7 Free Online Courses in September

Seven

Between all the new school year themed workshops and IATEFL I feel like I’m back at school… only as a student. It’s an interesting feeling for someone who’s left her official educational process years ago, but it’s always better to learn new things than forget the old ones.

If you feel you could do with a little bit of learning yourselves, worry not – here’s my traditional set list of seven great courses you may enjoy in September: they’re online, they’re free, they’re awesome! And since I remember how hectic Septembers can be for teachers, I’ve tried to find courses that are either short or self-paced, so you can start them on your own:

1 Creating Effective Online and Blended Courses by Stanford University

If you’ve ever thought of switching your classes online (to a lesser or greater degree), this course may be a good beginning. It is designed to help develop online courses or incorporate online learning approaches in on-campus classes. It’s also nice for those who are rather busy: modules are self-paced, so there are no deadlines, and the materials will be available indefinitely for you to work through on your own schedule.

2 Becoming an Expert Learner by Northpoint Bible College

This course will explore the diversity of intelligences – and helping develop student’s own. You will also explore study and note-taking methods and techniques to support a variety of learners, helping each to become an expert learner. This course may be great for teachers who want to experiment on various methods of teaching – it may also be useful for your students.

The course is also self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

3 Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills by University of Melbourne

This course explains the social and cognitive skills that are known as 21st century skills. It focuses on their representation in the curriculum, but also explores how teachers can recognise these skills in students, how the level of skill of a learner can be assessed, and then how learners can be supported to develop their skill. This course is designed for teachers who are wondering exactly how they can incorporate teaching and assessment of 21st century skills into their classrooms.

The course starts on the 25th of September and takes 6 weeks.

4 Positive Behavior Support for Young Children by University of Washington

This is an experimental course, hence no certificates will be given, however, it may turn out to become a proper support for those teachers who start working with kids. A lot of children may happen to experience various issues, and this course will focus on current research on the developmental trajectory of children with early-onset aggressive behaviours; positive behaviour support program models; and intervention efforts that promote positive early childhood mental health.

The course is self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

5 Business English for Cross-cultural Communication by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Everyone who’s ever dealt with international business knows how important CCC (cross-cultural communication) is. This course is focused on common cross-cultural theories and how they are relevant to everyday business practices in a globalised world. You are going to learn some savoir-vivre tips along with strategies to overcome possible cross-cultural issues and misunderstandings in communication. I find this course great not only for teachers, but also students of Business English.

The course starts on the 4th of September and takes 6 weeks.

6 TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide by ETS

This course may turn out to be extremely useful not only for teachers, and not only in September. This course is highly interactive, using videos, sample questions with explanations, short quizzes and collaborative discussion boards, so anyone deciding to take this test will learn all they need to know. Moreover, this test preparation course is developed by the experts who create, administer and score the TOEFL® test. In addition, there will be free resources and discounted test prep offers throughout the course.

Here’s the best thing: the course is self-paced, which means you can take it or leave it whenever you want.

7 Understanding Classroom Interaction by University of Pennsylvania

This course is perfect for the beginning of school year. Have you ever wondered why some classroom discussions are lively and engaging and others more like painful interrogations? Why everybody (or nobody) laughs at a teacher’s jokes? You’ll learn the analytic tools to answer these and more questions about classroom communication. Sounds great and is probably my pick of the month!

The course starts on the 19th of September and takes 5 weeks.

I hope you’ll pick something useful for you – let me know which course you’ve decided to participate in!

 

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7 lifesaving websites for EFL teacher

7 websites

I already made one list of my favourite websites months ago, but there are so many great things you find while websurfing that I’ll probably make more of such sets.

Also, it can be easily seen that I love making lists.

Being a DoS I happen to be a “victim” of non-English language teachers complaining that English teachers “have it easy”. Well, I have to admit that’s quite true… So let’s use some of the great sources we may find online – and here’s my present top seven:

1 Twinkl

I’ve already written about some features that are great for teaching English (Spring Poems – lesson plan and Twinkl Imagine), especially communication. But the site itself is far more than that and I encourage everyone to browse it a bit – I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking. I’d definitely use Twinkl for CLIL classes. Perfect source for home schooling as well.

