Back to Basics: ClassroomScreen for IWB

Back to Basics_ ClassroomScreen for IWB

The thing about technology is that we’re all supposed to use it, and for those teachers who only start their adventure with education, or those who return to teaching after a long break, it may be quite overwhelming, to switch on an IWB… and have no clue on what to do next.

I believe there is an application that may be a great beginning of the adventure with technology in the classroom – it’s a simple page with many widgets easy to use for most non-technological activities in the classroom.

Meet ClassroomScreen!

What you need to do is simply open ClassroomScreen on your laptop and project it in your classroom. That’s it – but since I’m not taking part in the competition for the shortest blog post ever, I shall elaborate a little bit.

You can use all your favourite widgets here – clock and calendar, and timer (something really useful during various activities), for starters. Obviously, you can type and draw there, you can also upload various images and draw on them. You can also use various backgrounds, so you may upload the one that matches the lesson topic.

I like the traffic lights option – you may use them for students’ self assessment (red if they don’t understand the material, yellow if they have some issues, green if everything is clear) as well as classroom management – green light may mean students are working as a class, yellow may mean groupwork and red may be for individual work.

The widget I like most is definitely work symbols. You may clearly indicate what kind of activity you’re doing at a particular moment – silence, whisper, ask neighbour or work together. It’s a brilliant widget for longer exercises, requiring various forms of activities – all you need to do is switch the icon and everyone knows what to do.

Another useful widget is QRcode generator – you may immediately share anything you want, just paste the link and generate the code. Ask your students to read it with their mobiles and presto! – they all can read an article, see a film or do the exercises you’ve shared.

Monitoring classroom noise level may be a perfect solution for all those working with big groups or small kids (or big groups of small kids) – all you need to do is use the microphone widget to set up noise level and your students may observe how loud they are. Let’s say, they’ll be given a sticker is the noise bar doesn’t get red, and chances are you won’t get prematurely deaf.

Random name picker is the best solution for “why meeeeeeee agaaaaaain” kind of students – just write your students’ names in the text field and roll dice. Why am I asking you again, Brian? Because the computer said so!

The feature I find particularly useful is that you may use widgets more than once – you may use two timers (for two groups), divide your class into three groups and give them various work symbols etc.

I hope you’ll find this site as adorable as I have – sometimes simplicity is key, and in this case I’m more than happy to use it and have quite a lot of fun. So it looks like I’m going to have a break from canva, youtube, quizziz and twinkl, and introduce a little bit of good old-fashioned IWB screen.

Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in September

Seven

Can you feel Back To School vibes? I sure can, and to be honest, I love it. The very first day of school is my favourite one to have a cup of tea (necessarily with cornflower, I love blue cornflower spots in my tea) on my balcony, relaxing… and looking at kids trotting back to school. Call me evil, but I do enjoy some schadenfreude! Nevertheless, I’ve always liked September (in a childlike way as I have my birthday then), getting new school stuff, the smell of new books – and, of course, new things to learn!

Today I have some brilliant courses that I hope you’ll find useful in some kind of Back to School style:

Understanding ADHD: Current Research and Practice by King’s College London

  • Start: 2/09/2019
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: people with ADHD and anyone working with children and adults with ADHD

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? What are the symptoms of ADHD? How is ADHD diagnosed? With more and more ADHD students, teachers should be more aware of potential issues stemming from this disorder. You will learn about the latest neuroscientific and psychiatric research, discuss the core challenges faced by those with ADHD and learn an empathic understanding of the experiences of people living with ADHD.

Start Writing Fiction by the Open University

  • Start: 09/09/2019
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • For whom: anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing, recommended for 16+ students

Ever wanted to ditch teaching and become a writer, sipping coffee on a balcony with a view on a sea and not being bothered by others? On this online course, established writers – including Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey – will talk about how they started writing. You will learn how to create great characters, perfect plot… and undergo some critical remarks by your fellow classmates.

Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation by Lancaster University

  • Start: 16/09/2019
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • For whom: people interested in the study of language

I did my MA in linguistics and I swear I had oh so many opportunities to use it in the classroom as people want more than learn a language: they want to know how language works! With this course you may not only broaden your horizons, but encourage your students to embark on a great journey to understand the language. Corpus linguistics is the study of language presented by the “real world” text – something we come across everyday.

Understanding English Dictionaries by Coventry University, the Alan Turing Institute and Macmillan Education

  • Start: 16/09/2019
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: anyone studying or teaching English

Admit it – when was the last time you used dictionaries in your classroom? Like many other teachers, I stopped using them the minute I discovered Google on my mobile – truth be told I still entertain my students with some activities, but I think this course offers much more than just a bunch of activities. You will learn how dictionaries are created and who decides what words go in.

