7 Free Online Courses in September

Seven

I believe you’re not as ready for school as you wish you were – I myself was far more excited with September as a student than as a teacher. But after two years of teaching in a primary school I quit and ever since my little ritual on the 1st of September has been drinking coffee on the balcony, watching children and teens slowly going back to school and revelling in their misery.

I’m not Evil Mistress in the World for nothing.

However, September mood makes me feel like studying – so here I am with my monthly list of awesome and free online courses you may enjoy this month:

1 English for the Workplace by the British Council

Starts: 3.09.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: non-native English speakers who have studied English to at least pre-intermediate level (approximately A2 on the CEFR)

This course may not be challenging for you as a teacher, but it may be perfect if you want to show your lower-level students that they can actually learn not only English but also IN English. I’m sure this course will be a great confidence boost to your students and will keep them motivated for a long time! And those of your students who think of looking for a new job will certainly enjoy it.

2 Fundamentals of Graphic Design by California Institute of the Arts

Starts: 03.09.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: all the teachers creating their own materials

Creating own materials is quite common, and this course will teach you the fundamental principles of graphic design: imagemaking, typography, composition, working with color and shape… foundational skills that are common in all areas of graphic design practice. Applying the knowledge you’ll gain during this course will make your self-made materials absolutely stunning. Sounds great? Definitely for me!

3 Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments by the University of Southampton

Starts: 3.09.2018

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers and educators interested in inclusive practices

This course is designed for people working with students with disabilities. You will explore the barriers experienced by disabled students and learn how to overcome these barriers through inclusive practices. This course will help you learn about different aspects of inclusion and digital accessibility experienced by students, teachers and support staff. I think this may be a really valuable course for everyone.

4 Indigenous Canada by University of Alberta

Starts: 03.09.2018

Duration: 12 weeks

For whom: people who want to know more about Canada

I love Lucy Maud Montgomery and her PEI stories, but obviously there’s far more to Canada than her books – and this course explores key issues facing indigenous people focusing on national and local Indigenous-settler relations. Topics include the fur trade and other exchange relationships, land claims and environmental impacts, legal systems and rights, political conflicts and alliances, indigenous political activism, and contemporary indigenous life, art and its expressions.

5 Understanding Research Methods by University of London, SOAS University of London

Starts: 03.09.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who require an understanding of research approaches and skills

This course is about demystifying research and research methods. It’s perfect for all students as they often have to do some research, but I believe each of us, living in the times of post-truth, may find it extremely useful. The course focuses on what makes a good research and a good researcher, various approaches to literature etc. In 2015, the course was nominated for the prestigious Guardian University Award for its innovative approach to online learning.

6 The Art of Photography by RMIT University

Starts: 09.09.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in photography

Photography is becoming more and more popular – a lot of teens are interested in it, so you can either take this course yourself or recommend it to your students. You will learn about photography as a visual art practice, explore the work and concepts of various artists, and learn some of the practical skills required to explore photography in exciting and creative ways. The course will also help you grasp some ideas connected with post-production knowledge and techniques.

7 Teaching Adult Learners by Central Institute of Technology

Starts: 09.09.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who start working with adults

If you’re to change your teaching environment, you may find this course particularly useful. It focuses on the importance of working in a safe and accountable learning environment. You will learn how to examine the working factors of teaching adults, identify elements of instructional design and evaluate your experience.

I hope you’ll find the courses really useful and have fun learning something new.

Enjoy!

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How To Teach for Exams (book review)

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One of the best groups I’ve ever taught was an IELTS preparatory group of teens who consider studying abroad (best of luck, mates!). I was lucky to teach this particular group, as exam-prep courses have a justified opinion of the most boring classes. While I believe a lot depends on the coursebook (I used Ready for IELTS by Macmillan and can happily recommend it), there is also a specific approach an exam-oriented course requires. I’ve found my first exam-preparatory course quite challenging (it was a group of people after the Callan Method course who wanted to pass FCE – and yeah, I was too young to know better), so when I got a book on proper teaching for exams I read it immediately and I can recommend it to everyone, not only those teachers who start their adventure with exam-oriented classes. Let me share the review of How to Teach for Exams by Sally Burges and Katie Head.

Contents

The book starts quite promising with the chapter on “How to be a successful exams teacher” and the following chapters take you through the course planning process (along with choosing materials), teaching particular skills for the exam and – something I find quite important as not many publications cover this aspect of teaching – teaching for low-level exams. Moreover, the book includes the Task File so that you can use it as a form of exercise, either to think about on your own, or to discuss with your fellow teachers.

I’ve read some books about teaching for exams, but I must admit this is one of the most user-friendly one – the language is simple and the organisation seriously inspires the reader to stop after each part and reflect on the ideas (e.g. three short paragraphs about differences between the weak class, the average-to-good class and the strong class gave me quite some food for thought).

