7 Free Online Courses in October

7 Free OnlineCoursesin October

This year’s IATEFL Poland conference was just awesome – I had so much fun and I can’t wait for the next event which is, as you know, eduOctoberfest, a month full of webinars (2 sessions per day!). Alas, you need to pay for this event and it is in Polish, yet fear not for here I come with a bunch of free online courses you may enjoy in October!

1 Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by McMaster University

Starts: 29/09/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who know that one never stops learning

This course will help you learn more about your hidden capabilities and assets as well as how to learn more effectively. You will see how to tackle procrastination and use some mental tricks to help you focus, relax, and reframe (reframing is key). More than this, you’ll be exploring how and why to keep yourself in the “mindshift” mode. I believe this course is great not only for teachers (as teaching is lifelong learning), but also for their students: maybe it’s not a bad idea to incorporate this course into your classes?

2 English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development by the British Council

Starts: 21/10/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: parents, teachers or practitioners interested in teaching languages

The thing about the adult is that they tend to extrapolate their educational experience on children – and children learn in a totally different way! This course will show you how and why children learn best through play and what parents and practitioners can do to enable children to get the most out of a learning experience. I guess this course will be great for not only parents, but also those teachers who have just started teaching kids and are not quite sure what to do with them.

3 Creative Writing Specialization by Wesleyan University

Starts: 7/10/2019

Duration: depending on module

For whom: aspiring writers

This is more than just a course, it’s the whole specialization in writing fiction. You may pick the course you like: the craft of plot, the craft of character, the craft of setting and description, the craft of style – and pursue it for as long as you want. If you think of writing in English – and writing beautifully, this course will definitely be of help.

4 Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms by Relay Graduate School of Education

Starts: 21/10/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to integrate character-based objectives into own teaching

This course explores key ideas of positive psychology and shows how teachers can apply those lessons to maximize student engagement in their classrooms. You will learn how to observe your own strengths of character – to see those of your students, how to introduce character-building activities in your class and how to integrate those lessons into our daily lives.

5 Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment by the National STEM Learning Centre

Starts: 7/10/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to apply formative assessment for learning approaches

If you haven’t used FA yet, you should definitely start as it’s something that may create your classroom a far better place, which is more friendly for both students and teachers! You’ll plan to identify your learners’ thinking, clarify learning goals, and learn how to use success criteria, and develop your classroom questioning to adjust your teaching approach and respond to student learning. Experienced mentors support this course until 22 November 2019.

6 Managing ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and Concussion in School by the University of Colorado

Starts: 30/09/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers working with SEN children

In this course, you will learn about the most common developmental and behavioural disorders affecting children such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, learning disorders, and concussions. You will learn about recognising and diagnosing various learning disorders and disabilities, so if you work with children (any, not only whose with diagnosed SEN), this may be the right course for you.

7 The Science of Beer by the Wageningen University

Starts: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to know more about beer

Being a teacher, it’s important to be a responsible drinker and to know what effects beer has on your health. This course will definitely help you learn all about beer, including how it’s made, the raw materials used, it’s supply chain, how it’s marketed and the effect of beer consumption on your body. Fun fact: it’s a course made by students supervised by professors and experts in the field, so maybe this will inspire your students to create their own MOOC?

And you can celebrate the Oktoberfest… for science!

I hope you’ll find something useful from the list above, and this October will be educational for all of us.

Enjoy!

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Back to Basics: ClassroomScreen for IWB

Back to Basics_ ClassroomScreen for IWB

The thing about technology is that we’re all supposed to use it, and for those teachers who only start their adventure with education, or those who return to teaching after a long break, it may be quite overwhelming, to switch on an IWB… and have no clue on what to do next.

I believe there is an application that may be a great beginning of the adventure with technology in the classroom – it’s a simple page with many widgets easy to use for most non-technological activities in the classroom.

Meet ClassroomScreen!

What you need to do is simply open ClassroomScreen on your laptop and project it in your classroom. That’s it – but since I’m not taking part in the competition for the shortest blog post ever, I shall elaborate a little bit.

You can use all your favourite widgets here – clock and calendar, and timer (something really useful during various activities), for starters. Obviously, you can type and draw there, you can also upload various images and draw on them. You can also use various backgrounds, so you may upload the one that matches the lesson topic.

