7 Short and Simple Cool Down Ideas

short and simple cool down ideas

It’s the middle of winter, so if today isn’t the best day to share my favourite cool downs, I don’t know what is! I think warm ups are far more popular, but the exercises at the end of the lesson are equally important as they help students remember the things they’ve learned that day and close the lesson in a friendly, relaxed and enjoyable manner. Below you will find my favourite cool down ideas – maybe you’ll find them as useful as they were for my own students.

The good thing about the ideas below is that you only need pen and paper – and that’s it, enjoy!

Picture dictation

It’s a very simple activity, where one student draws a picture and then describes it to the other student… who has to draw whatever he hears, but without looking at the original picture! It’s really funny, creative and boosts not only memory (if you ask your students to include the words they used during the lesson), but also communicative skills.

Visual vocabulary

One of the funniest activities I know. Ask your students to make some visuals for the words they’ve learnt during the lesson, for example:

This will boost their long-term memory, but you may collect their pictures and use them for the next classes, maybe as flashcards or maybe as warm-ups.

20 Questions

It’s a very simple game, where one person thinks of a word and the whole group has to ask questions (maximum 20) that will help them determine the thing the first student thinks of. You can enjoy this activity in the whole classroom, smaller groups or even pairs. Apart from practising communication skills, you may give an extra challenge and ask students to include some grammar constructions they have learned.

Chain story

This activity is perfect to revise the vocabulary and create the story at the same time. You start the story (e.g. Once upon a time I met a talking cat.) and the students, one by one, have to continue the story, but they need to include any word they’ve learnt that day. It’s one of the funniest activities as it requires quick thinking (after all the story has to make sense). It’s also useful when it comes to developing communication skills and practising grammar and vocabulary.

Quick scrabble

We don’t have time for traditional scrabble, but we may create our own game. Here students work in pairs. One student starts by writing a word horizontally, and the other writes another word diagonally, but needs to use at least one letter of the first word (just like in the crossword). You may use it later in the classroom and ask students to write clues to their words (and then, during revision, use it as an exercise for another group). It’s a great activity for practising vocabulary,

Miming

It’s a brilliant activity for younger students, but I’ve met quite a number of adults who were also enjoying this exercise. You need to ask students to mime a word or a phrase they have learnt during the class, so that other students can guess it. The student who guesses correctly gets a point. You may also divide your class into two teams and make it a competition. It’s a nice game to revise vocabulary, but also practise some abstract thinking.

The longest sentence

Ask your students to write on the board as many of the words they remember from the lesson… and then ask them to work in pairs and make a sentence including as many words from the board as they can only think of. It’s a nice exercise to work on vocabulary and writing skills, but the sentences you’ll read will probably be quite funny.

As you can see, these simple exercises are short, easy and definitely funny. They are great not only as nice class finishers, but they help your students relax and have fun before they leave your enjoyable classes and move on.

Advertisements

7 Free Online Courses in January

Have you already decided on your New Year resolutions? In case you plan to focus on your self-development, I have an interesting choice of online courses you may start this month. Some of them are more demanding and others are more fun, but I’m sure you’ll find something suitable. It may look like all of my ideas are connected with changing career, but it’s a New Year – if not now, when?

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

Start: 4/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to boost their career

Mindshift is a key word nowadays – you can see yourself more opened to new ideas and opportunities. If you think of changing your career or boosting it, you may find this course really inspiring. It’s always interesting to see that most obstacles are usually created in our own minds.

Successful Career Development by the University System of Georgia

Start: 4/01/2019

Duration: 7 weeks

For whom: people who want to succeed in their career

Being teachers, we usually got our jobs by simply applying for them. This course, however, will help you find a job that you dream of. You will explore the idea of a mentor, the importance of networking and even the ways LinkedIn works. Among other useful abilities, I think the one described as “asking for help” may be quite an important one.

