Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

Lesson Idea for a Horribly Slow Class (15+)

I enjoy teaching during summer as nobody takes those classes too seriously and you’re free to include some unconventional materials. The only drawback is that sometimes the level of motivation is not quite satisfactory. To avoid this, I usually suggest a “lesson off” – during summer courses I like to offer “free Fridays”, classes spent on projects, games, role-plays, class trips and other creative ways mainly boosting communication.

If you experience similar sentiments, you might find my lesson idea quite useful – not only for the summer courses. After all, every teacher sometimes has a lesson that seems to last forever. And the best way to introduce something energetic is to share something… really long? Mind, the ideas I’m sharing with you are not overly serious!

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon is a 10-minute short film that was released in 2008 by Richard Gale (you may visit his page here). The movie is presented as a trailer to a 9-hour long film and portrays the story of a forensic pathologist called Jack Cucchiaio (played by Paul Clemens; “cucchiaio” means spoon in Italian), who finds himself being haunted by a deranged looking man (Brian Rohan), who is, without any clear reason, hitting him with a spoon. Doesn’t sound interesting? Well, watch it first:

Now, there are some ideas for activities after watching the video. Please notice that none of these activities requires earlier preparation. This is really an emergency scenario:

Background of the story: storytelling (speaking/ writing)

Let’s assume the trailer is just the tip of the iceberg. Ask your students to elaborate on the story and answer the following questions:

  • Who (or what) is this mysterious attacker?
  • Where does he come from?
  • Why is he targeting Jack?
  • Why does he use a spoon?
  • Is there a way to stop him?

Best idea is to organise a little brainstorm party in groups and then ask your students to tell a chilling story in a manner of Are you afraid of the dark. If your students prefer written compositions, you may ask them to write a story – or maybe even make a little competition for the best thriller?

The hard life of a murderer: role play (speaking)

Who is Ginosaji? What does he do apart from haunting and hunting Jack? Is he a human being? Does he have any family? What about his favourite food? Hobby? Where does he sleep? Encourage your students to prepare short speeches introducing themselves as Ginosaji. Who’s the scariest, and who’s the funniest? Also, this is great activity for people on lower levels of English as they may use quite simple lexis and grammar.

Let’s make a film (writing, speaking)

The natural follow-up of the video would be making own film! It’s a great idea for a group project – each group needs to create a scenario, plan storyboards, choose actors and record the film itself. If you haven’t got your favourite video app, you may choose one suggested by TeachHub (click here to read). Then you may watch the films together choosing the best one.

As you can see, even a slow lesson and a terribly slow murder may change into an exciting class – I hope you and your students will like this slightly silly, yet amusing, lesson.

There are sequels to this video, Spoon Vs. SpoonSave Jack (it’s a game in which the player has to choose what Jack Cucchiaio should do), Spoon Wars and Ginosaji Vs. Ginosaji. Watching them in-class is optional, as you can easily get your students to catch the main idea after watching the first video, however, you may use them as homework or follow-up activities – Richard Gale has his own YouTube channel, where you can take many inspirations from.

Enjoy!

The night is dark and full of neons (lesson plan for +18)

Add a heading

You may not be familiar with a Polish national treasure a.k.a. CD Projekt RED, you may not even realise massive hype connected with probably the most expected game since Red Dead Redemption 2 (at least for some), but you must have heard of two names that have been coming up in trending on the internet for the past ten days – Keanu Reeves and Cyberpunk 2077.

It is not very often that I share something exclusively for adults, but this topic is more appropriate for mature learners, as it includes violence, politics and, to put it bluntly, life experience. The aim of the lesson is to make people talk and exchange their views, and as a teacher one needs to be aware of controversies of various topics, so pay attention to moderate the discussion. Also, the best level for this lesson is B1+ and above.

The whole lesson is about two important things – our future and the importance of stories, and how they blend. The base for the lesson is presentation of Cyberpunk 2077 with Keanu Reeves at Microsoft Xbox show at E3 2019. The video is quite long, but you will watch it in two parts.

