English is not easy… but it’s wickedly funny! (book review for 18+)

English is not easy... but it's wickedly funny!

Last month I attended my favourite EFL teachers’ convention and at first everything was absolutely normal – training sessions, workshops, stalls – when suddenly something happened. Comments were made, pictures were taken and shared, cheeks got flushed – and it was all caused by a grammar book! Now, I’m not overly fond of grammar books, but, naturally the comments made me take a look at this one. And I loved it immediately, the way you love something mischievous, daring and enjoyable at the same time.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you “English is not easy” written by the amazing Luci Gutiérrez.

If you’re a sensitive soul who believes in proper teaching adults with colourful flashcards, maybe you should stop reading. Seriously. It’s a kind of a book adult students may love. Or hate. Or discuss the controversies (which conveniently turn out to be on every second page of the book).

But if you love Monty Python’s kind of nonsensical sense of humour and a little bit of sexualised approach to pretty much everything, if you enjoy somewhat scandalous sentences – and if you know your students well enough to be sure they share this kind of attitude, I don’t think you’ll find a better grammar book to bring not only educational value but also quite a lot of fun.

Dark humour, innuendos and addictions…

…mean it’s a perfect mnemonic tool! It’s virtually impossible to forget English phrases once you see such graphics, isn’t it?

Untitled design (1)

The sense of humour reminds me of one of my favourite books that I’ve used in the classroom, namely Shakespearean insults. Somehow the idea of learning not-so-polite expressions boosts students’ interest and keeps them more motivated (it also may make us question our reasons for learning, but that’s another story).

If you’re an experienced teacher, you surely know students are far more likely to memorise something if it has a taste of indecency – that’s how our brains are constructed, apparently. But if you think this books delivers only fun, you’re wrong. Behind the controversial facade, you can find a surprisingly sensible book on grammar.

Don’t judge the book by its cover!

There are 17 chapters in this book, and each chapter consist of several subchapters. They are focused mostly on grammar, but there are lessons on vocabulary, phrasal verbs, idioms and useful expressions as well. As it usually goes with grammar, it starts with subject pronouns and the verb “to be”, but the book covers also all tenses, relative clauses, passive voice, reported speech etc.

Untitled design

I believe you can use the book as a great visual aid – even when you explain all the grammatical nuances, some students may still struggle with memorising the correct structure and use of the item. Now, the graphics and sentences may be really useful as they are very clear (black and red), simple and eye-catching.

What I also like about the book is space – you can easily doodle on the pages, make your own visual connotations, silly drawings and sample sentences. I can see it used as an additional exercise for students who prefer kinesthetic approach to learning.

Recommendations

Personally, I find this book hilarious, and a source of great educational fun for both teachers and students. Naturally, it’s not for everyone, but that’s something one may say about any book. I know my students would be more than happy to catch up with the sense of humour and go with the flow, creating their own stories, making their own creative pictures and adding some form of adult-fun into their class.

And if you are a bored teacher who needs to remind oneself that English might not be easy but is, in fact, fun – this is a book for you. And what’s more, I think this book is something I might put on a wishlist of an EFL teacher.

If you’re ready to order, Preston Publishing, the publisher of this adorkably wicked book, has a neat discount for you. If you get a copy on prestonpublishing.pl and enter the code evil20, you’ll get 20% off (the code does not include sets or preorders and cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions).

Hope you’ll have at least as much fun as I have!

9788364211874

Gutiérrez, Luci “English is not easy”

Preston Publishing, 2019

ISBN: 978-83-64211-87-4

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Dice rolling against teen angst! ( Role-Playing Teaching: Part 18)

Dice rolling against teen angst!

In my Role-Playing Teaching section I have already written about RPGs and their positive influence on children and adults – it’s high time to write about teenagers. This article may come as the last in the series, but for me they are a group that may benefit most from using RPGs in their educational process, or simply benefit from playing RPGs. Believe me – I was such a teen.

And weren’t I an angsty one…

Looking at the areas that RPGs address, it may be somewhat surprising that they are covering the areas known as 21st century skills – and yet, this is so. Playing RPGs in English may not only help teenagers progress in their English studies, but also help them develop other skills they will certainly use as adults.

Teamwork

We live in the age of individuals – sounds trivial, but that’s the truth. That’s why the importance of teamwork is even greater, and learning teamwork while having fun is the best way of learning one’s leadership skills, the ability to discuss things, ways to convince others to change their perspective. I can’t think of a better way to develop skills helpful in successful working with others than cooperating with friends trying to achieve common goal.