Converting Challenges into Opportunities by the University of California, San Diego

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who feel too much pressure at work

We all – both teachers and students – live in a really competitive environment. This course will familiarise you with the concept of Design Thinking and how out-of-the-box thinking may change your attitude to life obstacles. Ever since I took a short Design Thinking course with Luiza Wójtowicz-Waga I must confess it’s changed my approach to… challenges and opportunities.

Strategic Career Self-Management by the State University of New York

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people interested in their career self-management

My parents worked in one school for 25 years – can you imagine? We change our workplaces more and more often with constant pressure and expectations. The ability to “manage oneself” will soon be the most important skill on the market. This course will make you focus on your portable skills and build your portfolio. If you need help in boosting self-confidence and defining your skills – this course may be a great option!

Success – Unleash Yourself by the University of Agder

Start: 7/01/2019

Duration: 9 weeks

For whom: people interested in successful careers

“Have you ever wondered why some people seem to attract success while others work very hard, but do not achieve what they want? Are you interested in changing your own life and being more successful?” – the authors of the course offer you a professional journey to the place where you’ll overflow with self-confidence and readiness for changes. New Year, New Me Big Style!

Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters by University of Maryland, College Park

Start: 07/01/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers and people looking for a new job

Sure, this course may be helpful if you think about changing your job, but I find it a great idea to use it with a group of students of EFL who will soon start looking for their first job. They will not only learn how to write good resumes, but also practise their writing skills.

Psychology of Personal Growth by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Start: 8/01/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people interested in CPD

The course will take you on a journey through the process of personal growth, starting with high hopes, through disillusionment, lack of belief and regaining self-confidence. You will focus on romantic love and explore its cultural background. If you want to explore your emotional life, this may be a good course for you.

As you see – you don’t think of changing your career, you may still enjoy those courses to boost your skills, self-confidence and motivation.

Enjoy!

7 Ideas for Engaging Homework Online

Ideas for Engaging Homework Online

Everything in moderation, including moderation, of course – that’s my motto when it comes to the idea of homework. There are those who believe in the magic of Thomson and Martinet, there are also people who prefer to teach without any homework at all. Maybe the key to success is not limiting homework or getting rid of it, but changing our approach? What about adjusting homework to our students’ needs and interests?

Teaching EFL seems much easier – at least in terms of homework – than other subjects. Students (schoolchildren and adults alike) usually understand the importance of learning the language, especially now, with the opportunities of travelling abroad, with more and more people working or studying abroad, with online games forcing people to communicate… All we, as teachers, need to do, is to shift our mindset; we live in a world where literally everything and everyone encourages people to learn English, even more – students themselves realise its importance and are mostly keen on learning after school. We must not spoil it with dull grammar drills on paper copies that are so easy to be forgotten, lost or ignored.

I believe we should share our enthusiasm, our true passion for not only teaching but using English and adapt homework to our students’ needs, styles of learning and interests. Homework assignments may be yet another way to personalise our approach and show our students the benefits of taking responsibility for their own educational process. Today, when there are many tools online ready to use, we can share them with our students, enabling them to study on their own and develop not only their linguistic skills, but also broaden their horizons.

1 Online grammar exercises

There are many useful websites for students to do their drills and doing them online may give them result immediately after they finish, without waiting fr the teacher to correct their work. You may create a padlet with all the useful exercises and tell your students your next graded test will be based on those exercises, thus motivating them to work after class.
Examples: englishgrammar.org, perfect-english-grammar.com

2 Videos

Everyone likes watching videos as homework – so why not use it more often? You can pick an interesting video summing up the lesson or introducing the next topic, you may also ask students to write a composition referring to the video. Here you may base on your students’ interests, changing boring homework into fun activity.
Examples: ed.ted.com, www.ted.com, youtube.com, truetube.co.uk

3 Listening

Listening exercises aren’t very varied in the classroom, mostly referring to the coursebook content, so we may assign a song or a podcast as an interesting homework activity – this may be their contact with “real” English, not the somewhat strict classroom environment.
Examples: lyricstraining.com, elllo.org

