7 Useful Websites for Teaching Kids

7 Useful Websites for Teaching Kids

Being a teacher is never boring, especially when one changes age groups they have got used to – for a while now I’ve been more focused on teaching young learners which is quite an adventure. While my main interest lies with Disney English I try to include some magic into regular courses – and it’s easy to bring a wee bit of magic by using IWB in the classroom, provided the materials you want to share are carefully selected. When teaching children, it’s important to use technology responsibly – we may watch a video as an encouragement, but let’s not spend the whole lesson on using IWB tools.

I am absolutely sure you can recommend a nice collection of websites and applications useful for YL teachers, but I also want to share my top seven:

iSLCollective

You probably know this website as it’s full of goodies – printables, of course, but also video materials and more. You can find more than 200 videos with lesson ideas for children here, and fun activities with songs and nursery rhymes here. I don’t think you’ll ever get bored with this website, a lot of materials that you can use the moment you enter your classroom and see your students somewhat less lively than usual.

twinkl

I have already written about twinkl here, here and here but I still find it one of the best sources of inspirations and classroom help (speaking activity based on a photo of benches? why not!). Why, if I could I’d gladly take a whole course of twinkl-inspired classes! You can find something even for the youngest babies, and the best thing about it is that you can use twinkl to introduce CLIL classes from the very beginning of kids’ education.

LearnEnglish Kids

I love websites by the British Council – and the one dedicated for kids is just adorable. Visually child-friendly, but easy to navigate for a teacher. You can find nice songs (for example about superheroes) along with matching activities and games, various exercises etc. But what I really love about this site is the speaking part, where children supported by their parents or teachers can practise proper pronunciation. I also appreciate the fact that there are guidelines for parents who want to practise with their children but don’t really know where to start.

Fun English Games

I find this website a charming mix of some old-fashioned activities along with interactive games. You may find lovely tongue twisters here and then move to the alphabet game. The only drawback is that it takes a while before the page loads, so you must be prepared for this – better have it ready before you start your class! You can pick a letter matching game for those who start learning their letters or play a poetry game with the older students.

ESLGames+

This website is a lifesaver for all those teachers who either feel Mondayish or simply still think of their holidays. You enter the classroom, find a topic your class is about and boom! – you can choose a video, a game (I appreciate games divided into lower and higher classrooms) or simply choose a topic (like school supplies) and see what options the site gives you. There is no place for boredom and I’m sure your students will love the games.

Super Simple

If you have ever taught kids – or talked to anyone who taught kids – you must’ve heard of Baby Shark (and its variations). If not – welcome to Super Simple, the world of songs, videos and lessons for the youngest students. Starting with the ABC, up until short videos (Milo’s Monster School Vlog is just adorable) – you can be sure your students will have a lot of fun.

Yeah, you too. Only be careful, as Baby Shark will never leave your mind. You have been warned.

Teach Children ESL

You may be surprised why I decided to include this website as it’s not so IWB-oriented as the previous ones. However, what I love about this page is the variety of games for different holidays, song activities and other awesome projects (I love classroom dice!). And with technology one thing is certain – you need to have Plan B. In an emergency situation – you know, what to do: prepare a nice activity and hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

I hope I managed to show you some websites you haven’t used before, but if you know other useful pages please, leave me a comment, I’ll be more than happy to try something new!

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 10:Why RPGs Rock in the Classroom)

Role-Playing Teaching (1)

So far I’ve written 9 articles in my Role-Playing Teaching series and I’ve just realised I didn’t write anything about why RPGs are so cool when it comes to teaching! So here we are, a list of seven main reasons you should take your class into one of the Never-Never worlds.

1. Communication

I wrote about it in Character Creation part – with RPGs you start communicating before you even start playing. You create your character, you establish relationships with other players and then you spend hours talking, communicating, arguing, convincing and making people see your point of view. You don’t practice communication, you simply communicate and learn on the way, that if you speak to a police officer the way you talk with your best buddy, it may affect the communication. Which is a lesson worth learning before you meet an actual police officer and start talking rubbish…

2. Fun

I know some people believe proper learning requires solemn approach, study books and a lot of copies with grammar drills. I agree with this perspective when it comes to introducing grammar constructions (surprisingly, I guess that in order to understand the Reported Speech you need to produce a certain amount of drills) – but my primary goal in teaching is fun; this is the main reason I teach, honestly. And when you can teach, play and have fun at the same time – how could I resist the temptation?