2 Truetube

It’s one of the websites my fellow teacher showed me (thanks, Krzysiek!) and I find it a great source of topics perfect for teenagers and young adults: culturally relevant, sometimes taboo, sometimes controversial – great for discussion, and full of various authentic accents, awesome help for the students who love debating serious issues.

3 Elllo

When we’re talking about accents and listening, I have to admit Elllo is top of the tops. It’s an online library of thousands of free lessons with audio or video materials for all language levels. It’s a real treasure chest with each lesson having audioscript, grammar part and a quiz. You can use it in the classroom or encourage students to use the exercises at home.

4 Lyrics training

Students usually like learning a language by listening to music. This website provides you with literally everything: popular songs, fill-in-the-blank exercises on four levels (from beginner to expert) and it’s not only in English! Now the teachers of other languages may brighten their lessons with Rammstein or Despacito (oh, sweet Cthulhu).

5 Busy Teacher 

Warning: you may spend hours browsing through this website and finding more and more useful stuff: articles, posters, warm-ups, review materials and lesson plans galore! Seriously, with this site you’d be able to teach a proper 120-hour course without even a page from a coursebook. Awesome help from a busy teacher… to a lazy one.

6 Flo-Joe

If you’re stuck with Cambridge exams, or simply want to prepare your students for their FCE, CAE or CPE test – that’s the best source you’ll find on the Net. All the exams are clearly explained, and there’s a lot of exercises on skills development. There are also practice tests, and there’s never too many of those!

7 Film-English

I’ve used this website more than once, as it’s the perfect source of films and communicative exercises connected to various topics – friendship, growing up, life as it is… You can adapt those free lessons to various needs, age groups and language levels and have fun with all your students.

 

I hope you’ll like the websites I’ve shortlisted today – they’re really helpful for teachers who want to bring something new to the classroom… Or who are basically quite lazy (like yours truly).

Enjoy!

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 1:Why do we play games?)

 

Why do weplay games (3)

I guess I’ve mentioned more than once that I really love role-playing games and I can tell they’re pretty much like educational process – I’ve decided to write a series of short blog-notes about this phenomenon, explaining why games, especially RPGs, are so vital in my approach to teaching.

Some of you have probably heard about RPGs, but I need to clarify one important thing – I’m not going to talk about computer games (so-called cRPGs), I’m going to focus only on good, old pen-and-paper ones (yeah, like Dungeon & Dragons or Warhammer) as their construction and communicative aspect are the most important aspects.

Before I get to RPGs themselves I want to focus on the idea of a game – it can be easily observed that games are more and more popular in TEFL, and in teaching in general, they are enjoyed by students and teachers alike and I wonder: have you ever thought what is the reason of the enjoyment?

Well, before answering this question, the main problem is the game itself. Have you ever tried to define it? Ludwig von Wittgenstein tried (and died, oops), and came to conclusion that each explanation we’re able to construct only restricts the concept of the game – thanks, philosophers! Fortunately there were some academics who got inspired by Wittgenstein’s endeavours and tried to define it nonetheless.

In his book “Games People Play”, Eric Berne (who was a psychiatrist, but he also came up with an idea of transactional analysis, one of the most wicked ideas from a linguistic point of view) defined game as “an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. (…) Every game (…) is basically dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic, as distinct from merely exciting, quality”. Marta Wołos in her study gives her own classification of the game, based on ludicity of a game, existence of rules, established and repeatable structure, an element of choice or chance and artificiality of the world of the game.

So we know that the game is a series of established and repeatable activities/transactions where the participants know the rules and try to use them (or cheat, but that’s still playing according to rules), where the world is artificial and there is always an element of chance or choice.

Now, to the main question: why do we play games? When we look at the cultural aspect, we can see how imitative children games teach archetypes and social roles without which society can’t exist. At least Jung said so.

