7 Free Online Courses in September

Seven

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

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

1 Creating Effective Online and Blended Courses by Stanford University

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

2 Becoming an Expert Learner by Northpoint Bible College

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

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

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

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

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

4 Positive Behavior Support for Young Children by University of Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Understanding Classroom Interaction by University of Pennsylvania

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

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

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

 

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7 lifesaving websites for EFL teacher

7 websites

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

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

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

1 Twinkl

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

2 Truetube

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

3 Elllo

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

4 Lyrics training

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

5 Busy Teacher 

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

6 Flo-Joe

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

7 Film-English

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

 

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

Enjoy!

5 free online courses in August

Tidal Rise

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

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

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

1 Becoming a Confident Trainer by TAFE SA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can fake identity be useful for teachers?

fake identity

I’ve always believed being a teacher is like being a performer (in my case usually a clown but hey, still better than Kenneth Branagh trying to impersonate Hercule Poirot), a psychologist (at least when it comes to being quiet and listening) or a Game Master (trying to organise a year-long campaign for a bunch of ungrateful players). I guess the similarity to Role Playing Games is the closest to my perception of the role of a teacher, and I’m certainly going to write something about it (probably during holidays when I have more time to let my mind roam free), but today I’m going to show you something you might not have thought of using, and which proves that a teacher role for today is almost a secret agent!

There have been rumours of a female Bond, you know…

No, I’m not going to encourage you to secretly dispose of the students who forget their homework (it’s not a coincidence they won’t give teachers licence to kill, I’m afraid), I am merely going to show you Fake Name Generator and prove it to be an excellent teaching aid.

1 Present Simple exercise (A1+)

It’s not always easy for people to talk about themselves and that’s one of the most common exercises to practise Present Simple. It may be easier to prepare fake portfolios using the Generator and let them describe particular character and their personal details and then get creative and think of their daily routine, likes and dislikes etc.

2 Creating characters for role-plays (A2-C2)

It’s much more interesting to create a role-play when the characters are quite different from real students. Instead of making a debate with a bunch of bored teenagers we may give the very same topic to discuss, but ask our students to assume the roles given (and thanks to the Generator we may create the characters on the spot!) challenging them to not only readjust their arguments to their characters’ viewpoints, but also change their range of vocabulary and even accent (if they’re fluent enough).

3 Business English (A2-C2)

Similar to the previous ideas, it may be easier for students to engage into conversations with fake characters – in this case it would be a teacher who acts a generated person. I find it highly useful in HR-centred areas, as you can arrange many communicative situations with various characters debating possible business problems, yet distancing from them at the same time by using fictional characters.

4 Total immersion (B1-C2)

Now, if your class is into experiments, you might ask them to try and create characters with the Generator at home, and pretend to live the life of their fake identities for a week or a month. You need to come to classes dressed a little bit differently (just a small accessory would do to emphasise our identity), change your small talk (“how’s your boss?” “still looking for work?” “kids and wifey ok?” etc.), you may even write emails to one another. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of learning.

5 Teaching tool for checking apps online

As a teacher, the Generator may prove surprisingly useful when you want to check an app or a website and they ask you to log in or give your email. Now, the emails given by the Generator are real and working – so you may use fake identities to check new things out before you decide you want to sign up for them. It’s pretty much like being a secret agent, isn’t it?

Here are my favourite ideas on bringing fake identities to life – inside and outside of classroom. You may give them a go – or you may encourage students who are reluctant to sign up for Facebook and can’t join your group to check things out. Fake Name Generator isn’t really a teaching tool, but as I try to prove – everything can be a means of education if you’re willing to try. And if you do, maybe you’ll come up with your own ideas on how to use the Generator?

Enjoy!

 

Want to teach online? RPG comes to the rescue!

Want to teach online-

Last month I took part in Anna Poplawska’s workshop on teaching online. I was teaching online for a while and I’m absolutely sure I’ll get back to this form of teaching sooner or later (probably sooner) – however, I got inspired when we discussed various forms of teaching platforms. Today, I want to share with you an idea of a free platform where you could practise skills required from a professional online teacher.

First of all – why would I recommend a platform? Naturally, you can practise your communicative skills on Skype or Google Hangouts, but it’s far more to teaching online than mere speaking or (limited, but still) body language. You have to multitask quite a lot, switching between speaking, listening to particular student, reading chat window and preparing next slides etc. Working on an actual platform will definitely help you. But where to find a free platform where you could practise?

Surprisingly, my idea springs from my proper hobby – roleplaying games. I love playing pen-and-paper RPGs, but they require meeting up with people, which may be quite difficult to organise when you’re over 30 and your mates live all around the country. Meeting three times a year is awesome, but at the same time quite frustrating, so we went online. The platform we started on was Roll20 and it turned out to be a good way to play.

Now, those who play RPG will know, those who haven’t tried yet – believe me: teaching is pretty much like being a Game Master, only you’re dealing with people who seem to be more sensible.

Roll20, a free online platform, is actually a set of digital tools that expand traditional pen-and-paper game. You can easily ignore the dice rolling and use it as a teaching tool, and let me share some tips on how to start.