3. Friendship

For years I’ve been attending fantasy fans’ conventions and spent hours talking about RPGs, systems, world, adventures and sessions – if you’re a teacher, imagine attending a teachers’ conference and discussing with a random teacher of another subject and from another part of your country your issues with a particular group of students: it doesn’t sound probable, right? Yet that’s what RPGs fans do, we share our adventures, epic stories and even equally epic dice rolls! Why? Because RPGs connect people – you start talking about the last edition of Warhammer, go for a pint, it turns out you have some common interests apart from RPGs, then you meet more people like this, have a great time, you meet them again on another convention and boom! suddenly you have friends all over the country.

Very useful from a tourist’s point of view.

4. Research

I remember, when we started playing my presently favourite system (Delta Green) we did quite a lot of research on American governmental organisations (as you usually play an FBI agent, or a CDC official, or maybe even an NRA representative, and you even might playing a CIA agent if you’re risky enough). Likewise, when we started playing Call of Cthulhu in 1920, we had to do some research on laws, politics, pop-culture, social code etc. I’m planning to take my teen students on the journey to the USA in the 1920s and that will require them to do some reading and learn things they otherwise wouldn’t even bother to think about.

5. Memories

Imagine meeting people after five years and trying to find a common topic after you’re done with the small talks. Sometimes it causes awkward silence, but never for the RPGs fans! Our chats are full of “do you remember” – “do you remember when you killed that giant demonic slug with one hit?” (don’t ask…) or “do you remember when we had to solve the case of the missing hen?” (4 hours playing). Taking part in various “after years” meetings I must say the RPG-related ones are the liveliest and the funniest. No English course will give you memories similar to those when you go on an adventure with a group of people who ultimately become your friends.

6. Team building

I live in Poland. Poland is a lovely country but the social trust is terribly low. As a nation, we don’t really trust people – and something I’ve observed and been told when I worked abroad is that we’re not really team players. And that’s true, even when you look at the way we’re working, starting from primary school. Team-work is important, being teachers we know that collaboration and cooperation are vital. Now, RPGs teach you team building. You have to work as a team, otherwise you won’t complete the quest. Communication, negotiation and the awesome ability of taking the blame sometimes and not blaming others – you learn it all here.

7. Teacher’s laziness

I know there are hard-working teachers who enjoy lesson-prep, copying materials and cutting-out visuals. Regretfully, I am not one of them. If you read my blog, you probably know the best lesson for me is when my students do the work and I am a mere counsellor. RPGs work like that – you prepare an adventure, define the area of the language your students are going to practise (“today we focus on the passive”) and make notes of new vocabulary they will want to revise after the session… and then you basically have fun! Especially when you see your students having a blast, not even realising they’re learning the language.

To be sure, I could give you more examples of RPGs being awesome in your class – and I probably will, as this year I’m starting a mini-course of English based solely on RPGs. Adventures galore, a group of teenagers, Great Cthulhu and English – what can possibly go wrong?

Well, we’re about to see quite soon…

7 Free Online Courses in August

7 (2)

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

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

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

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 5 weeks

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

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

2 Improve Your Intercultural Competence  by Purdue University

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people looking to improve their intercultural skills

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

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

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 6 weeks

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

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

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

Starts: 6.08.2018

Duration: 3 weeks

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

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

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

Starts: 13.08.2018

Duration: 6 weeks

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

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

6 The Music of the Beatles by the University of Rochester

Starts: 13.08.2018

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: Teachers of EFL. Seriously.

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

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

Starts: 27.08.2018

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: people interested in psychology

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

Call of Cthulhu

Adventure: Ties That Bind by Tom Lynch

Number of players: 2-6

English CEFR level: B2-C2

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

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

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

My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria

Adventure: The Pet Predicament

Number of players: 4-6

English CEFR level: A1-B1

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s roll!

7 Free Online Courses in July

7Free OnlineCoursesin July

No rest for the wicked*! Summer break may be a great time to work on our skills and abilities, especially when we know that the new school year is bound to bring changes. This month I’ve decided to focus on the courses that are quite summerish and light, so you can learn between a morning suntanning session and an afternoon nap, when you sip some chilled white wine while nibbling on sweet cherries…

1 Teaching Entrepreneurial Thinking by QUT

Start: 2.07

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: teachers and educational leaders who want to improve their teaching practice

This course will introduce you to what entrepreneurial thinking is, and why it’s an important skill for young people to learn, especially in a contemporary world where the big problems of today and tomorrow are yet to be identified. You will discuss the types of entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurial thinking can be applied in your classroom.

2 The Art of Teaching Foreign Languages to Young Learners by Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Start: 2.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: educators interested in teaching languages to young people

The course reflects on various aspects of teaching foreign languages to young learners. You will discuss the developmental traits of children between ages 4 and 12, learn how to engage with children in a creative way and try to foster intercultural understanding through multimodal communication. If you are going to teach young learners soon, you will find this course particularly useful.

