7 Free Online Courses in December

Winter is here – maybe it’s snowy in your place, but here in Poland it’s just grey and dull (and cold). I managed to find some fine hot chocolate, just to spend my evenings reading and learning. Like every month, I found a set of lovely free online courses, so you may spend your winter break learning something new. 

English for Teaching Purposes by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers planning to teach in English

This course on English and teaching methodology aims to help university lecturers do their teaching in English, in line with university internationalisation policies. If you are a teacher of a subject other than EFL, you might be interested in this course. Moreover, you will learn how to integrate all aspects of CLIL to put together their own English-medium course on their particular subject.

Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom by University of California

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers working in a virtual environment

If you teach in a virtual classroom, you know that assessment is still very much important, but it has to be approached in a different way than in the traditional classroom. This course will present formats of virtual assessments, assessing special populations, including at-risk, gifted, and special needs students, and learning management systems as related to performance and assessment.

ICT in Primary Education: Transforming children’s learning across the curriculum by the University of London

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in incorporating ICT in primary education

The materials in the course are based on studies carried out for the UNESCO Institute of IT in Education, Moscow. You will discuss a variety of useful tools and resources for integrating ICT as well as how children perceive the use of technology in a school context. You will also learn about learning design, infrastructure, negotiation with parents, communities of practice, policies, staff development, pedagogical innovations, differentiation, affordable access, and teaching support.

Shaping Your Professional Brand by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who are interested in building their own personal brand

If you think of building your personal brand, you may find this course particularly useful. You will learn how to manage your own approach and be prepared when things go wrong. An interesting item is a study on an effective strategy for apologising, and how to engage in disputes professionally.

Learning How To Learn for Youth by Arizona State University

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people who want to stop procrastinating and want to start studying

This course looks really awesome! You will basically learn how to learn – you will study the strategies that will turbocharge your learning, including test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets.

Magic in the Middle Ages by Universitat de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people interested in medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective of History and History of Science

This course looks like fun, especially with the approaching Solstice. Naturally, I wouldn’t encourage you to study magic – but I think such course may be quite interesting for long, winter evenings. You will learn which spiritual practices were allowed in medieval Europe and which ones were related to the devil.

For science, naturally!

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 10/12/2018

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students starting their university experience

If your students don’t really know what to do with themselves, I’d strongly recommend this course. They will be able to use this course to find out how to get the most from their university education, how to choose a course of study and how to investigate possible future roles and pathways in the profession they will eventually choose.

I hope you’ll find a nice course for yourself 🙂 

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Self-reflect December Challenge

It’s almost December which means 2018 is almost over! How?! I mean, last time I blinked it was summer! And with the End Of Year Month I have an idea for a little challenge I want to share with you and make it a nice game where we can reflect on 2018 a bit.

I’ve never been good when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, but I think reflection is quite important when one wants to develop one’s skills and broaden one’s mind. Was it a good year? I guess it wasn’t a bad one, neither for me nor for you and if you look at the set of questions you will see how much you’ve learnt, how much you know and how inspiring this year has been.

You may download the picture with the challenges and do your own little self-reflect sessions. You may share it on Facebook (I’ll be definitely doing this challenge on my page!) or your own blog. The greatest benefit of such challenge is to sum up your whole year as a teacher, remember the best moments and believe 2019 will be even better.

  • Day 1: your favourite activity from 2018
  • Day 2: most memorable story from 2018
  • Day 3: the best piece of advice you were given in 2018
  • Day 4: the moment in 2018 you felt proud as a teacher
  • Day 5: your favourite memory as a student
  • Day 6: the funniest story from 2018
  • Day 7: your favourite coursebook in 2018
  • Day 8: a new idea you implemented in 2018
  • Day 9: your favourite teaching aid in 2018
  • Day 10: the best joke you’ve heard in 2018
  • Day 11: the moment in 2018 when you felt proud of your student
  • Day 12: your favourite teaching website in 2018
  • Day 13: the person who inspired you in 2018
  • Day 14: the moment in 2018 you realised WHY you’re doing your job
  • Day 15: your greatest challenge in 2018
  • Day 16: your strongest point as a teacher
  • Day 17: most motivational idea/quotation/picture in 2018
  • Day 18: 3 reasons why you became a teacher
  • Day 19: your favourite teaching application in 2018
  • Day 20: a piece of advice you would give to a rookie teacher
  • Day 21: the best CPD book you read in 2018
  • Day 22: your greatest frustration in 2018
  • Day 23: one thing you want non-teachers to understand
  • Day 24: your most memorable teaching experiment in 2018
  • Day 25: your personal success in 2018
  • Day 26: one thing you plan to change in 2019
  • Day 27: your greatest discovery in 2018
  • Day 28: which superpower would make you a Super-Teacher
  • Day 29: one area to improve in your teaching in 2019
  • Day 30: how do you plan to start your first lesson in 2019
  • Day 31: the most important thing you want to remember tomorrow 🙂

