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!

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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?

Teacher, do you remember why you love your job?

Teacher, do you remember why you love your job_

At the moment a lot of Polish teachers are on strike. Due to legal issues the official reason of the strike is the demand for salary raise. However, we all realise it’s the system itself that requires changes and virtually everyone wants to discuss the problem and promote some alternatives. What causes the strife is various approaches and perspectives people have.

I cannot go on strike as I don’t work in a public school anymore, but I already shared my thoughts on the topic on my FB page.

I know many of my teaching colleagues are torn between their duty and their desperation. The government takes them on a pretty extreme guilt trip, so they need all the support they can get (e.g. Polish artists, scientists and journalists set up a fund and after two days they collected more than 700.000 euro). Yet I believe we all know this feeling of discouragement, with more and more administrative duties, students requiring more individual care and parents who are becoming more and more demanding.

What I want to write about is a short list of things that may help you smile, lift up your chin and remember that we matter, teachers matter, that regardless of what people claim, we do change the world. And we should never, ever, stop believing that.

Sir Ken Robinson “Do schools kill creativity”

This is the most popular TED talk ever. Have you ever wondered why? I have – and I don’t think it’s because it berates the soulless system of education. I believe it’s so popular because it gives us hope – that as long as we stay true to our teaching heart, we may change the world, create better futures for our students and ourselves. The idea of education cannot exist without teachers, but teachers can succeed without the limitations of the outdated system.

Silly souvenirs

Admit it, you keep them somewhere and only pretend you don’t remember them. “Thank you” cards from your students, compositions, artwork etc. I have some poems praising my black and rotten heart written by my teenage students, an angel that looks like Darth Vader (Christmas project), a composition on eating cats (it was a joke, no cat was eaten during research), photos of delicious cakes my students made… Well, the point is: go on memory lane once in a while. All those things will remind you that you matter, your work matters, your ideas inspire your students and this is as it should be.

Dead Poets Society

My favourite films about teaching is Kung-Fu Panda and Star Wars, but every one of us who watched Dead Poets Society wanted to have a teacher like Keating, to be Keating, to have own students saying “oh captain, my captain”. Now, I’m sure we all have those moments we realise we’ve changed something – we made ours student discover something new, choose a new path, take up a new challenge. We all can be Keatings in our own way.

Don’t you forget this.

Taylor Mali “What Teachers Make”

You probably know this poem, but it’s never boring to listen to again. What do we, teachers, make?

Sir Ken Robinson “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”

“We are all born with extraordinary powers of imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition, spirituality, and of physical and sensory awareness.” Let me close my list of inspirations just as I began, with Sir Ken Robinson. If you haven’t read his book on passion – do this. Just take a look at some quotes and you will soon realise why. It isn’t only about passion, it’s also about people you need to share it with. If you struggle with a teaching crisis, this book may come in handy, because you will find a lot of stories of successful people who quit schools… but somehow still found teachers.

We will prevail, even if our educational systems will not.

Robinson, Ken; Aronica, Lou: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Publisher: Viking Books, 2009

ISBN: 9780670020478

7 Free Online Courses in April

7freeonline coursesin April

April is still a pretty moody month, and the best thing one may wish for is weather that is quite stable. Unfortunately, we’re bound to experience the mixture of sunny and gloomy days, but it’s all good since we know what April showers bring.

Free online courses, of course, they bring free online courses.

Below you will find my monthly selection of free courses you may take online. Hopefully they will let you – and your students, as I found some nice options that may be used as interesting projects – bloom just like flowers.

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to get the most from your university experience

It’s a great idea to use this short course as an additional project with your students who aim to pass their exams and attend higher education. It’s only two weeks, but you may use it as a nice opportunity to show them the merits of self-education and discuss their progress in the classroom. Show them you believe in their potential!

The IB Extended Essay: Managing your Research Project by the University of Leeds and the International Baccalaureate

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to plan and write a successful extended essay

There are more and more students interested in IB as a form of education, and this course will definitely help them most. However, I recommend this course as a little bit of help when we teach our students how to structure their essay, write in an academic style and manage their time effectively so your project runs smoothly. Similarly to the previous course, I would run it as an additional project for more ambitious students. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun – and if your students feel like it, they may still join another course on IB approach.

