7 Free Online Courses in July

7Free OnlineCoursesin July

No rest for the wicked*! Summer break may be a great time to work on our skills and abilities, especially when we know that the new school year is bound to bring changes. This month I’ve decided to focus on the courses that are quite summerish and light, so you can learn between a morning suntanning session and an afternoon nap, when you sip some chilled white wine while nibbling on sweet cherries…

1 Teaching Entrepreneurial Thinking by QUT

Start: 2.07

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: teachers and educational leaders who want to improve their teaching practice

This course will introduce you to what entrepreneurial thinking is, and why it’s an important skill for young people to learn, especially in a contemporary world where the big problems of today and tomorrow are yet to be identified. You will discuss the types of entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurial thinking can be applied in your classroom.

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

Start: 2.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: educators interested in teaching languages to young people

The course reflects on various aspects of teaching foreign languages to young learners. You will discuss the developmental traits of children between ages 4 and 12, learn how to engage with children in a creative way and try to foster intercultural understanding through multimodal communication. If you are going to teach young learners soon, you will find this course particularly useful.

3 Exploring Play: the Importance of Play in Everyday Life by the University of Sheffield

Start: 9.07

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: educators who focus on innovation and creativity

This course will help you reflect on the relationship between play, creativity and innovation in the workplace. From exploring the history of toys and games to investigating types of play in virtual worlds – you will discuss various aspects and definitions of play and current debates about how the nature of play changes.

This course is my pick of the month – it may be 7 weeks long, but it may help us give scientific background when trying to convince students that yes, you can learn the language while playing!

4 English Football: a Social History by the University of Leicester, DMU and Leicester City FC

Start: 16.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in football and its background

It’s the World Cup time and even you don’t understand the football fever, if you are a teacher of English as a foreign language you simply have to acknowledge the role of football in the UK! This course will explore the history and culture of football, with a focus on the World Cup and on Leicester City Football Club (them becoming Premier League Champions in 2016 was one of the most unusual moments in football history).

5 Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture by the University of York

Start: 16.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in contemporary educational and cultural topics

The course provides an introduction to popular types of visual culture for children and young people. By the end, you will gain a deeper understanding of children’s film, television, drama, picturebooks and comics. You will discuss the traditions of children’s visual culture and the plurality of ways in which childhood can be or has been represented – and have some time to reflect on your own childhood as well.

6 Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive by Deakin University

Start: 23.07

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: every teacher <sigh>

We all know that being a teacher is a tough and a stressful job. On this course you will learn about the capabilities, skills, and self-care practices that contribute to resilience. This will enable you to build up your own resilience so you’re ready to meet challenges at work and at home – and I believe summer break may be a great idea to build up resilience before the new school year begins.

7 Teaching English Online by Cambridge Assessment English

Start: 30.07

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to start teaching online

Online education is awesome, believe me – I was there both as a teacher and as a student. This course will help you start by introducing the context of English Language Teaching online. You will learn how to plan and deliver online language lessons and how to adapt your face-to-face teaching skills to an online environment. If you feel like working from home – that’s a perfect solution!

I hope you’ll find the courses useful – remember, no rest for the teachers!

Enjoy!

*Actually even the wicked may have some rest, so I’m taking a fortnight of a summer break. See you on the 17th of July when I’ll share some exciting adventures I’m going to take you during the magical Zlot Nauczycieli w Stryszawie and IATEFL Conference in Wrocław. Stay tuned!

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M-education for beginners

M-educationforbeginners

Mobile phones are one of the most controversial aspects of today’s classroom. On one hand, we try to get rid of them, on the other hand we can’t live without them. I’m not talking about students – how often do we feel like using our mobile to check something more or less related to the class? Don’t we use Facebook to connect with other teachers and ask for help or inspiration? Don’t we browse Pinterest just to get a glimpse of an idea? The thing is – we’re not talking about mobile phones anymore, we’re talking about smartphones and we should use them according to their name: smart. There’s this joke I have access to the greatest library in the world… and I’m using it to browse pictures of cute cats. While I myself am absolutely guilty of spending too much time watching adorable felines, I am trying to reintroduce smartphones in my classroom, not as a nuisance though, but as a tool.
Mobile education, also called m-learning, is perceived by some as a kind of e-learning, yet it can be much more than that. By using smartphones in the class, and allowing – or even encouraging – my students to do the same, I bring some real context to the artificial
environment of a classroom. No longer a forbidden fruit, smartphones can be useful,
entertaining and… motivating!

