Lovecraftian Bedtime Story (for cats and their personnel)

Today there is no blog post… only a bedtime story, although maybe not suitable for little children 🙂
The story is by Howard Phillips Lovecraft and includes no blasphemous evil, no unspeakable terror lurking from the murky water… only cats.

If you want to read “The cats of Ulthar”, you will find it here.

Enjoy!

10 Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Online

I consider myself lucky, as I had been working as an online teacher for years before the massive switch online (aka Covid19) happened. I’m sure most of you already know what teaching online looks like, and you’re getting quite experienced in this field. However, as a teacher, and a DoS observing quite a lot of online lessons, I must admit there are some universal truths worth sharing.

Do

  1. Smile: nothing makes your students more at ease than your smile.
Smiling shark in Florida looks just like friendly Bruce from ...

2. Use a camera: it’s way easier for your students to see you eye to eye
3. Crack a joke: we all need a little bit of laughter.
4. Dress up: it’s fun! Or, if you don’t feel like changing your style, remember to wear something bright and colourful to keep your students’ attention.
5. Pay attention to your background: it doesn’t have to be a blank wall, it may be your library, just make sure it’s tidy and clean. Sure, you can use an app-generated background, but you won’t look so natural, and it may also affect you connection.
6. Teach the way you’ve always taught: your students have their coursebooks and can use them. To be sure, the lesson pace will probably be slower, but your students don’t expect online madness, they just want to have a regular lesson with you.
7. Make your students move a bit: kids and teens quickly get restless in an online classroom, ask them to dance to a song or introduce a short activity where they can move.
8. Get to know each other better: the moment you switch online, you invite your students to your room – if you have anything your students might find amusing, use it. Cats, dogs, hamsters, children? I’m sure your students will love it.

I’d love to see my teacher online with his pet tarantula! One of the teachers I’ve trained asked me during a short chat ‘how are your cats?’ She explained she’d watched me so many times on my workshops, she felt like she knew my home and my pets. That was cute!

9. Be extra nice: you don’t know what’s happening on the other side of your screen. It’s more difficult to sense whether your students have some issues (not necessarily school-related). Being polite costs nothing.
10. Relax after each lesson: in an offline life you have a break. Be sure to have one online, as well. Get some hot coffee (yay, you may enjoy hot coffee nowadays!), dance for a while, play with a cat – chill before your next class, it will be easier to smile!

Don’t

1. Panic: that’s the worse thing you can do. If a problem arises, be like Penguins of Madagascar:

Favorite quote from Madagascar. Smile and wave boys! (With images ...

2. Expect perfection: yes, there will be technical issues, there will be problems with cameras or audio, there will be cases when your presentation doesn’t work. Happens. You’ve probably worked with technology before, so you know, sometimes Murphy’s Law gets the better of you.
3. Make fuss about the background noise: if you’re not a professional online teacher it’s perfectly fine if your environment isn’t dead quiet. Accept it, and make sure your students realise the same – it isn’t a normal state, so relax a bit.
4. Forget to wear pants: there are some things you don’t want to experience, this may be one of them. If you think you’re safe as the camera only shows your top, you may be sorely mistaken.
5. Ignore the security issues: your class could get visited by a troll, it happens. The only thing you can do to prevent it is read carefully the security guidance of your teaching platform and act accordingly.
6. Come unprepared for your class: apart from your regular materials, have a short story ready to share when your students are still connecting, come up with a simple procedure what to do when someone gets disconnected (and practise it once in a while)
7. Neglect your appearance: working from home may sound nice when it comes to dress code, and sure you don’t have to wear a suit or waste time on full make-up. However, you really should take a shower before your lesson… and do brush your teeth!
8. Presume you’re alone with your students: because you probably are not. There are parents in the background, or siblings and maybe even grandparents, trying to be quiet, but ever watchful. Just think about your online lesson as a regular lesson only with the classroom door wide open.
9. Slurp, sigh, write on the keyboard: you’re using a microphone, which means all the unnecessary sounds will be perfectly audible. That includes sniffing, using your mobile phone, tapping the keyboard – try to limit them if you can
10. Forget to tell your students that you really do like them: and that you respect their ability to switch online so well, and to keep studying so hard!

These are my ideas… But I’m sure you’ve got yours! Share them and make our teaching a better experience!