 

What Makes an Effective Presentation? by Coventry University

  • Start: 16/09/2019
  • Duration: 2 weeks
  • For whom: anyone interested in developing their presentation skills 

Being a teacher requires presenting ideas in an interesting, eye-catching way. We’ve seen many workshops that were destroyed by the mediocre presentation, and this course will help you evaluate and improve your presentation skills. Moreover, at the end of the course you will also have the opportunity to deliver a mini presentation and receive feedback from your peers. I think this course may be a great idea to take in the class, with your students: this way they’ll learn English and some other skills at the same time.

Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom by Into Film

  • Start: 23/09/2019
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • For whom: anyone who would like to enrich their lessons through the creation of films and animations

This course will help anyone working with young people aged 5-19 to engage them in learning through simple filmmaking and animation. You’ll discover how film and animation can be used as powerful tools for encouraging active learning and enabling students to establish strong connections with any area of the curriculum. I believe this may be a great course to start in the classroom and turn into a long project.

Using Technology in Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning by the Chartered College of Teaching

  • Start: 23/09/2019
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: teachers and education professionals in either the primary or secondary school setting

It’s not easy to start with technology – there are so many solutions to the problems one hasn’t even thought of! Fortunately, this course will not only show you the areas where technology supports effective teaching and learning, it also helps you select appropriate technologies and implementation approaches – you will be able to choose applications you really need in your classroom rather than try everything and panic.

That’s it – seven courses that may influence your back to school mood and hopefully make this school year the best ever.

Enjoy!

Get Ready For School: Teacher’s Pack

Get Ready For School_ Teacher's Pack

Sometimes I take a look at my old notes (after all I’ve been writing this blog for a while) and once in a while I see a post that makes me go like “aaah, yes, that was a great exercise, I had so much fun with my students“. And then, I either share this post on my regular #tbt (throwback Thursday) or, well, forget about it.

But this time I had a plan! A plan so cunning you could pin a tail to it and call it a fox*. I’ve read through my blog (almost 200 posts!) and found all the notes that may be an inspiration before you embark on yet another year-long school adventure. All of the ideas were tested on human beings and all of us not only survived, but had quite a lot of fun.

First class

You may start your course with some listening activities, where you all listen to students’ favourite songs – you may not only assess their listening skills, but also learn something about your new pupils. If you want to start a new course with good vibes, you should go with my lesson on Storytelling (with a lesson plan): a simple lesson on making stories with a little twist.

You can still have some fun outdoors! Get inspired by my three ideas that will make the beginning of your class as pleasant as a summer trip. On the other hand, if the weather is bad, you may simply use one of 7 lifesaving apps and bring some fun to the classroom – as a promise of all the fun you are certainly going to have during the whole course.

If you want to start something new and haven’t yet tried the station-rotation model, I recommend my lesson plan on Dyatlov Pass Incident – it’s brilliant for teens that are on B2 level, as the whole lesson brings new things: new lesson format, fascinating topic and real-life skills on how to organise a debate.

Introduce a project

If you’re feeling lucky (and ambitious), you may start your first classes by introducing self assessment. This is something that can be easily transformed into a year-long project and end up as a lifelong attitude, if your students are brave enough.

It’s good to start your class by boosting students’ motivation – you may introduce nice mobile apps your students may use at home to improve their skills.

If you’re into year-long projects, encourage your students to start their own cookbook! You can a) make them do something useful (a website and some food) b) relax while they share their recipes, c) eat delicious food. When it comes to projects, this is my favourite one. Yay to free food!

And here’s another project that may be either a short one or a long-running thing. The whole thing is about excuses, excuses, excuses… regarding homework. Why didn’t they do their homework – again? Answers may be typical (and boring), but make something good out of this by making your students create stories (more or less believable) which should be noted down and finally used to create a real book.

Change in classroom management

Adopting a testing system is usually quite challenging, both for students and teachers. Why not include a bit of fun there and go fully online? I recommend quizizz, something that made my tests maybe not extremely enjoyable, but at least mildly amusing. Oh, and if you want to give your students a little cheat sheet with all English tenses to revise, you might use mine.

One of the most important things, from my perspective as a student, is information about the lesson goal – I want to know what I am going to learn, which activities I have to complete and what’s the final outcome. The one and only Ewa Torebko wrote a brilliant post about it and honestly, you simply have to read it!

