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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Role-Playing Teaching (Part 1:Why do we play games?)

 

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I guess I’ve mentioned more than once that I really love role-playing games and I can tell they’re pretty much like educational process – I’ve decided to write a series of short blog-notes about this phenomenon, explaining why games, especially RPGs, are so vital in my approach to teaching.

Some of you have probably heard about RPGs, but I need to clarify one important thing – I’m not going to talk about computer games (so-called cRPGs), I’m going to focus only on good, old pen-and-paper ones (yeah, like Dungeon & Dragons or Warhammer) as their construction and communicative aspect are the most important aspects.

Before I get to RPGs themselves I want to focus on the idea of a game – it can be easily observed that games are more and more popular in TEFL, and in teaching in general, they are enjoyed by students and teachers alike and I wonder: have you ever thought what is the reason of the enjoyment?

Well, before answering this question, the main problem is the game itself. Have you ever tried to define it? Ludwig von Wittgenstein tried (and died, oops), and came to conclusion that each explanation we’re able to construct only restricts the concept of the game – thanks, philosophers! Fortunately there were some academics who got inspired by Wittgenstein’s endeavours and tried to define it nonetheless.

In his book “Games People Play”, Eric Berne (who was a psychiatrist, but he also came up with an idea of transactional analysis, one of the most wicked ideas from a linguistic point of view) defined game as “an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. (…) Every game (…) is basically dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic, as distinct from merely exciting, quality”. Marta Wołos in her study gives her own classification of the game, based on ludicity of a game, existence of rules, established and repeatable structure, an element of choice or chance and artificiality of the world of the game.

So we know that the game is a series of established and repeatable activities/transactions where the participants know the rules and try to use them (or cheat, but that’s still playing according to rules), where the world is artificial and there is always an element of chance or choice.

Now, to the main question: why do we play games? When we look at the cultural aspect, we can see how imitative children games teach archetypes and social roles without which society can’t exist. At least Jung said so.

But what about the adults? What about games we bring to our classrooms?

One might think playing games is a form of escapism (quite a common theory when we talk about video games), however there’s more to that. Eric Berne says games are helpful in relieving the tension caused by social pressure. The opportunity of playing games is also helpful for people who are shy or not keen on showing emotions in public. Johan Huizinga (probably the first person to look at the games from a scientific point of view) mentioned four aspects that make games enjoyable: direct competition between players (e.g. snakes&ladders), chance activities (like gambling), mimicry (acting out in role-plays) and pleasure of movement (most games for children).

Everyone enjoys either some form of competition, or a little bit of (safe!) gambling. People like showing emotions by acting out someone else. We all feel that playing a game is a way of relaxing from everyday life and its stress.

That’s why we play games – unconsciously looking for a way of learning by proxy, trying to introduce some fun into tedious classes. How many students have you met who claimed there were “too many” games in the classroom and they “didn’t feel they were learning”? It’s because they associate games with pastime, and not with educational process. Now, you and I know better, right?

Role-Playing Games are special snowflakes when it comes to playing games. They are amazing not only from the educational perspective, but also from psychological, linguistic and sociological point of view. I am going discuss RPGs in the next part of my short series.

If you want to read more on the topic:

Berne, Eric (1996): Games People Play, Ballantine Books

Wołos, Marta (2002): Koncepcja gry językowej Wittgensteina w świetle badań współczesnego językoznawstwa, Kraków: UNIVERSITAS

Huizinga, Johan (1938): Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture (you can read it here)

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953): Philosophical Investigations (you can read it here)

 

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)!

7 British TV shows you can enjoy with your students

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We live in times when the only constant seems to be change. Just a few years ago piracy was ever so common, as it was the easiest, and sometimes the only way to watch British or American TV shows. Nowadays, with Netflix or Amazon we can pay to legally watch anything we want. Isn’t it just perfect?

With so many TV shows it has never been easier to immerse into a foreign culture, however I’d like to share some TV shows that may be not so famous among our younger students but which are very important in British pop culture. That is why you will not find Downtown Abbey on my list. You won’t find Sherlock either, purely for personal reasons – I loved the first season, but then was getting worse and worse to reach quite abominable level in the last season.

Couldn’t recommend such atrocity <shudder>

Here’s the list of 7 British TV shows I like, enjoy and share with my students not only for linguistic reasons, but also for cultural background:

1 Escape to the Country by BBC

The basic premise of the show is that a person or a family wishes to relocate from their current city home to a more peaceful and rural area. They are shown into three various houses, but also sample local delights, gain historical knowledge and visit local attractions to get a feel for the area they are planning to move to. For this reasons it is a perfect thing to show not only typical British houses (which vary from continental ones), but also cultural background. Another reason is my favourite presenter, Jules Hudson, whose smile and enthusiasm regularly make my day.

