Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Month: November, 2012

Day 2, Part 3: Lesson Planning

by celtaconfessions

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.

CELTA trainers teaching trainees by Chiew Pang

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

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.

Example of a CELTA stage plan from Chiew Pang

   

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?

Example of a CELTA lesson plan from Chiew Pang

For the second input session, we watched a video of the teacher herself giving the lesson.

   

My reaction:

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.

   

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Day 2, Part 2, The Ten Commandments

by celtaconfessions

Arguably, the best part of the CELTA course is the feedback sessions. Especially in the beginning, observation of the other trainees was a great learning tool; you learn a lot by watching – both the good and the bad. A large part of my modus operandi is based on what I didn’t like about my Spanish classes when I was learning all those years ago. During this CELTA course, we all tried to improve on the weaker things we saw, and perhaps copied what we thought might work well for ourselves and our students.

During these sessions, we’d analyse each other’s good and bad moments, always starting with a personal assessment, and the tutor then gave his or her two pennies’ worth.

We were generally very respectful towards each other – one had to maintain a balance of being careful not to dampen a fellow trainee’s motivational level while, at the same time, not to be over-patronising.

In this first TP, we were told to take notes on the following:

The teacher’s speech

  • was it too loud/too quiet?
  • was it too fast/too slow?
  • Was it clearly audible?
  • Was the language graded?

The teacher’s body language

  • Did the teacher sit or stand?
  • Did they maintain an appropriate position in the classroom? Too far/too close? Did they have their backs to the students?
  • Did they obstruct the whiteboard?
  • Did they maintain eye contact with the students?

Basic teaching skills

  • Did the teacher nominate effectively?
  • Were the instructions clear?

As I mentioned in the previous post, my fellow trainees were a great bunch. Even the trainer, Ian, said so in the feedback. In that post, I’d reviewed – to a fashion – the performance of the others, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there wasn’t anyone to review mine although I sort of did a personal evaluation.

I was really chuffed that day when Ingmar, bless his heart, said I was “really professional” and “reminded him of a lot of the teachers he’d had” (or did he say “reminded him a lot of the teachers…”?). I hope they were good teachers, Ingmar! Freya (an incredibly efficient observer and note-taker, I’ll have to say) added, “controlled but not too formal”. Wow! Thanks Freya!

I don’t know about the others, but, on the whole, I valued the trainees’ feedback very highly. We learned a lot, too, from the trainers’ observation and their ideas and suggestions; I wouldn’t take that away from Ian.

CELTA feedback session by Chiew Pang

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang (Where’s Chris? Still at the café?)

After the peer feedback session, Ian gave us a rundown on giving instructions. Now, I might have mentioned before, CELTA (now, when I say CELTA, I refer to Seville’s IH CLIC and it could be different elsewhere) is BIG on giving instructions. To be honest, I’d probably forgotten about this session quite quickly, having had so much to absorb on the first few days, and am only recalling them now. Did I say rundown? Rather than a rundown, it was more like the ten commandments. So, future trainees, this is thy tablet!

The Ten Commandments of giving instructions (creative licence applied)

  1. Thou shalt get the attention of thy pupils (without rapping their knuckles) before commencing.
  2. Thou shalt call them by their names.
  3. Thou shalt tell thy pupils what to do clearly and concisely. Thou shalt not be wordy!
  4. Thou shalt master the art of chesting, and know’st thy chicken from thy egg (in new English, which to come first – the handout or the instructions).
  5. Thou must also tell thy pupils what NOT to do (e.g to fill in the gaps).
  6. Thou shalt do an example with thy whole class (Let’s do the first one together!). If this shouldst not be possible, or even if it were, then thou shalt swear by the ICQs and nothing but the ICQs.
  7. Thou shalt give thy pupils a limit of time and be clear if they have to work in pairs, groups, or individually.
  8. Thou shalt write thine instructions (as a back-up) on thine handouts.
  9. Thou shalt never forget to monitor. Are they doing the activity correctly?
  10. Should the instructions be too complicated, thou shalt give a demonstration (e.g. in playing a board game).

After Moses laid the tablet down, we were handed our feedback (evaluation) sheet, then we moved on to preparation for the next days’ TP. Since these lessons were of a 40-minute duration, 3 of us would teach the next day, and the other 3, the following. I was to be the very last again.

More of that later. For now, let us take a look at the feedback sheet.