Creativity

In games, we can have a lot of adventures and challenges that don’t often happen in a real world, and unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. This calls for the power of creativity, and working on creative methods with a bunch of friends (who share the same goal) is like connecting a little power-plant to the brain. A good RPG session makes you feel happy, refreshed and ready for the next challenge!

Problem solving

Creativity results in many interesting solutions to problems arising throughout the adventure. This leads to many heated arguments and passionate discussions as players usually want to push their idea as it, obviously, is the best idea. This is a perfect lesson of negotiation, cooperation and responsibility – because if your plan, designed to be perfect, turns out to be a failure, you’ll have some explaining to do; which is great as it teaches you to think broader and listen more attentively.

Communication

Naturally, not all communication focuses on conflicts and problem solving. Usually players are a bunch of friends, but as the time in game runs faster than in real life and there are some objectives to be achieved, players need to communicate both in-game and out of it. It usually means either asking for advice – which turns out to be somewhat difficult for teenagers, but not as difficult as asking for help, and that’s something RPGs teach you as well.

And who knows, maybe this is the most powerful thing you learn…

Feedback

There are people who can skilfully give feedback, but for most of us it’s an art that is quite hard to master. Playing RPGs gives you great opportunities not only to listen to feedback of other players, but also share yours. The good thing is that you share feedback with people you like and who like you, you learn which expressions may be hurtful and how to speak criticism so that nobody gets hurt.

Friendship

Last but not least, friendship – which is magic, obviously. Fantasy fans create a sociocultural group called fandom. But within this huge group there are smaller ones – some encompass your favourite systems, some include people that share your sense of humour, and if you’re willing to open up a bit and travel to a nearby convention or two, you’ll find people that become your kin: people who are like your family – not always your best friends, but always there when you need them.

Like the girl who answered my phone at 2 a.m.
and let me spend the night at her place.

And this is something teenagers need, a sense of belonging somewhere, identifying with a group – and if you think about alternatives, kinship with a bunch of people who read books, play games and have fun with one another is not the worst option, is it?

As you can see, there are some areas RPGs may support and develop in our students. The only question is – which system would they pick as there are oh! so many.

Enjoy!

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

We all experience classes that suddenly go awkward – a topic we hate and really can’t elaborate on, students that only want to fall asleep or a memory of a cup of coffee when another’s been due for a while. Or sometimes things go awry and you end up with a bunch of students debating something that has nothing to do with the lesson, having a laugh over something someone said or simply daydreaming.

This is something I find particularly often when I work with teenagers and adults, they are usually tired after their regular school or work and their brain uses every excuse to chill a bit. Now, sometimes it calls for a game or a nice role-play, but sometimes, to put it bluntly, I can’t even, so I use my last resort: fillers that are always there, ready to use. Naturally, the fact that they work for me doesn’t mean they will work for you, but after some alterations I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

Alphabet race

This is my favourite filler for topics I’m not overly fond of (like environment, the ways I went to avoid talking about environmental issues…). I ask my students to think of the topic of the lesson and write as many words connected to it as they can. Now, depending on a group I choose one of the following:

  • writing one word per each letter of the alphabet
  • writing as many words starting with a particular letter

I give them 3-5 minutes and the winners decide on the homework. It’s a great game as students can do it either individually or in groups, makes them think and puts everyone back on the lesson track.

Good news

It may sound weird, but it’s a nice filler, especially when the mood is somewhat down. Just give your students 5 minutes to google a good piece of news that happened today (you can find quite a lot of sources of positive events) and refer them to the whole class. It’s a nice, short activity that helps everyone relieve the tension of a bad day (or Monday). No good news? Make them create their own!

Role-Play

Obviously, I love role-plays. You don’t have to start a game to enjoy a little bit of role-playing. Something that works well for my older and more aware groups: divide your students in two or three groups representing major political forces in your country, each group decides on assuming fake identities of the most prominent politicians of the chosen party. Then give them a simple question somewhat connected to the lesson topic. They are supposed to debate the question, however they will probably shout, laugh and behave their absolute worst, and that’s the point of the exercise! Just make them stop after 3-4 minutes, you’ll have your happy and invigorated students again.

Poem

Writing a poem is a good filler – just go with some rhymes (one of the pages I recommend is rhymezone). Writing simple poems is one of my favourite activities for all ages and levels (you will find my old post here). Just four verses per group on a topic loosely connected with a lesson or with a word students have learnt a moment before – you’ll see them working and having fun, and return to the regular lesson relaxed and happy.

