Lovecraftian Bedtime Story (for cats and their personnel)

Today there is no blog post… only a bedtime story, although maybe not suitable for little children 🙂
The story is by Howard Phillips Lovecraft and includes no blasphemous evil, no unspeakable terror lurking from the murky water… only cats.

If you want to read “The cats of Ulthar”, you will find it here.

Enjoy!

10 Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Online

I consider myself lucky, as I had been working as an online teacher for years before the massive switch online (aka Covid19) happened. I’m sure most of you already know what teaching online looks like, and you’re getting quite experienced in this field. However, as a teacher, and a DoS observing quite a lot of online lessons, I must admit there are some universal truths worth sharing.

Do

  1. Smile: nothing makes your students more at ease than your smile.
Smiling shark in Florida looks just like friendly Bruce from ...

2. Use a camera: it’s way easier for your students to see you eye to eye
3. Crack a joke: we all need a little bit of laughter.
4. Dress up: it’s fun! Or, if you don’t feel like changing your style, remember to wear something bright and colourful to keep your students’ attention.
5. Pay attention to your background: it doesn’t have to be a blank wall, it may be your library, just make sure it’s tidy and clean. Sure, you can use an app-generated background, but you won’t look so natural, and it may also affect you connection.
6. Teach the way you’ve always taught: your students have their coursebooks and can use them. To be sure, the lesson pace will probably be slower, but your students don’t expect online madness, they just want to have a regular lesson with you.
7. Make your students move a bit: kids and teens quickly get restless in an online classroom, ask them to dance to a song or introduce a short activity where they can move.
8. Get to know each other better: the moment you switch online, you invite your students to your room – if you have anything your students might find amusing, use it. Cats, dogs, hamsters, children? I’m sure your students will love it.

I’d love to see my teacher online with his pet tarantula! One of the teachers I’ve trained asked me during a short chat ‘how are your cats?’ She explained she’d watched me so many times on my workshops, she felt like she knew my home and my pets. That was cute!

9. Be extra nice: you don’t know what’s happening on the other side of your screen. It’s more difficult to sense whether your students have some issues (not necessarily school-related). Being polite costs nothing.
10. Relax after each lesson: in an offline life you have a break. Be sure to have one online, as well. Get some hot coffee (yay, you may enjoy hot coffee nowadays!), dance for a while, play with a cat – chill before your next class, it will be easier to smile!

Don’t

1. Panic: that’s the worse thing you can do. If a problem arises, be like Penguins of Madagascar:

Favorite quote from Madagascar. Smile and wave boys! (With images ...

2. Expect perfection: yes, there will be technical issues, there will be problems with cameras or audio, there will be cases when your presentation doesn’t work. Happens. You’ve probably worked with technology before, so you know, sometimes Murphy’s Law gets the better of you.
3. Make fuss about the background noise: if you’re not a professional online teacher it’s perfectly fine if your environment isn’t dead quiet. Accept it, and make sure your students realise the same – it isn’t a normal state, so relax a bit.
4. Forget to wear pants: there are some things you don’t want to experience, this may be one of them. If you think you’re safe as the camera only shows your top, you may be sorely mistaken.
5. Ignore the security issues: your class could get visited by a troll, it happens. The only thing you can do to prevent it is read carefully the security guidance of your teaching platform and act accordingly.
6. Come unprepared for your class: apart from your regular materials, have a short story ready to share when your students are still connecting, come up with a simple procedure what to do when someone gets disconnected (and practise it once in a while)
7. Neglect your appearance: working from home may sound nice when it comes to dress code, and sure you don’t have to wear a suit or waste time on full make-up. However, you really should take a shower before your lesson… and do brush your teeth!
8. Presume you’re alone with your students: because you probably are not. There are parents in the background, or siblings and maybe even grandparents, trying to be quiet, but ever watchful. Just think about your online lesson as a regular lesson only with the classroom door wide open.
9. Slurp, sigh, write on the keyboard: you’re using a microphone, which means all the unnecessary sounds will be perfectly audible. That includes sniffing, using your mobile phone, tapping the keyboard – try to limit them if you can
10. Forget to tell your students that you really do like them: and that you respect their ability to switch online so well, and to keep studying so hard!

