Perfect Tips for Teacher Development (book review)

Perfect Tips for Teacher Development

You may already know I’m a fan of CPD. The more I teach, the more I realise I have to learn. The more experienced trainer I am, the more people I meet who show me how to improve and develop. Conclusion? Once you set foot on the path of self-development, you should be ready for a proper journey with all its grim moments of self-doubt and breathtaking accomplishments of the goals achieved.
Master Tolkien explained it perfectly well:

Image result for It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

When I saw Jack C. Richards’ 50 Tips for Teacher Development, I loved it from the very first moment. First of all, this book is a part of pocket editions of Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers – and the idea of pocket editions is just brilliant, as they give you a small book with short chapters full of succinct information, references and questions for self-reflection. Secondly, this book covers the whole process of CPD, starting with individual rookie teachers (what can I do to survive the day without killing my students?) and finishing with the entire school environment, and how it can be adjusted to help teachers grow (what can I do to make my teachers attend my workshop without resorting to blackmail?). Thirdly, all I needed to do was read the first sentence:

For many teachers, professional development is like the weather: it just happens, and, if you are lucky, it may happen somewhere near you.


A well-organised book is something I love, and in case of 50 Tips for Teacher Development, I have nothing to complain about. There are 12 main chapters focusing on:

  • reflecting on own CPD
  • learning about own approach, learners and the whole construct of the lesson unit
  • expanding own knowledge
  • creating institutional professional development culture
  • sharing own experience.


Each chapter consists of a few short “lessons” to read and reflect on. What I really like about those lessons is that each starts with a clearly defined purpose, which is very useful in a book with so many varied topics. You will also know the rationale of the activity along with the set of procedures helping you to carry it out.

You can take up this book being at various points of your teaching career. First, as a rookie you will start with gaining more insight into self reflection, learn how to become a better teacher. Then you will get some guidance on how to experiment with your experience, and how to readjust and fix the issues that may be improved. Finally, the book offers a variety of ideas on how to share your skills, knowledge and experience… including networking during conferences!

Pro-tip: coffee and alcohol work everytime (depending on the stage of the conference). Basically, you see someone standing alone and drinking something – you go and network!


I am absolutely convinced I would have skipped some professional mistakes had I read this book 15 years ago. So, naturally, I would like everyone to read it – and it’s such a small book it’s easy to buy and make notes in it. It’s great for an individual teacher, and for a director of studies trying to motivate own team to become better professionals.

Even after 15 years of teaching and learning how to become a better educator, I’ve still found a lot of things I can reflect on and implement to work on my skills. I hope this convinces you to get your own copy – especially if you’re still in the New Year New Me mood!


Image result for Jack C. Richards' 50 Tips for Teacher Development

Richards, Jack C., 50 Tips for Teacher Development

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

CUP 2017

ISBN: 978-1108408363

7 Free Online Courses in December

7free onlinecoursesin December

It’s just started to snow in my place and I’m absolutely happy. Let it snow, let it snow – and let’s stay home, naturally. Winter break means family time, staying in, eating a lot of food, baking gingerbread and generally relaxing and having fun.

Naturally, relaxing means taking care of one’s body and mind – and what’s better than learning something new? My pro-tip for online courses in December is watching online classes and baking cakes or cookies at the same time. Bliss! If you want to give it a try, I have a batch of seven free online courses to accompany your culinary endeavours.

Conflict Management Specialization by the University of California, Irvine

Start: 2/12/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone looking for an advantage in the workplace of the future

Conflict management is something crucial in our work as teachers, but it’s useful in various situations. In this course, you’ll learn to strengthen your personal and professional relationships by constructively addressing conflicts. You’ll build skills aimed at managing conflicts, and in the final project, you’ll analyse a specific conflict and outline an approach to management and resolution.

Designing the Future of Work by the University of New South Wales, Sydney

Start: 2/12/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone looking for an advantage in the workplace of the future

We live in interesting times, that’s for sure. There are so many predictions that soon our workplaces will be completely taken over by the robots and it’s obvious one have to understand how to design a secure future. This course will help you answer the questions about how jobs will change and what challenges employers and employees face.

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

Start: 9/12/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

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

Are schools focused on assessments? Does the classroom affect children’s creativity? We all probably say “yes”. This course will help you look at possible educational alternatives for the future and see whether changes are possible. What’s more, you will look at education from various perspectives, linked to economic progress and business or corporate activity. It may be really interesting for those who are educators and need a fresh perspective on their work.

