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!

Spring poems – lesson plan

It's a smell of grass in dew...

I’m not a fan of ready-made lesson plans. I used to be, but the more apps I use, the more into games I am, the less ready-made lesson plans I follow. I appreciate them immensely, though, when I need to cover one of the topics I quite dislike, namely, environment.

I don’t know why, really, but, ecological as I try to be, I simply can’t stand the topic. I think everyone has their quirks – and having class about environment usually bores me to death.

Thinking about death, now, give me topic about crime and I’ll give you a great lesson on the go!

Fortunately, the book we’re covering with my teenage group (Activate B1) had the chapter about environment scheduled for the end of April, so I decided to mix it with Earth Day (22nd April) and to try to come up with something interesting – both for me and my students. So I got inspired by Twinkl and went with writing a poem, especially that it was a nice revision of vocabulary connected with senses (something we had covered a while before) and reminded them of the time we started writing poems together.

I don’t usually share lesson plans, but I want to show how combining two various sources may help create something unusual and bring some wow effect to the classroom.

Botanic Garden by Ola

Aim: to revise vocabulary connected with nature, senses and to practice comparative and superlative forms

Level: B1 and higher

Time: around 45-60 minutes

Materials: I used Twinkl and its Earth Day Amazing Poetry Activity Pack, although I only chose two sheets (MA and HA).

Task: As a warm-up activity I chose HA sheet and used it to revise vocabulary connected with nature and senses, which took about 15-20 minutes of pairwork and comparing the results.

Then I used MA sheet to practice metaphors and comparative structures. I gave some examples and asked students to work in pairs and come up with their own metaphors filling in the blanks in the sheet, which took another 15-20 minutes.

To my students’ surprise I asked them to write their own poems about nature – I shared some ideas like water, morning, snow, forest etc. I let them work either individually or in pairs, as I realize not every teenager feels like being a poet – for the same reason I only gave them 15 minutes of writing. I don’t think they realised that they would be able to write something creative and even vaguely reminding a piece of poetry, so they were really surprised when I collected their projects and read them out loud: it turned out they actually wrote quite passable poems!

It was one of those breakthroughs when learners of a foreign language realise they can achieve something they never would have even dreamed of. They were pretty proud of themselves, so I decided to make a souvenir to celebrate the occasion.

As a surprise, I rewrote the poems into nice Canva projects, printed them out and decorated school with them. My students were surprised in a really nice way, and as cherry on top there was our parent-teacher meeting which I could brighten even more by showing artsy stuff the kids were working on – come holidays, I’ll give the posters to the authors as an example of things they’ve achieved this year.

Alternatively, I would encourage students to make their own Canva projects and share them with me, but I think they’ll be more willing to do this after they’ve seen how cool their project work may look like.

Lightning by Franek and Kuba

Bro, do you even canva?

teaching is a journey

Robert Greene said “creativity is a combination of discipline and childlike spirit”. I know, believe me, as I spent my May mini-break making various Canva projects and my head is spinning with more or less motivational quotes.

In my case: motivational quotes that I change into de-motivational quotes, I’m the evil teacher, after all.

Canva is a perfect tool to make your own projects, posters, postcards, Facebook graphics and whatnot – the only limit is your own creativity. And the best thing about it is, naturally, the fact it’s mostly free.

What you do is simply create an account – and the rest is easy. You start with choosing appropriate design – may it be a card, a poster or a Facebook post (what’s important here is a general layout). You can explore e-books, presentations, blog covers etc., but if you need something particular, you can also create your own design.

Once you’ve decided which design suits you best, there are some layouts you can get inspired with (i.e. pick a ready-to-go option and simply change text). It usually takes me quite a lot of time to browse through all those projects – some of them are free, some of them cost around a dollar or two, but the price is more of an issue connected with the background. However, choosing a layout may take some time, but if you’ve already taken some time on Pinterest, you’ll know when to stop.

Now, the background is useful when you decide to use a photo (again, free, one-dollar-per-photo, or, the best option: uploading your own). You can choose from a variety of background ideas, however, unfortunately, most of them require payment (1 USD, sure, but still). The good thing is, you can upload your own background and proceed with your project.

When we have our design or background+photo chosen, it’s time to put some text inside – be that motivational quote by a superhero (“Hulk smash!”) or a simple “revise irregular verbs for the Monday test”. I’ve always admired those neatly arranged menus and witty quote boards in those hipsterish cafés I never openly admit to visiting… and hurray! Canva gives me ready layouts to put my words into arrangement so lovely they somehow look more impressive.

