7 recommended online courses in June

7 FreeOnline coursesin June

I got really lovely feedback from you about free online courses in May. Thank you, you are my source of inspiration and motivation. I managed to complete Understanding Autism and I must admit I’ve learnt a lot.

Still haven’t figured out whether autism exists or not, but at least I realised I’m not autistic, I’m just socially awkward.

I’ve shortlisted another set of useful free online courses you can take in June – hope you’ll like them, and maybe we’ll meet somewhere online?

1 Challenging Behaviour: Strategies for Helping Young People by Ambition School Leadership

The course is focused on investigating the causes of challenging behaviour and searching for strategies to manage young people. You are going to evaluate your practice, reflect on current situation and grow positive mindset. Good luck!

It starts on the 19th of June and takes about 5 weeks.

2 Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life by the University of Nottingham

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in politics, history and propaganda, so I recommend it not only for yourself, but also for your teenage students (they are quite interested in learning things about conspiracies and using this course you may bring some proper CLIL into your classroom).

It starts on the 12th of June and takes about 5 weeks.

3 Basic First Aid: How To Be An Everyday Hero by University of Glasgow

This course is a basic guide to first aid. You’ll learn how to recognise and manage emergencies, get a foundation of first aid knowledge and skills to build on. I think I may use it in my teenage classroom as a final project – watch videos, discuss the issues and change the tiresome end of course into something truly beneficial.

It starts on the 5th of June and takes about 2 weeks.

4 Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment by University of Southampton

On this course you will learn about different aspects of inclusion and digital accessibility experienced by students, teachers and support staff in Higher Education. You’ll explore the barriers experienced by disabled students and the role of inclusive practices.

It starts on the 5th of June and takes about 3 weeks.

5 Virtual Teacher by University of California, Irvine

This is not a mere course – this is a series of courses that provides practice for on-line instruction, student engagement and virtual community building; effective uses of asynchronous and synchronous technologies, social media and data analysis techniques as well as student performance measurements to individualize instruction in an on-line or blended environment. You may take an individual course, or decide to cover whole specialisation.

The whole set starts on the 12th of June and finishes on the 14th of August. Aye, looks long, but knowing Coursera, it’s very thorough.

I feel quite tempted, to be honest.

6 ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students by the State University of New York, the University at Buffalo

This course will provide an overview of ADHD diagnosis You’ll learn about ADHD as a developmental disorder that begins early in childhood, as well as evidence-based approaches for diagnosing ADHD. Two evidence-based treatment approaches (the Daily Report Card and Parenting Strategies) are introduced. The important thing is that the course activities are informational and are not intended to replace working with a trained professional.

It starts on the 19th of June and takes about 4 weeks.

7 ELT in the Digital Age 

I haven’t studied with ELTjam Academy before, but Scott Thornbury is the name I respect, so when my colleague let me know about the course, I immediately signed in. The best thing about it is that if you use the discount password SCOTT, you get the whole course for free!

The course consists of 6 episodes (ca. 1 hour of recordings) and reflects on our role as teachers in a more and more technologically advanced world. Also, this is my pick of the month.

I would love to know which courses you’ve chosen this month – and if you hear about something good that I haven’t shortlisted, please let me know, I’d be more than happy to learn something new.

Enjoy!

Oh, and if you already feel holidays approaching, I’ve got a very special course for you: wine tasting!

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7 free lifesaving apps for classroom fun

7 free lifesaving appsfor classroom fun

I don’t really like making copies with grammar exercises, at least not when I’m teaching people on B1+ level of English. The school I’m working with is promoting communication and, frankly, most people just want to speak a foreign language before appreciating the exquisite grammar complexity that we, teachers, enjoy so much.

As if.

My classroom policy is very simple: communicating in English and having fun. And whenever I feel less creative, I use one of my favourite free applications on my mobile phone to bring in some fun and discussion – it works every time, so I’ve decided to share seven of those that never let me down. I usually use them as warm-ups or cool-downs, but they’re also helpful when the students are somewhat bored or tired and you want to wake them up with a fun activity.

