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?

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

Teaching Cheat Day? Make it fun!

Spring Break Promo

There are days one literally can’t even. When you’re a teacher, suddenly lessons seem terribly long, material to be covered is so boring you can’t bring yourself to teach it, your students… I’m not going to continue – simply, you have a Bad/Lazy Day. You wish you had been a teacher a hundred years ago when you could’ve tell your students to sit quietly and read a book… and they would’ve actually listen!

Alas, those times are long gone, and nowadays we need to teach, nurture, mentor and entertain. Usually it’s a normal task (once you get the hang of it), but sometimes you feel like running away and a mere thought of teaching is killing you. Fortunately, you can always rely on your teaching buddies and their ideas. You can also rely on me, as I already found some great sources of inspiration:

All of the above are the ideas made to engage students and give you a moment of peace. With little or no preparation you may still give a valuable lesson where your students will learn, revise, produce and have fun. Having a slightly worse day happens to everyone, so accept it and try to have fun anyway.

However, sometimes the situation is critical. In the morning you feel eager to work and suddenly you feel sick, you’ve caught a cold or simply suffer an attack of springtime blues and you need a teaching painkiller, like, now. Luckily, all you need to do is to find a classroom with an interactive whiteboard and the Internet and hurray! You’re saved, your students will have a good lesson and nobody will ever suspect you’re not your usual awesome teaching self!

All you need to do is to find Games to Learn English: it’s a great source of instant games and a lot of fun. From matching words with pictures, revising comparatives, guessing an animal (my favourite exercise) or even choosing an IWB activity. You need something to make your students interested in English for 90 minutes without you speaking a word? Just click on the link and let your students experiment with all the games they may fancy!

The games are aimed at a relatively low level of English with pretty much all the content being around elementary or pre-elementary level. But why is this page such a great solution for a virtually-no-teacher-class? Because, as Owen Dwyer (the author of the page) explains, the games are intended to be the resource that language learners can use independently.

Which means, you can introduce the website to your students, ask them to have fun in the classroom by experimenting with various educational games… and then encourage them to continue the fun at home! After this I don’t think anyone will suspect you’ve just had a slightly lazy teaching day…

Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in March

March is probably the most moody month in the whole year – rainy nights, windy days, sudden outbursts of sun and there is not a single day off… unless you have the luck of the Irish and celebrate Saint Paddy’s Day. For me March means a week off to stop for a while, take a deep breath and get ready for quite intensive spring (and make up for the lack of a winter break!)… and maybe take up a new course…

Naturally, if you – like me – enjoy learning new things, you will hopefully take a look at the courses below and find them really useful. I tried to look for some nice and light classes – and here they are.

Except for Mathematical Thinking – that’s a tough one…

Becoming an Expert Learner by the Northpoint Bible College

Start: self-paced

For whom: people who want to maximize their learning

The course bases on the theory of multiple learning intelligences. You will not only learn how to identify various learning intelligences, but also how to indentify your own and use them to maximize your learning. Discover how to further develop your learning intelligences. Moreover, concerning your teaching practice, you will also explore study and note-taking methods and techniques to support a variety of learners, helping each to become an expert learner.

Resume, Networking, and Interview Skills by Fullbridge

Start: self-paced

For whom: people who want to highlight their skills

This course will help you make a lasting impression on managers throughout your job search. You will learn how to construct eye-catching resumes, customize application materials, create and curate professional profiles on social networks like LinkedIn etc. You will also discuss the idea of networking, how to strategically grow and use it. It may be a great idea if you think of changing your career or teach Business English.

Irish 101: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture by Dublin City University

Start: 4.03.2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who get carried away with St. Paddy’s Day

This course is more than just introduction to the Irish language. You will talk about Ogham try to pronounce Irish words, especially when it comes to famous greetings, blessings and curses. You will also learn about Irish names and mythology, the Gaeltachtaí and other cultural places in Ireland etc. It’s a great course to start with your students, especially when they get into the Irish mood. Oh, and if you want to watch more, there are at least five more parts of this course!

Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 4.03.2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers of English

The British Council has been releasing courses for teachers for a while and apart from educational side, they give quite a lot of support on their Facebook group – British Council Teacher Community. This course focuses on understanding the rudiments of education, from understanding learners to planning lessons, managing resources etc. If you feel like you need some revision or just fancy a nice course, go for it.

Physical Theatre: Exploring the Slap by the University of Leeds

Start: 4.03.2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: teachers of English who want to enrich their classes

This course introduces you to world-renowned Russian director Meyerhold’s technique of biomechanics – a two-minute repeatable exercise used to develop balance, awareness and expression. You’ll learn about the rich tradition of actor training and the practical techniques which have inspired actors in the 1920s and is still inspiring theatre directors and actors today. If you feel like you need to work on your movements – that’s the course for you.

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking by Stanford University

Start: 4.03.2019

Duration: 9 weeks

For whom: people who want to explore various ways of thinking

Mathematical thinking is not the same as doing mathematics – fortunately! The math classes we remember typically focuse on learning procedures to solve boring problems. Professional mathematicians think a certain way to solve real problems. The key feature of mathematical thinking is thinking outside-the-box – a valuable ability in today’s world. This course will help you to develop that crucial way of thinking. You should be aware, however, that this course requires you to work at least 10 hours of study per week to complete this course satisfactorily.

Stanford Introduction to Food and Health by Stanford University

Start: 11.03.2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people who want to change the way they eat

This course will focus on more practical discussions about real food and the environment in which we consume it. By the end of this course, you will have the tools you need to distinguish between foods that will support your health and those that threaten it. In addition, you will present a compelling rationale for a return to simple home cooking, an integral part of our efforts to live longer, healthier lives.

I hope you’ll find the courses interesting and have fun studying!