Explore the British Empire through six controversial themes by the University of Exeter

Start: 9/12/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in imperial history

You can’t understand Brexit without understanding the Empire. This course will take you on the journey to explore the British Empire through six themes – money, violence, race, religion, gender and sex, and propaganda. You’ll get to hear the stories of the fascinating individuals who contributed to both its rise and fall. I would definitely recommend this course not only to teachers, but also to more proficient students who can learn something more than just the language.

Take Your English Communication Skills to the Next Level by Georgia Institute of Technology

Start: 9/12/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in successful communication

This course is part of the “Improve Your English Communication Skills” specialization, and it focuses on key cultural influences on communication, email accuracy and style, delivering a successful presentation and maximizing your English communication skills. This course may be really interesting for teachers who work with more advanced students, for students who think of studying abroad, business people and everyone interested in successful communication.

Advanced Grammar & Punctuation Project by the University of California, Irvine

Start: 16/12/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: advanced students of English interested in grammar

This course is designed for students who are quite proficient in English. In this course, you will create a portfolio of the difficult or interesting English grammatical structures, which will help you review the material you’ve learned and create a memorable project. I think this course may be not only fun for your students, but also a very useful tool and inspiration for a teacher.

Academic writing for clarity and meaning by the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Start: self-paced

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: university students and contributors to academic publications

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to write in a complex style to express complex ideas. Ernest Hemingway knew better than that and presto! he received the Nobel Prize. While this course doesn’t aim at creating new Hemingways, it will surely help you to articulate complex ideas with clarity and meaning. I think we all might find this course particularly useful.

I believe these courses will be really useful for us not only as teachers, but also learners – they will help us see various perspectives on the topics we think we know all too well. Learning something new is always like a little miracle for our brain.


Time management (not only) for teachers (book review)

Time management (not only) for teachers

It took me half a year to finish one book – seriously, and it’s not because I’m a slow reader, quite contrary. It’s a book addressing one of my greatest problems (apart from procrastination and struggling with taking over the world) which is time management, something a work-from-home person may have issues with – I sure did.

Now I procrastinate more efficiently.

Brilliant Time Management. What the most productive people know, do and say is a book by Mike Clayton, one of the most popular project management trainers in the UK. To be honest, I bought this thin, unassuming book in yet another attempt to organise my life even better. I have been given feedback on my organisation skills as mad, yet since I started working from home I’ve found new areas requiring more effort and better organisation.

Has this book helped in my endeavours to come closer to the perfection of time management and organisation? Well, I will say more at the end of my note.

Book organisation

You won’t be surprised if I tell you that the organisation of the book is brilliant – and I love well-organised publications! There are three main areas covered that will help you:

  • know how to prioritise tasks
  • understand how time gets wasted and how to avoid this
  • feel ready to tackle procrastination and make more time for self

Each part consists of theory (kept short and simple, my favourite style) and exercises – be prepared to spend some time to observe your own time management skills. Naturally, there are some stories to back up the theoretical stuff which is great as we know storytelling makes everything easier to remember. Plus, there’s a great summary after each chapter to remind you all the good stuff you’ve just learnt (and surely practised).

What’s in the book

If you take time to observe your own time management patterns, you will learn a lot about yourself. Like the multitasking thing – something I thought I had covered, and the book helped me realise I actually didn’t, as I’m more an elephant than an octopus (I’m not blabbering, it does make sense once you read the book, I promise).

Anyhow, after you spend time observing your time patterns, you will analyse the way you actually manage your time (something that was really interesting in my case). You will have the opportunity to experiment with various ways of managing greater chunks of time – and then you will move to something that usually causes problems (at least for me): prioritising.

Being a teacher means a lot of paperwork, tests, meetings etc. It’s not easy to find time and complete all the tasks, but you will learn some nice ways to manage everything, and, as a result, get far less stressed. You will also have the opportunity to use the approach that works great with both big and small projects – It’s called the OATS Principle, which stands for Outcome, Activities, Timing, Schedule.


I mentioned the exercises in the book. Frankly, it’s because of them that I read the book for half a year – I simply did all the exercises, one by one, and moved on with the further reading when I decided I was ready. I guess it was the best approach – you can’t focus only on theory because the book may leave “oh yeah, great idea” impression… and nothing more. Take your time, focus on each activity and soon you’ll see changes in your time management.

Has it helped in my work and general life organisation? Two months after I’d started working on my time management, I got praised for my task management and general task completion. The person that noticed my improvement is someone I look up to when it comes to work organisation, so you may take it for granted: this book has helped me a lot.