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of ideas to start a new school year with, so you can choose the one you like most and give it a go!

Enjoy!

*do you know who’s the author of this phrase?

English is not easy… but it’s wickedly funny! (book review for 18+)

English is not easy... but it's wickedly funny!

Last month I attended my favourite EFL teachers’ convention and at first everything was absolutely normal – training sessions, workshops, stalls – when suddenly something happened. Comments were made, pictures were taken and shared, cheeks got flushed – and it was all caused by a grammar book! Now, I’m not overly fond of grammar books, but, naturally the comments made me take a look at this one. And I loved it immediately, the way you love something mischievous, daring and enjoyable at the same time.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you “English is not easy” written by the amazing Luci Gutiérrez.

If you’re a sensitive soul who believes in proper teaching adults with colourful flashcards, maybe you should stop reading. Seriously. It’s a kind of a book adult students may love. Or hate. Or discuss the controversies (which conveniently turn out to be on every second page of the book).

But if you love Monty Python’s kind of nonsensical sense of humour and a little bit of sexualised approach to pretty much everything, if you enjoy somewhat scandalous sentences – and if you know your students well enough to be sure they share this kind of attitude, I don’t think you’ll find a better grammar book to bring not only educational value but also quite a lot of fun.

Dark humour, innuendos and addictions…

…mean it’s a perfect mnemonic tool! It’s virtually impossible to forget English phrases once you see such graphics, isn’t it?

Untitled design (1)

The sense of humour reminds me of one of my favourite books that I’ve used in the classroom, namely Shakespearean insults. Somehow the idea of learning not-so-polite expressions boosts students’ interest and keeps them more motivated (it also may make us question our reasons for learning, but that’s another story).

If you’re an experienced teacher, you surely know students are far more likely to memorise something if it has a taste of indecency – that’s how our brains are constructed, apparently. But if you think this books delivers only fun, you’re wrong. Behind the controversial facade, you can find a surprisingly sensible book on grammar.

Don’t judge the book by its cover!

There are 17 chapters in this book, and each chapter consist of several subchapters. They are focused mostly on grammar, but there are lessons on vocabulary, phrasal verbs, idioms and useful expressions as well. As it usually goes with grammar, it starts with subject pronouns and the verb “to be”, but the book covers also all tenses, relative clauses, passive voice, reported speech etc.

Untitled design

I believe you can use the book as a great visual aid – even when you explain all the grammatical nuances, some students may still struggle with memorising the correct structure and use of the item. Now, the graphics and sentences may be really useful as they are very clear (black and red), simple and eye-catching.

What I also like about the book is space – you can easily doodle on the pages, make your own visual connotations, silly drawings and sample sentences. I can see it used as an additional exercise for students who prefer kinesthetic approach to learning.

Recommendations

Personally, I find this book hilarious, and a source of great educational fun for both teachers and students. Naturally, it’s not for everyone, but that’s something one may say about any book. I know my students would be more than happy to catch up with the sense of humour and go with the flow, creating their own stories, making their own creative pictures and adding some form of adult-fun into their class.

And if you are a bored teacher who needs to remind oneself that English might not be easy but is, in fact, fun – this is a book for you. And what’s more, I think this book is something I might put on a wishlist of an EFL teacher.

If you’re ready to order, Preston Publishing, the publisher of this adorkably wicked book, has a neat discount for you. If you get a copy on prestonpublishing.pl and enter the code evil20, you’ll get 20% off (the code does not include sets or preorders and cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions).

Hope you’ll have at least as much fun as I have!

9788364211874

Gutiérrez, Luci “English is not easy”

Preston Publishing, 2019

ISBN: 978-83-64211-87-4

Dice rolling against teen angst! ( Role-Playing Teaching: Part 18)

Dice rolling against teen angst!

In my Role-Playing Teaching section I have already written about RPGs and their positive influence on children and adults – it’s high time to write about teenagers. This article may come as the last in the series, but for me they are a group that may benefit most from using RPGs in their educational process, or simply benefit from playing RPGs. Believe me – I was such a teen.

And weren’t I an angsty one…

Looking at the areas that RPGs address, it may be somewhat surprising that they are covering the areas known as 21st century skills – and yet, this is so. Playing RPGs in English may not only help teenagers progress in their English studies, but also help them develop other skills they will certainly use as adults.

Teamwork

We live in the age of individuals – sounds trivial, but that’s the truth. That’s why the importance of teamwork is even greater, and learning teamwork while having fun is the best way of learning one’s leadership skills, the ability to discuss things, ways to convince others to change their perspective. I can’t think of a better way to develop skills helpful in successful working with others than cooperating with friends trying to achieve common goal.

