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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Free Online Courses in August

7 (2)

With a disastrous heatwave one must reconsider the idea of summer walks and sunbathing. I myself am a creature of the night – and August is a perfect month to admire night skies with the Perseid meteor shower (in my place it will be the night between 12 and 13 August, you may check your place here). But apart from stargazing, August is the month that gives you “back-to-school” feeling. I used to love it when I was a schoolgirl, it meant friends, longer evenings to whisper your secrets, bonfire time and calm. Alas, I grew up and there are no longer summer holidays for me – but August makes me feel somewhat eager to learn.

Let me take you on my journey through the interesting online courses where you’ll certainly find something interesting for yourself!

1 Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life by the University of Edinburgh

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people who are looking for the truth Out There

If stargazing is a trifle too conventional for you, this course will be a perfect choice for you, as you will study the Unknown, the prospects for life on other planetary bodies in our Solar System and how do we go about searching for it. You might start looking for a good old E.T. and end up with finding the Funghi from Yuggoth, so be careful what you wish for…

2 Improve Your Intercultural Competence  by Purdue University

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people looking to improve their intercultural skills

Being the teachers, good inter-cultural communication and an understanding of cultural differences are very important in our work. This course will help you develop the skills and acquire the knowledge needed to meet the global challenges. You will also learn to succeed in a diverse workplace and appreciate the value of cultural differences. It’s a great course not only for us to study but to pass it on to our students.

3 Presentation skills: Speechwriting and Storytelling by National Research Tomsk State University

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to make their presentations and speeches coherent and logical

This course takes a systematic approach, focusing on the content of a presentation. You will learn how to structure your ideas, facts and data into a logical convincing story using a narrative structure. This course covers fundamentals of scriptwriting, packing, argumentation and language. If you think of joining TED-ed with your students, this course may be a great help.

4 Study UK: a Guide for Education Agents and Counsellors by the British Council

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people counselling students looking to come to the UK to study

If your students consider studying in the UK, you may find this course particularly useful. You will learn about the UK education and training system, student lifestyle issues, welfare and support for international students or application processes and entry requirements. You will also see different tools to support you as a counsellor.

5 How to Write Your First Song by the University of Sheffield

Starts: 13.08.2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to sing a brand new song to welcome their students in the classroom 🙂

If you’re one of those people who have always played on the guitar trying to come up with an own song – here’s you chance to give it a go! You will explore the whole process, starting with setting words to music, working with melody until arranging your song. It may be a great idea not only for you, but also for your students!

6 The Music of the Beatles by the University of Rochester

Starts: 13.08.2018

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: Teachers of EFL. Seriously.

If you’re not into songmaking, but still appreciate great music, this course is for you. There is probably no band or artist that has had more written about their music than the Beatles – and while the focus will be on the music, you will also explore the culture of the 1960s. You might not like the Beatles, but their impact on music and culture in general cannot be underestimated.

7 Introduction to Psychology: The Psychology of Learning by Monash University

Starts: 27.08.2018

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: people interested in psychology

This course will help you understand how people learn different behaviours and how biology affects our ability to learn new things. You will explore the difference between learned and instinctive behaviours as well as learn about operant conditioning (learning behaviours based on positive or negative consequences), and observational learning (watching other people and imitating their behaviour). Sounds great for every teacher!

I hope you will like my recommendations – I know most of you is still enjoying the summer break (lucky you!), so I tried to find nice and light classes, but I’m sure they will prove useful and keep your brain challenged before September.

Enjoy!

Edward de Bono “Lateral Thinking” – how to make your life more creative (book review)

breakfast_

If I were to name my favourite things in the classroom, that would be triple C – creativity, communication and Cthulhu. Lateral thinking is something I really enjoy – thinking out of the box is fun for students, but for teachers it’s a necessity: how can you survive teaching the same stuff over and over again without being repetitive and, even worse, without getting tired of the monotony that goes with it?

For our own sake we should set our mindshift on the change, on creativity, on new ways of approaching old problems – that is how we will adjust our classes to various groups and students and ultimately make our lessons more varied and personalised and ourselves better professionals.

A short yet very inspiring book everyone should read is “Lateral Thinking” by Edward de Bono, who created the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools. Naturally, for people mad about the research the fact that there is no bibliography in de Bono’s book might be somewhat disturbing, however it is an inspiration worth reading.