I like the traffic lights option – you may use them for students’ self assessment (red if they don’t understand the material, yellow if they have some issues, green if everything is clear) as well as classroom management – green light may mean students are working as a class, yellow may mean groupwork and red may be for individual work.

The widget I like most is definitely work symbols. You may clearly indicate what kind of activity you’re doing at a particular moment – silence, whisper, ask neighbour or work together. It’s a brilliant widget for longer exercises, requiring various forms of activities – all you need to do is switch the icon and everyone knows what to do.

Another useful widget is QRcode generator – you may immediately share anything you want, just paste the link and generate the code. Ask your students to read it with their mobiles and presto! – they all can read an article, see a film or do the exercises you’ve shared.

Monitoring classroom noise level may be a perfect solution for all those working with big groups or small kids (or big groups of small kids) – all you need to do is use the microphone widget to set up noise level and your students may observe how loud they are. Let’s say, they’ll be given a sticker is the noise bar doesn’t get red, and chances are you won’t get prematurely deaf.

Random name picker is the best solution for “why meeeeeeee agaaaaaain” kind of students – just write your students’ names in the text field and roll dice. Why am I asking you again, Brian? Because the computer said so!

The feature I find particularly useful is that you may use widgets more than once – you may use two timers (for two groups), divide your class into three groups and give them various work symbols etc.

I hope you’ll find this site as adorable as I have – sometimes simplicity is key, and in this case I’m more than happy to use it and have quite a lot of fun. So it looks like I’m going to have a break from canva, youtube, quizziz and twinkl, and introduce a little bit of good old-fashioned IWB screen.

Enjoy!

Get Ready For School: Teacher’s Pack

Get Ready For School_ Teacher's Pack

Sometimes I take a look at my old notes (after all I’ve been writing this blog for a while) and once in a while I see a post that makes me go like “aaah, yes, that was a great exercise, I had so much fun with my students“. And then, I either share this post on my regular #tbt (throwback Thursday) or, well, forget about it.

But this time I had a plan! A plan so cunning you could pin a tail to it and call it a fox*. I’ve read through my blog (almost 200 posts!) and found all the notes that may be an inspiration before you embark on yet another year-long school adventure. All of the ideas were tested on human beings and all of us not only survived, but had quite a lot of fun.

First class

You may start your course with some listening activities, where you all listen to students’ favourite songs – you may not only assess their listening skills, but also learn something about your new pupils. If you want to start a new course with good vibes, you should go with my lesson on Storytelling (with a lesson plan): a simple lesson on making stories with a little twist.

You can still have some fun outdoors! Get inspired by my three ideas that will make the beginning of your class as pleasant as a summer trip. On the other hand, if the weather is bad, you may simply use one of 7 lifesaving apps and bring some fun to the classroom – as a promise of all the fun you are certainly going to have during the whole course.

If you want to start something new and haven’t yet tried the station-rotation model, I recommend my lesson plan on Dyatlov Pass Incident – it’s brilliant for teens that are on B2 level, as the whole lesson brings new things: new lesson format, fascinating topic and real-life skills on how to organise a debate.

Introduce a project

If you’re feeling lucky (and ambitious), you may start your first classes by introducing self assessment. This is something that can be easily transformed into a year-long project and end up as a lifelong attitude, if your students are brave enough.

It’s good to start your class by boosting students’ motivation – you may introduce nice mobile apps your students may use at home to improve their skills.

If you’re into year-long projects, encourage your students to start their own cookbook! You can a) make them do something useful (a website and some food) b) relax while they share their recipes, c) eat delicious food. When it comes to projects, this is my favourite one. Yay to free food!

And here’s another project that may be either a short one or a long-running thing. The whole thing is about excuses, excuses, excuses… regarding homework. Why didn’t they do their homework – again? Answers may be typical (and boring), but make something good out of this by making your students create stories (more or less believable) which should be noted down and finally used to create a real book.

Change in classroom management

Adopting a testing system is usually quite challenging, both for students and teachers. Why not include a bit of fun there and go fully online? I recommend quizizz, something that made my tests maybe not extremely enjoyable, but at least mildly amusing. Oh, and if you want to give your students a little cheat sheet with all English tenses to revise, you might use mine.