But what about the adults? What about games we bring to our classrooms?

One might think playing games is a form of escapism (quite a common theory when we talk about video games), however there’s more to that. Eric Berne says games are helpful in relieving the tension caused by social pressure. The opportunity of playing games is also helpful for people who are shy or not keen on showing emotions in public. Johan Huizinga (probably the first person to look at the games from a scientific point of view) mentioned four aspects that make games enjoyable: direct competition between players (e.g. snakes&ladders), chance activities (like gambling), mimicry (acting out in role-plays) and pleasure of movement (most games for children).

Everyone enjoys either some form of competition, or a little bit of (safe!) gambling. People like showing emotions by acting out someone else. We all feel that playing a game is a way of relaxing from everyday life and its stress.

That’s why we play games – unconsciously looking for a way of learning by proxy, trying to introduce some fun into tedious classes. How many students have you met who claimed there were “too many” games in the classroom and they “didn’t feel they were learning”? It’s because they associate games with pastime, and not with educational process. Now, you and I know better, right?

Role-Playing Games are special snowflakes when it comes to playing games. They are amazing not only from the educational perspective, but also from psychological, linguistic and sociological point of view. I am going discuss RPGs in the next part of my short series.

If you want to read more on the topic:

Berne, Eric (1996): Games People Play, Ballantine Books

Wołos, Marta (2002): Koncepcja gry językowej Wittgensteina w świetle badań współczesnego językoznawstwa, Kraków: UNIVERSITAS

Huizinga, Johan (1938): Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture (you can read it here)

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953): Philosophical Investigations (you can read it here)

 

5 free online courses in August

Tidal Rise

Aaaaand my summer break is over – I didn’t write literally a single word during the past fortnight. No, I wasn’t chilling out, I was doing a total makeover of my flat: painting walls, changing floors – I really love the results of my endeavours, especially that I have learnt something really valuable: doing physical work puts your mind at ease. Sure, you may revise your Maths while calculating the amount of paint you shall need for this particular wall, but I didn’t think about my work, teaching, CPD – and even though I’m slightly tired physically I do feel mentally rested.

Still, I’m not going to do similar makeover in this decade, thank you very much.

August is actually on, so this time I have only 5 online courses you may still catch up on and enjoy while the summer lasts.

1 Becoming a Confident Trainer by TAFE SA

If you’ve just started working with adult learners it’s a course for you: focusing on gaining confidence, and understanding an idea of a trainer as someone who presents concepts in a professional manner, is an effective communicator and has developed an awareness of the learning needs of their learner group.

The course started on the 7th of August and ends on the 5th of September.

2 Art & Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom by the Museum of Modern Art

This is a very interesting course focusing on integrating art into classroom environment, ways that you can incorporate inquiry around a work of art into your classroom and types of resources that you can access to supplement your lesson development and planning. It may be a really nice idea if you have a IWB in your classroom and want to show something special.

The course started on the 7th of August and lasts 4 weeks.

3 Teaching Tips for Tricky English Grammar by University of California, Irvine

That is a really great course for fresh teachers – it literally shows you some problematic areas of grammar common for most learners, and it gives you ideas on how to explain grammar so that you avoid your students’ frustration. It’s on the intermediate level (so you may recommend it to your students as well) and the issues include e.g. nouns, quantifiers, articles, word formation and phrasal verbs.

The course started on the 7th of August and lasts 4 weeks. You need to be able to make videos of yourself demonstrating your teaching, using a webcam or phone.

4 K-12 Blended & Online Learning by University System of Georgia

If you’re interested in incorporating technology in your classroom and your work with young learners either in a public school or in a private language centre, you may be really interested in what this course has to offer. You will not only focus on technology, but also on specific content and even creating syllabus! Frankly speaking, this course would be my pick of the month.

The course started on the 7th of August and lasts 8 weeks – plenty of time to learn.

5 Teaching EFL/ESL Reading: A Task Based Approach by University of London, UCL Institute of Education

Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) is the most common method alternative to the old PPP – and in this course you will get familiar with this approach. TBLT uses communicative tasks as the key unit for creating language learning activities. You will explore how TBLT and teaching second language reading can be successfully integrated in practice through analysing task-based reading materials.