Making learning more engaged

The most convenient thing about smartphone is that we can use it to check our facts
immediately, anytime and anyplace – be that a grammar rule, a spelling issue or a piece of information useful for our academic writing exercise. I am really surprised with my students not realising Google Scholar is something which can be more useful – and reliable – than Wikipedia. When a random question arises, even if it’s not related to anything we are studying at that moment, I encourage my students to check the answer on the spot, thus taking care of our natural curiosity which only too often is killed by the mundane world of educational system.
I also advise my students to use The Free Dictionary by Farlex – it’s a great antidote to
imperfect Google Translate, and is enriched with games, articles, spelling bee contests and a horoscope that always predicts good things (which is the only kind of horoscope we should believe).

Making learning collaborative

Teachers can use m-learning to individualise teaching, to engage students into learning beyond school and to encourage them to work with other students – which is much easier when we can use technology to communicate and share files.
Currently, the most useful application for me is padlet – I can share all the materials needed for the next class (my favourite form of homework), some additional exercises, place for submitting essays or projectwork etc. I also create closed groups on Facebook for my students where we make polls, enjoy discussions and try some brainstorming. It is also very useful when students write they had a particularly hard day at school and would love to play games or work on communication skills, instead of having to face planned grammar activities – if I get the message early enough, I can rearrange my lesson to their needs.

With padlet being now more commercial, I recommend trello as a similar solution.

Making learning communicative

Instant messengers are natural for our students (who, as I’ve recently read, perceive e-mails as outdated) – mobile technology changed that aspect of communication, and it’s obvious that at school, when students have to disconnect and switch to traditional way of learning in a formalised way, it may be quite difficult for them. So why not start using smartphones to encourage communication?
When it comes to warm-ups, for example, I find my smartphone irreplaceable. Story Dice, Table Topics, lateral thinking games – but to name a few. I find those applications – whether on my mobile or my students’ – really enjoyable and, what’s more important, that’s a great way of making them speak English right from the beginning of the lesson. They can even download the apps on their own, thus eliminating the teacher from the process of communication and carrying it out all by themselves.

Introducing rules

Naturally, smartphones may lead to some distracting behaviours – but are students
communicating via instant messengers so different from us, who used to write notes on pieces of paper and throw them to our friends? It’s the behaviour that is the real problem, not the technology. To avoid problems, we need to introduce some rules.
My rules are simple: all smartphones should be set on silent mode (unless being used for lesson purposes), on the desk, face down. I personally allow my students to use their smartphones whenever they finish their exercises or tasks sooner than most of the class – it’s really motivating them to get to work, just to check their Snapchat and text their friend casually yeah, I’m on my English lesson and I can chat, no problem, I’ve done my stuff and it’s OK.
As a teacher, I hope it is.

If you want to read more on the topic:
Kolb, Liz and Tonner, Sharon “Mobile Phones and Mobile Learning” in: “What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media” (2012)

The article was first published in The Teacher nr 1 (155) 2018.

500 Activities for the Primary Classroom – when you look for inspirations (book review)

Feline Fact_

We all know that teaching kids requires not only knowledge and patience, but also wild amounts of ingenuity and creativity – the younger the learner, the more creative the teacher must be! And since I’ve professionally come back to dealing with young learners and teens, the book I felt like browsing through really carefully addressed the needs of the youngest learners – especially knowing the author.

I met Carol Read when I was a rookie teacher in a primary school – she was invited by Macmillan, visited Rzeszów and clearly wanted to observe a typical English lesson. I was only happy to deliver – and I found her one of the nicest people ever; also, she was the first native speaker my students had seen and they loved her.