7 Free Online Courses in May

The weather is getting more and more enjoyable, and the evenings are simply made to go out, breathe in the scent of spring flowers and listen to the birds clearly enjoying their human-free time. Unfortunately I can’t enjoy a nice evening walk… but I can still enjoy a May evening, with a great online course.
And this May brings some really interesting courses you can also enjoy.

How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students by FutureLearn

Start: open
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: educators, teachers, lecturers, and trainers who have to rapidly move from face-to-face to online teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
You will learn:

  • how to adapt your practice to the online context
  • how to manage the personal impact of teaching online
  • how to create and share approaches and techniques for maintaining continuity while moving teaching and learning online
  • how to collect, review and evaluate student feedback on your new approaches

COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression by the University of Reading

Start: 04/05/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who have contact with young people during COVID-19
You will learn:

  • how to engage in strategies for managing your  thoughts  and your feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • how to use this time as an opportunity for developing resilience
  • how to apply helpful communication techniques to ensure conflict is kept to a minimum

Inside IELTS: Preparing for the Test with the Experts by the British Council, IDP, IELTS and Cambridge Assessment English

Start: 11/05/2020
Duration: 5 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to take IELTS Academic or improve their IELTS score
You will learn:

  • how preparing for IELTS can also help you develop skills that are useful in Higher Education
  • how to identify your own strengths and needs in relation to IELTS Academic
  • how to assess your specific abilities in order to find ways to improve

Business Fundamentals: Effective Networking by the Open University

Start: 11/05/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who want enhance and develop their professional network
You will learn:

  • how to identify, select and use online tools to enhance your digital presence
  • how to apply the principles of effective networking
  • how to develop interpersonal skills including giving and receiving feedback, listening and using appropriate body language

Foundations of Project Management by the University of Coventry

Start: 18/05/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to explore project management
You will learn:

  • how to assess the importance of project management
  • how to describe the typical project management process, its documentation and deliverables that are produced in each project phase
  • project phases and processes, such as traditional project life cycles

Building a Future with Robots by the University of Sheffield

Start: 25/05/2020
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: people with an interest in robotics
You will learn:

  • some basic principles of robotic design
  • existing and potential real-life robotic applications
  • what a robot needs to be able to sense the world using drones, youBots and autonomous cars as examples

Leaders of Learning by Harvard University

Start: open
Duration: 10 weeks
Recommended for: people with an interest in learning and its future
You will learn:

  • how to define your personal theory of learning
  • what leadership looks like in different learning environments
  • how an organization’s structure reflects its theories of learning
  • how neuroscience will affect the future of learning

And for now – stay safe!

I hope you’ll find the courses interesting and enjoyable. Hopefully it’s the last month of self-isolation – I do realise life won’t be the same for a while, but I would love to switch offline for a week or so…

Netflix – your own EFL teacher at home

Self-quarantine. Week 4.
With the weather getting nicer with every passing day, it’s more and more difficult to stay in. I generally love staying home, but even for me there’s a limit to delicious tea, good books and cosy blankets. I feel like I need something extra to keep me at home, and fortunately there’s Netflix!

I think almost every language teacher recommends watching films and documentaries in the target language, as it helps develop listening comprehension skills. Naturally, Netflix is really helpful with giving us access to the material of various genres, languages and accents.
I’m sure everyone has their favourite type of TV series or films, so I’m not even trying to recommend any. No, this post is about something else.

Last month I had a webinar about funny ways you may work on your English at home, and one of those ways is obviously watching Netflix with LNN. And I was really surprised when I realised nobody has yet heard about it – so I’ve decided to write about it on my blog.

LNN: Language Learning with Netflix

LLN is a Chrome extension that gives you new learning opportunities with Netflix. It makes studying languages with films/series more effective. The subtitles can now be adjusted to your needs. The machine translation is the literal one which will help you understand the structure of the sentence in the language you are studying, and the human translation focuses more on expressions and idioms.

source: https://languagelearningwithnetflix.com/

The LNN offers a catalogue to help you find Netflix titles with high-quality subtitles in the language you study. More than this, LNN has some study tips that will help you use the extension best depending on your linguistic level, so everyone can use it.

Another good thing about LNN is that it’s not only about English – you may now learn Spanish while watching La casa de papel or even Polish, if you’re brave enough! There are many languages available, so feel free to use it – because the best thing about LNN is that it’s free!