Questions… and answers

What I enjoy immensely when it comes to book organisation is that on the margins you have questions and catchphrases, from the most common (“what is special about teaching an exam class?”), to more complex ones (“encouraging familiarity with genres”). All of the chapters are divided into logical parts, with theory, examples, conclusions and some additional food for thought you can find in the Task File.

What makes it even better is that all the cases are really down to earth and highly relatable (“how to help learners do their best on the day? Imagine that a close friend or relative of yours is taking an exam tomorrow. What advice would you give them?”) or great ideas for overcoming the stress factor during listening exams.

Task File

Each chapter, which focuses on teaching a particular skill, contains examples of activities and lessons that are designed to help teachers introduce the exam-oriented approach, however,
undoubtedly the most valuable part of the book for me was the Task File.

The exercises relate to the topics discussed in the book, and while some of them require a definite answer, some are useful as inspirations and topics to discuss. You can photocopy the exercises, so if you are a DoS who needs to train teachers before they start the exam-prep classes, this book may be perfect for you.

Some exercises are good to think about before you start actual teaching (e.g. “make a list of differences between exam classes and non-exam classes” followed by some interesting questions “if a student fails an exam, is it the teacher’s fault?”). Others are really useful when you want to focus on the particular skill (developing task and strategy awareness for reading or developing coping strategies for the exam room during speaking exam).

Recommendations

I don’t think I need to recommend anything written by Sally Burgess, but in case you wonder whether you should invest some money and buy this book: yes. Whether you are an experienced teacher, or a person new to the job, you will definitely find something useful.

You may be a person who’s taught exam classes for years and still find some inspirational ideas (e.g. linguistic and cultural contexts as factors influencing exam course planning).

If you begin your adventure with exam classes, you will love the chapters on teaching particular skills as they not only briefly revise various kinds of tasks, but also discuss abilities that are measured during the tests (e.g. in which tasks you need to apply skimming or scanning etc. along with useful tips on improving reading speed or a great subchapter on developing sound discrimination skills).

Overall, I believe every teacher should at least browse this book – one soon realises that “right, I’ll take a quick look just to revise some stuff” attitude changes into “Ooooh, I didn’t know that!”. And, last but not least, the book is full of tips on training students to become independent learners – something that gives exam classes more purpose than just preparing for the test.

Enjoy!

Burgess Sally, Head Katie “How to Teach for Exams”

Longman, 2005

ISBN: 978-0582429673

7 Useful Websites for Teaching Kids

7 Useful Websites for Teaching Kids

Being a teacher is never boring, especially when one changes age groups they have got used to – for a while now I’ve been more focused on teaching young learners which is quite an adventure. While my main interest lies with Disney English I try to include some magic into regular courses – and it’s easy to bring a wee bit of magic by using IWB in the classroom, provided the materials you want to share are carefully selected. When teaching children, it’s important to use technology responsibly – we may watch a video as an encouragement, but let’s not spend the whole lesson on using IWB tools.

I am absolutely sure you can recommend a nice collection of websites and applications useful for YL teachers, but I also want to share my top seven:

iSLCollective

You probably know this website as it’s full of goodies – printables, of course, but also video materials and more. You can find more than 200 videos with lesson ideas for children here, and fun activities with songs and nursery rhymes here. I don’t think you’ll ever get bored with this website, a lot of materials that you can use the moment you enter your classroom and see your students somewhat less lively than usual.

twinkl

I have already written about twinkl here, here and here but I still find it one of the best sources of inspirations and classroom help (speaking activity based on a photo of benches? why not!). Why, if I could I’d gladly take a whole course of twinkl-inspired classes! You can find something even for the youngest babies, and the best thing about it is that you can use twinkl to introduce CLIL classes from the very beginning of kids’ education.

LearnEnglish Kids

I love websites by the British Council – and the one dedicated for kids is just adorable. Visually child-friendly, but easy to navigate for a teacher. You can find nice songs (for example about superheroes) along with matching activities and games, various exercises etc. But what I really love about this site is the speaking part, where children supported by their parents or teachers can practise proper pronunciation. I also appreciate the fact that there are guidelines for parents who want to practise with their children but don’t really know where to start.

Fun English Games

I find this website a charming mix of some old-fashioned activities along with interactive games. You may find lovely tongue twisters here and then move to the alphabet game. The only drawback is that it takes a while before the page loads, so you must be prepared for this – better have it ready before you start your class! You can pick a letter matching game for those who start learning their letters or play a poetry game with the older students.

ESLGames+

This website is a lifesaver for all those teachers who either feel Mondayish or simply still think of their holidays. You enter the classroom, find a topic your class is about and boom! – you can choose a video, a game (I appreciate games divided into lower and higher classrooms) or simply choose a topic (like school supplies) and see what options the site gives you. There is no place for boredom and I’m sure your students will love the games.