Story Dice

I wrote a post about physical Story Cubes I use in my classroom (click!), but why not use an app for the same activities? Original application isn’t free, so I found something similar so that you can try out and see if it suits your style of teaching. My personal favourite is Star Wars mode, of course. You can pick any number of dice you want and ask your students to make short stories based on the pictures.

Table Topics

You have 80 topics to use for random conversations – and to add a bit of fun, you may create a list of your students and they will be randomly assigned a topic to discuss. I usually do this with my adult students, when I use the app generator to pick a name + topic and give the student 45 seconds or a minute to do an impromptu monologue over the topic. It’s fun, it’s a challenge and it helps people to switch into English very quickly. It is also a great game for students who prepare for exams, as oral exams usually require them to make a short speech.

Stories: Party

I really like lateral thinking games (you may find my note here) because they’re very communicative (for the students, I, as a narrator, can only say yes, no or irrelevant – which is perfect for limiting my talking time, something I struggle with) and brain-teasing. Perfect for warm-ups, when they’re tired and discouraged after a hard day at school/work and it helps them to chill out, practise the language and – last but not least – revise the construction of questions in English.

4 Padlet 

I love padlet (find out how much: click!) and it’s my app of the year, definitely. I use it to make a base of interesting topics (How do we learn?) or a list of music quizzes when my students are really, really tired and I just want them to smile a bit. I can keep it on my mobile, so whenever I feel I am in need of something creative – here it is! Even better, you can ask your students to create padlets together or simply read materials collected by you and then make a lengthy discussion (I did that with my C1 teenagers on Stanford Experiment and it went really well).

5 What am I?

Simple riddles (oh, ok, maybe not that simple), perfect for warm-ups and brain-teasers. You may use an IWB for such games, but I’ve tried dictating riddles from my phone and asking students to guess the password, and it proved to be fun as well. Some of the rhymes are funny, some of them are really complicated and, frankly, you can use it as a typical party game with other teachers and native speakers!

6 Trivia Quest: Books

Similarly to What am I?, this app may be used both with IWB and with mobile phones (you need to dictate questions and click answers, though). You may wonder whether your students are bookish enough to take part in such activity, but questions range from Harry Potter to the Odyssey, and I’m sure everyone will find something for themselves. Just divide your class into groups and start a quick trivia show – perfect for cool-downs! Just remember to celebrate with winners: maybe give them a candy or a motivational sticker?

TheFreeDictionary

You may wonder why I recommend an app that’s a dictionary – but for me that’s the dictionary, something I ask my students to install on their own mobiles, because it’s not only far better than this abomination called google: translate, it has games (hangman, spelling bee with three levels of difficult, wordhub, synonym match…), grammar quiz and lesson, idiom of the day, quotation of the day, articles… oh, right, and a dictionary. You can pick your own features and use it everyday. In the classroom it may bring you a topic to discuss (use the quotation or the article of the day), a new word every lesson, or a nice discussion about today’s holiday – you won’t believe things people celebrate worldwide!

Here they are: 7 free apps which saved my classes more than once. If you have other lifesavers – share them with me, will be happy to test something new!

Spring poems – lesson plan

It's a smell of grass in dew...

I’m not a fan of ready-made lesson plans. I used to be, but the more apps I use, the more into games I am, the less ready-made lesson plans I follow. I appreciate them immensely, though, when I need to cover one of the topics I quite dislike, namely, environment.

I don’t know why, really, but, ecological as I try to be, I simply can’t stand the topic. I think everyone has their quirks – and having class about environment usually bores me to death.

Thinking about death, now, give me topic about crime and I’ll give you a great lesson on the go!

Fortunately, the book we’re covering with my teenage group (Activate B1) had the chapter about environment scheduled for the end of April, so I decided to mix it with Earth Day (22nd April) and to try to come up with something interesting – both for me and my students. So I got inspired by Twinkl and went with writing a poem, especially that it was a nice revision of vocabulary connected with senses (something we had covered a while before) and reminded them of the time we started writing poems together.

I don’t usually share lesson plans, but I want to show how combining two various sources may help create something unusual and bring some wow effect to the classroom.

Botanic Garden by Ola

Aim: to revise vocabulary connected with nature, senses and to practice comparative and superlative forms

Level: B1 and higher

Time: around 45-60 minutes

Materials: I used Twinkl and its Earth Day Amazing Poetry Activity Pack, although I only chose two sheets (MA and HA).