4 Mobile applications

Asking students to use a chosen application on their mobiles on a regular basis may prove to be a true homework of a 21st century. We may ask the whole group to use the same application in a manner of year-ling competition, or adapt various apps to our students’ individual needs, enhancing individual approach.
Examples: memrise, knudge.me, 6 minute English, various applications by the British Council

5 Tests

Apart from having fun in the classroom, you may assign a test as homework – be it a ready-made grammar test or a self-designed vocabulary check. There are many various online test applications, however for teenagers I recommend quizizz as it’s free, funny and you can use various memes.
Examples: quizizz, kahoot, quizlet

6 Class blogs

This form of a schoolyear-long project may be a great idea for a focused class of students who are already familiar with self-assessment. You may decide various topics the blog should be written about – school life, books, film, celebrities etc., but why not design a blog on classroom notes from English lessons? That would be a great help for absent students, not to mention general help before tests.

7 HiNative

This application is designed for students learning foreign languages (not only English). You may ask questions about language and culture to native speakers around the world – and get the answer, and what is even better – you may be asked questions about your native language as well. This may be a great tool for students who want to learn more about culture, or those who need to try communicating with native speakers but are somewhat shy.

It seems quite obvious, that with such availability of online sources, we should feel encouraged to use them on a regular basis, not only in the classroom, with the help of IWB and other tools, but also as homework activities, giving our students the chance not only to feel more at ease with the idea of extra activities, but also actually enjoy them.

The full post was first published in “The Teacher” nr 5(159)/2018

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 11: Abominable Terror as Means of Entertainment)

Role-Playing Teaching (2) I love autumn. The days are getting shorter, the evenings longer and the general feeling is that it’s so cosy to stay in with a cup of hot tea (or hot chocolate). The only thing to make it better is to add some more fun with free educational value. Aaaaand here we are with my next article on Role-Playing Games and how it can make your life easier and your classroom funnier.

Today we’ll discuss horror, terror, unspeakable doom and abominable fun they bring, and also why you could spend money on something nobody pays me to advertise.

I have written quite a lot about different role-playing games, various worlds and ideas, but today I want to encourage you to try on your own. And since we’re all dealing with English, the system I would recommend most is Call of Cthulhu. The greatest advantage of CoC is that you may choose your favourite period, from 1890s to… well, technically to the future as there are systems like Delta Green or CthulhuTech that are more future-oriented. Still, let’s start with the classic CoC and by classic I mean the USA in the 1920s. Fun, mystery and all that jazz. The players take the roles of more or less ordinary people – detectives, doctors, criminals, artists etc. and the adventures always start innocently, in a realistically described world, where the one of the few subtle differences is that we can visit Arkham with its Miskatonic University and infamous neighbourhood. It’s easy to create an ordinary character in a world that you pretty much are familiar with. The great benefit of this setting is that it encourages players to do a bit of reading on the period and if there’s any period of the USA history to be studied that’s certainly the 1920s! You could watch a film (film noir is great, even if it’s a genre about the 1940s, the atmosphere of gloom and doom suits CoC marvellously, but Chicago will also be great) or read some articles on the Net to get the grasp of the realia of the times. Now, in order to realise what unspeakable terror may await you (remember, your character will not know anything of the menacing shadows) – you may familiarise yourself with HPL’s stories.

This is something I find adorable – people who wouldn’t spend ten minutes on learning vocabulary would pore over the dictionary just to understand HPL’s alliterations and grammar (you may find some fine Future Perfect uses in his works).

The next advantage of CoC in general is the abundance of adventures, so you don’t have to trouble yourself with creating new stories (which can be overwhelming), but just get a sourcebook and follow the plot, adding some personal events. Game mechanics is as easy as can be – characters’ skills are defined by percentage (the higher the skill, the better your ability) and tests are basically determined by a 1d100 roll (which is a roll of two ten-sided dice where one is tenths and the other units). If you roll within your skill limit – you generally pass. I don’t encourage you to bring a RPG system to your classroom with more than fifteen pupils if you haven’t played a game before. But if you’re an English teacher – get yourself a copy of the Call of Cthulhu RPG and try to play a simple adventure with your friends. You will have a perfect entertainment for an autumn evening, you will experience the fun, the educational value and the possibilities you may include in your classroom. With the world that is easy to revive (especially for EFL teachers, honestly, I find them way more into the world than other people!), characters so ordinary that impersonating them isn’t difficult, and ready-made adventures – you can play a game on your own. Enjoy!