As it was an observation of a 20-minute class, the assessment check list was brief:

Planning

  • logical and organised planning
  • presenting materials with professional appearance and regard to copyright requirements

Classroom Teaching Skills

  • establishing rapport and developing motivation
  • adjusting own language to meet level and needs of learners
  • giving clear instructions
  • providing accurate, natural and appropriate examples of spoken and written language

Awareness of Teaching and Learning Process

  • teaching a group with sensitivity to the needs, interests and background of the group
  • organising the classroom to suit the learners/activity
  • setting up and managing individual, pair, group and whole class work

Professional Development

  • co-operation with colleagues
  • attendance and punctuality

Eleven items to observe and evaluate in twenty minutes. That’s OK. What I’m interested in knowing, however, is how they actually grade these. As far as I know, there are three grades N (not up to standard), S (to standard) and S+ (above standard). How badly does one have to do to get an N? And what constitutes an S+?

I’m not sure what the others got, but I received 11 S’s. Fair? I don’t know. How would I evaluate myself? I’d give everyone of us S+ for both items on PD; well, except for Chris, who arrived late. The rest, we co-operated, we were early. So?

I’d also give myself an S+ for rapport, definitely. Then there were the 3 items on awareness. I’d give myself S+’s too. I hardly knew these students, but, hell, for the time I knew them,  yes, sure I was sensitive to their needs and interests. They weren’t entirely sure of the differences of have and have got when they got to my lesson, so I explained to them, using the WB well, according to the official feedback. Or wasn’t this in conformity with what was expected because it wasn’t in my aim and my aim was to give controlled practice? Codswallop, I’d say, if that was the case.

Organising the classroom? It was a small room. And it was fine the way it had been arranged. So?

Setting up work? I thought I did what I was supposed to do. Or perhaps not. I think I might have goofed at the end when I apparently told them to write and speak when it should have been one or the other. I don’t remember exactly.

Or perhaps no S+ are given on the first TP?

The overall tutor’s comment? Glowing. Lovely friendly rapport, good use of board, voice volume, concise instructions, controlled written practice, close monitoring, paused to allow ss to correct, providing visual answers, blah, blah.

So, why only To Standard?

At that time I didn’t mind. It was the first TP and I was just happy I got over it without any catastrophe. Later, however, it would become a different story…

In retrospect – or perhaps I’m just being paranoid with this chip on my shoulder – I may have earned two black marks on Ian’s book on this very second day.

The first was when Ingmar remarked that he had a plan but he didn’t exactly follow it, to which I half-jokingly added, “The best lesson plan is the the one that ends up in the bin”, then “Isn’t that true, Ian?” He kind of looked at me, thinking, “Mmm, where’s this guy going?” To understand my remark, you’ll have to understand many things beyond CELTA; you’ll have to understand me, and my philosophies, you’ll have to know different lesson approaches other than those presented by CELTA, rapport, dynamics, and so on.

I don’t think I was understood after four weeks, let alone after two days.

It wouldn’t have been the first time my warped sense of humour got me into deepish waters.

The second instance was when we, the trainees, were discussing speed of speech, and I gave my opinion, “I’m sure Ian will disagree, but I think we shouldn’t slow down too much because the students get used to this and then have difficulty understanding real-life situations when people speak normally.” I still stand by it. OK, sure, I tried to adapt to what the trainers wanted, but it was obvious to the sensitive ones around me that, from day one, we had had our differences.

And I repeat. I stand by it. For crying out loud, why are they so against repeating? Don’t we repeat, or ask others to repeat, in REAL situations? Even Cambridge examiners have said, “If you don’t understand the examiners, it’s quite all right to ask them to repeat the question.” But, what’s more important is this. Look at this sentence:

/ ɪts kwaɪt ɔːl raɪt tə ɑːsk ˈpiːpl̩ tə rɪˈpiːt /

That’s when we speak normally. But we when we slow down, we tend to emphasise all the words and the /tə/ becomes the standard /tu/. And as you are probably aware, in normal speech, almost all unstressed vowels take on the schwa sound and this is the reason learners have problems understanding us! So what should it be? Slow down? More than slow down, I’d say what is more important is to speak CLEARLY.

In all honesty, when I asked the students they all told me they understood me, Speedy Gonzalez or not…

What do you think? Do you agree with me or do you think I’m completely and utterly wrong?

Day 2, First teaching practice, aka Students? Profiling the trainees is more fun!

by celtaconfessions

CELTA First teaching practice

The Fab 5. Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

If you’ve read Day 1, Part 3, you would have seen our schedule and each of our aims for the lessons. The coursebook we were supposed to be using for this group was New Headway Pre-Intermediate. But, this “event” took place “so long ago” what can I say about it? It’s all a hazy memory now. My fellow trainees hardly speak to me so there isn’t any point asking them, is there? Seriously, I was lucky to be in this group which had two perfect women. The men, well, men aren’t supposed to be perfect, are we? 😉

Hatty. The only flaw she has was her addiction to aubergines ;). Well, she has another, but I won’t say it behind her back.

