Basically, the course is divided in two sessions – pre-lunch and post-lunch. We would have our teaching practice in the morning, then a short coffee break, and followed by group feedback with the tutor. After lunch, we’d have what they called “input sessions” – we often have two of these, which are “lessons” by the three trainers.
Depending on your teaching experience and knowledge of the language, some of these can be interesting while others are better used as opportunities to get to know the other trainees, those that aren’t in your group, or even those in your same group as, honestly, you wouldn’t have many chances to speak to your classmates during the morning sessions.
For our first TP (the 20-minute ones), we didn’t need to have any plans (to be graded, anyway). For the second (40-minute sessions), we had to prepare a stage plan. For the third TP on, a full lesson plan and stage plan are required, except for the first TP after a level change. This 20-minute lesson required only a stage plan.
So, for our first input session, Ian guided us through lesson planning the CELTA way.
The stage plan is usually 2-pages long, and here is where you set out the aims and procedures and the estimated timing. The trainer will compare this with your actual lesson, writing notes and jotting down his reactions and suggestions.
The lesson plan is normally about 8-10 pages long and here is where you do all the detailed analysis. For this, let’s go back to Ian’s input session.
We were given three sentences and we had to analyse
- what they mean (MEANING)
- their grammatical structure (FORM)
- how they are pronounced (PRONUNCIATION)
- and possibly their APPROPRIACY (register: formal/informal)
These give rise to the (in)famous CELTA acronym MFPA.
Apart from these, we were also told to predict what problems they might have with all of the above. We didn’t have to prepare the solutions as we would see these in the example lesson plan.
We worked in groups and looked at these sentences:
- You shouldn’t have taken your wallet with you.
- You could have carried just a little money in your pocket.
- They would have taken your mobile if they had seen it.
Then, we were given some grammar exercises to do. Mmm, all right if you need the practice. We have to understand, of course, that CELTA trainees are often a mixed bunch, ranging from the total novice to very experienced professionals. Talk about mixed-level classes!
We looked at the teacher’s lesson plan, which had these details:
- basic details: name of teacher, length of class, level, date…
- approach: discrete item, TBL, functional/situational, skills
- topic/theme of the lesson
- aims and subsidiary aims of the lesson
- personal aims
- sources of materials
- language analysis (MFPA)
- written record (what will students get?)
- problems and solutions
- other issues (e.g. non-language related problems)
It is worth noting – and I hadn’t realised until much later and which provided such an ecstatic relief – that all the lesson plans are evaluated as assignment 2 (it might be a different number in your school). Also, and no examples of this part were given to us, as far as I recall, after each lesson, we had to do a post lesson evaluation. This forms assignment 4, part 1.
What were in this post-lesson evaluation? We had to answer these following questions:
- How successful were you at meeting your main aims?
- And the subsidiary aims? (A good reason why you shouldn’t go overboard with the aims!)
- How accurate were your anticipated problems?
- How successful were your solutions?
- What other problems did students have that you didn’t anticipate?
- If you were to teach the same lesson again, what would you change?
- What did you learn from teaching this lesson?
- Did you improve on the personal aims you set?
- What areas do you need to work on in the future?
For the second input session, we watched a video of the teacher herself giving the lesson.
For the first time, we saw what they expected from us in terms of planning and personal evaluation. The lesson plans were quite time-consuming because not only did you have to think of what you were going to teach and the materials you would use, but you also had to do the MFPA analysis and the problem-solution bits. Your anticipated problems have to be related to the lesson aims and you can’t just fill the pages with all your worries of what the students may come up with.
Like I mentioned before, these afternoon sessions gave me a chance to work with the other trainees. On this session, I think I worked with Hatty & Ingmar; subsequently, we hardly coincided again, if at all. So, I enjoyed this part of the day, practically the only time I had the chance to socialise a little, my regret being that I didn’t take better advantage and I didn’t start taking photos until much later. 😦 All because I was afraid of being seen as INTRUSIVE.