7 Free Online Courses in October

7 Free OnlineCoursesin October

Finally – summer is over, we can enjoy autumn with its colour, winds and long evenings! I love long, dark evenings which I can spend with a book (have just finished Hellboy series) or a controller (Persona 5 at the moment, a really nice game). My September was the most hectic month ever – I travelled the whole country training new Disney English teachers, so now I’m ready to enjoy some rest and, well, online courses.

As usual, I picked a set of nice courses for you to enjoy during October evenings.

1 Ignite Your Everyday Creativity by the State University of New York 

Start: 1st Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want new and better ideas for professional and personal lives

If you look into the details of the course, you will find its description as creative as the subject it introduces. Look at it Another Way, Visualize it Richly and Colorfully, Enjoy and Use Fantasy – these are the techniques used throughout the course to practise own creativity. If you’re already tired with your school duties, you might enjoy learning a new viewpoint!

2 Teaching Impacts of Technology: Workplace of the Future by University of California, San Diego 

Start: 1st Oct, 2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to explore the impacts of the technology on the workplace

The course will explore fundamentals behind database storage and access that helps match people to possible jobs. You will also see that technology and the Internet are changing not only what kinds of jobs we can get, but how we can stay trained and train for new jobs our entire life, something that may be useful not only to you, but also to your students.

3 Negotiation and Conflict Resolution by the MGSM

Start: 14th Oct, 2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who want to improve their negotiation decisions

Being a teacher means solving conflicts on a regular basis, be it among your students or during parent-teacher meetings. This course will show you a range of negotiation strategies, label different phases of a negotiation and demonstrate what to do in each phase. It may be a good course for those who have just started teaching younger students.

4 Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 15th Oct, 2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people interested in the ideology of race and cultural diversity in America’s past and present

The primary focus of this course is on the historical and social relationships among European Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/as, and Asian/Pacific Americans. You will learn about how race, ethnicity and cultural diversity have shaped American institutions, ideology, law, and social relationships from the colonial era to the present.

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

Start: 22nd Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: parents and educators

The way children acquire the language is different to the educational process by the adults. This course explores how young children learn inside the early years classroom. If you have just started working with young learners, this course may be a great idea for you.

6 Preparing to Network in English by the University of Washington

Start: self-paced

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: those who want to expand their business network and professional connections

Research shows that many jobs aren’t officially advertised. Many companies rely on connections with people, which makes networking so important. This course may be a nice idea not only for you, but also for your students, especially when you teach a Business English class, or when they plan to move to another country and want to learn how to catch a dream job opportunity.

7 Creative Problem Solving by the University of Minnesota

Start: 22nd Oct, 2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to to develop multiple ideas and concepts to solve problems

This course will help you understand the role of creativity and innovation. You will be prompted to challenge your own habits and routines in order to understand that creativity is based on societal norms, and that by its nature it will be discouraged by society. Starting with “eat something different today” you will be encouraged to question your way of reasoning.

I believe at least one of those courses will prove a good companion during those lovely autumn evenings.

Enjoy!

Glitter and Fun: 5 Magical Things About Teaching Adult Students

Glitter and Fun_ 5 Magical Things About Teaching Adult Students

If you think adult students are boring and focused mainly on learning, you may be underestimating their inner children. Today I’ll share with you some magic you can enjoy with your students.

I started my career of a teacher in a primary school and survived two years (not because of children who were awesome and I still stay in touch with them, adorable bundles of joy and horror but because of the merciless educational system that promotes tests and coursebooks and not fun and communication). Then I worked in a teachers’ training college (and that was so much fun), moved to Ireland for a spell (one day I’ll write a book on Brazilian students in Ireland!) and when I got back to Poland I returned to teaching all age groups.