Try uploading Hodor’s photo and finding a great text layout for his unforgettable quotation “Hodor, hodor hodor. Hodor…” – behold the power of design!

You can add a finishing touch by choosing additional elements – photos, icons, charts etc. and you can admire your artwork. It’s beautiful, easy and ready to download: and before you do it, remember to pick the most suitable file type (e.g. for Facebook you’ll need a jpg, as pdf doesn’t go well with it).

I’ve already used Canva for my blog and my Facebook fanpage, but I’ve got some ideas on how you can use it in your classroom:

  1. As a group project (e-book cover with a blurb, presentation, birthday card etc.)
  2. As homework (recipe, magazine article, letter)
  3. As an element of a lesson:
  • menu project when you’re talking about food and restaurants
  • business card when talking about making first impressions
  • flyer when making plans for holidays
  • Facebook event cover when planning a future party – etc.

As you can see – possibilities are endless! Naturally, you can try available software like Photoshop to create similar, if not better effect, but simplicity of Canva and the fact it’s an online tool gives you the possibility of engaging students for the whole lesson and at its end present their final project (+15 to their sense of accomplishment).

The only problem is that you need computers or laptops – Canva works neither on tablets nor on mobile phones (shame, I know).

If you’re still not sure how to use Canva, next week I’ll share a plan of the lesson I enjoyed with a bunch of teenagers on intermediate level only two weeks ago – we tried to lure spring by creating poems and although so far we haven’t succeeded, at least we had some fun.

 

Twinkl Imagine – check, communicate and chill out

Some time ago I decided to join Twinkl group for bloggers who test this platform and share their ideas. In case you don’t know what Twinkl is – it’s a mine full of jewels like lesson plans, resources, interactive activities, presentations, posters and loads of ideas for teachers, parents and caretakers. Oh, and homeschoolers.

I’m not going to write the usual – you need to log in and enjoy the massive amounts of materials by yourself. To be honest, I feel like a child in a sweet shop – there are so many things, in so many languages, you need a moment to cool down. But once you do (and stop downloading every second thing you click on) you’ll find more than “just” teaching resources.

One of the features I loved immediately was… a calendar. Seriously, there’s a Teaching Resource Calendar with ever so many events and lesson plans ready you can actually have a lesson ready for everything (including Stilton Cheese Rolling Championship [May 2nd] which is something I absolutely feel like popularising as I really love Stilton cheese).

The tool that caught my attention, however, is called Imagine. It’s a creative resource with a new image every day which you can use as a stimulus to discussion, learning and teaching. If you don’t like “image of the day”, you may choose another from a great selection of topics (apart from fractions and rainforests, you can pick dragons or fairy tales, yay!) – and each topic has more than one set of ideas! But what you are offered is far more than just a photo.

First, you may choose your students’ age – either KS1 or KS2. In the first version, we have topics adjusted to children’s level, the latter option gives us more activities – and activities we have galore! We’ve got such varied options as think (as a warm-up), solve (a little bit of Maths to wake you up), discover (nice questions prompting students to do some research), respond (which may be used as a composition), discuss and reimagine (which adds a bit of design and art approach, perfect for making visuals).

But wait, there is more! You can get some awesome cross-curricular ideas and resources which may be a perfect opportunity to change your EFL lesson into a proper CLIL experience. So, in a topic “colour” you can implement some Maths (Venn diagram, for instance), Geography (Holi Festival in India) or Music (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Weber).

Not enough? Very well then – apart from activities and cross-curricular ideas, there’s also a “book, text, film” section where you can get even more inspirations on the topic – perfect not only for a teacher, but also for a student who wants to read more about the theme of the classes.

Now, I do realise I sound pretty hyped, but I think Imagine may be a perfect solution for those days when I feel pretty zombified and have no idea for a nice warm-up – all I do is log in, show a photo and off we go! Or in case of sudden need of covering for another teacher – I may simply find a nice topic (I’d certainly go for Myths) and have a proper lesson, discussion and even a nice homework!

By the way, when you look for various sources in Twinkl try using InspireMe – it’s a really funny search tool, but it works like Pinterest, you may spend ours getting inspired, again, and again, and again…

Enjoy!

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