The course starts on the 14th of August and takes 6 weeks.

As you can see from my set, Coursera doesn’t seem to have summer break! If you’re still on holidays you can spend some time on learning – and if you do, let me know which course you’ve chosen.

Enjoy your learning and your summer break (if you’re lucky to have one)!

7 free online courses in July

7 Free Online Courses

Summer break is perfect for online courses – you don’t have to do lesson preparation, your mind is free to wander: now’s the time to study! I do realise not everyone is a die-hard fan of online courses like yours truly, so my shortlisted courses are rather summer-like, short and pleasant. Whether you’re a Director of Studies or a teacher, I’m sure you’ll find something for yourself. The course I recommend most is definitely Coaching Teachers (and it’s suitable for DoSes and Teachers alike, trust me), it gave me really good feedback on my own awkward behaviour during after-observation appraisal – very useful!

1 What is leadership by Deakin University

This course will explain what leadership is and how the concept changed over the years.  It will investigate the role model of a leader and how to use personal power. It may be really useful for those teachers who are DoSes at the same time or simply struggle with maintaining discipline in the classroom.

It starts on the 10th of July and lasts 2 weeks – so it’s pretty short.

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

The course focuses on children’s language acquisition, effective communication and measuring not only progress, but also challenge we create for the youngest learners. It may be really useful not only for EFL teachers, but also parents who very often want to make their children take up an opportunity in educational possibilities.

It started on the 3rd of July and lasts 6 weeks, but with estimated 2 hours of work per week seems rather a light course.

3 Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics by Universiteit Leiden, Meertens Instituut (KNAW)

The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics. This may also be a nice idea for those who have finished their universities, but want to revise their knowledge. Yes, there will be Chomsky in the curriculum. The interesting things is that the level of English in this course is very low, so this is something your students may enjoy.

It started on the 3rd of July and lasts 6 weeks. The amount of time you’ll need may vary, depending on your knowledge of the subject.

4 Get Organized: How to be a Together Teacher by Relay Graduate School of Education

I’m a firm believer that organization is the key to success – mind, I love improvisation, but within some organised frames. Now, this course is designed for classroom teachers who juggle time-sensitive tasks and exhausting teaching schedules. With an eye toward long-term sustainability, The Together Teacher examines the purpose of planning ahead, provides tools for tracking time commitments, deadlines and tasks, and helps teachers develop a personal organization system that interacts with their day-by-day practices. Sounds purrfect!

The course starts on the 10th of July and lasts 6 weeks (there are a lot of things you need to organise apparently).

5 Teaching Adult Learners by Central Institute of Technology

The course focuses on how to engage adult learners through collaborative learning, instructional skills and design, as well as looking at the role technology is playing in terms of promoting engaged learning environments. It is recommended for those teachers who change their scope of teaching from young learners to adults.

It began on the 3rd of July and lasts 4 weeks.

6 Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes That Stick by Match Teacher Residency

This is the course I took before even starting my journey as a DoS – and I recommend it to everyone. The course focuses on learning and practising strategies for coaching teachers to make meaningful, long-lasting improvements in their instruction. You will learn what the Four Horsemen of Observed Lesson look like and will never be surprised during post-observation assessment.

It starts on the 10th of July and lasts 5 weeks.

7 Learning Mindsets & Skills by Match Teacher Residency

My pick of the month! Following the success of the previous course (Coaching Teachers) I’ve decided to study with MTR once more. The course is designed to explore underlying concepts behind Learning Mindsets & Skills as well as the the practical applications of those concepts in various educational environments. Sounds lovely!

It started on the 3rd of July and lasts 3 weeks – nice and short.

I hope you’ll find something that will suit your needs and interests. If you pick Learning Mindset, let me know, that would be lovely meeting online!

If you know any other interesting courses – share them with me, and together we shall rule the MOOC world!

