let me know and let’s meet online with a cup of hot chocolate!

Enjoy!

Bring some colours to your classroom (autumn lesson ideas)

shopping

I know that your favourite season is probably summer – especially with the holidays, right? Well, the break from school is over but, with rainy days coming, your work may feel like an unbearable drudgery. Luckily for us all, I have some ideas to share – and I tested all of them and must say they’re guaranteed to bring some colours to your greyish classroom!

Create your own game!

One of the things about autumn is that your students seem not so active anymore, so you can enjoy activities that are less loud and adapted to more pen-and-paper type of creativity. One of my favourite activities is creating a board game – we play a lot of them, so it’s quite an easy work to come up with their own.

Or so they think.

I did that with teenagers and adults, and everyone liked the opportunity of revising something while creating and playing a colourful handmade game. You can come up with a contest and the group whose game was voted the best can get a prize.

When I Dream: making your own board game

Another game you may create on your own is When I Dream… a game perfect for autumn when all you dream of is closing your eyes and slowly drifting towards… hey, no napping! Get some pumpkin-spiced latte and try to play a game where your classmates create a dream for you – will you guess all the clues they’ve hidden?

The Colors of Evil

It’s a short film that will definitely brighten up your classes – be your students old or young. It’s a charming story of a cute and fluffy demon with the most valuable lesson for English students, namely: work on your spelling!

You know this joke among the cthultists – “I was browsing my old Latin book and suddenly I summoned Yog-Sothoth!”

The best thing is, the film has a great potential for follow-up activities and I’m sure they may be as colourful as the story itself: a little role-play maybe? Acting out an interview with the demon? Creating a short graphic story?

Writing poems? Easy peasy!

I can see your smiles slowly waning but wait – seriously, writing poems can be fun… especially now, as autumn in all its colourful glory simply inspires everyone to get at least a bit poetical. Even if your students don’t seem charmed with the idea, try to liven them up and show them, step by step, that they are able to write a poem – and a good one!

The sense of accomplishment is profound – they will tell you they couldn’t believe they would be able to write a poem in their native language and here they are, having written it in English!

Not doing homework? Great!

I simply love the activity. By autumn, after the first days of school are over and all new school-year resolutions have already died, the first excuses for not doing homework begin to sprout like mushrooms. Not that I’m surprised as I have already come up with a nice excuse for not writing this note on time (I’m on sick leave, see? purrfect excuse!) – so I can be not only forgiving, but also entertaining, as changing lame excuses into most improbable ones  – and then making a proper project with the wild ideas seems to be an activity that is funny, creative and team-building (which team has the best excuses?) – perfect to clear the autumn fog!

Scaredy Cat

I don’t work with children anymore – not as often as I used to, at least – but one of the cutest activities I’ve ever come up with was the one based on Scaredy Cat by Heather Franzen Rutten (I got her permission to use this story). Now – a tiny scrap of a kitten lost in a big strange world: isn’t this a situation most children can relate to? And when fear seems to overwhelm the little feline – presto! here’s an old, wise cat who shows the tiny mite that his fears are unnecessary as the strange world is full of potential friends. Add to this story absolutely cute pictures and you may enjoy many follow-up activities adjusted to your students’ preferences: role-plays, graphic stories, diaries…

I’m an Evil Teacher, aye, but the story makes my heart melt, honestly…

Now, those are the ideas tested by myself – and the memories they awoke while I’ve been writing this note made me smile, because those lessons were like colourful jewels in my previous school year. May this one be as memorable, and as vivid for me, for you – and for our students.

Enjoy!

 

How to prepare for Academic IELTS in 35 hours (+ free syllabus)

It's Leave the Office Early Day! (1)

I have been preparing others for Academic IELTS for more than five years now, and I can see its growing popularity – especially among young people who want to study abroad. To be honest, I do encourage my students to choose a nice university abroad – most Polish universities are not famous for their friendly and creative atmosphere.

Yup, I may be extrapolating my own experiences, I’d be happy to be wrong but somehow I don’t think I am…

The only problem with IELTS is that people usually wake up a bit too late – the most typical opening is: “I want to study abroad and I need to pass Academic IELTS with band 7 in five months, but I can only meet once a week”. At first I considered the idea of smashing a head (either mine or the student’s) against a table, but after some time I got used to it and I decided I simply need to adjust my approach and rise up to the challenge. Because if there is one thing certain about Academic IELTS it’s this: if you are a typical young adult who wants to pass IELTS with band 7, you won’t make it with self-study only.