Since I believe self-reflection is great not only for English-speaking teachers, Polish teachers will find the challenge available in our native language. Share it, spread it and let’s have fun together!


Enjoy!

7 Ideas for Engaging Homework Online

Ideas for Engaging Homework Online

Everything in moderation, including moderation, of course – that’s my motto when it comes to the idea of homework. There are those who believe in the magic of Thomson and Martinet, there are also people who prefer to teach without any homework at all. Maybe the key to success is not limiting homework or getting rid of it, but changing our approach? What about adjusting homework to our students’ needs and interests?

Teaching EFL seems much easier – at least in terms of homework – than other subjects. Students (schoolchildren and adults alike) usually understand the importance of learning the language, especially now, with the opportunities of travelling abroad, with more and more people working or studying abroad, with online games forcing people to communicate… All we, as teachers, need to do, is to shift our mindset; we live in a world where literally everything and everyone encourages people to learn English, even more – students themselves realise its importance and are mostly keen on learning after school. We must not spoil it with dull grammar drills on paper copies that are so easy to be forgotten, lost or ignored.

I believe we should share our enthusiasm, our true passion for not only teaching but using English and adapt homework to our students’ needs, styles of learning and interests. Homework assignments may be yet another way to personalise our approach and show our students the benefits of taking responsibility for their own educational process. Today, when there are many tools online ready to use, we can share them with our students, enabling them to study on their own and develop not only their linguistic skills, but also broaden their horizons.

1 Online grammar exercises

There are many useful websites for students to do their drills and doing them online may give them result immediately after they finish, without waiting fr the teacher to correct their work. You may create a padlet with all the useful exercises and tell your students your next graded test will be based on those exercises, thus motivating them to work after class.
Examples: englishgrammar.org, perfect-english-grammar.com

2 Videos

Everyone likes watching videos as homework – so why not use it more often? You can pick an interesting video summing up the lesson or introducing the next topic, you may also ask students to write a composition referring to the video. Here you may base on your students’ interests, changing boring homework into fun activity.
Examples: ed.ted.com, www.ted.com, youtube.com, truetube.co.uk

3 Listening

Listening exercises aren’t very varied in the classroom, mostly referring to the coursebook content, so we may assign a song or a podcast as an interesting homework activity – this may be their contact with “real” English, not the somewhat strict classroom environment.
Examples: lyricstraining.com, elllo.org

4 Mobile applications

Asking students to use a chosen application on their mobiles on a regular basis may prove to be a true homework of a 21st century. We may ask the whole group to use the same application in a manner of year-ling competition, or adapt various apps to our students’ individual needs, enhancing individual approach.
Examples: memrise, knudge.me, 6 minute English, various applications by the British Council

5 Tests

Apart from having fun in the classroom, you may assign a test as homework – be it a ready-made grammar test or a self-designed vocabulary check. There are many various online test applications, however for teenagers I recommend quizizz as it’s free, funny and you can use various memes.
Examples: quizizz, kahoot, quizlet

6 Class blogs

This form of a schoolyear-long project may be a great idea for a focused class of students who are already familiar with self-assessment. You may decide various topics the blog should be written about – school life, books, film, celebrities etc., but why not design a blog on classroom notes from English lessons? That would be a great help for absent students, not to mention general help before tests.

7 HiNative

This application is designed for students learning foreign languages (not only English). You may ask questions about language and culture to native speakers around the world – and get the answer, and what is even better – you may be asked questions about your native language as well. This may be a great tool for students who want to learn more about culture, or those who need to try communicating with native speakers but are somewhat shy.

It seems quite obvious, that with such availability of online sources, we should feel encouraged to use them on a regular basis, not only in the classroom, with the help of IWB and other tools, but also as homework activities, giving our students the chance not only to feel more at ease with the idea of extra activities, but also actually enjoy them.