Warm-up

Greet your students and explain the aim of the lesson: discussing our reality with regards to a certain literary genre, namely cyberpunk. Ask them whether they have ever heard this expression, and try to narrow down the narrative of cyberpunk (you will find a nice article on cyberpunk on wikipedia). There are chances your students are familiar with the classics, such as Blade Runner, Akira, Matrix, Altered Carbon or the works of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson or Pat Cadigan.

You will watch a recent trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, a game by CD Project RED, to get the whiff of a cyberpunk world.

Part 1

Watch the video up to 3:53 which where the actual game trailer starts.

Apart from obvious questions referring to the story, its main protagonist, the plot, the possible outcome, encourage students to focus on the background. The omnipresent technology and something that is the core of the genre – body cybermodification. You may discuss the role of technology in our lives ever since we were born – it may be a great discussion if your group consists of both digital immigrants and digital natives.

If you know your group enjoys slightly more controversial topics, you may discuss the idea of body modification – a great example may be a story of Viktoria Modesta (you may read an article about her here). She’s turned her leg prosthetic into a work of art, but the controversial aspect is that the leg amputation was not something absolutely necessary – it was Viktoria herself who simply wanted to use artistic prosthetic.

Part 2

Once you finish discussing the genre and the story, and how far we are from living in the actual cyberpunk – or if we ever live there (answers may vary), you may watch a part where Keanu Reeves appears on stage to share the date of game release, but is welcomed with a thunderous applause, especially when he says I am always drawn to fascinating stories.

Have you ever tried storytelling in your classroom, engaging your students into spinning a tale? You may use various games that will help you – Once Upon a Time or simple Story Cubes may turn out to be great beginnings of fascinating tales. Introducing Role Playing Games is the best way to engage everyone in a story – but be sure to discuss why stories matter. At first your students may claim only children like stories, but we already know we are surrounded by stories from birth to death (you can watch some TED talks on the topic).

Ask your students to recall their favourite story and let them explain why they liked it so much. That will make your students open up a bit, and surprisingly other students will probably be happy to listen. That’s the magic of stories – we’re not eager to listen what happened during the previous week, but we’re more attentive when we expect a good story.

Homework

Homework is a conclusion to the lesson, and it requires some time, reflection and revision. Ask your students to write a short story, similar to their favourite tale, only set in a cyberpunk world. I’m fairly sure the results will be amazing.

Enjoy!

Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

7 Free Online Courses in June

7 (1)

Are you already getting ready for your summer break? Gentle wind on a sandy beach, scorching sun in the mountains and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with teaching, school and EFL? If yes, please continue your bliss, but if you ever feel like there’s something you should do apart from relaxing, maybe a short online course or two… Well, here I am, ever-watchful! I’ve found seven nice and free courses that may be quite interesting for teachers… even those ready for their summer break!

1 Language Assessment in the Classroom by the British Council

Start: 03/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in understanding how language assessment works

Assessment is something a lot of teachers struggle with – from test preparation to evaluation. Fortunately, British Council has a great course, which will help you learn theoretical aspects of assessment, and then adjust it to your purposes. You will focus on practical ways of assessing language and skills which you can use in your classroom, but more than that, you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with fellow participants and receive professional guidance from course moderators (something BC is really good at!).

2 Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: primary school teachers who have an interest in expanding their knowledge of space

Before you shrug the idea off, think about it: imagine your EFL classes enriched with real-life knowledge you’ll acquire with the real astronomers at the Royal Observatory Greenwich! Wake your childlike curiosity up and explore space… and various resources for your primary science lessons. You’ll explore digital resources, museum tips, video chats and podcasts, and find out what works best for your students. Your EFL lessons will be just cosmically amazing!

3 Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone involved in the learning process

I’m afraid to admit, I’d have probably taken over the world already, if it wasn’t for procrastination. Do you know the phrase “Procrastinators, unite! Fighting tomorrow for better today…” – that might be my motto. And with so many distractions like Facebook or IM… it’s quite difficult to focus on actual learning (one needs to study strategies in order to take over the world!). If you (or your students) experience similar issues, that may be a great course for us! During the course you will reflect on procrastination and motivation, learn how to design a study plan and actually organise your educational life for the better.