She was on first, and, boy, was she on. The topic was ways of communication. As soon as she opened her mouth in front of the classroom, I knew this one had voice training. Only later did I find out that she is an accomplished actress and a singer, to boot. Needless to say, she gave one heck of a show.

Chris must have known what he’d be up against, so he chickened out. LOL. On top of that, what did he have to do? To give reading practice! He must have figured it’d be wiser to stay in bed.

Seriously, we thought he’d overslept because of jet-lag. Bear in mind, some trainees came a day or two before the start of the course – not much time to get acclimatised at all. The truth was he learned, like the rest of us, how easy it is to get lost in Seville! A journey that ought to have taken 10 minutes took him 40 because he was walking around in circles! Poor Chris!

I don’t think he’d like to be reminded of this lesson, so I won’t remind him.

Next was Freya, the other perfect lady. She was nervous, I could tell, but she kept it under control the whole time. To give a lesson on detailed reading on your first TP? To be applauded. I think she was Ian’s favourite.

The only problem with her lesson was Ian had to come on for a good few minutes while the police were out searching for Chris and he “stole” a part of her plan, and she repeated it. She had little choice, really. Not a criticism, Freya! 🙂

Then, it was Al’s turn. He was sly. When he spoke to us, I told him I couldn’t understand a single word of what he said, but he spoke oh-so-clearly to the students! You see, Al, if not for me…! Al’s from Australia, you see. What? Did I really say that? LOL. Al knows I like teasing him. I’m not sure which is the more serious crime, confusing a Canuck with a Yank or a Kiwi with an Ozzie… What made it worse was the students couldn’t point out NZ on the map, let alone identify the flag!

Anyway a display of a little haka and the students were falling into his pockets.

And what better person to come after a Kiwi than an Ozzie? I think Ingmar suffers from an identity crisis – just like me, haha. An Australian with a Swedish name, and whose second language is Swedish! And who plays a mean Spanish guitar à la Paco de Lucía. If he had brought his guitar in, I think all the students would have been doing the flamenco!

What was Ingmar’s aim? To look at the “grammar box”. He might have read Scrivener from cover to cover, but grammar isn’t exactly his strongest point, poor Ingmar. But, it was only 20 minutes, and he got away with it.

By the time it got to my turn, the students had nothing on their minds but home, coffee, or the arms of their loved ones. There’s still 20 minutes to go, you all!

Can you imagine an engine that’s been revving for 100 minutes? Well, that was me. Release the brakes and off I went, down the rollercoaster at 95. Mph, not kph. I had a plan, though it wasn’t required of us for this TP, which was just as well. I don’t really remember what I did – maybe my mates do and will comment – wishful thinking – but the plan went out the window. I think I felt the students didn’t quite grasp the meaning of have/have got and I took it from there.

I also think this taking off from where the previous teacher left would, in the future, get me in “trouble” as diverting from the written stage plans wasn’t looked too kindly upon. My priority was and is always the students, plan or not; it’s inbred, period.

I don’t understand that something that ought to be valued, in my humblest of opinions, gets quite the reverse reaction from the trainers.

Analysis on assessment and feedback on these lessons coming up on the next post!

Assignment 1: Focus on the learner

by celtaconfessions

I know there are many potential CELTA trainees perusing this blog, so this one is especially for you.

I’ll take it that you’ve seen my previous assessment reviews, the third part of which can be seen here, which looked at the written assignments and how they are assessed.

One of the major problems for trainees is the amount of information to be digested on the first day: names (of trainers, fellow trainees, first students), administration (photocopier, computers, paperwork), timetable (when is lunch? What time do we have to return? What’s happening tomorrow? Where do we go?), input (if you’d read my reflection on the first day, you’d see that there was an awful lot going on), etc, etc.

Now, I guess it doesn’t matter as much if you’re part of the “normal” lot and belong to a group of 12 where you need to change level/students only once in the four weeks, meaning you have more time to get to know your students. But, if you’re like us in this course, where there were 18 of us, and we had to change levels twice, and, bear in mind that on the day before we change level, we start observing our new class, this meant that we had very little time with the first group of students.

To paint you a clearer picture, this was our first week:

Day 1: pandemonium – you hardly know your left from your right.

Day 2: everyone does a TP of 20 minutes each.

Day 3: Teachers 1, 2 and 3 give 40-minute lessons (with stage plans only).

Day 4: Teachers 4, 5 and 6 get their turn.

Day 5: Teachers 1, 2 and 3 give 40-minute lessons (with stage plans & full lesson plans).
Teachers 4, 5 and 6 CHANGE CLASS AND START OBSERVING THEIR NEXT LEVEL!

Day 6: teachers swap, meaning Teachers 1-3 change level.

So, what does that mean? It means, realistically speaking, we had THREE DAYS to analyse our students! And what’s assignment 1? Focus on the learner. Task? Interview the students, observe them, write up a portfolio, etc. I’ll touch on this later.