Task: As a warm-up activity I chose HA sheet and used it to revise vocabulary connected with nature and senses, which took about 15-20 minutes of pairwork and comparing the results.

Then I used MA sheet to practice metaphors and comparative structures. I gave some examples and asked students to work in pairs and come up with their own metaphors filling in the blanks in the sheet, which took another 15-20 minutes.

To my students’ surprise I asked them to write their own poems about nature – I shared some ideas like water, morning, snow, forest etc. I let them work either individually or in pairs, as I realize not every teenager feels like being a poet – for the same reason I only gave them 15 minutes of writing. I don’t think they realised that they would be able to write something creative and even vaguely reminding a piece of poetry, so they were really surprised when I collected their projects and read them out loud: it turned out they actually wrote quite passable poems!

It was one of those breakthroughs when learners of a foreign language realise they can achieve something they never would have even dreamed of. They were pretty proud of themselves, so I decided to make a souvenir to celebrate the occasion.

As a surprise, I rewrote the poems into nice Canva projects, printed them out and decorated school with them. My students were surprised in a really nice way, and as cherry on top there was our parent-teacher meeting which I could brighten even more by showing artsy stuff the kids were working on – come holidays, I’ll give the posters to the authors as an example of things they’ve achieved this year.

Alternatively, I would encourage students to make their own Canva projects and share them with me, but I think they’ll be more willing to do this after they’ve seen how cool their project work may look like.

Lightning by Franek and Kuba

Bro, do you even canva?

teaching is a journey

Robert Greene said “creativity is a combination of discipline and childlike spirit”. I know, believe me, as I spent my May mini-break making various Canva projects and my head is spinning with more or less motivational quotes.

In my case: motivational quotes that I change into de-motivational quotes, I’m the evil teacher, after all.

Canva is a perfect tool to make your own projects, posters, postcards, Facebook graphics and whatnot – the only limit is your own creativity. And the best thing about it is, naturally, the fact it’s mostly free.

What you do is simply create an account – and the rest is easy. You start with choosing appropriate design – may it be a card, a poster or a Facebook post (what’s important here is a general layout). You can explore e-books, presentations, blog covers etc., but if you need something particular, you can also create your own design.

Once you’ve decided which design suits you best, there are some layouts you can get inspired with (i.e. pick a ready-to-go option and simply change text). It usually takes me quite a lot of time to browse through all those projects – some of them are free, some of them cost around a dollar or two, but the price is more of an issue connected with the background. However, choosing a layout may take some time, but if you’ve already taken some time on Pinterest, you’ll know when to stop.

Now, the background is useful when you decide to use a photo (again, free, one-dollar-per-photo, or, the best option: uploading your own). You can choose from a variety of background ideas, however, unfortunately, most of them require payment (1 USD, sure, but still). The good thing is, you can upload your own background and proceed with your project.

When we have our design or background+photo chosen, it’s time to put some text inside – be that motivational quote by a superhero (“Hulk smash!”) or a simple “revise irregular verbs for the Monday test”. I’ve always admired those neatly arranged menus and witty quote boards in those hipsterish cafés I never openly admit to visiting… and hurray! Canva gives me ready layouts to put my words into arrangement so lovely they somehow look more impressive.

Try uploading Hodor’s photo and finding a great text layout for his unforgettable quotation “Hodor, hodor hodor. Hodor…” – behold the power of design!

You can add a finishing touch by choosing additional elements – photos, icons, charts etc. and you can admire your artwork. It’s beautiful, easy and ready to download: and before you do it, remember to pick the most suitable file type (e.g. for Facebook you’ll need a jpg, as pdf doesn’t go well with it).

I’ve already used Canva for my blog and my Facebook fanpage, but I’ve got some ideas on how you can use it in your classroom:

  1. As a group project (e-book cover with a blurb, presentation, birthday card etc.)
  2. As homework (recipe, magazine article, letter)
  3. As an element of a lesson:
  • menu project when you’re talking about food and restaurants
  • business card when talking about making first impressions
  • flyer when making plans for holidays
  • Facebook event cover when planning a future party – etc.