The full post was first published in “The Teacher” nr 5(159)/2018

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!

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!

Glitter and Fun: 5 Magical Things About Teaching Adult Students

Glitter and Fun_ 5 Magical Things About Teaching Adult Students

If you think adult students are boring and focused mainly on learning, you may be underestimating their inner children. Today I’ll share with you some magic you can enjoy with your students.

I started my career of a teacher in a primary school and survived two years (not because of children who were awesome and I still stay in touch with them, adorable bundles of joy and horror but because of the merciless educational system that promotes tests and coursebooks and not fun and communication). Then I worked in a teachers’ training college (and that was so much fun), moved to Ireland for a spell (one day I’ll write a book on Brazilian students in Ireland!) and when I got back to Poland I returned to teaching all age groups.

You probably know I love teaching teenagers – some say it’s because I’m quite immature myself. I enjoy teaching children – they’re so honest and pure when it comes to expressing themselves. But there is something about the adults that I had pleasure to teach that convinced me magic is not lost once you grow up – all you need to do is let them find their inner kids and see the miracles happen.

1 Friendship

It’s quite impossible to make friends with kids and teens, but sometimes a group of adults turn out to be a group of people who are not only interested in learning English but also spending time together even after classes. I guess the reason behind this is that it’s quite difficult to make new friends once you turn 30 (unless you’re a part of a fandom) and if you spend two or three hours per week with the same people and you don’t talk shop, you may consider them first classmates, then mates and finally proper friends.

To tell you the truth, I do have some long-lasting relationships that started with English classes and I find this aspect of my work most precious. And they it all started with “today I’ll take you to the pub and we’ll have a pint, and play a board game in English…”

2 Storytelling

I love storytelling and I believe this is something that motivates people to speak English – we all have stories we want to share. It’s fun, making stories with kids, but they’re usually fantasy-based tales, with teenagers you should be prepared for weird and sometimes incoherent stories, but with adults you may try various genres, topics and ideas, be that crime story, romance or psychological drama. They will provide plot twists, interesting characters and all the fun younger students won’t include like…

3 Inappropriate jokes

Say what you will, sooner or later the adults bring in some more or less inappropriate topics (in-laws, bosses, politics, religion, partying and, naturally, sex). As a teacher I have heard some jokes that made me blush (and I have some serious suspicions that was my students’ aim), but I’ve never told them to stop, as long as the jokes were not meant to hurt or offend others.

I believe the ability of telling a lie and a joke in a foreign language is the best proof of one’s linguistic skills, so let them joke as much as they want – it makes our classes funnier and people are more engaged and friendly towards one another.

4 Realisation teaching is a job, not a hobby

One of the things I love about the adult students is mutual understanding of the work-oriented attitude. Even if teaching them is my job, I know how I sometimes feel after six hours of teaching, so when they are knackered after a particularly long day at work I can show some sympathy. On the other hand, the adult students don’t take you for granted – unlike kids and teenagers who presume you teach them because it’s fun (oh the joyous deception).

Such realisation helps both sides of the process, as teachers are conscious of students’ requirements and students realise that the classes are teachers’ work and not pure pleasure of spending time with them.

5 Glitter and stickers

Most people don’t believe it, but my experience tells me the adults are even more eager to earn a sticker for a well-written test, perfect homework or active participation in the classroom than the actual kids! Naturally, the idea of rewarding adult students with stickers requires a proper attitude of a teacher who has to present stickers as a long-sought prizes, otherwise the whole trick won’t work out. But once they get the point, there is nothing they won’t do to get a sticker.

And then you bring some glittered stickers and all hell breaks loose, trust me.

Why do I find it awesome? Because learning a language is an experience childlike to the core – and it’s so much easier to grasp this experience when you embrace your inner child, learn to laugh at mistakes and enjoy the process of learning new things.

Stickers, jokes, friendships – they are all means to use the language the way it’s meant to: to meet new people and have fun with them. Business, studies, tests come later – but making adult people feel like children, enjoy studying and communicating and have fun while learning – something they have probably forgotten – this is the most rewarding feeling a teacher may enjoy.

Have fun!

How to survive a school year when it’s only September?

Everyday is Margarita Day

Can you feel those back-to-school vibes? I sure can, as my work gets more intensive around this time – and once the school year is fully on and all the good teachers are back to work it’s time for me to slow down and relax a bit – but there’s still some days ahead, before I can relax.

