Role-Playing Teaching (Part 11: Abominable Terror as Means of Entertainment)

Role-Playing Teaching (2) I love autumn. The days are getting shorter, the evenings longer and the general feeling is that it’s so cosy to stay in with a cup of hot tea (or hot chocolate). The only thing to make it better is to add some more fun with free educational value. Aaaaand here we are with my next article on Role-Playing Games and how it can make your life easier and your classroom funnier.

Today we’ll discuss horror, terror, unspeakable doom and abominable fun they bring, and also why you could spend money on something nobody pays me to advertise.

I have written quite a lot about different role-playing games, various worlds and ideas, but today I want to encourage you to try on your own. And since we’re all dealing with English, the system I would recommend most is Call of Cthulhu. The greatest advantage of CoC is that you may choose your favourite period, from 1890s to… well, technically to the future as there are systems like Delta Green or CthulhuTech that are more future-oriented. Still, let’s start with the classic CoC and by classic I mean the USA in the 1920s. Fun, mystery and all that jazz. The players take the roles of more or less ordinary people – detectives, doctors, criminals, artists etc. and the adventures always start innocently, in a realistically described world, where the one of the few subtle differences is that we can visit Arkham with its Miskatonic University and infamous neighbourhood. It’s easy to create an ordinary character in a world that you pretty much are familiar with. The great benefit of this setting is that it encourages players to do a bit of reading on the period and if there’s any period of the USA history to be studied that’s certainly the 1920s! You could watch a film (film noir is great, even if it’s a genre about the 1940s, the atmosphere of gloom and doom suits CoC marvellously, but Chicago will also be great) or read some articles on the Net to get the grasp of the realia of the times. Now, in order to realise what unspeakable terror may await you (remember, your character will not know anything of the menacing shadows) – you may familiarise yourself with HPL’s stories.

This is something I find adorable – people who wouldn’t spend ten minutes on learning vocabulary would pore over the dictionary just to understand HPL’s alliterations and grammar (you may find some fine Future Perfect uses in his works).

The next advantage of CoC in general is the abundance of adventures, so you don’t have to trouble yourself with creating new stories (which can be overwhelming), but just get a sourcebook and follow the plot, adding some personal events. Game mechanics is as easy as can be – characters’ skills are defined by percentage (the higher the skill, the better your ability) and tests are basically determined by a 1d100 roll (which is a roll of two ten-sided dice where one is tenths and the other units). If you roll within your skill limit – you generally pass. I don’t encourage you to bring a RPG system to your classroom with more than fifteen pupils if you haven’t played a game before. But if you’re an English teacher – get yourself a copy of the Call of Cthulhu RPG and try to play a simple adventure with your friends. You will have a perfect entertainment for an autumn evening, you will experience the fun, the educational value and the possibilities you may include in your classroom. With the world that is easy to revive (especially for EFL teachers, honestly, I find them way more into the world than other people!), characters so ordinary that impersonating them isn’t difficult, and ready-made adventures – you can play a game on your own. Enjoy!
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How to Organise Phrasal Verbs? (book review)

How to Organise Phrasal Verbs_ (book review)

One of my most vivid memories from summer schools in England is the Arrival Day, when new students were picked up by young and happy people (usually 18-22 year old native speakers) from the airport and transported to school. Often it was an experience baffling for both parties – foreign kids couldn’t understand English teens and the latter couldn’t understand the fact someone didn’t get them. They thought they were perfectly understandable, but for those kids “alright, pick up your stuff and move along” was not the English they were used to.

Admit it, teaching phrasal verbs isn’t the most pleasant experience in the classroom. First of all, there are so many of them, they tend to be so illogical and a different preposition changes the whole meaning of the sentence. It makes learners believe the best way to deal with the wretched phrasal verbs is to avoid them, but we know that won’t do.

We need to be brave, though – we, the teachers, are meant to teach not only the adorable Present Perfect or crime-related vocabulary, but also the phrasal verbs. And if you – like yours truly – are not the greatest fan of those expressions that seem to be randomly mixed words with an extra weird meaning, I have a great solution for you!

Phrasal Verb Organiser is a great book written by John Flower who had apparently seen too many students suffering because of this ridiculous phrasal-verbish-conundrum… or maybe he had seen too many teachers struggling? Whatever inspired him to write the book brought us one of the most useful books ever.

Who is the book for?

Originally the book was designed for students, especially those who learn English on their own (“it is better to do a little at regular intervals, rather than a lot at one time, and then nothing for weeks”). However, I got myself a copy when I was a teacher and I found it a great help when teaching students on B2 level – it has helped me to provide the appropriate amount of phrasal verbs to help them move beyond the learning plateau.

How is it organised?