Devil’s Advocate

What if a topic you’re about to discuss is so common and boring nobody really feels like discussing it? Well, encourage your students to play devil’s advocate, finding some arguments against their own conviction and reasoning. This may sound silly, but your students will soon realise how interesting this activity is, making them consider the aspects they have never thought of before. This teaches not only flexible thinking, but also empathy.

As you see, my ideas may be great for some groups, somewhat inappropriate for others – but feel free to readjust them to your needs and introduce a nice activity covering your lack of interest in the lesson.

Have fun!

7 Free Online Classes in August

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What I really like about August are three things: slightly cooler evenings, the Perseids shower and the smell of stationery in the shops giving this “back to school” vibe. Even as a schoolgirl I loved this smell – I still do. I also liked school and to be honest, I had my Polish, English and History coursebooks read before the school year started.

Now, this may sound extremely dull, but one needs to learn a lot before embarking on a journey to conquer the world!

Apart from the upcoming school year, I think August is a perfect month to work on self development – one has more time off and it’s easier to feel motivated when it comes to actual finishing the course. The courses I found for you are really interesting and I hope you’ll find something suitable.

Fairy Tales: Meanings, Messages, and Morals by the University of Newcastle

  • Start: 29/07/2019
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • For whom: anyone interested in fairy tales and literary analysis

Fairy tales are wicked, and this course will show you how twisted they sometimes are! By considering the historical context of fairy tales you will see that the intended morals of the original stories may not be exactly what you first thought. This is something that may be a nice element of your class – breaking stereotypes and showing some hidden background.

Intervention and Teaching Strategies for Visually Impaired by Avianshilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women

  • Start: 02/08/2019
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • For whom: teachers dealing with visually impaired students

This is a long and serious course that will prepare you for challenges and struggles the visually impaired students experience in a mainstreamed classroom setting. The course will help you to understand how interventions in the areas affected can be instrumental in enhancing performance of the students. You will learn how to work with students in classroom set-ups and arm them with programmes for assessment, goal setting, reviewing and reporting the success.

The Science of Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

  • Start: 05/08/2019
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: teachers interested in CPD

What is learning? How does it actually work? Have you ever thought about it? If not, this course will help you explore how you can use the science of learning to improve your teaching and support your students’ learning. You will study educational neuroscience and psychology (and combat neuroscience myths), and learn how to interpret research to be better informed about how your students learn. To be sure, this is a course every teacher may enjoy!

Preparing for University by the University of East Anglia

  • Start: 26/08/2019
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: anyone considering a course of study at a University or similar higher education institution

Sometimes it’s not that easy to start university – new place, new people, new type of education. This course may be a great idea not only for students who start their uni, but for those who are still in secondary schools, making their great plans. As a teacher, you may complete the course and use it in your actual classroom to make your students truly interested in the topic and giving them the encouragement and support they definitely need.

“Yes I can” – Empowering Student Learning by European Schoolnet Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: primary and secondary school teachers

This course will show you how to encourage students to study not only during the class, but also outside of school. You will learn the differences between formal, non-formal and informal learning experiences. You will also learn strategies to empower your students by encouraging them to identify their own learning styles and abilities and make your teaching more relevant and inclusive by personalising it based on your students’ needs and interests.

Supporting Special Educational Needs in Every Classroom by School Education Gateway – Teacher Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: any teacher who is (or might be in the future) working with children with special needs

More and more teachers face the challenge of how to integrate students with SEN in their mainstream class. This course will teach you to better understand the topic and how simple changes could make your classroom more inclusive. You will also be encouraged to share your knowledge and experiences in order to develop a learning network of peers in similar situations. I think this course may be particularly useful for primary school teachers.

Surviving Your First Years of Teaching by School Education Gateway – Teacher Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: any teacher who is about to enter the profession for the first time as well as those in their first five years of teaching

When I started teaching I had little idea about what was going to happen. Looking back, I was really lost. Fortunately, this course aims to support you in overcoming the commonly known “practice shock”. This is often caused by inadequate preparation during the initial training phase, the changing role of teachers in schools, the increasingly complex demands on teachers and the common “loneliness” of new teachers working in environments where there are only experienced teachers. If you are a rookie teacher, that may be a great course for you!

Sounds interesting? Well, I believe you’ll find those courses useful and interesting – summer break is great, but still, learning is fun.

Enjoy!

Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

I enjoy teaching during summer as nobody takes those classes too seriously and you’re free to include some unconventional materials. The only drawback is that sometimes the level of motivation is not quite satisfactory. To avoid this, I usually suggest a “lesson off” – during summer courses I like to offer “free Fridays”, classes spent on projects, games, role-plays, class trips and other creative ways mainly boosting communication.