3 Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life by the University of Sheffield

Start: 9.07

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: educators who focus on innovation and creativity

This course will help you reflect on the relationship between play, creativity and innovation in the workplace. From exploring the history of toys and games to investigating types of play in virtual worlds – you will discuss various aspects and definitions of play and current debates about how the nature of play changes.

This course is my pick of the month – it may be 7 weeks long, but it may help us give scientific background when trying to convince students that yes, you can learn the language while playing!

4 English Football: a Social History by the University of Leicester, DMU and Leicester City FC

Start: 16.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in football and its background

It’s the World Cup time and even you don’t understand the football fever, if you are a teacher of English as a foreign language you simply have to acknowledge the role of football in the UK! This course will explore the history and culture of football, with a focus on the World Cup and on Leicester City Football Club (them becoming Premier League Champions in 2016 was one of the most unusual moments in football history).

5 Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture by the University of York

Start: 16.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in contemporary educational and cultural topics

The course provides an introduction to popular types of visual culture for children and young people. By the end, you will gain a deeper understanding of children’s film, television, drama, picturebooks and comics. You will discuss the traditions of children’s visual culture and the plurality of ways in which childhood can be or has been represented – and have some time to reflect on your own childhood as well.

6 Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive by Deakin University

Start: 23.07

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: every teacher <sigh>

We all know that being a teacher is a tough and a stressful job. On this course you will learn about the capabilities, skills, and self-care practices that contribute to resilience. This will enable you to build up your own resilience so you’re ready to meet challenges at work and at home – and I believe summer break may be a great idea to build up resilience before the new school year begins.

7 Teaching English Online by Cambridge Assessment English

Start: 30.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to start teaching online

Online education is awesome, believe me – I was there both as a teacher and as a student. This course will help you start by introducing the context of English Language Teaching online. You will learn how to plan and deliver online language lessons and how to adapt your face-to-face teaching skills to an online environment. If you feel like working from home – that’s a perfect solution!

I hope you’ll find the courses useful – remember, no rest for the teachers!

Enjoy!

*Actually even the wicked may have some rest, so I’m taking a fortnight of a summer break. See you on the 17th of July when I’ll share some exciting adventures I’m going to take you during the magical Zlot Nauczycieli w Stryszawie and IATEFL Conference in Wrocław. Stay tuned!

M-education for beginners

M-educationforbeginners

Mobile phones are one of the most controversial aspects of today’s classroom. On one hand, we try to get rid of them, on the other hand we can’t live without them. I’m not talking about students – how often do we feel like using our mobile to check something more or less related to the class? Don’t we use Facebook to connect with other teachers and ask for help or inspiration? Don’t we browse Pinterest just to get a glimpse of an idea? The thing is – we’re not talking about mobile phones anymore, we’re talking about smartphones and we should use them according to their name: smart. There’s this joke I have access to the greatest library in the world… and I’m using it to browse pictures of cute cats. While I myself am absolutely guilty of spending too much time watching adorable felines, I am trying to reintroduce smartphones in my classroom, not as a nuisance though, but as a tool.
Mobile education, also called m-learning, is perceived by some as a kind of e-learning, yet it can be much more than that. By using smartphones in the class, and allowing – or even encouraging – my students to do the same, I bring some real context to the artificial
environment of a classroom. No longer a forbidden fruit, smartphones can be useful,
entertaining and… motivating!

Making learning more engaged

The most convenient thing about smartphone is that we can use it to check our facts
immediately, anytime and anyplace – be that a grammar rule, a spelling issue or a piece of information useful for our academic writing exercise. I am really surprised with my students not realising Google Scholar is something which can be more useful – and reliable – than Wikipedia. When a random question arises, even if it’s not related to anything we are studying at that moment, I encourage my students to check the answer on the spot, thus taking care of our natural curiosity which only too often is killed by the mundane world of educational system.
I also advise my students to use The Free Dictionary by Farlex – it’s a great antidote to
imperfect Google Translate, and is enriched with games, articles, spelling bee contests and a horoscope that always predicts good things (which is the only kind of horoscope we should believe).

Making learning collaborative

Teachers can use m-learning to individualise teaching, to engage students into learning beyond school and to encourage them to work with other students – which is much easier when we can use technology to communicate and share files.
Currently, the most useful application for me is padlet – I can share all the materials needed for the next class (my favourite form of homework), some additional exercises, place for submitting essays or projectwork etc. I also create closed groups on Facebook for my students where we make polls, enjoy discussions and try some brainstorming. It is also very useful when students write they had a particularly hard day at school and would love to play games or work on communication skills, instead of having to face planned grammar activities – if I get the message early enough, I can rearrange my lesson to their needs.

