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

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

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

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

Alone against the dark…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, dear friend, and enjoy your adventure…

Costello, Matthew and Mason, Mike

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

Chaosium, 2018/ PL version Black Monk

ISBN: 978-156882-453-6

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7 Free Online Courses in July

7Free OnlineCoursesin July

Summer break sounds brilliant to those who actually have it (picture me crying with envy). Regardless, I found some lovely courses that I really want to share with you, as I’m sure you might spare some time and learn something new. Below you will find a nice selection of courses focusing on testing, storytelling, children, wellness… I’m sure you’ll find something you like!

Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education by the University of Exeter

Start: 01/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in education, including teachers, students, and parents

There are people who believe educational system must be directly linked with economic growth, hence the importance of assessment as means of measuring development. This course will explore a range of key concepts, including how education might now be considered a business. Seems controversial? It means you may find it an interesting topic to discuss!

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative by Vanderbilt University

Start: 15/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone curious about video games

This course is, to quote the author, a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling. You will learn about narrative theory, as well as the history and theory of video games. If you, like me, believe that we are all born storytellers, this course may be a great choice for you – and if you want to know what I am up to this month: I am on the journey to discover the cultural heritage of online games!

Introduction to Self-Determination Theory: An approach to motivation, development and wellness by University of Rochester

Start: 15/07/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: parents, teachers, coaches, managers, and health-care professionals

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation and psychological development. This course will help you promote or undermine engagement and the positive consequences that follow from it. You will focus not only on reaching your personal wellness, but also helping others – students, coworkers etc. feel better, more motivated and happier. What’s not to like? Ready to change the world?

Child Protection for Teachers by QUT

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: teaching staff and education leaders who want to improve their professional practice

If you start working with children, you need to be aware of the signs of potential maltreatment. This course will help you recognise the early signs of child abuse and neglect. You will learn how maltreatment impacts on children’s learning and development. The course will also help you to understand the role of a person who reports such cases.

Teaching Phonics in Early Childhood by QUT

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone supporting children to prepare for school

If you teach EFL to children, you know how difficult it is to explain differences between spelling and pronunciation. This course will help you learn new things about code-based literacy in early childhood. You will focus on phonics, phonemic awareness and phonological awareness, something that may be really useful, especially when you work with young students.

Improve Your Intercultural Competence by Purdue University

Start: 22/07/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone looking to improve their intercultural competence 

As teachers, we know how important cross-cultural competence is. Good intercultural communication is now more and more important, especially with global networks getting bigger and bigger. According to the Intelligence Unit at The Economist, 90% of executives in 68 countries say cross-cultural management is their biggest challenge. This course will help you enhance your intercultural competence.

Fairy Tales: Meanings, Messages, and Morals by the University of Newcastle 

Start: 29/07/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: reading enthusiasts, storytellers, and creative writers

I believe we all create stories in which we live. Ever since we are born, we are surrounded by stories and everything in this world urges us to tell a story. So, fellow storytellers, this course may be a great idea for all of us. This course will show you enchanting and surprisingly dark themes of several well-known European fairy tales. Maybe the good and the bad are not so different?

Hope you like the courses I found and make your summer break sparkle with educational value. Next time I’ll show you some great entertainment for hot days – and that will be mid-July, as I’m taking a short break. Keep following me on FB and instagram, I’ll be happy to stay in touch with you!

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

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

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

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

Warm-up

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

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

Part 1

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

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

Homework

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

Enjoy!

Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

7 Free Online Courses in June

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Are you already getting ready for your summer break? Gentle wind on a sandy beach, scorching sun in the mountains and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with teaching, school and EFL? If yes, please continue your bliss, but if you ever feel like there’s something you should do apart from relaxing, maybe a short online course or two… Well, here I am, ever-watchful! I’ve found seven nice and free courses that may be quite interesting for teachers… even those ready for their summer break!

1 Language Assessment in the Classroom by the British Council

Start: 03/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in understanding how language assessment works

Assessment is something a lot of teachers struggle with – from test preparation to evaluation. Fortunately, British Council has a great course, which will help you learn theoretical aspects of assessment, and then adjust it to your purposes. You will focus on practical ways of assessing language and skills which you can use in your classroom, but more than that, you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with fellow participants and receive professional guidance from course moderators (something BC is really good at!).

2 Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: primary school teachers who have an interest in expanding their knowledge of space

Before you shrug the idea off, think about it: imagine your EFL classes enriched with real-life knowledge you’ll acquire with the real astronomers at the Royal Observatory Greenwich! Wake your childlike curiosity up and explore space… and various resources for your primary science lessons. You’ll explore digital resources, museum tips, video chats and podcasts, and find out what works best for your students. Your EFL lessons will be just cosmically amazing!

3 Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone involved in the learning process

I’m afraid to admit, I’d have probably taken over the world already, if it wasn’t for procrastination. Do you know the phrase “Procrastinators, unite! Fighting tomorrow for better today…” – that might be my motto. And with so many distractions like Facebook or IM… it’s quite difficult to focus on actual learning (one needs to study strategies in order to take over the world!). If you (or your students) experience similar issues, that may be a great course for us! During the course you will reflect on procrastination and motivation, learn how to design a study plan and actually organise your educational life for the better.

Only you or your students best focus on conventional subjects, leave world domination to me.

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

Start: 10/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in teaching foreign languages to young learners

If you’re a rookie teacher, or even an experienced lecturer who’s going to start teaching young learners, this may be a good course for you. The course will take you through the basics of methodological approaches to teaching kids, you will also learn about developmental stages of kids and young teenagers. If you feel stressed when you think about teaching kids, you should find this course – and the discussions – particularly interesting.