What is the book about?

You would probably say – it’s 500 activities for children… and you’d be almost right, because it’s far more than this – each chapter starts with really useful methodological content that will help you understand the approaches behind various activities along with “reflection time” – section where you can think over your ideas. Moreover, each activity is followed by comments and suggestions, and with years of experience Ms. Read has a lot of useful tips to share!

Who is the book for?

As the dedication states – the book is for every teacher who tries to bring out the best in every child. If you’re a fresh teacher who hasn’t ever taught a kid – it’s for you! If you’re an experienced educator who has spent more time with the adults and now wants to start again with younger learners (like your truly) – you’ll find it a great source of inspiration!

Contents

The book is divided into ten sectionslistening and speaking, reading and writing, Vocabulary and grammar, Storytelling and drama, Games, Rhymes, chants and songs, Art and craft, Content-based learning, ICT and multimedia and Learning to learn. Each activity goes with an awesome description reminding me of my favourite book ever – level (from A1.1 to B1.2), age, organisation (groupwork, pairwork etc.), aims, language focus, materials and procedures. So, apart from mere ideas you have a lot of material you can adapt to your own groups and their needs.

My favourite activities

Naturally, the first part I read was the one focussed on storytelling – and the first exercise is called “words in the story” where kids create a story about a Kraken. My cthultistic heart appreciates such an excellent beginning! I really enjoyed the exercise “story stepping stones” where children learn to identify and use key episodes in the story – a very useful skill when it comes to storytelling.

But there are more activities than this – you will find activities you may use in a classroom on a regular basis – listening grid, follow the route task or wall dictation. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love.

Recommendations

This is one of those books I can recommend for everyone – even if you don’t teach children it may still prove useful; perfect when you need to cover for a colleague… or when your own (or your friends’) kids want to have fun and expect you to come up with a creative idea – 500 Activities is a great help, as young learners develop their skills unconsciously, simply having fun.

And having fun is something not only kids like!

Read, Carol “500 Activities for the Primary Classroom: Immediate Ideas and Solutions”

Macmillan Books for Teachers 2007

ISBN 978-1-4050-9907-3

 

5 ways to shine at your speaking test

5 ways to shine at your speaking test

There’s always one part of testing English that you hate. Some hate writing, others listening (aye, that would be me), but somehow it’s speaking that seems to cause lots of worries. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had problems with speaking ever since I came up with some simple steps. I can’t claim you’ll excel at speaking tests after following my ideas, but I do encourage you to give them a go – maybe they’ll work out for you just as they did for me!

1 Be a star!

Do you often do such boring tasks like housework? Doing the dishes may be an opportunity to play some kind of make-believe, and I don’t want you to become Anne of the Green Gables (unless you feel like it), but to imagine you’re a celebrity. Famous, gorgeous, popular and very much in demand for any interviewer possible. Now, controversial as it may be, celebrities are being asked about opinions on just too many things, starting with the weather, through world conflicts, ending with relationship advice – and here you are, being asked about as many various things as only you can think of. Be the Vacuuming Beyoncé, or Ronaldo, driving alone in his car – and talk to imaginary interviewer

(…) of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.

2 Make your vocabulary shiny

You might already know that I’m a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and so I revel in the rich and sophisticated vocabulary you will find in his writings. When I was studying English Philology, I decided to learn some of the expressions by heart, so that I could get bonus points for impressive vocabulary. To be honest, it was hilarious, when a simple task of describing a car ride became in my version nothing less than a start of the Apocalypse, full of, naturally, blasphemous and amorphous shapes harbingering the Elder Gods. You get the gist, right? Obviously, I don’t recommend using such a specific area of lexis during your exams, but pick something you are absolutely sure you’ll be able to put in every single topic.

Like Great Cthulhu, obviously.