Understanding Autism by the University of Kent

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to learn more about autism

Identified 70 years ago, autism is still a difficult topic for society. We seem to learn more and more about it, and if you work with people you might want to take this course in order to study autism and its spectrum. The course will help you not only study, but also discuss the issues of communication and social relations as well as investigate co-occurring conditions. It’s a great course, especially for teachers of children and young learners.

Caring for Vulnerable Children by the University of Strathclyde and CELCIS

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to develop their career towards child care field

In times of shrinking public services, the task of caring for vulnerable children has never been more challenging. This course will be of great help to all teachers and parents who want to learn more about risk and vulnerability. The main benefit is the possibility of discussing different methods of practice and different possible interventions.

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people with an interest in dyslexia and language learning

I have already taken up this course and recommended it months ago, but if you haven’t participated in it yet – it’s a great opportunity to do it now, as dyslectic students tend to underperform in foreign language classes. You will learn a lot of things about dyslexia and its co-occurring conditions. If you’re in need of materials for dyslectics, you may visit a page by my admirable friend Karina Frejlich. She has a lot of materials designed for dyslectic students you may but at the affordable price.

Managing Behaviour for Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 22/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to work on effective behaviour management in classroom

I recommend this course for all the teachers who struggle with classroom discipline, an issue that becomes more and more problematic. This course will help you observe how your behaviour influences your students’, how you control emotional responses and interact with students. Then, you’ll learn techniques and develop your capability to achieve consistency in managing behaviour, recognise positive behaviour and build trust in your classroom.

Professional Development for Early Career Teachers by the University of East Anglia

Start: 29/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers starting out in their careers

It’s a common question once you become a teacher that goes: “now what?”. This course will help you face your new responsibilities and duties. Through the course you will reflect on and identify your professional development needs, explore behaviour management strategies, pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, ways to prioritise your workload and more. Just like the previous course, I believe it’s a great choice for freshies, but it may be a nice refresher for all of us.

I believe you will find these courses useful both for you and your students. Have fun enjoying longer and sunnier days!

How do you even play RPGs? (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 14)

How do you even play RPGs_

Recently I’ve finished a really interesting course (Teacher Trainer Academy) and I got really valuable feedback – coming from the teachers who were indeed interested in Role-Playing Games but simply didn’t know how to play. Now, during short workshops I struggle with presenting the indubitable merits of using them in the classroom and engaging people into short scenes – but how much can one share in half an hour?

I am currently planning my very first full-time workshops on RPGs with awesome materials, ideas and stuff, but before I start (and I’m a master procrastinator, I’m afraid) I want to share some places you may visit to see RPG sessions. Mind, those are just for fun, with no educational factor included (not intentionally, I mean). For those, we will have to wait for my workshops, I guess…

Below you will find five places you may take a look at to see what RPGs are about – the first sessions, how the adventure develops, the whole team-building experience, rolls, successes and fails – along with the most important factor: fun!

Critical Role (D&D)

Critical Role is a weekly livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons game. Each week, Matthew Mercer, the Dungeon Master, leads his friends (also fellow voice actors!) on epic adventures. You may want to start here, as Critical Role is one of the most popular and professional places to get familiar with RPGs.

Yogscasts High Rollers D&D Aerois Campaign (D&D)

The typical D&D campaign with elves, warlocks, paladins… and starships, because why not. You can watch the campaign live every Sunday, 5pm GMT/BST, on the Yogscast and HighRollersDnD Twitch channels since July 1, 2018, but you may just as well get familiar with their first sessions.

Dungeons & Dragons on Twitch

If you want to discover the magic of classical Dungeon & Dragons, you can visit their Twitch channel and watch a random session or two. Some of them are professional, others are adorably home-made, but if you browse through them, you will see why RPGs are so popular.

Geek and Sundry – Relics and Rarities (D&D)

D&D again (no wonder, it’s the most popular system over the pond), but this time this is probably the most professional recording ever. You can watch the first episode here, and subscribe to their Twitch channel to watch the sessions live. You may join the observers to follow a crew of bold players on a quest to stop an unholy prophecy from coming to fruition.

Baniak Baniaka – Warhammer (PL)

If you’re Polish, you might try Baniak Baniaka, a channel created by Michał Bańka, probably the most popular Game Master in Poland. Michał gamemasters various systems, but Warhammer is the oldest one. Personally, I played a session gamemastered by Michał (Warhammer of course) and it was pretty much fun – not educational, mind, but still fun. You may notice there aren’t many women playing there, but it doesn’t mean women don’t play RPGs!