Creativity

In games, we can have a lot of adventures and challenges that don’t often happen in a real world, and unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. This calls for the power of creativity, and working on creative methods with a bunch of friends (who share the same goal) is like connecting a little power-plant to the brain. A good RPG session makes you feel happy, refreshed and ready for the next challenge!

Problem solving

Creativity results in many interesting solutions to problems arising throughout the adventure. This leads to many heated arguments and passionate discussions as players usually want to push their idea as it, obviously, is the best idea. This is a perfect lesson of negotiation, cooperation and responsibility – because if your plan, designed to be perfect, turns out to be a failure, you’ll have some explaining to do; which is great as it teaches you to think broader and listen more attentively.

Communication

Naturally, not all communication focuses on conflicts and problem solving. Usually players are a bunch of friends, but as the time in game runs faster than in real life and there are some objectives to be achieved, players need to communicate both in-game and out of it. It usually means either asking for advice – which turns out to be somewhat difficult for teenagers, but not as difficult as asking for help, and that’s something RPGs teach you as well.

And who knows, maybe this is the most powerful thing you learn…

Feedback

There are people who can skilfully give feedback, but for most of us it’s an art that is quite hard to master. Playing RPGs gives you great opportunities not only to listen to feedback of other players, but also share yours. The good thing is that you share feedback with people you like and who like you, you learn which expressions may be hurtful and how to speak criticism so that nobody gets hurt.

Friendship

Last but not least, friendship – which is magic, obviously. Fantasy fans create a sociocultural group called fandom. But within this huge group there are smaller ones – some encompass your favourite systems, some include people that share your sense of humour, and if you’re willing to open up a bit and travel to a nearby convention or two, you’ll find people that become your kin: people who are like your family – not always your best friends, but always there when you need them.

Like the girl who answered my phone at 2 a.m.
and let me spend the night at her place.

And this is something teenagers need, a sense of belonging somewhere, identifying with a group – and if you think about alternatives, kinship with a bunch of people who read books, play games and have fun with one another is not the worst option, is it?

As you can see, there are some areas RPGs may support and develop in our students. The only question is – which system would they pick as there are oh! so many.

Enjoy!

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

5 Instant Fillers for Awkward Silence in the Classroom

We all experience classes that suddenly go awkward – a topic we hate and really can’t elaborate on, students that only want to fall asleep or a memory of a cup of coffee when another’s been due for a while. Or sometimes things go awry and you end up with a bunch of students debating something that has nothing to do with the lesson, having a laugh over something someone said or simply daydreaming.

This is something I find particularly often when I work with teenagers and adults, they are usually tired after their regular school or work and their brain uses every excuse to chill a bit. Now, sometimes it calls for a game or a nice role-play, but sometimes, to put it bluntly, I can’t even, so I use my last resort: fillers that are always there, ready to use. Naturally, the fact that they work for me doesn’t mean they will work for you, but after some alterations I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

Alphabet race

This is my favourite filler for topics I’m not overly fond of (like environment, the ways I went to avoid talking about environmental issues…). I ask my students to think of the topic of the lesson and write as many words connected to it as they can. Now, depending on a group I choose one of the following:

  • writing one word per each letter of the alphabet
  • writing as many words starting with a particular letter

I give them 3-5 minutes and the winners decide on the homework. It’s a great game as students can do it either individually or in groups, makes them think and puts everyone back on the lesson track.

Good news

It may sound weird, but it’s a nice filler, especially when the mood is somewhat down. Just give your students 5 minutes to google a good piece of news that happened today (you can find quite a lot of sources of positive events) and refer them to the whole class. It’s a nice, short activity that helps everyone relieve the tension of a bad day (or Monday). No good news? Make them create their own!

Role-Play

Obviously, I love role-plays. You don’t have to start a game to enjoy a little bit of role-playing. Something that works well for my older and more aware groups: divide your students in two or three groups representing major political forces in your country, each group decides on assuming fake identities of the most prominent politicians of the chosen party. Then give them a simple question somewhat connected to the lesson topic. They are supposed to debate the question, however they will probably shout, laugh and behave their absolute worst, and that’s the point of the exercise! Just make them stop after 3-4 minutes, you’ll have your happy and invigorated students again.

Poem

Writing a poem is a good filler – just go with some rhymes (one of the pages I recommend is rhymezone). Writing simple poems is one of my favourite activities for all ages and levels (you will find my old post here). Just four verses per group on a topic loosely connected with a lesson or with a word students have learnt a moment before – you’ll see them working and having fun, and return to the regular lesson relaxed and happy.

