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

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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!

7 great free online courses to take in May

7 free courses in May

Teaching is learning, sure thing – but with so many sources to study choosing something suitable may take us more time than an actual course! Not to mention increasing greed-like feeling “oh, yes, I’m enrolling here… and there… and I totally have to find some time for this course!”

No need to panic – being quite an experienced online learner, I’ve decided to make a list of courses you may partake in this month, and possibly enjoy them at least as much as I do. I’ve got some ideas for both teachers and students of EFL because there are some options you may not really want to participate in, but share with your pupils or fellow learners as well. For example:

1 IELTS Academic Test Preparation by  the University of Queensland, Australia

IELTS Academic is the most popular exam for people who want to study in an English-speaking country, and from my experience of a person who’s been preparing others for this test for 5 years, it’s impossible to pass with a decent band without an earlier preparatory course – so if you think about studying abroad – take a look at this course!

The four-module course will take you 8 weeks of an estimated 5 hours/week. Level of English is rather low, and all the videos are subtitled.

2 Designing Assessments to Measure Student Outcome by AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education)

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 3 weeks (estimated 3 hours/week). It focuses on creating tools to measure student outcomes. It may be quite useful for teachers who struggle with assessing their students’ progress or simply want to develop their understanding of this area.

Its three modules consist of building assessments, surveys and rubrics.

3 Understanding Autism by University of Kent

As teachers, we’re bound to meet an autistic student sooner or later. This course focuses on living with this lifelong developmental disability affecting social relations and communication. I believe every teacher should learn at least a bit about this spectrum condition.

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 4 weeks (estimated 3 hours/week).

I’ve already enrolled.

4 Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

I already finished this course and I can recommend it to any teacher who struggles with understanding what dyslexia is and how terrifying it may be to our students to try and learn a foreign language – the course explains the nature of dyslexia, but also gives some solutions we may use to help our students.

The course started on the 24th of April, but you may still enrol! It takes 4 weeks of roughly 4 hours/week.

5 Teaching Your Subject in English by Cambridge English and Cambridge International Examinations

The course is perfect for teachers who teach regular school subjects and are planning to do this in English. The course consists of modules covering language needed for motivation, guidance, management and monitoring. It may be useful for CLIL teachers as well.

The course starts on the 1st of May and takes 5 weeks of roughly 3 hours/week.

6 Tricky American English Pronunciation by University of California, Irvine

Here you’ll have a chance to practise American English with all its trickiness – vowels, consonants and their sounds. Unfortunately, access to all of the lectures and handouts is free to anyone, but the graded assignments and quizzes are only available in the paid version of the course. Apart from enrolling, you may easily recommend this course to your students, as the linguistic level is suited for the beginners.

The course starts on the 8th of May and takes 4 weeks of a 3-4 hours/week.

7 History of Rock, Part One by University of Rochester

This is the course worth taking part not only in order to develop English, but also to get the a greater grasp of cultural knowledge – after all a huge part of rock music is connected with English-speaking countries! I am going to share this with my students, especially teenagers, who are linguistically ready to start learning on their own, but all they need is a nice course focusing on something they find interesting – and I’m sure rock music will be a good choice.

The course starts on the 22nd of May and includes 12-24 hours of videos and quizzes. It’s in English, but subtitles are available in English, simplified Chinese and Serbian.

I hope you’ll find at least one of the courses recommended by me interesting. Let me know when you decide to pick something and enrol – I’ll be happy to exchange experience. And maybe we’ll meet somewhere trying to Understand Autism?

Enjoy your learning!

English for _very_ special purposes

Last year I got hooked on Stranger Things – a great TV series, especially for geeky 80’s kids (like yours truly, I guess, can’t wait for s02). I guess zombies, aliens, demogorgons and all supernatural things have been quite a thing for a while, and thanks to Netflix we can binge on tv series (btw, thanks netflix for ruining my social life) and it would be a real waste if we couldn’t incorporate it into our classes.

I love creating lessons around tv series (I’m not a whovian, but “Blink” is a great episode to use in the classroom and “Yellow Fever” from Supernatural is simply hilarious – just to name but two) as it shows quite natural language and speech flow, brings some cultural references and is a nice way of learning by fun (which is my favourite way of acquiring knowledge).

Apart from creating lessons around fantasy and sci-fi tv series I’m really glad when I see proper books directed at low-level students, allowing them to be part of the supernatural hype:

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English for the Alien Invasion is written by the same team who committed English for the Zombie Apocalypse (a really good book for pre-intermediate students, I wrote about it here). This time the threat is from the outer space, cunning and intelligent. Beware, it’s not for the light-hearted 🙂 The story focuses on the boy called Dani, Captain Black, Doctor Green and a bunch of aliens, of course. Unsuspecting Dani meets an alien and befriends him only to be lured to the spaceship – will he be able to run away? Will Captain Black manage to inform the President about the danger? Will Doctor Green be able to help? Will humanity survive?

The book is divided into 10 units (from Making Contact to Saving the World) and two sets of flashcards. Each unit makes a 45min PPP-type lesson with similar stages: warm-up, listening exercise followed by reading comprehension, working on important phrases and production phase – creating own conversation or role-play. There are also various ideas how flashcards can be used in the classroom (learning vocabulary, short tests, memory game and story game). I find organisation of the book way better than the previous one and apart from being well thought of, there is still some space to put teacher’s own ideas (fragments of Close Encounters of the Third Kind maybe?) which is always a good thing.