Only you or your students best focus on conventional subjects, leave world domination to me.

4 The Art of Teaching Foreign Languages to Young Learners by Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Start: 10/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in teaching foreign languages to young learners

If you’re a rookie teacher, or even an experienced lecturer who’s going to start teaching young learners, this may be a good course for you. The course will take you through the basics of methodological approaches to teaching kids, you will also learn about developmental stages of kids and young teenagers. If you feel stressed when you think about teaching kids, you should find this course – and the discussions – particularly interesting.

5 Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in cybersecurity

We all know we all need to be careful in the Internet – students and teachers alike. It was proven that younger generation, called “digital natives”, happen to be too careless – they treat the Net as their safe haven, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This course will help you not only be more sensible when it comes to your security, it will also help you design actual cybersecurity classess. You will explore malware, malicious bots, SQL injections, and physical threats to data. You will also build your knowledge of the different tools that protect data and websites – strong passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication, and firewalls.

6 Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: English language teachers worldwide

Having a well-prepared lesson plan is a great beginning of a successful lesson. This course will help you look at various professional practices, share your own teaching experiences, and apply what you’ve learnt to your own teaching practice. If you feel like you might need some guidance with regards to classroom management and keeping your students engaged with your teaching methods – that’s the course for you!

7 Languages?

If you really think of going on holidays, you may be interested in learning some basic expressions in foreign languages that may prove really helpful.

There is still time to enroll in a course where you’ll learn the most important expressions – and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to develop your skills in more than one foreign language?

You may participate in basic Spanish classes here.

You will find a basic Italian course here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the courses – they look really interesting, and I guess it’s never too late to learn something new, even during summer break!

Have fun!

Public speaking for teachers? Why not? (book review)

Why would teachers learn about public speaking_

There is only one excuse for a speaker’s asking the attention of his audience: he must have either truth or entertainment for them.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

At the moment I’m writing this very note and watching Kung Fu Panda, which is one of my favourite films about being a teacher. True, it may seem a bit unusual source of inspiration, but this is the way I live – looking for inspiration in various places. There may be ever so many materials designed for teaching English as a foreign language, and yet I still enjoy using alternatives that are not commonly identified with teaching.

Like Role-Playing Games, of course.

The main reason I bought Public Speaking for Success was the fact that I’m doing more and more workshops, and I realise I have quite a vast area to improve. Talk Like TED was really inspiring, so I decided to try the book by Dale Carnegie (famous for How to Win Friends and Influence People). To my surprise, even though the book is targeted at salespeople and presenters, teachers still may find it useful. After all, nowadays we need extraordinary means to engage our students.

This book will show you how to make your students pay attention to what you say, to present even the most boring facts in a manner so interesting your students will never forget them (it’s what my interpretation of kraken and zombies did to Present Perfect). You will also read a lot about how famous public speakers of the days of old used to prepare their speeches. And Abraham Lincoln, you will learn a lot about Lincoln (although it won’t be as exciting as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter which is accidentally quite an interesting book).

Most of the book focuses on speech preparation and its delivery, but each chapter includes some down-to-earth exercises that will help you master public speaking. Following the exercises a reader will be able to practice proper pronunciation, resonance and emphasis (only the reader needs to practice everyday, something yours truly may find quite difficult to do).

The chapter that may be particularly useful for teachers is almost at the end of the book – chapter 14, focused on engaging audience. By the time you get there you will probably think “those ideas are so obvious! I’ve known it all!” – but this chapter sums up everything we really, really need to remember. Concise, surprisingly up-to-date (it’s funny to think, though, that short attention span of an audience was an issue almost 100 years ago…) and useful – something we may read before every lesson to memorise it.

For this reason only, I believe Public Speaking for Success may be also called Public Speaking for Teachers Who Want to Engage Their Students. I’ve mentioned it more than once, every lesson is a story worth telling, and to do so we must be great storytellers not only in choosing a tale, but also its exquisite presentation.

