Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

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7 Free Online Courses in June

7 (1)

Are you already getting ready for your summer break? Gentle wind on a sandy beach, scorching sun in the mountains and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with teaching, school and EFL? If yes, please continue your bliss, but if you ever feel like there’s something you should do apart from relaxing, maybe a short online course or two… Well, here I am, ever-watchful! I’ve found seven nice and free courses that may be quite interesting for teachers… even those ready for their summer break!

1 Language Assessment in the Classroom by the British Council

Start: 03/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in understanding how language assessment works

Assessment is something a lot of teachers struggle with – from test preparation to evaluation. Fortunately, British Council has a great course, which will help you learn theoretical aspects of assessment, and then adjust it to your purposes. You will focus on practical ways of assessing language and skills which you can use in your classroom, but more than that, you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with fellow participants and receive professional guidance from course moderators (something BC is really good at!).

2 Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: primary school teachers who have an interest in expanding their knowledge of space

Before you shrug the idea off, think about it: imagine your EFL classes enriched with real-life knowledge you’ll acquire with the real astronomers at the Royal Observatory Greenwich! Wake your childlike curiosity up and explore space… and various resources for your primary science lessons. You’ll explore digital resources, museum tips, video chats and podcasts, and find out what works best for your students. Your EFL lessons will be just cosmically amazing!

3 Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone involved in the learning process

I’m afraid to admit, I’d have probably taken over the world already, if it wasn’t for procrastination. Do you know the phrase “Procrastinators, unite! Fighting tomorrow for better today…” – that might be my motto. And with so many distractions like Facebook or IM… it’s quite difficult to focus on actual learning (one needs to study strategies in order to take over the world!). If you (or your students) experience similar issues, that may be a great course for us! During the course you will reflect on procrastination and motivation, learn how to design a study plan and actually organise your educational life for the better.

Only you or your students best focus on conventional subjects, leave world domination to me.

4 The Art of Teaching Foreign Languages to Young Learners by Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Start: 10/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in teaching foreign languages to young learners

If you’re a rookie teacher, or even an experienced lecturer who’s going to start teaching young learners, this may be a good course for you. The course will take you through the basics of methodological approaches to teaching kids, you will also learn about developmental stages of kids and young teenagers. If you feel stressed when you think about teaching kids, you should find this course – and the discussions – particularly interesting.

5 Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in cybersecurity

We all know we all need to be careful in the Internet – students and teachers alike. It was proven that younger generation, called “digital natives”, happen to be too careless – they treat the Net as their safe haven, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This course will help you not only be more sensible when it comes to your security, it will also help you design actual cybersecurity classess. You will explore malware, malicious bots, SQL injections, and physical threats to data. You will also build your knowledge of the different tools that protect data and websites – strong passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication, and firewalls.

6 Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: English language teachers worldwide

Having a well-prepared lesson plan is a great beginning of a successful lesson. This course will help you look at various professional practices, share your own teaching experiences, and apply what you’ve learnt to your own teaching practice. If you feel like you might need some guidance with regards to classroom management and keeping your students engaged with your teaching methods – that’s the course for you!

7 Languages?

If you really think of going on holidays, you may be interested in learning some basic expressions in foreign languages that may prove really helpful.

There is still time to enroll in a course where you’ll learn the most important expressions – and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to develop your skills in more than one foreign language?

You may participate in basic Spanish classes here.

You will find a basic Italian course here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the courses – they look really interesting, and I guess it’s never too late to learn something new, even during summer break!

Have fun!

3 no-prep ideas for outdoor classes

3 no-prep ideas

I love outdoor classes in May and June –  if you look at your students, it is really difficult for them to stay in when every muscle is calling them outside. I’m not overly fond of hot summer days myself, but I’m even less fond of classrooms with no air-conditioning, so here are my top three ideas for outdoor classes, they worked brilliantly for me and I can only hope you’ll have at least as much fun as my students did.

As you’ll probably notice, my ideas are virtually no-prep classes. It’s somehow connected with the feeling of summertime laziness that rubs off on me!

I spy with my little eye… (A1 and above)

If you think elementary students can’t have fun outdoors because they get easily distracted without coursebooks, you couldn’t be more wrong. You only need to give them stimuli and have fun watching them play and use their English. You probably know the game I spy. One person, the Spy, silently selects an object that is visible to all the players but doesn’t tell what the object is. Then the Spy says, I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter…, and players have to guess what the object is.