One of the most important things, from my perspective as a student, is information about the lesson goal – I want to know what I am going to learn, which activities I have to complete and what’s the final outcome. The one and only Ewa Torebko wrote a brilliant post about it and honestly, you simply have to read it!

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of ideas to start a new school year with, so you can choose the one you like most and give it a go!

Enjoy!

*do you know who’s the author of this phrase?

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

We all experience classes that suddenly go awkward – a topic we hate and really can’t elaborate on, students that only want to fall asleep or a memory of a cup of coffee when another’s been due for a while. Or sometimes things go awry and you end up with a bunch of students debating something that has nothing to do with the lesson, having a laugh over something someone said or simply daydreaming.

This is something I find particularly often when I work with teenagers and adults, they are usually tired after their regular school or work and their brain uses every excuse to chill a bit. Now, sometimes it calls for a game or a nice role-play, but sometimes, to put it bluntly, I can’t even, so I use my last resort: fillers that are always there, ready to use. Naturally, the fact that they work for me doesn’t mean they will work for you, but after some alterations I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

Alphabet race

This is my favourite filler for topics I’m not overly fond of (like environment, the ways I went to avoid talking about environmental issues…). I ask my students to think of the topic of the lesson and write as many words connected to it as they can. Now, depending on a group I choose one of the following:

  • writing one word per each letter of the alphabet
  • writing as many words starting with a particular letter

I give them 3-5 minutes and the winners decide on the homework. It’s a great game as students can do it either individually or in groups, makes them think and puts everyone back on the lesson track.

Good news

It may sound weird, but it’s a nice filler, especially when the mood is somewhat down. Just give your students 5 minutes to google a good piece of news that happened today (you can find quite a lot of sources of positive events) and refer them to the whole class. It’s a nice, short activity that helps everyone relieve the tension of a bad day (or Monday). No good news? Make them create their own!

Role-Play

Obviously, I love role-plays. You don’t have to start a game to enjoy a little bit of role-playing. Something that works well for my older and more aware groups: divide your students in two or three groups representing major political forces in your country, each group decides on assuming fake identities of the most prominent politicians of the chosen party. Then give them a simple question somewhat connected to the lesson topic. They are supposed to debate the question, however they will probably shout, laugh and behave their absolute worst, and that’s the point of the exercise! Just make them stop after 3-4 minutes, you’ll have your happy and invigorated students again.

Poem

Writing a poem is a good filler – just go with some rhymes (one of the pages I recommend is rhymezone). Writing simple poems is one of my favourite activities for all ages and levels (you will find my old post here). Just four verses per group on a topic loosely connected with a lesson or with a word students have learnt a moment before – you’ll see them working and having fun, and return to the regular lesson relaxed and happy.

Devil’s Advocate

What if a topic you’re about to discuss is so common and boring nobody really feels like discussing it? Well, encourage your students to play devil’s advocate, finding some arguments against their own conviction and reasoning. This may sound silly, but your students will soon realise how interesting this activity is, making them consider the aspects they have never thought of before. This teaches not only flexible thinking, but also empathy.

As you see, my ideas may be great for some groups, somewhat inappropriate for others – but feel free to readjust them to your needs and introduce a nice activity covering your lack of interest in the lesson.

Have fun!

Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

I enjoy teaching during summer as nobody takes those classes too seriously and you’re free to include some unconventional materials. The only drawback is that sometimes the level of motivation is not quite satisfactory. To avoid this, I usually suggest a “lesson off” – during summer courses I like to offer “free Fridays”, classes spent on projects, games, role-plays, class trips and other creative ways mainly boosting communication.

If you experience similar sentiments, you might find my lesson idea quite useful – not only for the summer courses. After all, every teacher sometimes has a lesson that seems to last forever. And the best way to introduce something energetic is to share something… really long? Mind, the ideas I’m sharing with you are not overly serious!