If you seriously plan to read the book carefully, taking breaks in order to complete various tasks, you will find this book really interesting, and maybe even potentially life-changing. Highly recommended, not only for teachers – but for all of us who want to work more efficiently and save more time for, well, designing schemes to take over the world or simply petting cats.


Image result for mike clayton brilliant time management

Clayton, Mike: Brilliant Time Management. What the most productive people know, do and say

Publisher: Pearson Business; 1 edition (25 Nov. 2010)

ISBN-13: 978-0273744092

7 Free Online Courses in November


I love November – it’s my favourite month of the year! Whenever I can, I take a week off just to chill a bit and enjoy the bliss of a minibreak. The best thing about November break is that you can relax knowing that in 6 weeks you’ll have yet another winter break! So let me warn you – there will be no blognote next week.

Some might say I’ve taken a week off just because there’s Witcher 3 on Switch and I’m planning to spend the whole week playing… and yes, they are correct!

Between helping Geralt find Yennefer, Ciri or his sanity, I have grand plans to complete one of those promising online courses I found. As usual, I share them with you – maybe you’ll find the course I should take this month?

Teaching EFL/ESL Reading: A Task Based Approach by University of London International Programmes and UCL Institute of Education

Start: 4/11/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in using Task Based Teaching approach in reading

Teaching reading in EFL class may be somewhat boring and tiring, so if you want to try Task Based Approach, you may find this course particularly interesting. TBT uses communicative tasks as the key for language learning activities, and by the end of this course you will be able to integrate such tasks into your own teaching.

How to Write a Resume (Project-Centered Course) by State University of New York

Start: 4/11/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people writing their first resume

This is a great course to run in your actual classroom with your teenage students, as there is nothing better than using English to master some real-life skill, in this case – writing a resume, so definitely something everyone does at least once. In this course, your students will review resume best practices and explore current trends. This course will help prepare an eye-catching resume that lets the professional strengths shine.

MOOC: How to make a MOOC? by Novosibirsk State University

Start: 11/11/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people interested in making their own MOOC

This course made by Novosibirsk State University and Lektorium, one of the largest MOOC publisher in Russia, covers the process of creating modern online courses. The authors will share their experience, secrets and life hacks. You’ll learn basic trends in online education and find out which stages are included in developing an online course, and what is important on each stage of course development. Best hands-on experience if you want to make your own course!

Understanding IELTS: Speaking by the British Council

Start: 18/11/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: students and teachers preparing for IELTS

This course focuses on the speaking part of IELTS. You’ll concentrate on the three parts of the test and learn about the four criteria that are used to assess spoken English. The tips and techniques will help you succeed in the exam. You may be also interested in other Understanding IELTS courses by the British Council as they give a complete guide to everything you need to know as you prepare for the IELTS test.

Assessment for Learning by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 25/11/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who are interested in various forms of assessment

To assess or not to assess? With so many theories, we’re trying to keep up with the teaching trends, add a little bit of something that worked for us when we were kids… and as a result creating a bit of chaos in our classroom. Well, this course won’t give you an answer whether to assess or not, but it will analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of approaches to assessment, leaving the final judgement to you – which kind of assessment will prove the best in your teaching approach.

Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 25/11/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: students and teachers interested in developing their study skills

This course is just brilliant for the whole-classroom experience, a nice project everyone can enjoy. We all know that good study skills are vital for all of us and yet we all struggle to study effectively. Here you will learn to apply the ‘three-step model’ of studying: previewing, summarising and revising. You will make a realistic study plan and learn how to tackle procrastination, deal with stress and keep motivated while studying.

American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice by University of Pennsylvania

Start: 25/11/2019

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: people interested in education in the USA

An in-depth study about the history, policy, and practice of the American education reform. This course will take you on a journey starting in the Colonial Period and Early Republic, through the National Period, the Progressive Era right up to post-1983 model of education. You will learn a lot about the US system of education.

And that, as they say, is that. I think the courses I found look so nice that my adventures with Geralt the witcher may be quite endangered. I guess I might pick a course or two… but first, let me complete just one more quest.

Enjoy and see you in two weeks!

More stories: StoryBits

More stories_ Storybits

It looks like November is more of a storytelling month than I thought – last week I shared the storytelling coursebook (remember about the contest, you can win a copy of the book!), and today I’ll show you the magic of pictures: Storybits.

The universal way of communication – images, are here employed to help develop stories and boost language skills.

Eight characters that are really relatable only wait for your students to give them names, create background stories and take them on the adventure. 54 scene-cards you may use to prompt the story because the authors themselves remind you that hey, scene-cards are just the inspiration, the story is all yours.

And frankly, this immediately made me warm up to the project!