3 Role-play a little bit

I am deeply convinced that if anything, Role-Playing Games are the best source of fun-related speaking exercises. If you want to go full RPG, you might want to read my articles related to this matter, but to be honest – all you need to do is pick up a role of a more or less real person (you might be Harry Potter, or James Bond, or Elizabeth Bennet etc.) and act out for a while – the idea is quite similar to the one where you pretend to be a celebrity, but here you may ask a friend to impersonate another person just to have funny little chats “in roles” – all you need to do is to find someone to be a Watson to your Sherlock.

4 Think of a magic word

Have you ever tried to say bubbles angrily? You probably can’t, it’s just such a funny lovely word that makes you smile. Similarly with kitten, puppy – any other ideas? For me it’s catkin, don’t know why it’s just a word that makes me smile. Why do you need this? Because you should remember this word right before your exam (write it on your wrist if you might forget it). Whenever you start stressing out, imagine yourself in front of the examiners introducing yourself as “Hi, my name is Monika and my favourite word is catkin”.

Only, maybe don’t do this in real life exam…

5 Smile

It was proved that if you smile, your brain relaxes (you’ve probably heard of the famous pencil-in-mouth experiment where people faking smiles were indeed more relaxed… only this experiment was replicated 2 years ago and the results weren’t so optimistic). Apparently, fake smiles don’t work, you really need to feel it – so even if you feel terribly nervous, fake it till you make it! As an examiner, I’ll tell you, smiling people seem more confident, more pleasant and generally are easier to test.

Now, a bonus piece of advice comes from my Phonetics lecturer:

Have a shot (just one, mind!)

Of course, only if you are of age. And if you’ve had a decent breakfast. And if you have some chewing gum so that you won’t be too obvious. Seriously, while alcohol isn’t good for your voice in the long run (unless you want to have that hoarse sexy voice of Janice Joplin), it does switch off your feeling of stress and loosens up your muscles as well as vocal cords which makes speaking physically easier (it’s like in a real life, easier to chat in a foreign language after you’ve had a pint). It’s a somewhat risky method, mind, so I won’t encourage you to try it out before a real test – maybe record yourself speaking, then have a shot and continue to check how your fluency increases and your coherence… well, you might imagine.

Enjoy your experiments!

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 8 – making classes SuperBetter)

Role-Playing Teaching

It’s a really strange feeling, when you read a book in April and you realise you’ve just read your Book of the Year. Also, it’s hard to believe I hadn’t heard of Jane McGonigal before my Prince Consort picked her book during our monthly book hunt and said “You will love it”. He was right, naturally.

If you wonder why I would write a book review in my Role-Playing Teaching series, you need to watch a TED-talk by McGonigal herself who says things that make my little, black, rotten heart swell with happiness:

If the video hasn’t convinced you, you should read McGonigal’s bestseller “SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient – Powered by the Science of Games”. I’m not a fan of self-help books (I read Faber and Mazlich’s How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk, tried to use it while communicating with my parents and failed miserably – I was 13 by that time and lost faith in such publications), but I cannot describe SuperBetter as a self-help book, and one of the reasons is the emphasis on cooperation and social relations helping us grow.

The book begins with a moving story of Jane’s happy life, misfortune and final success in overcoming obstacles and reaching a happy, yet full of challenges, life. Frankly, so many books written to inspire others follow the similar pattern, so being the Villain I am, I was somewhat sceptical – but what followed the personal story, was a flood of data from various research – and this was something I love (yay, research!). Have you heard of Snow World, a game used in burn centres to alleviate the pain using phenomena called spotlight theory of attention? And that’s just the beginning of the motivating story where you create your own game-like life in which you can assume a role of a superhero to overcome any obstacles.

How do games help in our development?

Playing video games releases as much dopamine as an injection of a drug. Why is it useful apart from sudden exhilaration? Simple – the research show that dopamine “shots” while we play games make us more determined to achieve goals and less frustrated in case of the failure. It was proven that players are more dedicated and resilient, moreover, games help you try out various tactics and approaches without real-life consequences which encourages you to be more daring, open and ready for opportunities. Playing games also help you learn proper prioritising your own goals.

How to wake up a gamer in oneself?