You probably know I love teaching teenagers – some say it’s because I’m quite immature myself. I enjoy teaching children – they’re so honest and pure when it comes to expressing themselves. But there is something about the adults that I had pleasure to teach that convinced me magic is not lost once you grow up – all you need to do is let them find their inner kids and see the miracles happen.

1 Friendship

It’s quite impossible to make friends with kids and teens, but sometimes a group of adults turn out to be a group of people who are not only interested in learning English but also spending time together even after classes. I guess the reason behind this is that it’s quite difficult to make new friends once you turn 30 (unless you’re a part of a fandom) and if you spend two or three hours per week with the same people and you don’t talk shop, you may consider them first classmates, then mates and finally proper friends.

To tell you the truth, I do have some long-lasting relationships that started with English classes and I find this aspect of my work most precious. And they it all started with “today I’ll take you to the pub and we’ll have a pint, and play a board game in English…”

2 Storytelling

I love storytelling and I believe this is something that motivates people to speak English – we all have stories we want to share. It’s fun, making stories with kids, but they’re usually fantasy-based tales, with teenagers you should be prepared for weird and sometimes incoherent stories, but with adults you may try various genres, topics and ideas, be that crime story, romance or psychological drama. They will provide plot twists, interesting characters and all the fun younger students won’t include like…

3 Inappropriate jokes

Say what you will, sooner or later the adults bring in some more or less inappropriate topics (in-laws, bosses, politics, religion, partying and, naturally, sex). As a teacher I have heard some jokes that made me blush (and I have some serious suspicions that was my students’ aim), but I’ve never told them to stop, as long as the jokes were not meant to hurt or offend others.

I believe the ability of telling a lie and a joke in a foreign language is the best proof of one’s linguistic skills, so let them joke as much as they want – it makes our classes funnier and people are more engaged and friendly towards one another.

4 Realisation teaching is a job, not a hobby

One of the things I love about the adult students is mutual understanding of the work-oriented attitude. Even if teaching them is my job, I know how I sometimes feel after six hours of teaching, so when they are knackered after a particularly long day at work I can show some sympathy. On the other hand, the adult students don’t take you for granted – unlike kids and teenagers who presume you teach them because it’s fun (oh the joyous deception).

Such realisation helps both sides of the process, as teachers are conscious of students’ requirements and students realise that the classes are teachers’ work and not pure pleasure of spending time with them.

5 Glitter and stickers

Most people don’t believe it, but my experience tells me the adults are even more eager to earn a sticker for a well-written test, perfect homework or active participation in the classroom than the actual kids! Naturally, the idea of rewarding adult students with stickers requires a proper attitude of a teacher who has to present stickers as a long-sought prizes, otherwise the whole trick won’t work out. But once they get the point, there is nothing they won’t do to get a sticker.

And then you bring some glittered stickers and all hell breaks loose, trust me.

Why do I find it awesome? Because learning a language is an experience childlike to the core – and it’s so much easier to grasp this experience when you embrace your inner child, learn to laugh at mistakes and enjoy the process of learning new things.

Stickers, jokes, friendships – they are all means to use the language the way it’s meant to: to meet new people and have fun with them. Business, studies, tests come later – but making adult people feel like children, enjoy studying and communicating and have fun while learning – something they have probably forgotten – this is the most rewarding feeling a teacher may enjoy.

Have fun!

How to survive a school year when it’s only September?

Everyday is Margarita Day

Can you feel those back-to-school vibes? I sure can, as my work gets more intensive around this time – and once the school year is fully on and all the good teachers are back to work it’s time for me to slow down and relax a bit – but there’s still some days ahead, before I can relax.

Although I’m planning to take annual minibreak in November to visit Sheffield.

If I look from my DoS’s perspective, I’ve already survived a back-to-school time before an actual back-to-school madness and I’m still hyped, creative and eager to try new things (I’m quite lucky my new job is full of challenges), so I’ve decided to share some of my ideas on how to unwind and survive yet another year without sanity loss.