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon is a 10-minute short film that was released in 2008 by Richard Gale (you may visit his page here). The movie is presented as a trailer to a 9-hour long film and portrays the story of a forensic pathologist called Jack Cucchiaio (played by Paul Clemens; “cucchiaio” means spoon in Italian), who finds himself being haunted by a deranged looking man (Brian Rohan), who is, without any clear reason, hitting him with a spoon. Doesn’t sound interesting? Well, watch it first:

Now, there are some ideas for activities after watching the video. Please notice that none of these activities requires earlier preparation. This is really an emergency scenario:

Background of the story: storytelling (speaking/ writing)

Let’s assume the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. Ask your students to elaborate on the story and answer the following questions:

  • Who (or what) is this mysterious attacker?
  • Where does he come from?
  • Why is he targeting Jack?
  • Why does he use a spoon?
  • Is there a way to stop him?

Best idea is to organise a little brainstorm party in groups and then ask your students to tell a chilling story in a manner of Are you afraid of the dark. If your students prefer written compositions, you may ask them to write a story – or maybe even make a little competition for the best thriller?

The hard life of a murderer: role play (speaking)

Who is Ginosaji? What does he do apart from haunting and hunting Jack? Is he a human being? Does he have any family? What about his favourite food? Hobby? Where does he sleep? Encourage your students to prepare short speeches introducing themselves as Ginosaji. Who’s the scariest, and who’s the funniest? Also, this is great activity for people on lower levels of English as they may use quite simple lexis and grammar.

Let’s make a film (writing, speaking)

The natural follow-up of the video would be making own film! It’s a great idea for a group project – each group needs to create a scenario, plan storyboards, choose actors and record the film itself. If you haven’t got your favourite video app, you may choose one suggested by TeachHub (click here to read). Then you may watch the films together choosing the best one.

As you can see, even a slow lesson and a terribly slow murder may change into an exciting class – I hope you and your students will like this slightly silly, yet amusing, lesson.

There are sequels to this video, Spoon Vs. SpoonSave Jack (it’s a game in which the player has to choose what Jack Cucchiaio should do), Spoon Wars and Ginosaji Vs. Ginosaji. Watching them in-class is optional, as you can easily get your students to catch the main idea after watching the first video, however, you may use them as homework or follow-up activities – Richard Gale has his own YouTube channel, where you can take many inspirations from.

Enjoy!

Are you… afraid of the dark? (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 17)

Are you... afraid of the dark_ (2)

Summer means adventure, woohoo! Some people travel around the world, others stay home and spend time with friends. Both options are brilliant, especially when you are able to to travel without leaving your room – simply engage your friends in a session of a Role Playing Game and travel around the world… and beyond. Sometimes, however, you’re stuck alone in a place you’re not really happy with – and then you may also enjoy an RPG session just by yourself.

Here I am, writing about the awesomeness of Role-Playing Games as a perfect tool for boosting communication and relationships in the classroom. However, today I want to tempt you with an adventure you take on your own. Alone.

Alone against the dark…

Alone Against The Dark is an adventure for one player, set in the autumn of 1931, in the Lovecraftian universe of the Cthulhu Mythos (although you won’t be meeting the Great Cthulhu Himself, as the greatest mystery of the Call of Cthulhu is the fact that you basically don’t meet Cthulhu). Your friend goes missing and your goal is to solve his disappearance and ultimately to save the world from the calamity. Your journey will take you from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica.

You will start your adventure as Louis Grunewald, a quiet linguistics professor from the Miskatonic University. You will fight the forces of darkness before time runs out — but in case Professor Grunewald is eliminated for some reason (in CoC it means a character either goes completely mad, or simply dies), you can successively assume an identity of a new investigator.

There are four ready-made investigators, enabling you to take on various roles as circumstances change in your search for the truth: Louis Grunewald, Lydia Lau, a story-seeking reporter for the New York Sun, Devon Wilson, a sailor on leave from the US Navy, and Ernest Holt, a wealthy industrialist.

I spent most of my 9-hour long train journey playing the game – I personalised the characters, prepared some sheets of paper and a pencil (making notes turns out to be crucial when trying to save the world!) and I must tell you that I think I need to follow the adventure again, only this time make different choices. My professor was lucky enough to survive for quite a long time, but well, there are things in this world elderly scholars may have troubles with… like falling down from an impressive height, physical assault or, well, supernatural creatures.

I find this adventure just brilliant for all of you who have already read about Role-Playing Games, but struggle with gathering the party before venturing forth. You can play the game in your own tempo and discover the magic of RPG by yourself. The universe of HPL and his Cthulhu Mythos are quite enjoyable for EFL teachers – imagine you wear a fashionable dress, switch on jazz music and with a cheeky smile face the unspeakable evil.