What I really like about StoryBits is that you will find some examples of how to use them for teaching vocabulary, writing, speaking and grammar. You will also find some ideas for running collaborative and competitive storytelling (which is brilliant as some groups respond better to teamwork and others prefer a touch of competitiveness). You need more? No need to ask – you will also find some sample (and simple) activities that will rock your classroom.

If not enough, go to where you will find even more tips and ideas.

Naturally, I had to come up with slightly more wicked activities…

What could possibly go wrong?

Pick any scene-card and simply describe what’s on the picture. The question is simple – what could possibly go wrong? You could add a bit of competitiveness by dividing your students into teams and making them come up with as many misfortunes as they can only think of. The winning team is the one that creates the highest number of hardships… But don’t forget to acknowledge those who are the most creative!

I didn’t do my homework…

I do understand my students tend to forget about their homework, I used to forget about it as well. One of my favourite activities about homework demonstrates we can get pretty creative when it comes to finding excuses. Now, you can use Storybits to make the excuses even more creative. Just pick a random card and try to make a story imagining the situation prevents the main characters from completing their homework before the next day lesson. So here they are, facing the teacher and trying to explain why they didn’t do their homework.

Storytelling chain – Brazilian soap opera

I like cooperative games hence my idea of a storytelling chain. Remember we have 8 characters? Let’s try to play as a big group (up to 15 people) and use all the cards to make a long story following each character’s complex life – pretty much like a Brazilian soap opera. The important thing is to keep up with the plot! This game would be similar to Once Upon A Time, but the winner is the person who cal recall the whole story. This activity may be followed up by a nice composition referring to the story.

Paulo Coelho style

You know Paulo Coelho, right?  He has his followers and haters, but his style is unmistakable. You can’t be the second Coelho (and that’s good, I think one is more than enough), but you may still have some fun paraphrasing him. How? Well, by extrapolating everything to a perfect life metaphor. Because everything is like life – short/long/wired/oblong/stinky, you name it. Just go with the flow… only don’t forget to choose the card first! You may even play some kind of Dixit variation where you go with a Coelhian metaphor and other players may find the cards that reflect the deep meaning of your message.

These are some of the first ideas that sprung to my mind – however, I’m sure StoryBits will prove to be a much more versatile tool. When you get yours (and you may buy them here), be sure to pay attention to all the details, you’ll have more fun.


I received this product for free, courtesy of IceBreaker.

Stories (not only) for Halloween – book review

Stories (not only) for Halloween

I’m not a fan of Halloween – I believe there’s no point in scaring evil spirits away if they manage to roam free on earth just once a year. Yet the long and mysterious October evenings prompt us to spin dark tales accompanied by the sound of rain and wind against windows.

Every story is a lesson worth learning

I’m a fan of stories – I could do a lot to hear a good tale. From fairy tales, to creepy pastas, from RPG sessions to TV series, I believe every story is a lesson in disguise, ready to be learned and enjoyed. So when I hear of an opportunity to learn English by storytelling, I immediately jump at the occasion to test it.

I’m a fan of well-organised teaching tools, I like when you start working with a book and it’s like a proper tour guide that takes you on a journey where you learn the language, but you still know where you’re going.

Learning English through stories

These are probably the reasons I was told I’ll like Angielski: Historie by Preston Publishing. 15 characters, 67 stories, audio versions and a lot of exercises – what’s not to like? You’ll meet a typical American family whose life gets somewhat disturbed by George Clooney, a traditional Japanese family that moves to the US and quickly discover they are not as traditional as they thought… and since it is I who reviews this book for you I must say you’ll also read some darker themes with creepy Disney employees and real Italian mafia (oh, you’ll also visit Russian labs, Chinese factories and meet a translator who gets some really interesting texts to work on…).

All in all, the stories are good – the “I really had fun reading them” kind of fun. Each story is followed by a short dictionary and a set of follow-up questions. In-between chunks of stories (“months”) you’ll find more exercises where you can practice grammar, vocabulary, use of English etc. To make it all the better, it’s perfectly organised from very simple texts to more complex tales. Brilliant!

Listen to the story

A nice feature is definitely the audio part, as you can not only read, but also listen to all the stories. And, what I find particularly interesting, you may choose either British or American version – which may be a great treat for more advanced students who want to see the differences in pronunciation and accent. What is more, you’ll find a short guide at the beginning of the book on how to work with listening material and how regular listening (even if it’s just in the background) will help you develop your potential.