1 Create an account

You don’t need to choose a game setting, it’s optional and treat it as one of many parts you’ll probably ignore (as rolling the dice and game mechanics). Create your own campaign (English lesson 1, for instance) and that’s it! If you want to invite someone, just send them a link.

2 Video+voice chat

This kind of connection requires simply a WebRTC compatible browser (Chrome, Opera or Firefox will do). If your connection is too slow, you may turn off the video and keep talking. Generally, it’s really important to check your connection, especially upload, before teaching online – I usually use Adobe Meeting Connection Diagnostic, but it’s due to my work on AdobeConnect, so find your favourite test.

Tip: camera and mic will operate no sooner than someone joins the game, so don’t worry if you don’t see any options at first!

3 Tools

Drawing tools (panel on the left): you may use default screen as a board and write on it (so may your students).

Handouts (panel on the right): you may use it to share slides – images or scans from a book. Remember, once you share an image, you can write on it, so that’s pretty useful. Basically, once you share your handout it will look like a background map.

Background music: now, this is this aspect of roll20 that I find particularly annoying because you simply cannot upload a track. You can share a link, though – so you may upload a track on GoogleDrive and share a link to it so that everyone can listen to it individually, but that would be all. Really annoying.

Secret whisper: apart from a chat window, everyone can use an option “secret whisper”, which is a chat seen only by people to whom whisper is directed. You, however, will be able to see everything, so no cheating for your students!

4 Practise!

Try to prepare a short lesson with warm-ups (e.g. pictures to compare), listening (link to track + slide with exercise), reading and a follow-up discussion.

Invite your friends or students to participate in your online classes and have fun practising online teaching!

Good luck and let me know how you found roll20!

7 recommended online courses in June

7 FreeOnline coursesin June

I got really lovely feedback from you about free online courses in May. Thank you, you are my source of inspiration and motivation. I managed to complete Understanding Autism and I must admit I’ve learnt a lot.

Still haven’t figured out whether autism exists or not, but at least I realised I’m not autistic, I’m just socially awkward.

I’ve shortlisted another set of useful free online courses you can take in June – hope you’ll like them, and maybe we’ll meet somewhere online?

1 Challenging Behaviour: Strategies for Helping Young People by Ambition School Leadership

The course is focused on investigating the causes of challenging behaviour and searching for strategies to manage young people. You are going to evaluate your practice, reflect on current situation and grow positive mindset. Good luck!

It starts on the 19th of June and takes about 5 weeks.

2 Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life by the University of Nottingham

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in politics, history and propaganda, so I recommend it not only for yourself, but also for your teenage students (they are quite interested in learning things about conspiracies and using this course you may bring some proper CLIL into your classroom).

It starts on the 12th of June and takes about 5 weeks.

3 Basic First Aid: How To Be An Everyday Hero by University of Glasgow

This course is a basic guide to first aid. You’ll learn how to recognise and manage emergencies, get a foundation of first aid knowledge and skills to build on. I think I may use it in my teenage classroom as a final project – watch videos, discuss the issues and change the tiresome end of course into something truly beneficial.

It starts on the 5th of June and takes about 2 weeks.

4 Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment by University of Southampton

On this course you will learn about different aspects of inclusion and digital accessibility experienced by students, teachers and support staff in Higher Education. You’ll explore the barriers experienced by disabled students and the role of inclusive practices.

It starts on the 5th of June and takes about 3 weeks.

5 Virtual Teacher by University of California, Irvine

This is not a mere course – this is a series of courses that provides practice for on-line instruction, student engagement and virtual community building; effective uses of asynchronous and synchronous technologies, social media and data analysis techniques as well as student performance measurements to individualize instruction in an on-line or blended environment. You may take an individual course, or decide to cover whole specialisation.

The whole set starts on the 12th of June and finishes on the 14th of August. Aye, looks long, but knowing Coursera, it’s very thorough.

I feel quite tempted, to be honest.

6 ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students by the State University of New York, the University at Buffalo

This course will provide an overview of ADHD diagnosis You’ll learn about ADHD as a developmental disorder that begins early in childhood, as well as evidence-based approaches for diagnosing ADHD. Two evidence-based treatment approaches (the Daily Report Card and Parenting Strategies) are introduced. The important thing is that the course activities are informational and are not intended to replace working with a trained professional.

It starts on the 19th of June and takes about 4 weeks.

7 ELT in the Digital Age 

I haven’t studied with ELTjam Academy before, but Scott Thornbury is the name I respect, so when my colleague let me know about the course, I immediately signed in. The best thing about it is that if you use the discount password SCOTT, you get the whole course for free!

The course consists of 6 episodes (ca. 1 hour of recordings) and reflects on our role as teachers in a more and more technologically advanced world. Also, this is my pick of the month.

I would love to know which courses you’ve chosen this month – and if you hear about something good that I haven’t shortlisted, please let me know, I’d be more than happy to learn something new.

Enjoy!

Oh, and if you already feel holidays approaching, I’ve got a very special course for you: wine tasting!

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!