2 Blink – Doctor Who, S03E10

I’m not a whovian, but it’s impossible to deny the impact Doctor Who has on British popculture. The show has got famous overseas as well, but I don’t think many teenagers would remember season 3, even if it has the most brilliant episode ever.

Maybe because, there’s almost no Doctor himself.

Anyway, Blink is the film I love sharing with my students because it hints at the Doctor’s secrets but never reveals them, and I believe it’s the best  episode to explain Doctor Who’s phenomenon.

Also, this is probably the best thing Steven Moffat wrote, so let’s take a moment to appreciate it.

3 Fawlty Towers by BBC

While Monty Python with their films and sketches might be a bit too much to bite for people who have not grasped yet the complexity of British nonsensical humour, Fawlty Towers seems both less offensive and much easier to comprehend. And the only real reason students should get familiar with Mr Basil Fawlty and his misadventures is, simply, the fact, that not knowing John Cleese is not knowing anything about British sense of humour at all.

4 Blackadder by BBC1

Mr Bean is famous all right, but frankly, once you watch Black Adder you won’t be able to forget Rowan Atkinson playing Blackadder (or Black Adder, depending on season) leading us through British history together with his servant Baldrick and infamous Lord Percy the poisoner.

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It’s worth watching not only for pure fun, but also for vast historical background, as Blackadder travels through various historical affairs.

5 The Thick Of It by BBC

I watched In the Loop completely by chance, during some kind of independent film festival – and I loved every minute of it. Needless to say, when I learnt there is a whole TV series about Malcolm Tucker and his, well, objects of eternal insult – I had to watch it. I recommend it to quite mature and linguistically proficient students as the level of verbal abuse, as well as political nuances, is so high it may be lost on people not fluent in political affairs.

I believe this is the best role of Peter Capaldi.

6 Top Gear by BBC

It was a good show, too bad BBC and the TG trio parted their ways as nothing good comes out of this (sorry, Amazon, but The Grand Tour is nowhere near good old Top Gear). The thing I recommend most is choosing one of Top Gear Specials as the show culture clashes the British trio experiences on many occasions. My favourite special is definitely the US special soon after Katrina. I prepared a short comprehension test for my students to answer while watching and most of B2+ students have no problems with understanding.

7 Shetland by BBC One

Well, here you may wonder why Shetland? Why not Broadchurch, Grantchester or Inspector Morse (or Endeavour which is one of my favourite TV shows ever)? The answer is simple: this TV series shows us those areas of the UK that are usually neglected, forgotten – but nonetheless beautiful and really interesting. The atmosphere of a closed community where no one dares to openly blame another – and yet everyone suspects everybody, is just too real to ignore. I would definitely use this TV show for more mature audience who would be able to understand all the hidden messages in this surprisingly complex, and truly beautiful, TV series.

 

And that, as they say, is that – here’s my pick of seven great shows, but I’m absolutely sure you have your own ideas on which shows would be more relevant in your classroom. Why don’t you share your proposals?

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 reasons for going to teachers’ conventions

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edunation.com.pl

I spent the last weekend in Warsaw where edunation ladies had organised an event for Directors of Studies and proper teachers. It was the first event of its kind and it reminded me a lot of fantasy fans’ conventions I used to coordinate *sniff*. Good times…

I made new friends and learnt a lot of more or less useful things, but the most important thing about this weekend is the sense of empowerment and motivation that only comes after intensively spending time with people who share your passion – exactly like fantasy fans’ meetings.

Only the teachers take shower more often, I guess.

I don’t think you get a similar feeling after those typical free teachers’ conferences organised mainly by publishing companies and focused on their products – and nothing’s wrong with that, but the event I had opportunity to take part in was focused on CPD and continuous growth of DoSes and teachers.

It makes me think of the greatest benefits of attending such meetings (either fantasy conventions or DoS-cons*):

1 Learning

Since you’re supposed to take part in lectures and workshops this point seems rather obvious, but there are more ways you can obtain knowledge apart from listening – you can always talk to lecturers after their presentation and from my experience they’ll feel really appreciated and will probably share useful books or articles worth reading. Moreover, there are many publishing companies around – it’s a good idea to check their new CPD books and check new textbooks.

2 Asking questions – and getting answers

There is no better place to share your concerns without being judged – your fellow teachers will be eager to help and at least brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem. Naturally, you can share your doubts on the Internet, but there aren’t as many trolls and haters when you reveal your weakness offline.