If you experience similar sentiments, you might find my lesson idea quite useful – not only for the summer courses. After all, every teacher sometimes has a lesson that seems to last forever. And the best way to introduce something energetic is to share something… really long? Mind, the ideas I’m sharing with you are not overly serious!

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon is a 10-minute short film that was released in 2008 by Richard Gale (you may visit his page here). The movie is presented as a trailer to a 9-hour long film and portrays the story of a forensic pathologist called Jack Cucchiaio (played by Paul Clemens; “cucchiaio” means spoon in Italian), who finds himself being haunted by a deranged looking man (Brian Rohan), who is, without any clear reason, hitting him with a spoon. Doesn’t sound interesting? Well, watch it first:

Now, there are some ideas for activities after watching the video. Please notice that none of these activities requires earlier preparation. This is really an emergency scenario:

Background of the story: storytelling (speaking/ writing)

Let’s assume the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. Ask your students to elaborate on the story and answer the following questions:

  • Who (or what) is this mysterious attacker?
  • Where does he come from?
  • Why is he targeting Jack?
  • Why does he use a spoon?
  • Is there a way to stop him?

Best idea is to organise a little brainstorm party in groups and then ask your students to tell a chilling story in a manner of Are you afraid of the dark. If your students prefer written compositions, you may ask them to write a story – or maybe even make a little competition for the best thriller?

The hard life of a murderer: role play (speaking)

Who is Ginosaji? What does he do apart from haunting and hunting Jack? Is he a human being? Does he have any family? What about his favourite food? Hobby? Where does he sleep? Encourage your students to prepare short speeches introducing themselves as Ginosaji. Who’s the scariest, and who’s the funniest? Also, this is great activity for people on lower levels of English as they may use quite simple lexis and grammar.

Let’s make a film (writing, speaking)

The natural follow-up of the video would be making own film! It’s a great idea for a group project – each group needs to create a scenario, plan storyboards, choose actors and record the film itself. If you haven’t got your favourite video app, you may choose one suggested by TeachHub (click here to read). Then you may watch the films together choosing the best one.

As you can see, even a slow lesson and a terribly slow murder may change into an exciting class – I hope you and your students will like this slightly silly, yet amusing, lesson.

There are sequels to this video, Spoon Vs. SpoonSave Jack (it’s a game in which the player has to choose what Jack Cucchiaio should do), Spoon Wars and Ginosaji Vs. Ginosaji. Watching them in-class is optional, as you can easily get your students to catch the main idea after watching the first video, however, you may use them as homework or follow-up activities – Richard Gale has his own YouTube channel, where you can take many inspirations from.

Enjoy!

Are you… afraid of the dark? (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 17)

Are you... afraid of the dark_ (2)

Summer means adventure, woohoo! Some people travel around the world, others stay home and spend time with friends. Both options are brilliant, especially when you are able to to travel without leaving your room – simply engage your friends in a session of a Role Playing Game and travel around the world… and beyond. Sometimes, however, you’re stuck alone in a place you’re not really happy with – and then you may also enjoy an RPG session just by yourself.

Here I am, writing about the awesomeness of Role-Playing Games as a perfect tool for boosting communication and relationships in the classroom. However, today I want to tempt you with an adventure you take on your own. Alone.

Alone against the dark…

Alone Against The Dark is an adventure for one player, set in the autumn of 1931, in the Lovecraftian universe of the Cthulhu Mythos (although you won’t be meeting the Great Cthulhu Himself, as the greatest mystery of the Call of Cthulhu is the fact that you basically don’t meet Cthulhu). Your friend goes missing and your goal is to solve his disappearance and ultimately to save the world from the calamity. Your journey will take you from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica.

You will start your adventure as Louis Grunewald, a quiet linguistics professor from the Miskatonic University. You will fight the forces of darkness before time runs out — but in case Professor Grunewald is eliminated for some reason (in CoC it means a character either goes completely mad, or simply dies), you can successively assume an identity of a new investigator.

There are four ready-made investigators, enabling you to take on various roles as circumstances change in your search for the truth: Louis Grunewald, Lydia Lau, a story-seeking reporter for the New York Sun, Devon Wilson, a sailor on leave from the US Navy, and Ernest Holt, a wealthy industrialist.