These are my ideas… But I’m sure you’ve got yours! Share them and make our teaching a better experience!

7 Free Online Courses in May

The weather is getting more and more enjoyable, and the evenings are simply made to go out, breathe in the scent of spring flowers and listen to the birds clearly enjoying their human-free time. Unfortunately I can’t enjoy a nice evening walk… but I can still enjoy a May evening, with a great online course.
And this May brings some really interesting courses you can also enjoy.

How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students by FutureLearn

Start: open
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: educators, teachers, lecturers, and trainers who have to rapidly move from face-to-face to online teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
You will learn:

  • how to adapt your practice to the online context
  • how to manage the personal impact of teaching online
  • how to create and share approaches and techniques for maintaining continuity while moving teaching and learning online
  • how to collect, review and evaluate student feedback on your new approaches

COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression by the University of Reading

Start: 04/05/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who have contact with young people during COVID-19
You will learn:

  • how to engage in strategies for managing your  thoughts  and your feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • how to use this time as an opportunity for developing resilience
  • how to apply helpful communication techniques to ensure conflict is kept to a minimum

Inside IELTS: Preparing for the Test with the Experts by the British Council, IDP, IELTS and Cambridge Assessment English

Start: 11/05/2020
Duration: 5 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to take IELTS Academic or improve their IELTS score
You will learn:

  • how preparing for IELTS can also help you develop skills that are useful in Higher Education
  • how to identify your own strengths and needs in relation to IELTS Academic
  • how to assess your specific abilities in order to find ways to improve

Business Fundamentals: Effective Networking by the Open University

Start: 11/05/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who want enhance and develop their professional network
You will learn:

  • how to identify, select and use online tools to enhance your digital presence
  • how to apply the principles of effective networking
  • how to develop interpersonal skills including giving and receiving feedback, listening and using appropriate body language

Foundations of Project Management by the University of Coventry

Start: 18/05/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to explore project management
You will learn:

  • how to assess the importance of project management
  • how to describe the typical project management process, its documentation and deliverables that are produced in each project phase
  • project phases and processes, such as traditional project life cycles

Building a Future with Robots by the University of Sheffield

Start: 25/05/2020
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: people with an interest in robotics
You will learn:

  • some basic principles of robotic design
  • existing and potential real-life robotic applications
  • what a robot needs to be able to sense the world using drones, youBots and autonomous cars as examples

Leaders of Learning by Harvard University

Start: open
Duration: 10 weeks
Recommended for: people with an interest in learning and its future
You will learn:

  • how to define your personal theory of learning
  • what leadership looks like in different learning environments
  • how an organization’s structure reflects its theories of learning
  • how neuroscience will affect the future of learning

And for now – stay safe!

I hope you’ll find the courses interesting and enjoyable. Hopefully it’s the last month of self-isolation – I do realise life won’t be the same for a while, but I would love to switch offline for a week or so…

Mindfulness for Kids (book review)

As a DoS and a teacher trainer, I’m currently working with the EFL teachers dealing with the youngest students – and I must admit that something we generally call negative behaviours is becoming more and more common in the classroom.
Stresses of modern day life (let alone the self-isolation period, something children have to maintain often without the understanding of the pandemic) often end up with children’s anxiety, aggression outbursts or withdrawal.

It’s easy to say we should implement some simple mindfulness practices in our classroom (both online and offline) to help children calm down a bit. Naturally, I had been looking for those activities, but it was quite difficult to find something matching my criteria:

  • short
  • simple
  • fun
  • effective
  • adapted to the classroom environment

Lo and behold! Just before the lockdown I somehow found the book titled 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince, and I simply had to buy it and read it immediately. Was it a good decision and am I going to encourage you to get this book on your own, lockdown or not?
Well, read on.