And all this to be handed in by early week 2! No wonder, a lot of us were on the brink of a breakdown.

And, you’re not told about the assignment until at least day 2, maybe even later. Not to overload your senses, I suppose.

So, my advice is to GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS as soon as possible, from day ONE!

CELTA students

Image by Chiew Pang; available for request to licence

Let’s take a look at assignment one in detail.

You’ll need to:

The grid you’ll have to complete includes the following information:

  • name & age
  • job & studies
  • reasons for learning English
  • language learning background
  • student’s opinion of their strengths & weaknesses in English
  • contact with English outside classroom
  • preferred class & activity types

In detail, here are the sections of assignment 1:

  • Learning Background. Where and for how long have they studied English? Have they learned any other languages? Have they lived or studied abroad? Give examples.
  • Motivation. Why are the students learning English? Which reasons given are examples of intrinsic motivation, and which are extrinsic? Are all the students equally motivated to learn? How is this reflected in the classroom? Give examples.
  • Learning styles. What do you perceive to be the dominant learning styles within the group, Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic? Is there much variation amongst the individual members of the class? Give examples.
  • Learning preferences. What types of classroom activities do the students like? What do they dislike? Give examples.
  • Specific problems and suggested solutions (language related AND pronunciation related): identify specific problems which are common to several of the students. You must include a piece of published material for at least one of the problems below. You may also include your own ideas or materials.
  • Skills: individual strengths and weaknesses. For the following skills areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening) identify two students who are strong and two students who are weak (in total, write about four different students).
  • Conclusion: How successful do you think these students will be as language learners? Do you think any will be more or less successful? What advice would you give to other trainees who are going to teach this class?

They expect you to complete this whole assignment in fewer than 1000 words – I don’t think anyone did it, to be honest.

I completed my assignment in time, under a lot of duress. Speak to your group from day one, get each of you to concentrate on a few students, then share your notes. Otherwise, you’ll be in for a hard time.

I didn’t pass the first time, but fortunately, I only had to add another idea (which, of course, added more to the word count, so the 1000-word limit is a joke, really). I passed the resubmission without any problems.

Recommended books

[Learning Teaching: 3rd Edition Student’s Book Pack] [by: Jim Scrivener]

Teaching English Grammar: What to Teach and How to Teach it by Jim Scrivener ( 2010 ) Paperback

The Practice of English Language Teaching (4th Edition) (With DVD) (Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers) by Jeremy Harmer ( 2007 ) Paperback

Big Questions in ELT by Scott Thornbury

Day 1, 1st Oct, Part 3

by celtaconfessions

I promise that this will be the last part of day one! It’s turned out to be somewhat of a marathon of a day – to tell you the truth, I started a diary, but it didn’t get further than lunch time, day one! LOL. So maybe, this will be the last post… 😉

Well, we broke up for lunch. I can’t remember what I did or had, but the hour would have been & gone before I knew it, of that I’m sure. It was a relatively relaxing post-lunch “input” as we were shown around the complex and how to use the photocopiers and access the computers.

After that, we divided ourselves up into our little groups and went into our respective classrooms with our tutors.

We were shown the class and we were told of the daily routine: we start off with a 2-hour teaching practice. This is followed by feedback where the trainee who taught will talk about what went well, what didn’t, etc. and the others will give their opinions, too. The tutor will also give his feedback, and his evaluation.

After the feedback, it’s an hour lunch break. In the later stages, we actually had 2 hours sometimes. After lunch, all 18 of us will get together for the input sessions (normally 2).

The following day, day 2, we will all give our first lessons to our students. The first TP would last 20 minutes. So, our respective tutors went through some GLP with us. This was what we were given.

As can be seen, I was teacher 6. Hatty was teacher 1. To be honest, I didn’t envy her – being first to dive into the pool when you have no idea as to the depth nor the temperature would have sent my nerves into places I didn’t even know existed, but being T6 wasn’t exactly the best either. You’ll have to wait until everyone has had their turn, and the students will have seen how the rest had performed and may be already thinking of their coffee and whatnot. Having said that, what I did like was my aim: to give controlled practice.

For this, our first TP, Ian looked at the coursebook, and then gave us ideas on what we could do, what might work and what might not.

My comment: even for an experienced teacher, the very thought of having to give a 20-minute lesson while being observed and evaluated by a tutor, and also being scrutinised by 5 fellow trainees is rather unnerving. So, genuinely fresh inexperienced trainees deserve all my respect! If you’re one of these, and are thinking of doing the CELTA, reading this blog will give you a headstart! The more you can prepare yourself, the better off you will be.

As Ozzie Chris, one of the trainees, kept saying “Doing CELTA is self-flagellation!”

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