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:


  • 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?