Book organisation

Obviously, the book includes 100 mindfulness activities. Each activity takes a page and consists of:

  • a catchy title (like starfish hand meditation or breathing wand)
  • a quote from a practitioner (parent or child)
  • a summary of the idea
  • a step-by-step plan to introduce the activity
  • a teaching tip
  • bonus ideas
  • hashtags (so that you can find and follow the discussion online)

There are ten chapters focusing on various types of activities:

  • breathing
  • guided meditation
  • active meditation
  • gratitude
  • yoga
  • emotional intelligence
  • mindful colouring and doodling
  • calm down and relax
  • mindful walking
  • teacher’s mindfulness

Content

Mindfulness can be defined as the mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment while also accepting our feelings – writes Tammie Prince in introduction. However, she also realises that with a curriculum constantly growing, it’s virtually impossible to implement new classes using mindfulness practices to help relieve stress, learn controlling emotions or improve decision-making skills.

She proposes a set of simple activities that can be easily implemented in any classroom, in various age groups and various subjects. EFL teachers will find those activities beneficial not only for students’ mental health, but also linguistic development. Just look at this adorable idea that can be adapted as a great classroom project:

Idea 39, from 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom

What I find particularly interesting, is the section focused on teacher’s well-being. Ever since we all switched online, I’ve observed that some teachers get more and more stressed and frustrated – and I believe some of the mindfulness activities may be of great help. Like the one below, quite apt, isn’t it:

Idea 96, from 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom

Recommendations

I have tested this book on myself – and since I’m working with teachers who are currently quite stressed, I happen to share the feeling, so I was like Ahhh, whatever, my attention span is like 10 minutes at the moment, short activities for primary kids should work just well.
And… they do.

I particularly liked the colouring section with short and simple doodling activities – it only takes a few minutes, but helps me focus on what I’m planning to do and calm down a bit (which is quite important since people tend to be slightly more irritated than usual).

So, to answer the question: am I going to encourage you to get this book on your own, lockdown or not? – Yes, definitely yes!
And if you either teach young students or simply are a parent – that book will be a great source of inspiration to use while working with kids.

If it works for me, it should work well for 7 year old kids 🙂

Enjoy!

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom (100 ...

Prince, Tammie: 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom

Publisher: Bloomsbury Education

ISBN: 9781472944955

3 Spring Lesson Ideas

Self-quarantine, week 6.
I’ve heard rumours that it’s already spring out there, in the wild. It may be, as I haven’t been on a walk for weeks. To be sure, it is somewhat frustrating… So I decided to revive some spring spirit itn an EFL classroom – be that online or offline – so below you’ll find my three favourite no-prep ideas for spring-related activities.

The Colors of Evil

What’s better than pink, fluffy and cuddly evil? Pink, fluffy and cuddly evil that helps you work on your English!
One of my favourite shorts is The Colors of Evil, an unbelievably adorable film showing you the importance of spelling… and friendship. All you need is click on this link and see a ready lesson plan.
This lesson is so colourful and fresh, it will brighten any day!

Spring poems

I remember when I asked my students to write spring poems…
I don’t think they realised that they would have been 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, and to their surprise they managed to do it just beautifully!
If you want to see the lesson plan – and my students’ poetry – just click here.

I rewrote the poems into Canva projects, printed them out and decorated school with them, however in the online classroom I would encourage them to make their own Canva posters – you may still print them out once you get back to your classroom.

Tourists attractions (A2-B1 and above)

It’s a little project that takes around two lessons, with a lot of fun for students and literally nothing you have to do before the class, as Google Maps or Google Street View showing the vicinity of your school will do just fine.

On the first lesson, students pick some interesting places around the school and, in secret, make up interesting stories about them – 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 using either Google Maps or Google Street View, 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.
Secondly, you’ll enjoy an impression of a real excursion. Feel free to talk about your favourite places, where you would like to go once the self-isolation time is over etc. It can be a simple, yet memorable experience!

I hope you like my ideas – frankly speaking, I’ve felt spring just writing them down. Have fun with your students!

Stay safe!

Netflix – your own EFL teacher at home

Self-quarantine. Week 4.
With the weather getting nicer with every passing day, it’s more and more difficult to stay in. I generally love staying home, but even for me there’s a limit to delicious tea, good books and cosy blankets. I feel like I need something extra to keep me at home, and fortunately there’s Netflix!

I think almost every language teacher recommends watching films and documentaries in the target language, as it helps develop listening comprehension skills. Naturally, Netflix is really helpful with giving us access to the material of various genres, languages and accents.
I’m sure everyone has their favourite type of TV series or films, so I’m not even trying to recommend any. No, this post is about something else.