 

 

7 British TV shows you can enjoy with your students

shopping

We live in times when the only constant seems to be change. Just a few years ago piracy was ever so common, as it was the easiest, and sometimes the only way to watch British or American TV shows. Nowadays, with Netflix or Amazon we can pay to legally watch anything we want. Isn’t it just perfect?

With so many TV shows it has never been easier to immerse into a foreign culture, however I’d like to share some TV shows that may be not so famous among our younger students but which are very important in British pop culture. That is why you will not find Downtown Abbey on my list. You won’t find Sherlock either, purely for personal reasons – I loved the first season, but then was getting worse and worse to reach quite abominable level in the last season.

Couldn’t recommend such atrocity <shudder>

Here’s the list of 7 British TV shows I like, enjoy and share with my students not only for linguistic reasons, but also for cultural background:

1 Escape to the Country by BBC

The basic premise of the show is that a person or a family wishes to relocate from their current city home to a more peaceful and rural area. They are shown into three various houses, but also sample local delights, gain historical knowledge and visit local attractions to get a feel for the area they are planning to move to. For this reasons it is a perfect thing to show not only typical British houses (which vary from continental ones), but also cultural background. Another reason is my favourite presenter, Jules Hudson, whose smile and enthusiasm regularly make my day.

2 Blink – Doctor Who, S03E10

I’m not a whovian, but it’s impossible to deny the impact Doctor Who has on British popculture. The show has got famous overseas as well, but I don’t think many teenagers would remember season 3, even if it has the most brilliant episode ever.

Maybe because, there’s almost no Doctor himself.

Anyway, Blink is the film I love sharing with my students because it hints at the Doctor’s secrets but never reveals them, and I believe it’s the best  episode to explain Doctor Who’s phenomenon.

Also, this is probably the best thing Steven Moffat wrote, so let’s take a moment to appreciate it.

3 Fawlty Towers by BBC

While Monty Python with their films and sketches might be a bit too much to bite for people who have not grasped yet the complexity of British nonsensical humour, Fawlty Towers seems both less offensive and much easier to comprehend. And the only real reason students should get familiar with Mr Basil Fawlty and his misadventures is, simply, the fact, that not knowing John Cleese is not knowing anything about British sense of humour at all.

4 Blackadder by BBC1

Mr Bean is famous all right, but frankly, once you watch Black Adder you won’t be able to forget Rowan Atkinson playing Blackadder (or Black Adder, depending on season) leading us through British history together with his servant Baldrick and infamous Lord Percy the poisoner.

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It’s worth watching not only for pure fun, but also for vast historical background, as Blackadder travels through various historical affairs.

5 The Thick Of It by BBC

I watched In the Loop completely by chance, during some kind of independent film festival – and I loved every minute of it. Needless to say, when I learnt there is a whole TV series about Malcolm Tucker and his, well, objects of eternal insult – I had to watch it. I recommend it to quite mature and linguistically proficient students as the level of verbal abuse, as well as political nuances, is so high it may be lost on people not fluent in political affairs.

I believe this is the best role of Peter Capaldi.

6 Top Gear by BBC

It was a good show, too bad BBC and the TG trio parted their ways as nothing good comes out of this (sorry, Amazon, but The Grand Tour is nowhere near good old Top Gear). The thing I recommend most is choosing one of Top Gear Specials as the show culture clashes the British trio experiences on many occasions. My favourite special is definitely the US special soon after Katrina. I prepared a short comprehension test for my students to answer while watching and most of B2+ students have no problems with understanding.

7 Shetland by BBC One

Well, here you may wonder why Shetland? Why not Broadchurch, Grantchester or Inspector Morse (or Endeavour which is one of my favourite TV shows ever)? The answer is simple: this TV series shows us those areas of the UK that are usually neglected, forgotten – but nonetheless beautiful and really interesting. The atmosphere of a closed community where no one dares to openly blame another – and yet everyone suspects everybody, is just too real to ignore. I would definitely use this TV show for more mature audience who would be able to understand all the hidden messages in this surprisingly complex, and truly beautiful, TV series.