With padlet being now more commercial, I recommend trello as a similar solution.

Making learning communicative

Instant messengers are natural for our students (who, as I’ve recently read, perceive e-mails as outdated) – mobile technology changed that aspect of communication, and it’s obvious that at school, when students have to disconnect and switch to traditional way of learning in a formalised way, it may be quite difficult for them. So why not start using smartphones to encourage communication?
When it comes to warm-ups, for example, I find my smartphone irreplaceable. Story Dice, Table Topics, lateral thinking games – but to name a few. I find those applications – whether on my mobile or my students’ – really enjoyable and, what’s more important, that’s a great way of making them speak English right from the beginning of the lesson. They can even download the apps on their own, thus eliminating the teacher from the process of communication and carrying it out all by themselves.

Introducing rules

Naturally, smartphones may lead to some distracting behaviours – but are students
communicating via instant messengers so different from us, who used to write notes on pieces of paper and throw them to our friends? It’s the behaviour that is the real problem, not the technology. To avoid problems, we need to introduce some rules.
My rules are simple: all smartphones should be set on silent mode (unless being used for lesson purposes), on the desk, face down. I personally allow my students to use their smartphones whenever they finish their exercises or tasks sooner than most of the class – it’s really motivating them to get to work, just to check their Snapchat and text their friend casually yeah, I’m on my English lesson and I can chat, no problem, I’ve done my stuff and it’s OK.
As a teacher, I hope it is.

If you want to read more on the topic:
Kolb, Liz and Tonner, Sharon “Mobile Phones and Mobile Learning” in: “What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media” (2012)

The article was first published in The Teacher nr 1 (155) 2018.

500 Activities for the Primary Classroom – when you look for inspirations (book review)

Feline Fact_

We all know that teaching kids requires not only knowledge and patience, but also wild amounts of ingenuity and creativity – the younger the learner, the more creative the teacher must be! And since I’ve professionally come back to dealing with young learners and teens, the book I felt like browsing through really carefully addressed the needs of the youngest learners – especially knowing the author.

I met Carol Read when I was a rookie teacher in a primary school – she was invited by Macmillan, visited Rzeszów and clearly wanted to observe a typical English lesson. I was only happy to deliver – and I found her one of the nicest people ever; also, she was the first native speaker my students had seen and they loved her.

What is the book about?

You would probably say – it’s 500 activities for children… and you’d be almost right, because it’s far more than this – each chapter starts with really useful methodological content that will help you understand the approaches behind various activities along with “reflection time” – section where you can think over your ideas. Moreover, each activity is followed by comments and suggestions, and with years of experience Ms. Read has a lot of useful tips to share!

Who is the book for?

As the dedication states – the book is for every teacher who tries to bring out the best in every child. If you’re a fresh teacher who hasn’t ever taught a kid – it’s for you! If you’re an experienced educator who has spent more time with the adults and now wants to start again with younger learners (like your truly) – you’ll find it a great source of inspiration!

Contents

The book is divided into ten sectionslistening and speaking, reading and writing, Vocabulary and grammar, Storytelling and drama, Games, Rhymes, chants and songs, Art and craft, Content-based learning, ICT and multimedia and Learning to learn. Each activity goes with an awesome description reminding me of my favourite book ever – level (from A1.1 to B1.2), age, organisation (groupwork, pairwork etc.), aims, language focus, materials and procedures. So, apart from mere ideas you have a lot of material you can adapt to your own groups and their needs.

My favourite activities

Naturally, the first part I read was the one focussed on storytelling – and the first exercise is called “words in the story” where kids create a story about a Kraken. My cthultistic heart appreciates such an excellent beginning! I really enjoyed the exercise “story stepping stones” where children learn to identify and use key episodes in the story – a very useful skill when it comes to storytelling.

But there are more activities than this – you will find activities you may use in a classroom on a regular basis – listening grid, follow the route task or wall dictation. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love.

Recommendations

This is one of those books I can recommend for everyone – even if you don’t teach children it may still prove useful; perfect when you need to cover for a colleague… or when your own (or your friends’) kids want to have fun and expect you to come up with a creative idea – 500 Activities is a great help, as young learners develop their skills unconsciously, simply having fun.

And having fun is something not only kids like!

Read, Carol “500 Activities for the Primary Classroom: Immediate Ideas and Solutions”

Macmillan Books for Teachers 2007

ISBN 978-1-4050-9907-3