Last month I had a webinar about funny ways you may work on your English at home, and one of those ways is obviously watching Netflix with LNN. And I was really surprised when I realised nobody has yet heard about it – so I’ve decided to write about it on my blog.

LNN: Language Learning with Netflix

LLN is a Chrome extension that gives you new learning opportunities with Netflix. It makes studying languages with films/series more effective. The subtitles can now be adjusted to your needs. The machine translation is the literal one which will help you understand the structure of the sentence in the language you are studying, and the human translation focuses more on expressions and idioms.

source: https://languagelearningwithnetflix.com/

The LNN offers a catalogue to help you find Netflix titles with high-quality subtitles in the language you study. More than this, LNN has some study tips that will help you use the extension best depending on your linguistic level, so everyone can use it.

Another good thing about LNN is that it’s not only about English – you may now learn Spanish while watching La casa de papel or even Polish, if you’re brave enough! There are many languages available, so feel free to use it – because the best thing about LNN is that it’s free!

I want to recommend this solution to everyone, both teachers and students, as it may help you watch Netflix with a proper excuse – after all you’re going to learn a language, not only waste your time watching TV series!
I hope you’ll have fun and it’ll make your self-quarantined times easier. Remember, every day brings us closer to the happier days!

Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in April (and not one about teaching online!)

Self-isolation, week 3.
Do you also have the feeling that you’d like the good, old times back? And only a month ago I was travelling, having fun and definitely not thinking about expressions like covid, self-isolation, quarantine, social distancing. What I need at the moment is an illusion that nothing has changed – and I know that my favourite online courses will help. Just learning something new will help me feel better.
If you also want to escape into the world of education, feel free to join me. I know you must be pretty tired, so I carefully left out all the courses on teaching online.

Project Management: Beyond the Basics by The Open University

Start: 6/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to explore project management
You will learn:

  • how to go beyond the basics of project management in your own professional practice
  • how to improve your awareness of the professional skills required to be a project manager
  • how to identify the appropriate methods and techniques for specific project management scenarios
  • how to manage project teams with success

Getting Started with Agile and Design Thinking by Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

Start: 13/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people interested in developing digital products, who are using agile methods and have some experience working in the digital space
You will learn:

  • key concepts and practices from the agile product development methodology
  • how to create a strong shared perspective and drive to value using personas and problem scenarios
  • how to introduce agile product development and design thinking so you can build better digital products

Managing Behaviour for Learning by National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 20/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: teachers (primarily STEM) interested in their CPD
You will learn:

  • how your own behaviour influences the behaviour of your students
  • how to apply recognition intelligently to motivate students
  • how to apply rules and routines to achieve consistency

Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding

Start: 30/03/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who have digital skills but would like to build confidence in using digital technology in the workplace
You will learn:

  • how to identify your personal communications style
  • how to engage in challenging conversations with positive outcomes
  • how to reflect on your personal style and technique
  • how to apply your communication style in the workplace

Teaching for Success: Lessons and Teaching by the British Council

Start: now
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: teachers of English as a foreign language at all levels
You will learn:

  • how to compare teaching approaches and experience with others from around the world
  • how to identify the benefits of resources and the role of technology
  • how to reflect on professional development needs and practices
  • how to explore classroom management and factors that influence learning

Good Practice in Autism Education by the University of Bath

Start: 30/03/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who work with autistic children in schools, such as teachers and teaching assistants
You will learn:

  • how to identify the educational requirements of children on the autism spectrum with and without intellectual (learning) difficulties
  • how to explain the concept of inclusion to promote inclusive culture, policies and practices within mainstream schools
  • what constitutes good practice for autism within educational settings

Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by The Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 06/04/2020
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: teachers delivering cybersecurity lessons in the classroom
You will learn:

  • how to explain the meanings of terms describing common cyberattacks, such as phishing, pharming, shoulder surfing and blagging
  • about the protections offered to users by the Misuse of Computer Act
  • how “anti-virus” software works

I hope you’ll like the courses I found for you – they are all quite short and easy to take up, so I’m sure they’ll give your brain the time to relax and focus on something new, rather than, well, quite grim reality.
Stay safe, and stay home!