I want to recommend this solution to everyone, both teachers and students, as it may help you watch Netflix with a proper excuse – after all you’re going to learn a language, not only waste your time watching TV series!
I hope you’ll have fun and it’ll make your self-quarantined times easier. Remember, every day brings us closer to the happier days!

Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in April (and not one about teaching online!)

Self-isolation, week 3.
Do you also have the feeling that you’d like the good, old times back? And only a month ago I was travelling, having fun and definitely not thinking about expressions like covid, self-isolation, quarantine, social distancing. What I need at the moment is an illusion that nothing has changed – and I know that my favourite online courses will help. Just learning something new will help me feel better.
If you also want to escape into the world of education, feel free to join me. I know you must be pretty tired, so I carefully left out all the courses on teaching online.

Project Management: Beyond the Basics by The Open University

Start: 6/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who want to explore project management
You will learn:

  • how to go beyond the basics of project management in your own professional practice
  • how to improve your awareness of the professional skills required to be a project manager
  • how to identify the appropriate methods and techniques for specific project management scenarios
  • how to manage project teams with success

Getting Started with Agile and Design Thinking by Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

Start: 13/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people interested in developing digital products, who are using agile methods and have some experience working in the digital space
You will learn:

  • key concepts and practices from the agile product development methodology
  • how to create a strong shared perspective and drive to value using personas and problem scenarios
  • how to introduce agile product development and design thinking so you can build better digital products

Managing Behaviour for Learning by National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 20/04/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: teachers (primarily STEM) interested in their CPD
You will learn:

  • how your own behaviour influences the behaviour of your students
  • how to apply recognition intelligently to motivate students
  • how to apply rules and routines to achieve consistency

Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding

Start: 30/03/2020
Duration: 2 weeks
Recommended for: people who have digital skills but would like to build confidence in using digital technology in the workplace
You will learn:

  • how to identify your personal communications style
  • how to engage in challenging conversations with positive outcomes
  • how to reflect on your personal style and technique
  • how to apply your communication style in the workplace

Teaching for Success: Lessons and Teaching by the British Council

Start: now
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: teachers of English as a foreign language at all levels
You will learn:

  • how to compare teaching approaches and experience with others from around the world
  • how to identify the benefits of resources and the role of technology
  • how to reflect on professional development needs and practices
  • how to explore classroom management and factors that influence learning

Good Practice in Autism Education by the University of Bath

Start: 30/03/2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Recommended for: people who work with autistic children in schools, such as teachers and teaching assistants
You will learn:

  • how to identify the educational requirements of children on the autism spectrum with and without intellectual (learning) difficulties
  • how to explain the concept of inclusion to promote inclusive culture, policies and practices within mainstream schools
  • what constitutes good practice for autism within educational settings

Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by The Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 06/04/2020
Duration: 3 weeks
Recommended for: teachers delivering cybersecurity lessons in the classroom
You will learn:

  • how to explain the meanings of terms describing common cyberattacks, such as phishing, pharming, shoulder surfing and blagging
  • about the protections offered to users by the Misuse of Computer Act
  • how “anti-virus” software works

I hope you’ll like the courses I found for you – they are all quite short and easy to take up, so I’m sure they’ll give your brain the time to relax and focus on something new, rather than, well, quite grim reality.
Stay safe, and stay home!

Memome for everyone – practising comparatives

You know I like activities requiring as little preparation as possible (no, I have never been a lazy teacher, I just need time to plan taking over the world). One of the areas that needed much preparation is explaining comparatives and superlatives, especially when the only language you’re using in the classroom is English, and you don’t want to translate the adjectives – you’d rather make your students create mental images of the English words.

I used to prepare some pictures that I could use to present the adjectives along with their comparative and superlative forms, but when it comes to some words, their meaning is quite arbitrary – like beautiful, bad or happy.

The internet somewhat helps, but sometimes you can’t trust it…

it should be “the kittiest”, obviously!

When a friendly neighbourhood Teacher’s Corner introduced a new game called Memome, I thought oh, it’s basically just a typical memo activity. And to be honest, I was right… but it turns out to be much more versatile. First things first, though: what is Memome?

A set of 30 illustrated cardboard cards with 15 English adjectives and 15 corresponding comparatives. It comes with an instruction how to play memo and basically you’re ready to use it. Simple? Definitely, yet you may use it in various ways!