I believe in a theory which denies the traditional approach to dividing people into extroverts and introverts and proposes a new term – ambivert – for people sometimes feeling extremely social and sometimes preferring to stay in and enjoy solitude. Being a teacher means working with people and for me it’s fun – but sometimes I get tired and overwhelmed, and I need to recharge my batteries. Since sharing is caring, I propose a deal – I will share my ways to unwind and I would love you to share yours.

Ready?

1 Playing RPG

This may sound funny – my first idea to relax after spending too much time surrounded by people is to play games with other people. Somehow, believe me, it is relaxing – we never talk shop, we just enjoy the company and have fun. Having adventures in an imaginary world is a great reminder that spending time with people is fun, not only work. A nice session or two is all I need after a fortnight away from home, spent in various cities, with various people and constantly working – it reminds me that it’s people who boost my creativity and make me laugh.

In other words, playing RPGs with people helps me relax after spending too much time with people. Seems legit.

2 Reading… and writing

I love reading and I’m rather uneconomical when it comes to devouring literature. One of the highlights of my linguistic proficiency is the possibility of reading English books in original. Agatha Christie, Lucy Maud Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien or H.P. Lovecraft – they all are great fun to read in English. But being able to write in English is also something I enjoy – to be honest, the whole idea of my blog originated from my belief that leaving Ireland and returning to Poland would affect my English, so I decided to write a blog just to practice. The rest is history – I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve been writing a note per week for more than a year now and that’s something that makes me proud – and meanwhile writing in English has become a sort of relaxing habit for me.

3 Making and baking

When my head is buzzing it’s time for some creative work – scrapbooking or baking. I can switch off my brain and just enjoy making pretty things – only my evil heart requires me to watch crime stories at the same time to include some balance in nature.

The point is to keep your hands busy and your mind free – probably that’s the reason many teachers enjoy creating materials, laminating them etc.

4 Learning

I’m not posting monthly lists of awesome online courses for nothing – I enjoy learning. Watching education programmes (How It’s Made) or tutorials on YouTube is also enjoyable. I believe learning something new is important when you work as a teacher – you gain a better understanding of the issues your own students may encounter.

I remember when I started learning Spanish and suddenly I had a lot of common topics with my students, as if some kind of invisible barrier was gone. They saw me note only as a teacher, but also as a learner and it was a nice team-building experience.

5 Discovering

It’s good to leave your comfort zone once in a while and discover something new. It’s really refreshing to try something new – let’s say, once a week? It may be waking up earlier than usually, going for a walk to the place you haven’t been yet, cooking a new dish, learning a new dance or go on a drive in a car.

Why is it good for you? Simple – you get tired and bored because you teach the same things, probably in the same school, for a while. Trying something new, something you may feel slightly anxious about, makes your brain feel challenged and hungry for new experiences.

Feed your brain.

6 Playing video games

Some like them in a single-player mode, others prefer multiplayer versions, but video games are always fun – and a great way to relax.

My dad, who used to work as a Maths teacher in a primary school, would get back home and play Doom or Duke Nukem for an hour or two – that really helped us to unwind and change him from a teacher to a parent. It has worked for years, so I feel quite safe continuing the tradition (only I’m more into RPG than FPS).

If you want to learn more about the benefits of playing video games you might want to listen to Jane McGonigal or read her book “Superbetter”.

7 Volunteering

As if my work (which includes a lot of writing, both in Polish and in English) and blogging weren’t enough, my way of being a volunteer is based on writing – I work with Fundacja Felineus trying to help save cats and kittens from my region. Sure thing, it’s not much, writing heartwarming stories of poor abandoned pets – but at least it’s something that makes me happy: supporting those who sacrifice their own time, money and home to help those in need. It was proven that helping others makes you happier, so I can only encourage you to try, I’m sure you’ll feel better, so find a cause you want to support and make our world a little happier place.

You may wonder why I haven’t chosen any sports, well, as Maria Czubaszek said “through sports to injuries” – you may choose your preferred sport, but I won’t take any responsibility for the choice… unlike with the video games.

Enjoy the school year!