The book, as every good book, starts with a story – a riddle about a small black stone and about a fresh perspective on a problem. It’s a good tale and it shows you various ways you can use a new approach to tackle an old problem. Obviously, it is quite difficult to start thinking creatively, so de Bono explains the way people conceive ideas in a surprisingly understandable manner, presenting visual element to explain quite difficult theory.

For example, de Bono declares the “obvious” solutions as the “dominant” ideas – and he proposes to put them aside while tackling the problem. We cannot blind ourselves with the obvious, if we want to achieve a more creative and uncommon idea. The danger of such thinking is that we may end up stuck with the obvious because there is no certainty of finally coming up with a new, fresh idea that will prove as useful as the old one.

De Bono mentions also the importance of the doubt and of the accident – sometimes it’s one or the other that inspire us to creative thinking (like the Isaac Newton and the famous apple that fell down from the tree right to the field of physics). The thing about lateral thinking is that in a way we let our mind wander trying to find something that will help us solve the troublesome issue. However, there is nothing certain about this process and yet, sometimes a random encounter may help us see a new and wonderful idea.

Why do kids stop playing, asks de Bono and answers: because the world stops being a new and wonderful place full of discoveries and adventures. Leaving dominant ideas and practising lateral thinking may help us enjoy the process of thinking as truly creative, enjoying the new challenges our life gives us – and make everyday problems part of extraordinary life.

If you look for inspirations – you may start with this book.

Enjoy!

de Bono, Edward “Lateral Thinking”

Penguin Books Ltd., 2016

ISBN: 9780241257548

 

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 9: Madness is Magic)

Role-Playing Teaching(Part 9_ Madness is Magic)

After a series of theoretical reflections, I want to offer you a unique experience of taking part in a RPG session designed for EFL teachers. If you’re lucky enough to take part in 4th Teachers’ Convention in Stryszawa (23-27.07.2018) or IATEFL in Wrocław (21-23.09.2018) you may have an opportunity of not only taking part in my workshop Role-Playing Teaching: Madness is Magic, but also enjoying a session as a player, with me as a game master.

If you won’t be able to take part in any of the events, I will probably organise online workshops and sessions so that you’ll see the magic of dice-rolling and storytelling.

I want to offer you two sessions to choose from – one may easily think that age is the main criterion of choice, however it isn’t so: there are adult people who enjoy My Little Pony and there are teens fascinated by the eerie horror of the Lovecraftian literature. Do not let the pink fluffiness blind your better judgement!

Call of Cthulhu

Adventure: Ties That Bind by Tom Lynch

Number of players: 2-6

English CEFR level: B2-C2

Language practice: we’ll focus on the communicative aspect of the language, mainly register and vocabulary use depending on situation (cop talk, society event, etc.)

Story: Ipswich, near Arkham, 1920s. Mrs. Enid Carrington, a wealthy heiress of one of the most influential families in town, only plans to build a beautiful fountain in her rose garden. However, there are certain things in motion that will prove the whole attempt unsuccessful. Old man’s memory, human greed, thirst of knowledge, madness… What may win against the dark shapes stirring in the shadows? The investigators will face abominable terrors, unspeakable horrors and ties that bind us all – will they attempt to break them? And if yes, at what cost?

You are going to play as: 1920s is a great period to follow an adventure – you may be a scientist, a private eye, a police officer, or even Mrs. Carrington’s best friend.

My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria

Adventure: The Pet Predicament

Number of players: 4-6

English CEFR level: A1-B1

Language practice: we’ll focus on how to implement English revision and communication into the game, how to encourage students who feel shy and how to support groupwork because friendship is magic, after all!

Story: There are many ponies in Ponyville, not only famous Alicorn, Princess Twilight Sparkle, and a lot of them want to become heroes. And sometimes even Twilight Sparkle needs help from her new friends! Will the ponies aid the Princess? Sometimes a simple quest may lead to great – and dangerous – adventures!

You are going to be: a typical young pony – you may choose whether you prefer being an Earth Pony, a Pegasus or a Unicorn.

As you can see, I may give you only two choices, but that’s how you’ll experience the variety RPGs offer. I haven’t chosen any typical fantasy system like D&D or Warhammer because, well, I believe not everyone feels like acting out an elf, but pretending to be a private eye in a 1920s film noir may be funnier and easier to try.

If you’re interested in joining the game, let me know after the workshops – or keep following my blog and FB page if you’d like to experience it online.

Let’s roll!