Devil’s Advocate

What if a topic you’re about to discuss is so common and boring nobody really feels like discussing it? Well, encourage your students to play devil’s advocate, finding some arguments against their own conviction and reasoning. This may sound silly, but your students will soon realise how interesting this activity is, making them consider the aspects they have never thought of before. This teaches not only flexible thinking, but also empathy.

As you see, my ideas may be great for some groups, somewhat inappropriate for others – but feel free to readjust them to your needs and introduce a nice activity covering your lack of interest in the lesson.

Have fun!

7 Free Online Classes in August

7 (2)

What I really like about August are three things: slightly cooler evenings, the Perseids shower and the smell of stationery in the shops giving this “back to school” vibe. Even as a schoolgirl I loved this smell – I still do. I also liked school and to be honest, I had my Polish, English and History coursebooks read before the school year started.

Now, this may sound extremely dull, but one needs to learn a lot before embarking on a journey to conquer the world!

Apart from the upcoming school year, I think August is a perfect month to work on self development – one has more time off and it’s easier to feel motivated when it comes to actual finishing the course. The courses I found for you are really interesting and I hope you’ll find something suitable.

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

  • Start: 29/07/2019
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • For whom: anyone interested in fairy tales and literary analysis

Fairy tales are wicked, and this course will show you how twisted they sometimes are! By considering the historical context of fairy tales you will see that the intended morals of the original stories may not be exactly what you first thought. This is something that may be a nice element of your class – breaking stereotypes and showing some hidden background.

Intervention and Teaching Strategies for Visually Impaired by Avianshilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women

  • Start: 02/08/2019
  • Duration: 8 weeks
  • For whom: teachers dealing with visually impaired students

This is a long and serious course that will prepare you for challenges and struggles the visually impaired students experience in a mainstreamed classroom setting. The course will help you to understand how interventions in the areas affected can be instrumental in enhancing performance of the students. You will learn how to work with students in classroom set-ups and arm them with programmes for assessment, goal setting, reviewing and reporting the success.

The Science of Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

  • Start: 05/08/2019
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: teachers interested in CPD

What is learning? How does it actually work? Have you ever thought about it? If not, this course will help you explore how you can use the science of learning to improve your teaching and support your students’ learning. You will study educational neuroscience and psychology (and combat neuroscience myths), and learn how to interpret research to be better informed about how your students learn. To be sure, this is a course every teacher may enjoy!

Preparing for University by the University of East Anglia

  • Start: 26/08/2019
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: anyone considering a course of study at a University or similar higher education institution

Sometimes it’s not that easy to start university – new place, new people, new type of education. This course may be a great idea not only for students who start their uni, but for those who are still in secondary schools, making their great plans. As a teacher, you may complete the course and use it in your actual classroom to make your students truly interested in the topic and giving them the encouragement and support they definitely need.

“Yes I can” – Empowering Student Learning by European Schoolnet Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • For whom: primary and secondary school teachers

This course will show you how to encourage students to study not only during the class, but also outside of school. You will learn the differences between formal, non-formal and informal learning experiences. You will also learn strategies to empower your students by encouraging them to identify their own learning styles and abilities and make your teaching more relevant and inclusive by personalising it based on your students’ needs and interests.

Supporting Special Educational Needs in Every Classroom by School Education Gateway – Teacher Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: any teacher who is (or might be in the future) working with children with special needs

More and more teachers face the challenge of how to integrate students with SEN in their mainstream class. This course will teach you to better understand the topic and how simple changes could make your classroom more inclusive. You will also be encouraged to share your knowledge and experiences in order to develop a learning network of peers in similar situations. I think this course may be particularly useful for primary school teachers.

Surviving Your First Years of Teaching by School Education Gateway – Teacher Academy

  • Start: self-paced
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • For whom: any teacher who is about to enter the profession for the first time as well as those in their first five years of teaching

When I started teaching I had little idea about what was going to happen. Looking back, I was really lost. Fortunately, this course aims to support you in overcoming the commonly known “practice shock”. This is often caused by inadequate preparation during the initial training phase, the changing role of teachers in schools, the increasingly complex demands on teachers and the common “loneliness” of new teachers working in environments where there are only experienced teachers. If you are a rookie teacher, that may be a great course for you!

Sounds interesting? Well, I believe you’ll find those courses useful and interesting – summer break is great, but still, learning is fun.

Enjoy!