Graj Kolektyw – various (PL)

A bunch of Polish RPG enthusiasts play games and promote various systems. You may visit their page here – again, it’s in Polish only to learn more about their ideas, but it’s nice to follow their adventures – they are enjoyable and pretty much show what RPGs are about.

To Ja Go Tnę – various (PL)

A channel on YouTube by fans for fans – various Game Masters and systems, always fun. If I were to recommend a particular session, it would be “Cienie Wolności” not only because it’s a Call of Cthulhu session… but mainly, aye 😉

I hope you’ll like the idea of an RPG session – mind I wouldn’t dream of encouraging you to watch whole campaigns… unless you feel like it, of course. Just take a peek and see how it rolls – a lot of talking, an occasional roll of the dice, some experience points to see the character growing… and on we go.

Until my workshops, at least 🙂

Creative Confidence – not only in your classroom

not only in your classroom

Once in a while I come across the book that changes my perspective on work or life in general. Last year I discovered SuperBetter and Jane McGonigal who seriously changed my life into a way better one. This time, I discovered brothers Kelley with their “Creative Confidence” and I thought I absolutely owe you a review of this book. However, I am only able to share some impressions, as it is quite impossible to write a review of something that made me feel like I can change the world if I only try.

Which in my case means “take over the world and become the Evil Empress of the World” but hey, aim high!

Flip! Dare! Spark! Leap! Seek! Team! Move! – all those action words are simply the titles of the chapters, but they pretty much show you what the book is like, full of action, positive vibes, and fun. You will find personal stories mixed with the research results and ideas that are meant to make you think – and they do, indeed. In my case, I had to take a break after ten pages or so to summarise ideas and switch the general concepts from the environment of an American university to a Polish edublogger and DoS… but the fact that you feel encouraged to try and think differently makes this book quite inspiring.

What makes the book worth reading? In Poland we have a saying “to let everything go and leave for Bieszczady” which globally would translate to “let everything go and leave for Iceland” (as both Bieszczady and Iceland are beautiful places but no sane person would ever start living there for good – and yes, I know Polish people are the greatest minority in Iceland which pretty much explains the Bieszczady saying thing). Anyway, the thing is – even when (or especially when) you’re a successful individual, quite well-off, with a stable relationship and a trusted group of friend, something suddenly snaps and you suffocate and feel you have to leave and start anew. This is pretty much what happened with David and Tom Kelley, brothers who had everything, except for one tiny thing: fun.

I’m not really comparing teachers to rich and successful businessmen, but the main question remains: it’s not easy to have fun once you’re supposed to be a pillar of a society, is it? As Alexander Woollcott said, “anything in life that’s any fun is either immoral, illegal or fattening.” Apart from this fact which is both sad and true, it’s difficult to have fun when you’re a teacher. You probably like your job, but the amount of paperwork, conferences and tedious routine makes it less and less exciting. That’s when you know you need joy – and creativity brings so much fun!

You will find a lot of ideas and inspirations to wake up your creativity and find new confidence. I think it’s a perfect book for the upcoming spring because the easiest visualisation of the effect of this book will show your creativity and the joy of thinking out of the box blooming like first flowers. I cannot share the ways of rediscovering the forgotten paths of creativity you will find in this book, bar one: the fragment that concerns gaming.

Author, futurist and game designer, Jane McGonigal talked to us recently about how video gaming can spark its own form of creative confidence. Jane makes a convincing case that harnessing the power of video games can have a major impact on life in real world. In the realm of video games, the level of challenge and reward rises proportionately with a gamer’s skills; moving forward always requires concentrated effort, but the next goal is never completely out of reach. This contributes to what Jane calls „urgent optimism”: the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope for success. Gamers always believe that an „epic win” is possible – that it is worth trying, and trying now, over and over again. In the euphoria of an epic win, gamers are shocked to discover the extent of their capabilities

So maybe instead of letting everything go and leaving for Bieszczady/Iceland we may simply play a game… especially a game where you can act out a person living in such a wonderfully remote place – because the best thing about it you can always go back to your comfortable room, favourite pub and, yes, the Internet!

Kelley, Tom and David

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

ISBN: 978-0385349369