3 Gaining perspective

Problem sharing isn’t usually one-sided business, so it will probably lead to other teachers referring to their own troubles – which is just great as there’s nothing better than learning from the experience of others. Moreover, you will be able to get invaluable feedback and, equally important, perspective. I wish I had the opportunity of talking to more experienced and understanding teachers those thirteen years ago when I started teaching…

4 Networking

If you feel like sharing your professional experience there’s nothing better than going to a conference full of people who are genuinely interested in what you want to say. You can meet someone who suddenly becomes your inspiration – in my case it’s Beata Topolska who gave a great lecture about blogging and managed to put my ideas into proper frames. You’ll see my blog change very soon and I must say all I needed was Beata who gave me the push.

5 Meeting people

It would be really tiring, if you only met people who inspire and motivate. Fortunately, there are lots of attendees just like you – people who love their job and want to develop and grow, who have their successes but also problems – and who, just like you, sometimes feel simply overwhelmed. You can meet people who listen and talk to you, who understand you and don’t blame you for professional doubts.

You can make real friends.

6 Having fun

Apart from lectures, there are workshops and networking sessions, and many activities you may try just to have fun. The event last weekend had a photo booth with lots of funny accessories, a make-up stall and a massage spot! Didn’t make it to the last point, but I had a stunning make-up and was ready for a party. Because yes, there are parties – teachers and parties are like a house on fire after all!

I’m not going to elaborate that point, though.

7 Food

Well, honestly, you don’t always get cupcakes with logos on top, but the mere chance of having at least one should prompt you to take part in such events.

FYI, my CUPcake (gods, forgive me this flat pun) was scrumptious.

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Are there any more benefits you expect from going to teachers’ conferences? Maybe you’re tempted with freebies, or maybe it’s the unlimited amount of coffee you may drink without anyone noticing your addiction?

I want to send a big THANK YOU to Monika and Gosia who were the best companions I could wish for – you’re awesome, girls!

 

*if there was not a term coined, there is now, what else would you call a convention for directors of studies?

English for _very_ special purposes

Last year I got hooked on Stranger Things – a great TV series, especially for geeky 80’s kids (like yours truly, I guess, can’t wait for s02). I guess zombies, aliens, demogorgons and all supernatural things have been quite a thing for a while, and thanks to Netflix we can binge on tv series (btw, thanks netflix for ruining my social life) and it would be a real waste if we couldn’t incorporate it into our classes.

I love creating lessons around tv series (I’m not a whovian, but “Blink” is a great episode to use in the classroom and “Yellow Fever” from Supernatural is simply hilarious – just to name but two) as it shows quite natural language and speech flow, brings some cultural references and is a nice way of learning by fun (which is my favourite way of acquiring knowledge).

Apart from creating lessons around fantasy and sci-fi tv series I’m really glad when I see proper books directed at low-level students, allowing them to be part of the supernatural hype:

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English for the Alien Invasion is written by the same team who committed English for the Zombie Apocalypse (a really good book for pre-intermediate students, I wrote about it here). This time the threat is from the outer space, cunning and intelligent. Beware, it’s not for the light-hearted 🙂 The story focuses on the boy called Dani, Captain Black, Doctor Green and a bunch of aliens, of course. Unsuspecting Dani meets an alien and befriends him only to be lured to the spaceship – will he be able to run away? Will Captain Black manage to inform the President about the danger? Will Doctor Green be able to help? Will humanity survive?

The book is divided into 10 units (from Making Contact to Saving the World) and two sets of flashcards. Each unit makes a 45min PPP-type lesson with similar stages: warm-up, listening exercise followed by reading comprehension, working on important phrases and production phase – creating own conversation or role-play. There are also various ideas how flashcards can be used in the classroom (learning vocabulary, short tests, memory game and story game). I find organisation of the book way better than the previous one and apart from being well thought of, there is still some space to put teacher’s own ideas (fragments of Close Encounters of the Third Kind maybe?) which is always a good thing.

EAI is perfect for elementary students for more than one reason. First and foremost, it’s a lot of fun. Who hasn’t seen at least one episode of The X-files? We can put a lot of fun into English classes and it’s as important for beginners as for any other level. Secondly, for people who have just started learning a foreign language, each attempt of communication in English is like talking to (and listening to!) aliens. We can add some humour into our classes by pretending “aliens” are native speakers of English – not only will it relieve some stress, but it may also be a great pretext to talk about cultural differences and cross-cultural communication.

I hope you’ll get inspired by the idea – it’s always good to be prepared for the worst! And if you are interested in the book, you can get it here.

Enjoy!