Now, it sounds really easy, even for elementary students, so you may play an alternative version, substituting the initial letter for an adjective such as a colour of an object or a sound (that one is fun: I spy with my little eye something that sounds like a bomb). Yet another variation to encourage using English is giving various descriptive clues, such as describing a watch as something made of metal and glass that makes a quiet noise.

Believe me, not only kids love this game, add a hint of competition (like two teams) and adult learners will have wild ideas! Why is it a great game outdoors? Because you have far more objects than in a classroom, you can play it walking, change places and literally do nothing to prepare.

Tourists attractions (A2-B1 and above)

It’s a little project that takes around two classes, with a lot of fun for students and literally nothing you have to do beforehand apart from bringing a map of the school’s whereabouts.

On the first lessons students pick some interesting places around the school and make up interesting stories about them in secret – on lower levels they may work in pairs to feel more comfortable. They should write the stories down and optionally give you to proofread (I skipped this step hoping to be surprised and indeed I was, so in case you prefer to have some control over these  particularly controversial stories – go for proofreading).

On the second lesson just go for a walk, stop in front of each landmark and let the person who made up a story about it, tell it the way tourist guides do.

Where’s the fun? First of all, stories. I listened to various tales of cannibalism in an old asylum (you’d never think of it, looking at an ordinary kebab place), a series of unexplained disappearances and eerie cults (obviously, a church), haunted graveyard (in a park, not in an actual graveyard as that would be too obvious) etc.

See the point of proofreading now?

Secondly, make your students behave like real tourists. You know, baseball caps, socks&sandals (if they’re brave enough), cameras etc. Make them listen to their “guides” attentively and enjoy the interest of the unsuspecting public. I believe my students had a lot of fun not only with their work, but also with people’s reactions. Suddenly speaking English was the easiest thing to do!

Treasure hunt (A2 and above)

Be aware: you need to prepare a few pieces of paper for this class. In each you should have 5-10 challenges for a treasure hunt. Also, this is an activity appropriate for more mature students who can behave in a safe manner when walking around unsupervised.

Divide your class into 3 groups, each gets a sheet of paper with challenges and off they go, to complete the task. The first team to return receives an award (a souvenir, good mark or an opportunity to choose the next lesson’s topic). Meanwhile you spend an hour drinking coffee and, naturally, pining after your students.

When it comes to challenges, I decided to pick similar instructions for each group, but give them varying details, for example:

  1. Go to *various cafés* and ask for *vegan muffins/vegan ice-cream/gluten-free cakes* in English
  2. Go to *McDonald’s etc.* order a coke and a straw for each person in team (in English) and take a selfie. Send it to me.
  3. Go to the nearest *fountain* and ask a stranger in English to take a photo of you mid-jump.
  4. In English, ask a stranger *ginger bearded man/a mother with three kids/ a couple in love* to take a photo with your team.
  5. In English, ask someone for directions to *theatre/school/tourist information”. Ask if you can record them as you keep forgetting directions.

The obvious question is, how did I make sure my students were speaking English? Simple – the person speaking was recorded by another team member. After the hunt, obviously, recordings were deleted. The best thing about this hunt is that students have an opportunity to practice real-life skills and still have a lot of fun!

I hope my ideas sound interesting, so do not hesitate to adjust them to your need and enjoy your outdoor classes! Remember about parental consent if your students are minors, especially when it comes to the treasure hunt!

Take your kids to Bumbleberry Forest! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 15)

Take your kids to Bumbleberry Forest!

It’s time for the next Role-Playing Teaching article! We’re done with theory. Today, I have a really nice post for all of you who want to try Role-Playing Games with their nearest and dearest. Bumbleberry Forest, a mini RPG game created by Kamila Zalewska-Firus, is a perfect start to the world of RPGs, designed to be family entertainment – starting from three year old children!

Imagine a relatively safe world of wood sprites or pixies (it’s not totally safe, there has to be some space for adventures, after all). Main characters are pixies, living in a small village deep in the heart of the woods, far from humans (they are huge and scary creatures!) and enjoying their everyday life. Helpful and friendly, they happily help one another by foraging for herbs (you need to be careful as there is a family of foxes nearby!), exploring the unknown (e.g. wreck of a car, maybe there is something pixies may find useful) or helping a baby bird get to its nest (and trees are really high for such a small folk as pixies).