As you can see – possibilities are endless! Naturally, you can try available software like Photoshop to create similar, if not better effect, but simplicity of Canva and the fact it’s an online tool gives you the possibility of engaging students for the whole lesson and at its end present their final project (+15 to their sense of accomplishment).

The only problem is that you need computers or laptops – Canva works neither on tablets nor on mobile phones (shame, I know).

If you’re still not sure how to use Canva, next week I’ll share a plan of the lesson I enjoyed with a bunch of teenagers on intermediate level only two weeks ago – we tried to lure spring by creating poems and although so far we haven’t succeeded, at least we had some fun.

 

7 great free online courses to take in May

7 free courses in May

Teaching is learning, sure thing – but with so many sources to study choosing something suitable may take us more time than an actual course! Not to mention increasing greed-like feeling “oh, yes, I’m enrolling here… and there… and I totally have to find some time for this course!”

No need to panic – being quite an experienced online learner, I’ve decided to make a list of courses you may partake in this month, and possibly enjoy them at least as much as I do. I’ve got some ideas for both teachers and students of EFL because there are some options you may not really want to participate in, but share with your pupils or fellow learners as well. For example:

1 IELTS Academic Test Preparation by  the University of Queensland, Australia

IELTS Academic is the most popular exam for people who want to study in an English-speaking country, and from my experience of a person who’s been preparing others for this test for 5 years, it’s impossible to pass with a decent band without an earlier preparatory course – so if you think about studying abroad – take a look at this course!

The four-module course will take you 8 weeks of an estimated 5 hours/week. Level of English is rather low, and all the videos are subtitled.

2 Designing Assessments to Measure Student Outcome by AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education)

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 3 weeks (estimated 3 hours/week). It focuses on creating tools to measure student outcomes. It may be quite useful for teachers who struggle with assessing their students’ progress or simply want to develop their understanding of this area.

Its three modules consist of building assessments, surveys and rubrics.

3 Understanding Autism by University of Kent

As teachers, we’re bound to meet an autistic student sooner or later. This course focuses on living with this lifelong developmental disability affecting social relations and communication. I believe every teacher should learn at least a bit about this spectrum condition.

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 4 weeks (estimated 3 hours/week).

I’ve already enrolled.

4 Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

I already finished this course and I can recommend it to any teacher who struggles with understanding what dyslexia is and how terrifying it may be to our students to try and learn a foreign language – the course explains the nature of dyslexia, but also gives some solutions we may use to help our students.

The course started on the 24th of April, but you may still enrol! It takes 4 weeks of roughly 4 hours/week.

5 Teaching Your Subject in English by Cambridge English and Cambridge International Examinations

The course is perfect for teachers who teach regular school subjects and are planning to do this in English. The course consists of modules covering language needed for motivation, guidance, management and monitoring. It may be useful for CLIL teachers as well.

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 5 weeks of roughly 3 hours/week.

6 Tricky American English Pronunciation by University of California, Irvine

Here you’ll have a chance to practise American English with all its trickiness – vowels, consonants and their sounds. Unfortunately, access to all of the lectures and handouts is free to anyone, but the graded assignments and quizzes are only available in the paid version of the course. Apart from enrolling, you may easily recommend this course to your students, as the linguistic level is suited for the beginners.

The course starts on the 8th of May and takes 4 weeks of a 3-4 hours/week.

7 History of Rock, Part One by University of Rochester

This is the course worth taking part not only in order to develop English, but also to get the a greater grasp of cultural knowledge – after all a huge part of rock music is connected with English-speaking countries! I am going to share this with my students, especially teenagers, who are linguistically ready to start learning on their own, but all they need is a nice course focusing on something they find interesting – and I’m sure rock music will be a good choice.

The course starts on the 22nd of May and includes 12-24 hours of videos and quizzes. It’s in English, but subtitles are available in English, simplified Chinese and Serbian.

I hope you’ll find at least one of the courses recommended by me interesting. Let me know when you decide to pick something and enrol – I’ll be happy to exchange experience. And maybe we’ll meet somewhere trying to Understand Autism?

Enjoy your learning!