Treasure hunt for kids

Image result for comparatives and superlatives meme

The thing that I like most about Memome is that it’s made of nice, thick cardboard, which means you can use the cards in various games and they won’t get destroyed in those clammy paws of our youngest students. For a while now I’ve been observing lessons for children and I must admit that quite a lot of teachers don’t let them move as much as they need to.
Memome can be a great solution here, because all you need to do is to hide all the comparative cards in your classroom, divide your students into groups, give them the cards with the basic forms and ask them to find the corresponding cards somewhere in the classroom. The group that finds their set first is the winner. Simple, easy and makes kids have fun – they love treasure hunts.

15 questions contest for teens

One might think illustrated cards won’t be useful when working with teenagers – which is nonsense, as teenagers will accept literally anything that will give them an opportunity to banter with one another. So the activity goes like this:

  • Divide students into groups
  • Distribute 15 random cards evenly among the groups.
  • Ask them 15 questions revising grammar or vocabulary. The group that answers first (and correctly) gets another random card from the remaining ones.
  • Once you run out of cards, each group has to make pairs of adjectives and their comparative forms. If they have matching cards – great! If not, they will have to make a sentence with a missing adjective (in its missing form) to replace the card.
  • The group that finishes first wins.


It’s a simple activity, but it makes your students revise, communicate and have fun at the same time.

Philosophical statements for adults

I find Paolo Coelho and similar coaching-style mottoes an invaluable source of inspiration in my classroom. First, they are usually simply silly (one of the reasons they’re so hard to forget). I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, your Facebook wall is probably full of your friends posting stuff like this:

Image result for motivational quotes memes

…and today is another chance to fail, thanks!

Do you see my idea for the exercise? Ask your adult students to practice basic and comparative forms by drawing two random cards and making a motivational quotes a’la Paolo Coelho. You know, like taking bigger and more beautiful and transforming them into:

The bigger the tears on your face, the more beautiful my grave is.

or something like this

You may divide your students into groups, give them dictionaries and observe the chaotic flood of hilarious quotes!

But wait! There is more! make your own superlatives!

As you can see, simple 30 cards can be used in various activities… but since there are only comparative forms here, you may encourage your students to come up with their superlative forms. With children, I could do a project when they make some extra cards by themselves. With teenagers and adults, I would probably use some sentence-building, like:

Anna was the youngest in her family until her younger sister was born, however, they died young as their parents didn’t vaccinate them.

the end

Anyhow, I’m sure you’ll have fun with Memome.
Enjoy!

I received this product for free, courtesy of IceBreaker.

That is Evil! Valentine’s Day

My favourite colour is red, however every year, mid-February, I’m somewhat sick of it – you know, all those hearts, roses, ribbons, hearts… Did I mention hearts? Yes, it’s the dreadful Valentine’s Day!

Personally I had never celebrated this day until one day I told my then-boyfriend we’re skipping the date and I made an appointment with a guy who was supposed to lend me a film (Rurouni Kenshin OVA, not really overly romantic thing). Long story short, I met the guy who turned out to be pretty much into RPGs and proper metal music… and we’ve been together for nineteen years. And still not celebrating Valentine’s Day, as you can probably guess.

Image result for valentines day memes

So here it goes, if your preferred shade of red is rouge de Tarantino and you do appreciate love stories with a little bit of a twist, I’ve got something for you – a collection of evil (well, sometimes not so evil, just a tiny bit malicious) Valentine’s songs I collected on Spotify. To bring a wide variety of music genres I asked my friends to collaborate, so as a result you have the opportunity to listen to many various songs with only one thing in common: the twist.

I made sure all of the songs have lyrics you can easily find on the net (just Google the artist, song + lyrics) and quickly make your own fill in the blanks activity by removing some key words. And then you can have a lot of fun with your students, celebrating Valentine’s Day in a new, refreshing way.

Before you go full enthusiastic (never go full enthusiastic around Valentine’s Day!), let me be clear that my collection includes some songs that with quite explicit lyrics (child-friendly Spotify marks them with a letter E, you can’t miss it). You may also find some songs offensive which is definitely not my intention, however I’m the Evil Mistress of the World (in the Making), so I don’t think you could expect anything else from me.

Where to find my Spotify playlist? Just follow the link to my Facebook page (click!) and enjoy! And if you want to fill my little black and rotten heart with warmth, do like my page to keep me motivated, as the motivation of a blogger is fuelled with likes and positive feedback.

Which basically is quite sad, but here it goes, we all like counting our likes and shares.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day however you celebrate it!