Super Simple

If you have ever taught kids – or talked to anyone who taught kids – you must’ve heard of Baby Shark (and its variations). If not – welcome to Super Simple, the world of songs, videos and lessons for the youngest students. Starting with the ABC, up until short videos (Milo’s Monster School Vlog is just adorable) – you can be sure your students will have a lot of fun.

Yeah, you too. Only be careful, as Baby Shark will never leave your mind. You have been warned.

Teach Children ESL

You may be surprised why I decided to include this website as it’s not so IWB-oriented as the previous ones. However, what I love about this page is the variety of games for different holidays, song activities and other awesome projects (I love classroom dice!). And with technology one thing is certain – you need to have Plan B. In an emergency situation – you know, what to do: prepare a nice activity and hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

I hope I managed to show you some websites you haven’t used before, but if you know other useful pages please, leave me a comment, I’ll be more than happy to try something new!

Enjoy!

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 10:Why RPGs Rock in the Classroom)

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So far I’ve written 9 articles in my Role-Playing Teaching series and I’ve just realised I didn’t write anything about why RPGs are so cool when it comes to teaching! So here we are, a list of seven main reasons you should take your class into one of the Never-Never worlds.

1. Communication

I wrote about it in Character Creation part – with RPGs you start communicating before you even start playing. You create your character, you establish relationships with other players and then you spend hours talking, communicating, arguing, convincing and making people see your point of view. You don’t practice communication, you simply communicate and learn on the way, that if you speak to a police officer the way you talk with your best buddy, it may affect the communication. Which is a lesson worth learning before you meet an actual police officer and start talking rubbish…

2. Fun

I know some people believe proper learning requires solemn approach, study books and a lot of copies with grammar drills. I agree with this perspective when it comes to introducing grammar constructions (surprisingly, I guess that in order to understand the Reported Speech you need to produce a certain amount of drills) – but my primary goal in teaching is fun; this is the main reason I teach, honestly. And when you can teach, play and have fun at the same time – how could I resist the temptation?

3. Friendship

For years I’ve been attending fantasy fans’ conventions and spent hours talking about RPGs, systems, world, adventures and sessions – if you’re a teacher, imagine attending a teachers’ conference and discussing with a random teacher of another subject and from another part of your country your issues with a particular group of students: it doesn’t sound probable, right? Yet that’s what RPGs fans do, we share our adventures, epic stories and even equally epic dice rolls! Why? Because RPGs connect people – you start talking about the last edition of Warhammer, go for a pint, it turns out you have some common interests apart from RPGs, then you meet more people like this, have a great time, you meet them again on another convention and boom! suddenly you have friends all over the country.

Very useful from a tourist’s point of view.

4. Research

I remember, when we started playing my presently favourite system (Delta Green) we did quite a lot of research on American governmental organisations (as you usually play an FBI agent, or a CDC official, or maybe even an NRA representative, and you even might playing a CIA agent if you’re risky enough). Likewise, when we started playing Call of Cthulhu┬áin 1920, we had to do some research on laws, politics, pop-culture, social code etc. I’m planning to take my teen students on the journey to the USA in the 1920s and that will require them to do some reading and learn things they otherwise wouldn’t even bother to think about.

5. Memories

Imagine meeting people after five years and trying to find a common topic after you’re done with the small talks. Sometimes it causes awkward silence, but never for the RPGs fans! Our chats are full of “do you remember” – “do you remember when you killed that giant demonic slug with one hit?” (don’t ask…) or “do you remember when we had to solve the case of the missing hen?” (4 hours playing). Taking part in various “after years” meetings I must say the RPG-related ones are the liveliest and the funniest. No English course will give you memories similar to those when you go on an adventure with a group of people who ultimately become your friends.

6. Team building

I live in Poland. Poland is a lovely country but the social trust is terribly low. As a nation, we don’t really trust people – and something I’ve observed and been told when I worked abroad is that we’re not really team players. And that’s true, even when you look at the way we’re working, starting from primary school. Team-work is important, being teachers we know that collaboration and cooperation are vital. Now, RPGs teach you team building. You have to work as a team, otherwise you won’t complete the quest. Communication, negotiation and the awesome ability of taking the blame sometimes and not blaming others – you learn it all here.

7. Teacher’s laziness

I know there are hard-working teachers who enjoy lesson-prep, copying materials and cutting-out visuals. Regretfully, I am not one of them. If you read my blog, you probably know the best lesson for me is when my students do the work and I am a mere counsellor. RPGs work like that – you prepare an adventure, define the area of the language your students are going to practise (“today we focus on the passive”) and make notes of new vocabulary they will want to revise after the session… and then you basically have fun! Especially when you see your students having a blast, not even realising they’re learning the language.

To be sure, I could give you more examples of RPGs being awesome in your class – and I probably will, as this year I’m starting a mini-course of English based solely on RPGs. Adventures galore, a group of teenagers, Great Cthulhu and English – what can possibly go wrong?

Well, we’re about to see quite soon…