Even if you haven’t played for a good while you can recall the mentality of a gamer – think of your obstacles as challenges or quests, whether it’s a visit to the dentist or becoming an entrepreneur. From the neurological point of view, McGonigal explains, there’s no difference whether you feel “real” excitement or “make-believe” feeling, your brain is ready to go! If you read the book, you will learn how to “power up” positive experiences and build your inner game-world (for example, by giving names to the obstacles – if your goal is getting fit, your main enemy might be a Scheming Local Pizza Place, where they seem to have great deals exactly when you’re hungry and passing by… coincidence? I think not!). You will also learn how to plan your aims realistically and how to avoid procrastination (to which some of us, like yours truly, are really susceptible).

Quests!

Apart from theory, the book includes three quests: the first is for those looking for True Love (which, as all of us fans of The Princess Bride know, is the best thing in the world except for cough drops), the second is for people who want to become ninjas (or at least Mulan), and the third one is created for those who feel their days are too short and want to work on time management.

Why should you read it?

You may sensibly ask: so far so good, but what does it have to do with teaching? Well – everything! With games, you have the perfect tool to make yourself and your students motivated, ready for a challenge (because Dreadful Grammar Drill looks like a perfect name for the obstacle on our quest to Purrfect English!) and, first and foremost, to make all the educational process fun, even within the strict framework of public educational system.

I believe in games and teaching complementing each other to make education fun, so if you’re a member of a facebook group of Polish Teachers of EFL and you’re interested in this topic, you will have an opportunity to attend my workshop on RPG and TEFL as well as take part in a RPG session during Zlot this summer.

I hope to see you there!

Jane McGonigal: SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient – Powered by the Science of Games

Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 13, 2016)
ISBN-13: 978-0143109778

Quizizz: making tests fun (+ activity ideas)

Quizizz_ making test fun

There is no course without assessment – I’m not really a fan of ready-made tests that come along with the coursebooks, so I used to spend hours designing my own tests covering those aspects I wanted to assess at that time. Although I found it a good method, it was rather time-consuming. Fortunately, here comes that magic phrase: There’s an app for this!

You must have heard of Quizlet and Kahoot!, but today I want to share my favourite quiz-making application: Quizizz. Apart from a name (try remembering which z is doubled!), this tool is not only useful and easy to grasp, but also fun to use, both for teachers and students. Quizizz allows people to create and use one another’s multiple-choice quizzes, so they can be used live as a form of classroom competition, or as homework (with maximum 2 weeks of deadline).

So far so good – but how does it work? A teacher prepares the test, students login on their mobiles (either via browser or using an app, but unlike Kahoot! you don’t need a projector) and they may enjoy an energised quiz with bright colours, fun music and memes (truth be told, it was the memes that I paid attention to at first). The questions are randomly given to students, thus eliminating cheating. After choosing the answer students immediately get feedback, and the resulting data is compiled into a spreadsheet to give the teacher a clear visual of the students’ performance in order to analyse trends in which areas might need the most focus in the future.

The good thing about Quizizz is that you may either create your own quizzes (which may again take a lot of time) or use ready-made tests create by your fellow users… or you can teleport questions from various quizzes to make your own, which is a great thing and really saves your time.

How can we use Quizizz in the classroom?

  • Whenever the students get bored – you may prepare a short and silly test to make them laugh;
  • As an entry activity, when you want it to be a form of revision;
  • As a revision exercise, students create their own quizzes (each group works on specific unit or area), and then all you need to do is teleport their questions and have a nice, proper test;
  • As a homework activity, when students prepare tests for one another;
  • As an after-film activity: students watch film in the classroom, and then answer questions

Truth be told, possibilities are endless, all you need to do is give it a go and soon you’ll see that quizzes may be fun. If you need a step-by-step instruction on how to start with Quizizz, you may find it here:

How to Use Quizizz:
1 Go to Quizizz.com and hit “GET STARTED”.
2 If you want to use an existing quiz, you can use the “Search for quizzes” box and browse. Once you have selected a quiz, skip to step 8. If you want to create your own quiz, select the “Create” panel, then the “Sign Up” panel and fill in the form.
3 Enter a name for the quiz and an image if you like. You can also select its language and make it either public or private.
4 Fill in a question, as well as answers, and be sure to click the “incorrect” icon next 5 to the correct answer in order to change it to “correct”. You can also add a corresponding image if you would like.
5 Select “+ New Question” and repeat step 4. Do this until you have made all of your questions.
6 Hit “Finish” in the top right corner.
7 Select the appropriate grade range, subject(s), and topic(s). You can also add tags to make it easier to search for.
8 You can either select “PLAY LIVE!” or “HOMEWORK” and choose the desired attributes.
9 Students can go to Quizizz.com/join and type in the 6-digit code to participate in the live quiz or complete the homework. They will be asked to enter a name to be identified by.
10 Once the students are finished, refresh your page and you will be able to view the results of the quiz. Click the “+” next to a name to expand and get more detailed, question-by-question results. (by blogs.umass.edu/onlinetools)

Enjoy!

Children Learning English: A Guidebook for English Language Teachers (book review)

www.thatisevil.wordpress.com

The best thing about teaching children is that you’re working on unspoilt minds that are so eager to learn and have fun. While teens seem to be at least slightly nonchalant when it comes to their educational process, while adults are so self-aware and need to get feedback on every step, children are wonderfully easy to please and literally only ready to grow and flourish. Some claim childhood is the only period when we actually acquire knowledge with ease, others believe childhood should be mainly fun and parents encouraging their offspring to learn another language can end up as innocent victims of the predatory educational market only fishing for easy money.

As usually, I find myself somewhere in the middle, believing children should have fun being kids, but at the same time we should encourage them to learn, especially when classes include games, songs and a lot of fun activities. Trying to broaden my horizons on the topic, I read a book by Jayne Moon “Children Learning English: A Guidebook for English Language Teachers”. As the author mentions in the introduction, “the book will help you to build on the knowledge and skills you already have, become aware of your beliefs about children and about teaching, re-assess your practice in the classroom, provide fresh ideas and new insights (…) and deepen your commitment to and enthusiasm for teaching children.”

You will find various topics discussed, starting with students’ attitude to learning English, managing the learning process, introducing effective teacher-pupil interaction, creating, adapting and evaluating various activities, planning, organizing conducting and assessing learning and teaching etc. Apart from the book itself the bibliography looks really inspiring, as it leads you to more publications on the topic (and each chapter has its own set of books).

What I really appreciate about this book is that it not only discusses the areas I mentioned, but also provides strategies for potential difficulties and actual procedures to deal with various issues (e.g. action plan to find out how raised expectations affect children’s behaviour and attitude to learning English). One of my favourite parts is the whole chapter focused on introducing and carrying out pairwork and groupwork (as mixed-gender pairing happens to be quite problematic at a certain age) which gave me a lot of ideas and activities on how to deal with this particular problem.

Yet another useful chapter I enjoyed was on creating own resources. Apart from practical ideas, the author encourages teachers to answer some questions first, like setting up and organizing educational and developmental criteria on preparing resources, which makes it easier to not only create own materials, but also adapt the ones we observe during other teachers’ work. We are surrounded by so many online resources now, that I really loved the short checklist to make sure the material we’ve chosen is not only fun, but also appropriate and suitable.

The book is a great source of information for all those who have just started their work with children, or who have had a longer break and return to educating this particular age group. I found myself nodding approvingly over some details I once knew but now forgotten, having been teaching mostly teens and adults for the past decade. I really enjoyed revising the basics and learning new things, that’s why I believe all of you who might be in a similar situation, will find the book equally useful. After all, children and their education is the area that gives many opportunities and possibilities for all teachers, so we shouldn’t neglect it just because it’s easier to work with the adults.

I’m sure you’ll find the read quite interesting, regardless of your present teaching groups – some ideas are relevant for all ages, and being a teacher means you can’t be too sure as to what groups you’ll teach next time.

Enjoy!

Jayne Moon, “Children Learning English: A Guidebook for English Language Teachers”

MacMillan Books for Teachers

ISBN-13: 978-1405080026