You can get the adventure in English here, only remember you might need a copy of a Keeper Rulebook (you may buy it here) to understand the rules. If you’re Polish, your life is easier, because you may get the adventure here in Polish, and instead of buying the whole rulebook, you can get a short starter.

You may think it’s a deal, but trust me, once you set on a trail of the Old Ones, you’ll spend your money on Keeper Rulebook and other adventures.

You should also buy a set of dice, but hey, you can download a free app like RPG Simple Dice.

Good luck, dear friend, and enjoy your adventure…

Costello, Matthew and Mason, Mike

Alone Against the Dark/ Samotnie przeciwko ciemności: zniweczenie triumfu lodu

Chaosium, 2018/ PL version Black Monk

ISBN: 978-156882-453-6

The night is dark and full of neons (lesson plan for +18)

Add a heading

You may not be familiar with a Polish national treasure a.k.a. CD Projekt RED, you may not even realise massive hype connected with probably the most expected game since Red Dead Redemption 2 (at least for some), but you must have heard of two names that have been coming up in trending on the internet for the past ten days – Keanu Reeves and Cyberpunk 2077.

It is not very often that I share something exclusively for adults, but this topic is more appropriate for mature learners, as it includes violence, politics and, to put it bluntly, life experience. The aim of the lesson is to make people talk and exchange their views, and as a teacher one needs to be aware of controversies of various topics, so pay attention to moderate the discussion. Also, the best level for this lesson is B1+ and above.

The whole lesson is about two important things – our future and the importance of stories, and how they blend. The base for the lesson is presentation of Cyberpunk 2077 with Keanu Reeves at Microsoft Xbox show at E3 2019. The video is quite long, but you will watch it in two parts.

Warm-up

Greet your students and explain the aim of the lesson: discussing our reality with regards to a certain literary genre, namely cyberpunk. Ask them whether they have ever heard this expression, and try to narrow down the narrative of cyberpunk (you will find a nice article on cyberpunk on wikipedia). There are chances your students are familiar with the classics, such as Blade Runner, Akira, Matrix, Altered Carbon or the works of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson or Pat Cadigan.

You will watch a recent trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, a game by CD Project RED, to get the whiff of a cyberpunk world.

Part 1

Watch the video up to 3:53 which where the actual game trailer starts.

Apart from obvious questions referring to the story, its main protagonist, the plot, the possible outcome, encourage students to focus on the background. The omnipresent technology and something that is the core of the genre – body cybermodification. You may discuss the role of technology in our lives ever since we were born – it may be a great discussion if your group consists of both digital immigrants and digital natives.

If you know your group enjoys slightly more controversial topics, you may discuss the idea of body modification – a great example may be a story of Viktoria Modesta (you may read an article about her here). She’s turned her leg prosthetic into a work of art, but the controversial aspect is that the leg amputation was not something absolutely necessary – it was Viktoria herself who simply wanted to use artistic prosthetic.

Part 2

Once you finish discussing the genre and the story, and how far we are from living in the actual cyberpunk – or if we ever live there (answers may vary), you may watch a part where Keanu Reeves appears on stage to share the date of game release, but is welcomed with a thunderous applause, especially when he says I am always drawn to fascinating stories.

Have you ever tried storytelling in your classroom, engaging your students into spinning a tale? You may use various games that will help you – Once Upon a Time or simple Story Cubes may turn out to be great beginnings of fascinating tales. Introducing Role Playing Games is the best way to engage everyone in a story – but be sure to discuss why stories matter. At first your students may claim only children like stories, but we already know we are surrounded by stories from birth to death (you can watch some TED talks on the topic).

Ask your students to recall their favourite story and let them explain why they liked it so much. That will make your students open up a bit, and surprisingly other students will probably be happy to listen. That’s the magic of stories – we’re not eager to listen what happened during the previous week, but we’re more attentive when we expect a good story.

Homework

Homework is a conclusion to the lesson, and it requires some time, reflection and revision. Ask your students to write a short story, similar to their favourite tale, only set in a cyberpunk world. I’m fairly sure the results will be amazing.

Enjoy!