The idea I came up with regarding IELTS preparatory course was designing a curriculum for a new one, focusing solely on the exam techniques and being supplemented by general English classes depending on student’s proficiency level and needs. Being a DoS in a private language school gave me the opportunity to offer our students two independent ways of IELTS preparation – a typical general English course to develop language skills and a specialised intensive course preparing strictly for Academic IELTS.

The general English course is offered to students as a highly personalised way of developing linguistic abilities and improving communication skills. Some students need a full course to achieve the level required to pass IELTS at expected band, others want to polish some particular skills during individual classes. From the organisational point of view they may be allocated to various types of already existing courses (communication, grammar -oriented etc.) without the necessity of organising a typical level-oriented exam preparation course. Moreover, a second teacher is very helpful when it comes to giving feedback on student’s progress and implementing individual work.

The intensive IELTS preparatory course may be as short as 18 weeks (including two mock tests) giving the possibility of preparing to the test much quicker than during a traditional course (not to mention time required for a school to start a test-preparatory group on a particular level).

It worked pretty well with my students for the last few years, but it was mainly thanks to the coursebook I chose. The book that allows me to plan and conduct such an intensive course is Direct to IELTS” by Sam McCarter (Macmillan). It’s a really great book, but it must be noted that even if techniques are the same for every test candidate, a teacher must personalise the course to a much higher extent than a traditional one. Depending on students’ goal I supply them with the vocabulary exercises from books like Check Your Vocabulary for IELTS” by Rawdon Wyatt (Macmillan) and Check Your Vocabulary for Academic English” by David Porter (Macmillan).

To make your life easier, I prepared a syllabus for my course – feel free to download and use it, as I share it under the Creative Commons license: IELTS syllabus

As you see, there’s a huge amount of exercises I marked as “suggested homework” – simply because there will be no time in-class to cover the whole book, however, it offers a great possibility for further self-study practice I find irreplaceable, especially when a student’s copy has its own key.

Are you surprised with the amount of work? So are my students – but when we run through the test tasks and try the speaking part (which they naively believe to be easy), they begin to comprehend the challenge. And the result? All of my students who worked hard and followed my instructions passed with the result they expected – some of them decided to study abroad, some preferred to stay home, but I’m really proud of them all.

If you want to try and follow my syllabus but you’re stuck somewhere or have a question – let me know in the comments, or on my Facebook page, I’ll be happy to help.

Enjoy!

 

 

Murders in the classroom (doom doom!)

Murdersin theClassroom

It’s September, which means most of you have just finished well-earned holidays and got back to school. Yay, I guess? Well, ever since I escaped the gilded cage of public educational system my favourite back-to-school activity is drinking morning coffee on the balcony watching pupils all in white and navy, trotting hopelessly to celebrate the first day of school.

Yes, I’m evil, I know.

Oh, you already hate me? Good, good, let the hate flow through you… Because sometimes even hate can bring you fun in the classroom. Or murders, in this case. Seriously, I think everyone, teachers and students alike, feels more or less murderous in September, especially on Mondays. So what can we do? Absolutely: bring proper crime to the classroom, have fun and relieve the negative feelings!

If I were to list my favourite authors, Agatha Christie would be in top ten – I love murder mysteries and I find them a really nice activity in the EFL classes as students actively use a lot of vocabulary items and grammar constructions – be they on pre-intermediate level or ready for their CAE exam. So today I want to share some of the mystery-solving activities I’ve been working with for a surprisingly long time, and they’re still loved by my students.

Murder in the Classroom by Graine Lavin

Level: pre-intermediate+

Min. number of students: 7

I absolutely love this game because the victim is a cranky English teacher – purrfect! It’s a school reunion party and the person who dies seems to be an old spinster… but the truth is far more complex: love, hate and guilt end up with a crime – and everyone is a suspect!

Mystery at Mr. Grim’s Mansion by Graine Lavin

Level: intermediate and above

Min. number of students: 3

When an old rich man invites a lot of people to the party and suddenly dies, there are more secrets to be revealed than one can truly wish for. During investigation one question arises: had anyone ever liked Mr. Grim?

Boardgames:

I already wrote a note about Mystery of the Abbey which is one of my favourite games ever, as you can play it with students on all levels.

