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).

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