The main idea is that the role of the Game Master is taken by an adult (parent or teacher) and the children are meant to assume the roles of pixies. Characters are created by rolling casual six-sided dice and when they’re ready, GM generates a quest for them, starting with simple ones and moving on to more dangerous adventures.

You can get the ebook here (it’s a pay what you want option, so you can get it even for 1$). You will find here detailed description of the Bumbleberry Forest and its inhabitants, character descriptions along with a nice character sheet, quest generators and a simple adventure.

I find Bumbleberry Forest simply adorable, not only for kids. If you ever experienced the feeling of homesickness thinking of the Tolkien’s Shire, it may be a good place for you to visit. It’s a simple and yet entertaining way to take your family on a nice adventure. Family… or students! At the cost of repeating myself I’ll say that Role-Playing Games are a great teaching tool.

Naturally, with toddlers (Bumbleberry Forest is designed for children aged 3+) you won’t be able to play the whole game in English. So, how can you incorporate EFL into the quests?

Who are you, stranger?

There’s someone new in a village! A strange pixie from another forest who speaks a foreign language. Maybe he’s trying to learn something about your village, maybe she’s lost – anyway, they cannot communicate in your native tongue. Our players’ pixies will need to  understand the stranger who will speak English, of course. Game Master will need to remember to use simple words and a lot of body language, but this kind of encounter may be really educational – maybe local pixies will ask a stranger to join their village for good?

The quest for magic words

You may organise all your quests as means to find magic words that will be simple words in English – just add a little magic to them! The first magic word may be *please* – it makes everyone you ask for help be more willing to comply. The next ones may include *thank you* (make others more appreciative), *sorry* (others don’t get angry at you), and so on. You will probably experience kids trying to use those magic words in everyday life to coax something, but that’s great, since that’s the main purpose of communication, right? You may create nice cards with the words children find on their quests, it will be really motivational!

If you want to pass the test…

…you need to roll the dice. But, if you want to incorporate English, you may add some linguistic challenges, like “you need to pass the test and tell me three colours in English” or “remember that if you want to talk to an animal (which is easy for pixies), you need to call it by its English name”. Such trivial ideas may be a source of repetition, fun and – first and foremost – creating positive background for vocabulary revision.

I will elaborate the topic of RPGs, EFL and kids soon, but for now I hope you’ll find my ideas helpful and get yourself a copy of the Bumbleberry Forest – take your kids on an adventure and you may discover a new world of fun, education and building positive relationships.

Enjoy!

Public speaking for teachers? Why not? (book review)

Why would teachers learn about public speaking_

There is only one excuse for a speaker’s asking the attention of his audience: he must have either truth or entertainment for them.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

At the moment I’m writing this very note and watching Kung Fu Panda, which is one of my favourite films about being a teacher. True, it may seem a bit unusual source of inspiration, but this is the way I live – looking for inspiration in various places. There may be ever so many materials designed for teaching English as a foreign language, and yet I still enjoy using alternatives that are not commonly identified with teaching.

Like Role-Playing Games, of course.

The main reason I bought Public Speaking for Success was the fact that I’m doing more and more workshops, and I realise I have quite a vast area to improve. Talk Like TED was really inspiring, so I decided to try the book by Dale Carnegie (famous for How to Win Friends and Influence People). To my surprise, even though the book is targeted at salespeople and presenters, teachers still may find it useful. After all, nowadays we need extraordinary means to engage our students.

This book will show you how to make your students pay attention to what you say, to present even the most boring facts in a manner so interesting your students will never forget them (it’s what my interpretation of kraken and zombies did to Present Perfect). You will also read a lot about how famous public speakers of the days of old used to prepare their speeches. And Abraham Lincoln, you will learn a lot about Lincoln (although it won’t be as exciting as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter which is accidentally quite an interesting book).

Most of the book focuses on speech preparation and its delivery, but each chapter includes some down-to-earth exercises that will help you master public speaking. Following the exercises a reader will be able to practice proper pronunciation, resonance and emphasis (only the reader needs to practice everyday, something yours truly may find quite difficult to do).

The chapter that may be particularly useful for teachers is almost at the end of the book – chapter 14, focused on engaging audience. By the time you get there you will probably think “those ideas are so obvious! I’ve known it all!” – but this chapter sums up everything we really, really need to remember. Concise, surprisingly up-to-date (it’s funny to think, though, that short attention span of an audience was an issue almost 100 years ago…) and useful – something we may read before every lesson to memorise it.