The other game my friend recommended and I played with my students more than once is Deception: Murder in Hong-Kong. In the game, players take on the roles of Investigators attempting to solve a murder case – but there’s a twist. The killer is one of the investigators (which makes everything even funnier). Each player’s role and team are randomly assigned at the start of play and include the unique roles of Forensic Scientist, Witness, Investigator, Murderer, and, optionally, Accomplice. While the Investigators attempt to deduce the truth, the Murderer’s team must deceive and mislead in a classic battle of wits. The Forensic Scientist has the solution but can express the clues only using special scene tiles while the investigators (and the murderer) attempt to interpret the evidence. I have changed the rules slightly and as I usually am the Forensic Scientist (who’s a Game Master, to put it simply) I am completely silent, just hovering my finger above the scene tiles, making students talk and guess. I find this board game great for all students from A2 to C2: it’s fun, very communicative and witty.

19 Murder Mysteries

A great collection of murder mystery worksheets can be found on iSLCollective – be they dialogues, activities focusing on describing pictures and locations or using Past Simple and Past Continuous in the game of Alibi. There is even a lovely worksheet for one of the most terrifying murder films ever!

I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun – you and your students alike. You don’t really have to bring props (although it greatly adds to the effect), but I’m sure once you start incorporating a little bit of crime in your classes, you’ll appreciate its communicative merit.

Enjoy,

your Evil Mistress of the World (in the Making).

7 Free Online Courses in September

Seven

Between all the new school year themed workshops and IATEFL I feel like I’m back at school… only as a student. It’s an interesting feeling for someone who’s left her official educational process years ago, but it’s always better to learn new things than forget the old ones.

If you feel you could do with a little bit of learning yourselves, worry not – here’s my traditional set list of seven great courses you may enjoy in September: they’re online, they’re free, they’re awesome! And since I remember how hectic Septembers can be for teachers, I’ve tried to find courses that are either short or self-paced, so you can start them on your own:

1 Creating Effective Online and Blended Courses by Stanford University

If you’ve ever thought of switching your classes online (to a lesser or greater degree), this course may be a good beginning. It is designed to help develop online courses or incorporate online learning approaches in on-campus classes. It’s also nice for those who are rather busy: modules are self-paced, so there are no deadlines, and the materials will be available indefinitely for you to work through on your own schedule.

2 Becoming an Expert Learner by Northpoint Bible College

This course will explore the diversity of intelligences – and helping develop student’s own. You will also explore study and note-taking methods and techniques to support a variety of learners, helping each to become an expert learner. This course may be great for teachers who want to experiment on various methods of teaching – it may also be useful for your students.

The course is also self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

3 Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills by University of Melbourne

This course explains the social and cognitive skills that are known as 21st century skills. It focuses on their representation in the curriculum, but also explores how teachers can recognise these skills in students, how the level of skill of a learner can be assessed, and then how learners can be supported to develop their skill. This course is designed for teachers who are wondering exactly how they can incorporate teaching and assessment of 21st century skills into their classrooms.

The course starts on the 25th of September and takes 6 weeks.

4 Positive Behavior Support for Young Children by University of Washington

This is an experimental course, hence no certificates will be given, however, it may turn out to become a proper support for those teachers who start working with kids. A lot of children may happen to experience various issues, and this course will focus on current research on the developmental trajectory of children with early-onset aggressive behaviours; positive behaviour support program models; and intervention efforts that promote positive early childhood mental health.

The course is self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

5 Business English for Cross-cultural Communication by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Everyone who’s ever dealt with international business knows how important CCC (cross-cultural communication) is. This course is focused on common cross-cultural theories and how they are relevant to everyday business practices in a globalised world. You are going to learn some savoir-vivre tips along with strategies to overcome possible cross-cultural issues and misunderstandings in communication. I find this course great not only for teachers, but also students of Business English.

The course starts on the 4th of September and takes 6 weeks.

6 TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide by ETS

This course may turn out to be extremely useful not only for teachers, and not only in September. This course is highly interactive, using videos, sample questions with explanations, short quizzes and collaborative discussion boards, so anyone deciding to take this test will learn all they need to know. Moreover, this test preparation course is developed by the experts who create, administer and score the TOEFL® test. In addition, there will be free resources and discounted test prep offers throughout the course.

Here’s the best thing: the course is self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

7 Understanding Classroom Interaction by University of Pennsylvania

This course is perfect for the beginning of school year. Have you ever wondered why some classroom discussions are lively and engaging and others more like painful interrogations? Why everybody (or nobody) laughs at a teacher’s jokes? You’ll learn the analytic tools to answer these and more questions about classroom communication. Sounds great and is probably my pick of the month!

The course starts on the 19th of September and takes 5 weeks.

I hope you’ll pick something useful for you – let me know which course you’ve decided to participate in!