 

And that, as they say, is that – here’s my pick of seven great shows, but I’m absolutely sure you have your own ideas on which shows would be more relevant in your classroom. Why don’t you share your proposals?

7 free lifesaving apps for classroom fun

7 free lifesaving appsfor classroom fun

I don’t really like making copies with grammar exercises, at least not when I’m teaching people on B1+ level of English. The school I’m working with is promoting communication and, frankly, most people just want to speak a foreign language before appreciating the exquisite grammar complexity that we, teachers, enjoy so much.

As if.

My classroom policy is very simple: communicating in English and having fun. And whenever I feel less creative, I use one of my favourite free applications on my mobile phone to bring in some fun and discussion – it works every time, so I’ve decided to share seven of those that never let me down. I usually use them as warm-ups or cool-downs, but they’re also helpful when the students are somewhat bored or tired and you want to wake them up with a fun activity.

Story Dice

I wrote a post about physical Story Cubes I use in my classroom (click!), but why not use an app for the same activities? Original application isn’t free, so I found something similar so that you can try out and see if it suits your style of teaching. My personal favourite is Star Wars mode, of course. You can pick any number of dice you want and ask your students to make short stories based on the pictures.

Table Topics

You have 80 topics to use for random conversations – and to add a bit of fun, you may create a list of your students and they will be randomly assigned a topic to discuss. I usually do this with my adult students, when I use the app generator to pick a name + topic and give the student 45 seconds or a minute to do an impromptu monologue over the topic. It’s fun, it’s a challenge and it helps people to switch into English very quickly. It is also a great game for students who prepare for exams, as oral exams usually require them to make a short speech.

Stories: Party

I really like lateral thinking games (you may find my note here) because they’re very communicative (for the students, I, as a narrator, can only say yes, no or irrelevant – which is perfect for limiting my talking time, something I struggle with) and brain-teasing. Perfect for warm-ups, when they’re tired and discouraged after a hard day at school/work and it helps them to chill out, practise the language and – last but not least – revise the construction of questions in English.

4 Padlet 

I love padlet (find out how much: click!) and it’s my app of the year, definitely. I use it to make a base of interesting topics (How do we learn?) or a list of music quizzes when my students are really, really tired and I just want them to smile a bit. I can keep it on my mobile, so whenever I feel I am in need of something creative – here it is! Even better, you can ask your students to create padlets together or simply read materials collected by you and then make a lengthy discussion (I did that with my C1 teenagers on Stanford Experiment and it went really well).

5 What am I?

Simple riddles (oh, ok, maybe not that simple), perfect for warm-ups and brain-teasers. You may use an IWB for such games, but I’ve tried dictating riddles from my phone and asking students to guess the password, and it proved to be fun as well. Some of the rhymes are funny, some of them are really complicated and, frankly, you can use it as a typical party game with other teachers and native speakers!

6 Trivia Quest: Books

Similarly to What am I?, this app may be used both with IWB and with mobile phones (you need to dictate questions and click answers, though). You may wonder whether your students are bookish enough to take part in such activity, but questions range from Harry Potter to the Odyssey, and I’m sure everyone will find something for themselves. Just divide your class into groups and start a quick trivia show – perfect for cool-downs! Just remember to celebrate with winners: maybe give them a candy or a motivational sticker?

TheFreeDictionary

You may wonder why I recommend an app that’s a dictionary – but for me that’s the dictionary, something I ask my students to install on their own mobiles, because it’s not only far better than this abomination called google: translate, it has games (hangman, spelling bee with three levels of difficult, wordhub, synonym match…), grammar quiz and lesson, idiom of the day, quotation of the day, articles… oh, right, and a dictionary. You can pick your own features and use it everyday. In the classroom it may bring you a topic to discuss (use the quotation or the article of the day), a new word every lesson, or a nice discussion about today’s holiday – you won’t believe things people celebrate worldwide!

Here they are: 7 free apps which saved my classes more than once. If you have other lifesavers – share them with me, will be happy to test something new!