Although I’m planning to take annual minibreak in November to visit Sheffield.

If I look from my DoS’s perspective, I’ve already survived a back-to-school time before an actual back-to-school madness and I’m still hyped, creative and eager to try new things (I’m quite lucky my new job is full of challenges), so I’ve decided to share some of my ideas on how to unwind and survive yet another year without sanity loss.

I believe in a theory which denies the traditional approach to dividing people into extroverts and introverts and proposes a new term – ambivert – for people sometimes feeling extremely social and sometimes preferring to stay in and enjoy solitude. Being a teacher means working with people and for me it’s fun – but sometimes I get tired and overwhelmed, and I need to recharge my batteries. Since sharing is caring, I propose a deal – I will share my ways to unwind and I would love you to share yours.

Ready?

1 Playing RPG

This may sound funny – my first idea to relax after spending too much time surrounded by people is to play games with other people. Somehow, believe me, it is relaxing – we never talk shop, we just enjoy the company and have fun. Having adventures in an imaginary world is a great reminder that spending time with people is fun, not only work. A nice session or two is all I need after a fortnight away from home, spent in various cities, with various people and constantly working – it reminds me that it’s people who boost my creativity and make me laugh.

In other words, playing RPGs with people helps me relax after spending too much time with people. Seems legit.

2 Reading… and writing

I love reading and I’m rather uneconomical when it comes to devouring literature. One of the highlights of my linguistic proficiency is the possibility of reading English books in original. Agatha Christie, Lucy Maud Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien or H.P. Lovecraft – they all are great fun to read in English. But being able to write in English is also something I enjoy – to be honest, the whole idea of my blog originated from my belief that leaving Ireland and returning to Poland would affect my English, so I decided to write a blog just to practice. The rest is history – I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve been writing a note per week for more than a year now and that’s something that makes me proud – and meanwhile writing in English has become a sort of relaxing habit for me.

3 Making and baking

When my head is buzzing it’s time for some creative work – scrapbooking or baking. I can switch off my brain and just enjoy making pretty things – only my evil heart requires me to watch crime stories at the same time to include some balance in nature.

The point is to keep your hands busy and your mind free – probably that’s the reason many teachers enjoy creating materials, laminating them etc.

4 Learning

I’m not posting monthly lists of awesome online courses for nothing – I enjoy learning. Watching education programmes (How It’s Made) or tutorials on YouTube is also enjoyable. I believe learning something new is important when you work as a teacher – you gain a better understanding of the issues your own students may encounter.

I remember when I started learning Spanish and suddenly I had a lot of common topics with my students, as if some kind of invisible barrier was gone. They saw me note only as a teacher, but also as a learner and it was a nice team-building experience.

5 Discovering

It’s good to leave your comfort zone once in a while and discover something new. It’s really refreshing to try something new – let’s say, once a week? It may be waking up earlier than usually, going for a walk to the place you haven’t been yet, cooking a new dish, learning a new dance or go on a drive in a car.

Why is it good for you? Simple – you get tired and bored because you teach the same things, probably in the same school, for a while. Trying something new, something you may feel slightly anxious about, makes your brain feel challenged and hungry for new experiences.

Feed your brain.

6 Playing video games

Some like them in a single-player mode, others prefer multiplayer versions, but video games are always fun – and a great way to relax.

My dad, who used to work as a Maths teacher in a primary school, would get back home and play Doom or Duke Nukem for an hour or two – that really helped us to unwind and change him from a teacher to a parent. It has worked for years, so I feel quite safe continuing the tradition (only I’m more into RPG than FPS).

If you want to learn more about the benefits of playing video games you might want to listen to Jane McGonigal or read her book “Superbetter”.

7 Volunteering

As if my work (which includes a lot of writing, both in Polish and in English) and blogging weren’t enough, my way of being a volunteer is based on writing – I work with Fundacja Felineus trying to help save cats and kittens from my region. Sure thing, it’s not much, writing heartwarming stories of poor abandoned pets – but at least it’s something that makes me happy: supporting those who sacrifice their own time, money and home to help those in need. It was proven that helping others makes you happier, so I can only encourage you to try, I’m sure you’ll feel better, so find a cause you want to support and make our world a little happier place.

You may wonder why I haven’t chosen any sports, well, as Maria Czubaszek said “through sports to injuries” – you may choose your preferred sport, but I won’t take any responsibility for the choice… unlike with the video games.

Enjoy the school year!