For this reason only, I believe Public Speaking for Success may be also called Public Speaking for Teachers Who Want to Engage Their Students. I’ve mentioned it more than once, every lesson is a story worth telling, and to do so we must be great storytellers not only in choosing a tale, but also its exquisite presentation.

Live an active life among people who are doing worthwhile things, keep eyes and ears and mind and heart open to absorb truth, and then tell of the things you know, as if you know them. The world will listen, for the world loves nothing so much as real life.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

Last but not least: you can get this ebook for free! One of the best places on the Internet, Project Gutenberg, offers the ebook version of Public Speaking for Success for free! All you need to do is click here and download your preferable version. Then you may enjoy it as much as I have… only be aware it’s the original version from 1915, not the updated one.

Enjoy and let me know what you think about the book!

Public Speaking for Success: The Complete Program, Revised and Updated
Carnegie, Dale
Publisher: TarcherPerigee; REV and Updated ed. edition (May 4, 2006)
ISBN-13: 978-1585424924

7 Free Online Courses in May

7 FreeOnline Coursesin May

Everybody likes May (or at least sweet potential of May mini break), the most fragrant month of the year – who doesn’t like the smell of lilac? We can almost smell the scent of summer break, and when we relax a bit, it’s nice to take care of our development.

May is somehow one of my favourite months when it comes to online courses – I usually study outside enjoying spring, and it makes learning far more enjoyable, especially after long winter.

I found some great free online courses you may enjoy this May – which one do you think is the best option for you?

Digital Skills for Teachers: Making Technology Work for You by GDST

Start: 06/05

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to improve their confidence with digital tools

There are many courses on technology, but sometimes they won’t help. Even the longest journey starts from a little step and this course will help you feel empowered to use digital technology in your classroom. On this course you will build your knowledge of digital tools and your confidence in using them, investigate gaps in your own skill set and learn how to close them.

Introduction to Psychology: The Psychology of Learning by Monash University

Start: 06/05

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in psychology

This course will help you see the difference between learned and instinctive behaviours and approaches to how we learn. You’ve probably heard of Pavlov and his dog, an example of classical conditioning, but you’ll also learn about operant conditioning (learning behaviours based on positive or negative consequences), and observational learning (watching other people and imitating their behaviour). Something quite helpful for a teacher.

Bullying in Schools: How Should Teachers Respond? by QUT

Start: 06/05

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: people who have a duty of care for children

We encourage children to “tell an adult” when they are being bullied, but children can be reluctant to report it. This course will help you understand the risks a child experiences before and after telling, understand the complex nature of bullying in schools. You will discuss various approaches to bullying, as well as strategies to help reduce bullying in your own school and classroom.

Leadership Theory: The Basics by Coventry University

Start: 13/05

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: people looking to understand leadership, culture, decision making and change management

Being a teacher is being a leader (which explains one of the most interesting aspects of being a DoS = a leader of leaders), but we all know it’s not an easy job. This course may be a great way to observe the differences between management and leadership. You will learn various theories and approaches to leadership which may be quite beneficial, not only in your classroom.

English for Academic Study by Coventry University

Start: 13/05

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students planning to study at a university where English is the main language

This course may be a really nice idea for your students, especially those who either think of studying abroad or consider taking Academic IELTS. It will help to prepare students for both study on an online degree and at a university campus. The participants will have the opportunity to review the key vocabulary and concepts used in a university setting, and discover what tutors expect from students. They will also practise skills to expand their vocabulary for an academic setting, including tools to help pronounce new words.

The Online Educator: People and Pedagogy by the Open University

Start: 20/05

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers involved in online education

Sometimes it is said that that online learning is about technology and content; that innovation and accessibility are incompatible; that researching online learning is an ethics-free zone, and that educators’ online identities are irrelevant. This course busts these myths and proves that online teaching may be as “real” as traditional education.

To be sure, this is my pick of a month!

Music Psychology: Why Does “Bohemian Rhapsody” Feel so Good? by Griffith University

Start: 20/05

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: people interested in music psychology

This course will help you understand how the mind interprets patterns in music and generates an emotional response as a result. You will discuss how music communicates with the brain’s reward centre, and generates a chemical reaction that can provide a feeling of happiness. Is this something that will explain the idea of those annoying earworms, I wonder…

I believe you’ll find a course you’ll enjoy – maybe I’ll see you online?