Live an active life among people who are doing worthwhile things, keep eyes and ears and mind and heart open to absorb truth, and then tell of the things you know, as if you know them. The world will listen, for the world loves nothing so much as real life.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

Last but not least: you can get this ebook for free! One of the best places on the Internet, Project Gutenberg, offers the ebook version of Public Speaking for Success for free! All you need to do is click here and download your preferable version. Then you may enjoy it as much as I have… only be aware it’s the original version from 1915, not the updated one.

Enjoy and let me know what you think about the book!

Public Speaking for Success: The Complete Program, Revised and Updated
Carnegie, Dale
Publisher: TarcherPerigee; REV and Updated ed. edition (May 4, 2006)
ISBN-13: 978-1585424924

7 Free Online Courses in April

7freeonline coursesin April

April is still a pretty moody month, and the best thing one may wish for is weather that is quite stable. Unfortunately, we’re bound to experience the mixture of sunny and gloomy days, but it’s all good since we know what April showers bring.

Free online courses, of course, they bring free online courses.

Below you will find my monthly selection of free courses you may take online. Hopefully they will let you – and your students, as I found some nice options that may be used as interesting projects – bloom just like flowers.

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to get the most from your university experience

It’s a great idea to use this short course as an additional project with your students who aim to pass their exams and attend higher education. It’s only two weeks, but you may use it as a nice opportunity to show them the merits of self-education and discuss their progress in the classroom. Show them you believe in their potential!

The IB Extended Essay: Managing your Research Project by the University of Leeds and the International Baccalaureate

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to plan and write a successful extended essay

There are more and more students interested in IB as a form of education, and this course will definitely help them most. However, I recommend this course as a little bit of help when we teach our students how to structure their essay, write in an academic style and manage their time effectively so your project runs smoothly. Similarly to the previous course, I would run it as an additional project for more ambitious students. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun – and if your students feel like it, they may still join another course on IB approach.

Understanding Autism by the University of Kent

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to learn more about autism

Identified 70 years ago, autism is still a difficult topic for society. We seem to learn more and more about it, and if you work with people you might want to take this course in order to study autism and its spectrum. The course will help you not only study, but also discuss the issues of communication and social relations as well as investigate co-occurring conditions. It’s a great course, especially for teachers of children and young learners.

Caring for Vulnerable Children by the University of Strathclyde and CELCIS

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to develop their career towards child care field

In times of shrinking public services, the task of caring for vulnerable children has never been more challenging. This course will be of great help to all teachers and parents who want to learn more about risk and vulnerability. The main benefit is the possibility of discussing different methods of practice and different possible interventions.

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people with an interest in dyslexia and language learning

I have already taken up this course and recommended it months ago, but if you haven’t participated in it yet – it’s a great opportunity to do it now, as dyslectic students tend to underperform in foreign language classes. You will learn a lot of things about dyslexia and its co-occurring conditions. If you’re in need of materials for dyslectics, you may visit a page by my admirable friend Karina Frejlich. She has a lot of materials designed for dyslectic students you may but at the affordable price.

Managing Behaviour for Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 22/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to work on effective behaviour management in classroom

I recommend this course for all the teachers who struggle with classroom discipline, an issue that becomes more and more problematic. This course will help you observe how your behaviour influences your students’, how you control emotional responses and interact with students. Then, you’ll learn techniques and develop your capability to achieve consistency in managing behaviour, recognise positive behaviour and build trust in your classroom.

Professional Development for Early Career Teachers by the University of East Anglia

Start: 29/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers starting out in their careers

It’s a common question once you become a teacher that goes: “now what?”. This course will help you face your new responsibilities and duties. Through the course you will reflect on and identify your professional development needs, explore behaviour management strategies, pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, ways to prioritise your workload and more. Just like the previous course, I believe it’s a great choice for freshies, but it may be a nice refresher for all of us.

I believe you will find these courses useful both for you and your students. Have fun enjoying longer and sunnier days!