Activity ideas

Apart from being a nice self-study book, I got inspired with some ideas on how to use this book in the classroom:

  • Spot the difference! – choose one story and play both audio versions. Ask your students to note down the differences between British and American English.
  • What happened next? – once you cover the whole storyline, discuss with the students what happened after the story finale. Will Denise become a ballerina? What about Ronnie Perkins and his father?
  • Get to the bottom of it! – some stories leave some space for interpretation. Wouldn’t you like to know why Nancy didn’t call her husband that one night? And did Ines break up with her boyfriend? (I mean, it’s not in the book, hmm…). Make stories a little bit darker, funnier, add a twist – your students will love coming up with new facts and their interpretation!

Contest time!

The best stories need good listeners. As I said, I love storytelling, and using storytelling in the classroom is my favourite way to teach English. Preston Publishing has three copies of Angielski: historie to give to three people who will share their favourite storytelling activities.

How to win a copy? Simply describe your favourite activity either in the comment section below or on my FB page below the link to this note. On 31/10/2019 I will choose three that I like best and contact the winners.

Good luck!

I received this product for free, courtesy of Preston Publishing, in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Angielski historie z ćwiczeniami

Preston Publishing

ISBN: 978-83-66384-07-1

Angielski historie z ćwiczeniami - Opracowanie zbiorowe

7 Free Online Courses in October

7 Free OnlineCoursesin October

This year’s IATEFL Poland conference was just awesome – I had so much fun and I can’t wait for the next event which is, as you know, eduOctoberfest, a month full of webinars (2 sessions per day!). Alas, you need to pay for this event and it is in Polish, yet fear not for here I come with a bunch of free online courses you may enjoy in October!

1 Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by McMaster University

Starts: 29/09/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who know that one never stops learning

This course will help you learn more about your hidden capabilities and assets as well as how to learn more effectively. You will see how to tackle procrastination and use some mental tricks to help you focus, relax, and reframe (reframing is key). More than this, you’ll be exploring how and why to keep yourself in the “mindshift” mode. I believe this course is great not only for teachers (as teaching is lifelong learning), but also for their students: maybe it’s not a bad idea to incorporate this course into your classes?

2 English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development by the British Council

Starts: 21/10/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: parents, teachers or practitioners interested in teaching languages

The thing about the adult is that they tend to extrapolate their educational experience on children – and children learn in a totally different way! This course will show you how and why children learn best through play and what parents and practitioners can do to enable children to get the most out of a learning experience. I guess this course will be great for not only parents, but also those teachers who have just started teaching kids and are not quite sure what to do with them.

3 Creative Writing Specialization by Wesleyan University

Starts: 7/10/2019

Duration: depending on module

For whom: aspiring writers

This is more than just a course, it’s the whole specialization in writing fiction. You may pick the course you like: the craft of plot, the craft of character, the craft of setting and description, the craft of style – and pursue it for as long as you want. If you think of writing in English – and writing beautifully, this course will definitely be of help.

4 Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms by Relay Graduate School of Education

Starts: 21/10/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to integrate character-based objectives into own teaching

This course explores key ideas of positive psychology and shows how teachers can apply those lessons to maximize student engagement in their classrooms. You will learn how to observe your own strengths of character – to see those of your students, how to introduce character-building activities in your class and how to integrate those lessons into our daily lives.

5 Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment by the National STEM Learning Centre

Starts: 7/10/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to apply formative assessment for learning approaches

If you haven’t used FA yet, you should definitely start as it’s something that may create your classroom a far better place, which is more friendly for both students and teachers! You’ll plan to identify your learners’ thinking, clarify learning goals, and learn how to use success criteria, and develop your classroom questioning to adjust your teaching approach and respond to student learning. Experienced mentors support this course until 22 November 2019.

6 Managing ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and Concussion in School by the University of Colorado

Starts: 30/09/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers working with SEN children

In this course, you will learn about the most common developmental and behavioural disorders affecting children such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, learning disorders, and concussions. You will learn about recognising and diagnosing various learning disorders and disabilities, so if you work with children (any, not only whose with diagnosed SEN), this may be the right course for you.

7 The Science of Beer by the Wageningen University

Starts: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to know more about beer

Being a teacher, it’s important to be a responsible drinker and to know what effects beer has on your health. This course will definitely help you learn all about beer, including how it’s made, the raw materials used, it’s supply chain, how it’s marketed and the effect of beer consumption on your body. Fun fact: it’s a course made by students supervised by professors and experts in the field, so maybe this will inspire your students to create their own MOOC?

And you can celebrate the Oktoberfest… for science!

I hope you’ll find something useful from the list above, and this October will be educational for all of us.