EAI is perfect for elementary students for more than one reason. First and foremost, it’s a lot of fun. Who hasn’t seen at least one episode of The X-files? We can put a lot of fun into English classes and it’s as important for beginners as for any other level. Secondly, for people who have just started learning a foreign language, each attempt of communication in English is like talking to (and listening to!) aliens. We can add some humour into our classes by pretending “aliens” are native speakers of English – not only will it relieve some stress, but it may also be a great pretext to talk about cultural differences and cross-cultural communication.

I hope you’ll get inspired by the idea – it’s always good to be prepared for the worst! And if you are interested in the book, you can get it here.

Enjoy!

10 lifesaving websites for ESL teachers

Lisa has asked me for some recommendations regarding useful sites for EFL teachers and I’m happy to make a little compilation of the places I visit most often to find ideas, inspirations, betimes lesson plans if I feel exceptionally lazy (The Liberation of the Garden Gnomes by Peter Vahle is just shiny!) and share them with you.

So, here we go – my ten favourite websites:

  1. onestopenglish.com: lesson plans, ideas, inspirations and useful tools – you can spend a whole day browsing this site even without registering;
  2. teachingenglish.org.uk: British Council and loads of CPD resources – you can spend days browsing the site (they also have awesome research papers and publications here);
  3. Teaching English/ British Council on YouTube is a variety of channels and playlists you can use either in the classroom or for your own CPD;
  4. Teaching English/ British Council on Facebook is something I’ve been subscribing for a while and must admit is the continuous source of inspiration (I don’t even have to look for anything all the good stuff is on my wall, yay!);
  5. Breaking News English: it’s not the best designed site ever, and the lesson plans have the same structure, but I find it a never ending source of real English, interesting news and ideas for discussions;
  6. Teach-nology: a great site with various games, printable materials and my absolutely favourite – word search maker (a perfect tool for vocabulary revision + warm-up);
  7. Puzzle-Maker: you can make your own word search, crossword etc. – perfect for a personalised vocabulary revision, test or as a great warm-up;
  8. ESL Partyland: a really nicely organised site with all the help a teacher might need for different classes plus my favourite – trivia, useful expressions etc.;
  9. Webquests: a repository of various webquests on different topics and levels which you can use either in the classroom or as a homework (or as a way of introducing your students to BlendedLearning model) – I personally love the Orient Express;
  10. Online Newspapers: a site full of newspapers (some of them in English) which may be a perfect tool for many projects in the classroom as well as self-study materials;

Hope you’ll like my choice and give these sites a go. I must admit, my life as a teacher is WAY easier thanks to those wonderful people contributing there, but I also appreciate their influence when I see my own teaching style spiced up with different inspirations and ideas – I feel motivated to change, experiment, develop, to make my classes as interesting as I can.

Enjoy the recommendations I’ve shared and if you know some interesting sites, please, share them with me as well.

Enjoy!

Halloween with a zombie apocalypse? Sure thing!

With Halloween approaching, a teacher has to come up with some entertaining ideas. I’m not a fan of classes dedicated directly to the occasion, I prefer running a normal lesson with a little twist. Some time ago I tried storytelling with Scaredy Cat by Heather Franzen (I still love this cute little story and regardless of how murderous students I teach, I find them appreciating these activities as well), but this year I’ve decided to go with something new — namely, the apocalypse.

Zombies have become a rather common topic in my classroom, especially on Mondays, when some of us look somewhat zombified. Somehow, the apocalypse is also quite a popular topic (all those environmentally-centred lessons in ESL books are rather pessimistic, admit it) — so when my ex-DOS found a book called English for the zombie apocalypse I simply had to buy a copy. Was it a good purchase?

Well, it depends.

The book consists of 10 lessons describing a story of a man who tries to escape zombies in his city — he finds a girl and her brother, they all escape to wilderness, the inevitable happens (one of them gets bitten and slowly turns into an undead) and finally the survivors ride towards the setting sun. Classic.

Each lesson starts with a dialogue introducing the situation, some follow-up questions and — what’s most important — some useful conversational phrases and drills with a short role play scenario (“you’re running away from zombies and meet a stranger. Introduce yourself and ask for possible help”).

Overally, I think the book is targeted at students around pre-intermediate level, and I’d rather recommend it for young adults and students who watch TV (The Walking Dead series proves to be really popular) and are pop-culturally aware, otherwise the purpose of the book makes no point. Truth be told, communicative exercises are useful not only in zombie-centred environment, but if you have a group of students who don’t get the zombie apocalypse theme, I’d rather not risk introducing the book. Unless they feel like giving it a go, of course.

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Using the book in the classroom:

You can use the book in the classroom either using all the units at the same time (it can take one or two classes) or just the chosen ones (focusing on giving the directions or making apologies for example). While Halloween may be a good excuse to simply focus on the idea of a zombie apocalypse, you may also use the lessons throughout the course, showing your students that communicative skills can be vital when the undead attack.

You can make a project lesson with your students trying to come up with further lives of the survivors – students may write a story, record a video or simply create a lesson similar to the ones in the book. Naturally, you may also use the book as a basis for a lot of speaking activities focusing on survival and countless ‘what-if’ situations.

Hope you’ll enjoy your Halloween 🙂