Surprisingly, you don’t start with the exercises – first you get started with the whole idea of a phrasal verb, with some sweet lies like “it is often possible to understand what a phrasal verb means by looking at its particles”.

As if I didn’t know that phrasal verbs are fragments of an ancient ritual of summoning demonic creatures from the deepest abyss of hell!

And then you may enjoy nine chapters titled e.g. verbs with down/up/off/out/two particles etc. Then you may enjoy common verbs (be, get, go etc.), phrasal verbs with nouns or adjectives and even phrasal verbs by topic (business, feelings, travel or even colloquial expressions). If you’re not sure about the meaning, the book provides a useful mini-dictionary.

How can I use it in the classroom?

Each chapter has the same organisation – you start with matching verbs and particles so that they can be used in sentences; there are also funny pictures illustrating some of the verbs. You can always check your answer with the answer key, so no worries! If you need a greater challenge, after each chapter there’s a summary where you need to use one phrasal verb matching a couple of sentences.

You can simply use it in the classroom once in a while, bringing in random chunks of phrasal verbs (“this week we’ll work on the verbs with up“).

Ideas for extra activities

But wait, there is more! If you want to create a real combo, you can use one of the ready-made tests (seriously, tests on phrasal verbs – that is evil!). You can also use the verbs in some classroom games (bingo?) or races. I found the topic-selected chapters really useful for my adult students, but I guess you might use the book in many creative ways (using a meme generator and making one meme per day with a phrasal verb sounds like a great idea for a competition!).

Recommendations

The book practises over 700 phrasal verbs with more than 1000 meanings. Truth be told, I don’t think I would be able to recall all of them, so I admit I still find it useful, not only for my students, but also for self-study. If your students are just a wee bit too formal, or if you feel your language skills are soon going to be used by the BBC – go for it!

And have a blast!

7 Free Online Courses in October

7 Free OnlineCoursesin October

Finally – summer is over, we can enjoy autumn with its colour, winds and long evenings! I love long, dark evenings which I can spend with a book (have just finished Hellboy series) or a controller (Persona 5 at the moment, a really nice game). My September was the most hectic month ever – I travelled the whole country training new Disney English teachers, so now I’m ready to enjoy some rest and, well, online courses.

As usual, I picked a set of nice courses for you to enjoy during October evenings.

1 Ignite Your Everyday Creativity by the State University of New York 

Start: 1st Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want new and better ideas for professional and personal lives

If you look into the details of the course, you will find its description as creative as the subject it introduces. Look at it Another Way, Visualize it Richly and Colorfully, Enjoy and Use Fantasy – these are the techniques used throughout the course to practise own creativity. If you’re already tired with your school duties, you might enjoy learning a new viewpoint!

2 Teaching Impacts of Technology: Workplace of the Future by University of California, San Diego 

Start: 1st Oct, 2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to explore the impacts of the technology on the workplace

The course will explore fundamentals behind database storage and access that helps match people to possible jobs. You will also see that technology and the Internet are changing not only what kinds of jobs we can get, but how we can stay trained and train for new jobs our entire life, something that may be useful not only to you, but also to your students.

3 Negotiation and Conflict Resolution by the MGSM

Start: 14th Oct, 2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to improve their negotiation decisions

Being a teacher means solving conflicts on a regular basis, be it among your students or during parent-teacher meetings. This course will show you a range of negotiation strategies, label different phases of a negotiation and demonstrate what to do in each phase. It may be a good course for those who have just started teaching younger students.

4 Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 15th Oct, 2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people interested in the ideology of race and cultural diversity in America’s past and present

The primary focus of this course is on the historical and social relationships among European Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/as, and Asian/Pacific Americans. You will learn about how race, ethnicity and cultural diversity have shaped American institutions, ideology, law, and social relationships from the colonial era to the present.

5 English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development by the British Council

Start: 22nd Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: parents and educators

The way children acquire the language is different to the educational process by the adults. This course explores how young children learn inside the early years classroom. If you have just started working with young learners, this course may be a great idea for you.

6 Preparing to Network in English by the University of Washington

Start: self-paced

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: those who want to expand their business network and professional connections

Research shows that many jobs aren’t officially advertised. Many companies rely on connections with people, which makes networking so important. This course may be a nice idea not only for you, but also for your students, especially when you teach a Business English class, or when they plan to move to another country and want to learn how to catch a dream job opportunity.

7 Creative Problem Solving by the University of Minnesota

Start: 22nd Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to to develop multiple ideas and concepts to solve problems

This course will help you understand the role of creativity and innovation. You will be prompted to challenge your own habits and routines in order to understand that creativity is based on societal norms, and that by its nature it will be discouraged by society. Starting with “eat something different today” you will be encouraged to question your way of reasoning.

I believe at least one of those courses will prove a good companion during those lovely autumn evenings.

Enjoy!