I spent most of my 9-hour long train journey playing the game – I personalised the characters, prepared some sheets of paper and a pencil (making notes turns out to be crucial when trying to save the world!) and I must tell you that I think I need to follow the adventure again, only this time make different choices. My professor was lucky enough to survive for quite a long time, but well, there are things in this world elderly scholars may have troubles with… like falling down from an impressive height, physical assault or, well, supernatural creatures.

I find this adventure just brilliant for all of you who have already read about Role-Playing Games, but struggle with gathering the party before venturing forth. You can play the game in your own tempo and discover the magic of RPG by yourself. The universe of HPL and his Cthulhu Mythos are quite enjoyable for EFL teachers – imagine you wear a fashionable dress, switch on jazz music and with a cheeky smile face the unspeakable evil.

You can get the adventure in English here, only remember you might need a copy of a Keeper Rulebook (you may buy it here) to understand the rules. If you’re Polish, your life is easier, because you may get the adventure here in Polish, and instead of buying the whole rulebook, you can get a short starter.

You may think it’s a deal, but trust me, once you set on a trail of the Old Ones, you’ll spend your money on Keeper Rulebook and other adventures.

You should also buy a set of dice, but hey, you can download a free app like RPG Simple Dice.

Good luck, dear friend, and enjoy your adventure…

Costello, Matthew and Mason, Mike

Alone Against the Dark/ Samotnie przeciwko ciemności: zniweczenie triumfu lodu

Chaosium, 2018/ PL version Black Monk

ISBN: 978-156882-453-6

7 Free Online Courses in July

7Free OnlineCoursesin July

Summer break sounds brilliant to those who actually have it (picture me crying with envy). Regardless, I found some lovely courses that I really want to share with you, as I’m sure you might spare some time and learn something new. Below you will find a nice selection of courses focusing on testing, storytelling, children, wellness… I’m sure you’ll find something you like!

Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education by the University of Exeter

Start: 01/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in education, including teachers, students, and parents

There are people who believe educational system must be directly linked with economic growth, hence the importance of assessment as means of measuring development. This course will explore a range of key concepts, including how education might now be considered a business. Seems controversial? It means you may find it an interesting topic to discuss!

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative by Vanderbilt University

Start: 15/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone curious about video games

This course is, to quote the author, a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling. You will learn about narrative theory, as well as the history and theory of video games. If you, like me, believe that we are all born storytellers, this course may be a great choice for you – and if you want to know what I am up to this month: I am on the journey to discover the cultural heritage of online games!

Introduction to Self-Determination Theory: An approach to motivation, development and wellness by University of Rochester

Start: 15/07/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: parents, teachers, coaches, managers, and health-care professionals

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation and psychological development. This course will help you promote or undermine engagement and the positive consequences that follow from it. You will focus not only on reaching your personal wellness, but also helping others – students, coworkers etc. feel better, more motivated and happier. What’s not to like? Ready to change the world?

Child Protection for Teachers by QUT

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: teaching staff and education leaders who want to improve their professional practice

If you start working with children, you need to be aware of the signs of potential maltreatment. This course will help you recognise the early signs of child abuse and neglect. You will learn how maltreatment impacts on children’s learning and development. The course will also help you to understand the role of a person who reports such cases.

Teaching Phonics in Early Childhood by QUT

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone supporting children to prepare for school

If you teach EFL to children, you know how difficult it is to explain differences between spelling and pronunciation. This course will help you learn new things about code-based literacy in early childhood. You will focus on phonics, phonemic awareness and phonological awareness, something that may be really useful, especially when you work with young students.

Improve Your Intercultural Competence by Purdue University

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone looking to improve their intercultural competence 

As teachers, we know how important cross-cultural competence is. Good intercultural communication is now more and more important, especially with global networks getting bigger and bigger. According to the Intelligence Unit at The Economist, 90% of executives in 68 countries say cross-cultural management is their biggest challenge. This course will help you enhance your intercultural competence.

Fairy Tales: Meanings, Messages, and Morals by the University of Newcastle 

Start: 29/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: reading enthusiasts, storytellers, and creative writers

I believe we all create stories in which we live. Ever since we are born, we are surrounded by stories and everything in this world urges us to tell a story. So, fellow storytellers, this course may be a great idea for all of us. This course will show you enchanting and surprisingly dark themes of several well-known European fairy tales. Maybe the good and the bad are not so different?

Hope you like the courses I found and make your summer break sparkle with educational value. Next time I’ll show you some great entertainment for hot days – and that will be mid-July, as I’m taking a short break. Keep following me on FB and instagram, I’ll be happy to stay in touch with you!