5 Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in cybersecurity

We all know we all need to be careful in the Internet – students and teachers alike. It was proven that younger generation, called “digital natives”, happen to be too careless – they treat the Net as their safe haven, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This course will help you not only be more sensible when it comes to your security, it will also help you design actual cybersecurity classess. You will explore malware, malicious bots, SQL injections, and physical threats to data. You will also build your knowledge of the different tools that protect data and websites – strong passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication, and firewalls.

6 Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: English language teachers worldwide

Having a well-prepared lesson plan is a great beginning of a successful lesson. This course will help you look at various professional practices, share your own teaching experiences, and apply what you’ve learnt to your own teaching practice. If you feel like you might need some guidance with regards to classroom management and keeping your students engaged with your teaching methods – that’s the course for you!

7 Languages?

If you really think of going on holidays, you may be interested in learning some basic expressions in foreign languages that may prove really helpful.

There is still time to enroll in a course where you’ll learn the most important expressions – and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to develop your skills in more than one foreign language?

You may participate in basic Spanish classes here.

You will find a basic Italian course here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the courses – they look really interesting, and I guess it’s never too late to learn something new, even during summer break!

Have fun!

3 no-prep ideas for outdoor classes

3 no-prep ideas

I love outdoor classes in May and June –  if you look at your students, it is really difficult for them to stay in when every muscle is calling them outside. I’m not overly fond of hot summer days myself, but I’m even less fond of classrooms with no air-conditioning, so here are my top three ideas for outdoor classes, they worked brilliantly for me and I can only hope you’ll have at least as much fun as my students did.

As you’ll probably notice, my ideas are virtually no-prep classes. It’s somehow connected with the feeling of summertime laziness that rubs off on me!

I spy with my little eye… (A1 and above)

If you think elementary students can’t have fun outdoors because they get easily distracted without coursebooks, you couldn’t be more wrong. You only need to give them stimuli and have fun watching them play and use their English. You probably know the game I spy. One person, the Spy, silently selects an object that is visible to all the players but doesn’t tell what the object is. Then the Spy says, I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter…, and players have to guess what the object is.

Now, it sounds really easy, even for elementary students, so you may play an alternative version, substituting the initial letter for an adjective such as a colour of an object or a sound (that one is fun: I spy with my little eye something that sounds like a bomb). Yet another variation to encourage using English is giving various descriptive clues, such as describing a watch as something made of metal and glass that makes a quiet noise.

Believe me, not only kids love this game, add a hint of competition (like two teams) and adult learners will have wild ideas! Why is it a great game outdoors? Because you have far more objects than in a classroom, you can play it walking, change places and literally do nothing to prepare.

Tourists attractions (A2-B1 and above)

It’s a little project that takes around two classes, with a lot of fun for students and literally nothing you have to do beforehand apart from bringing a map of the school’s whereabouts.

On the first lessons students pick some interesting places around the school and make up interesting stories about them in secret – on lower levels they may work in pairs to feel more comfortable. They should write the stories down and optionally give you to proofread (I skipped this step hoping to be surprised and indeed I was, so in case you prefer to have some control over these  particularly controversial stories – go for proofreading).

On the second lesson just go for a walk, stop in front of each landmark and let the person who made up a story about it, tell it the way tourist guides do.

Where’s the fun? First of all, stories. I listened to various tales of cannibalism in an old asylum (you’d never think of it, looking at an ordinary kebab place), a series of unexplained disappearances and eerie cults (obviously, a church), haunted graveyard (in a park, not in an actual graveyard as that would be too obvious) etc.

See the point of proofreading now?

Secondly, make your students behave like real tourists. You know, baseball caps, socks&sandals (if they’re brave enough), cameras etc. Make them listen to their “guides” attentively and enjoy the interest of the unsuspecting public. I believe my students had a lot of fun not only with their work, but also with people’s reactions. Suddenly speaking English was the easiest thing to do!

Treasure hunt (A2 and above)

Be aware: you need to prepare a few pieces of paper for this class. In each you should have 5-10 challenges for a treasure hunt. Also, this is an activity appropriate for more mature students who can behave in a safe manner when walking around unsupervised.

Divide your class into 3 groups, each gets a sheet of paper with challenges and off they go, to complete the task. The first team to return receives an award (a souvenir, good mark or an opportunity to choose the next lesson’s topic). Meanwhile you spend an hour drinking coffee and, naturally, pining after your students.

When it comes to challenges, I decided to pick similar instructions for each group, but give them varying details, for example:

  1. Go to *various cafés* and ask for *vegan muffins/vegan ice-cream/gluten-free cakes* in English
  2. Go to *McDonald’s etc.* order a coke and a straw for each person in team (in English) and take a selfie. Send it to me.
  3. Go to the nearest *fountain* and ask a stranger in English to take a photo of you mid-jump.
  4. In English, ask a stranger *ginger bearded man/a mother with three kids/ a couple in love* to take a photo with your team.
  5. In English, ask someone for directions to *theatre/school/tourist information”. Ask if you can record them as you keep forgetting directions.

The obvious question is, how did I make sure my students were speaking English? Simple – the person speaking was recorded by another team member. After the hunt, obviously, recordings were deleted. The best thing about this hunt is that students have an opportunity to practice real-life skills and still have a lot of fun!

I hope my ideas sound interesting, so do not hesitate to adjust them to your need and enjoy your outdoor classes! Remember about parental consent if your students are minors, especially when it comes to the treasure hunt!