Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Tag: analysis

Day Four: Discrete Item demo Lesson

by celtaconfessions

After the tangential digressions of the past two posts, it’s time to get back to reviewing day four’s input sessions. My ranting and raving might have angered some people perhaps, or might have stimulated some serious thinking; whichever the case, it was quite therapeutic for me. Words are a very important tool, but a tool can be used in many ways; sometimes, they can be put to good use, and sometimes the intention may be good, but they can be misunderstood and backfire. Wars have resulted because of misunderstanding. I have often say that final judgement should be reserved until there’s been a dialogue. Even then, misunderstandings happen. Words can be interpreted in many forms. That’s why I like writing poetry. A single word can have many nuances. Take for example the ‘vessel’ in the title of my last post. I wonder how many of you thought of my choice of word. There were at least three reasons for it, not just one.

Anyway, there I went again – digression. Apologies!

This day’s input session was a demo lesson on adverbs of frequency using the discrete item approach and it was given by Ceri. I wished she was my primary tutor instead of the secondary. She’s quite ‘techy’ in a way and she would have appreciated my audiovisuals more. While we’re on the subject of tutors (oh no, there he goes again!), I have always wondered why we never had a final evaluation/assessment session with our main tutor but we had, instead, a mid-course session with our secondary tutor. It beats me. If we had, perhaps, just perhaps, all my frustrations and rantings could have been avoided. Dialogue. As I said in the first paragraph.

As we trickled in – this was, effectively, out first input session – Ceri asked for, and wrote our names on the WB. I thought this was a neat trick to allow her to address us by name immediately. This is a large room, and had a reversible whiteboard plus an IWB, so equipment-wise, it was fabulous.

Warmer

For the first half of the session, we were acting as “students” while Ceri gave a lesson on the adverbs of frequency. She beamed up the often-quoted Confucius saying, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” In pairs, we discussed who wrote it and what it means.

That done, she beamed up images of leisure activities and, again in pairs, we had to discuss what the teacher likes doing, and justify our choices.

Bible question: Are we thinking of your hobbies or my hobbies? Chorus: Yours!

Indonesia Handbook by Chiew Pang

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Introducing target language

She had us explaining our choices before she beamed a text on “My hobbies” which goes something like this: In my free time, I often go travelling: at least four times a year. I never play football because…

Conveying/Checking meaning

We then answered questions such as:

  • “Do I like travelling a lot or a little?”
  • “Which word tells you so?”
  • “Which activity do I do the most?”

Following that, we were asked to identify the adverbs (of frequency), and to place them in the most appropriate position on a cline (0-100%).

CCQ: If I go to the café every morning and have coffee every morning, do I sometimes have coffee or do I always have coffee? Chorus: ALWAYS!

Pronunciation

She drilled the adverbs, emphasising on “often” (because there are two ways of pronouncing this).

I wasn’t sure why she did the pronunciation work at this point; I would have thought a better place would be just before the free practice, or maybe, before the controlled practice.

Conveying/Checking form (guided discovery)

  • Adverbs of frequency come BEFORE/AFTER the main verb.
    • e.g, I always go running after work.
  • Adverbs of frequency come BEFORE/AFTER the verb to be.
    • e.g. I’m always happy.

Controlled practice

We did a gap-fill exercise, e.g. I ______ play tennis; two or three times a week. There was also another exercise, which I think we didn’t do, and it was to put the adverb in the right place:

  • I cook the dinner (never)
  • I am very tired (often)
  • I dance badly (always)

Free practice

Again, in pairs, we discussed our own hobbies: where we do them, who with, and most importantly, how often?

ICQ: are we talking of my hobbies or your hobbies? OUR HOBBIES! YAY!!!!

Then, one person/group gives one sentence without saying whose hobby it is and the rest had to guess who they were talking about, e.g. I often go for walks.

PACS

This would have been the PACS session if we had been real learners. She showed some sentences and we had to say if they were correct or incorrect. We did this in pairs, too. I wonder if she would have done it in pairs with real learners, or she would have done it globally.

  • I am playing football always
  • I play tennis sometimes
  • I never going dancing

Note that the second sentence will be corrected at lower levels, but not necessarily at higher levels.

That was the demo lesson. We went back to being teachers after that, and started discussing the lesson.

We agreed that the lesson was intended for elementary or pre-intermediate level. Because of this, the lesson tends to be more visual and the language is sometimes not very natural. At very low levels, grammar is put across more prescriptively and diversion from the coursebook is not advised because it can confuse the students.

Lesson Framework

The stages for a discreet item lesson basically progresses from presentation to practice:

  • Lead-in/warmer
    • to engage students
    • to establish topic/context
    • to enable students to bring their external knowledge of the topic and the language to the lesson (activate their schemata)
  • Introduce target language
    • to introduce the target language into the lesson
  • Convey and check meaning
    • to highlight the meaning of the target language
    • to check students’ understanding of it
  • Convey and check form
    • to highlight the form of the target language
    • to check students’ understanding of it
  • Pronunciation (floating)
    • to practise the pronunciation of the target language
  • Controlled or semi-controlled practice (oral or written)
    • to practise the meaning and form of the target language
  • Free(r) practice (oral or written)
    • to provide students with an opportunity to practise the target language in a free way
    • to allow students to discuss the topic of the lesson
  • PACS – Language feedback (in pairs → whole class)
    • to provide students with corrections on the language produced
    • to provide students with correct examples of language produced

5 ways

There are 5 different ways of introducing or revising language

  • via examples

Examples of target language are introduced, and from this, students establish rules by means of guided discovery.

  • via text

The context is provided in the form of a reading or listening text. General procedures for a receptive skills lesson is followed.

  • via rules

A set of rules is given, and students look at examples and identify the rules.

  • via situation

A context, which contains examples of the target language, is built by using images, mime, story, etc.

  • via TTT (test-teach-test)

Students are “tested” to see how much they already know about the target language. What they are unsure of is taught. They are tested again.

Verdict

I’m not convinced as to the usefulness of the first part of this session. OK, it’s always interesting to watch another teacher at work, but using us as the students felt comical at times, especially with the corny ICQs and CCQs. I thought it was too long for the benefit we reaped and would have preferred more time to be spent on showing us/discussing the five different ways.

Any comments?

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Not just an empty vessel

by celtaconfessions

Pull up a chair. Make yourself at home. Whatcha like? Cuppa? Coke? Glass of wine?

Cappuccino and puffs

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Blame it on Freya, who told me it was unfair of me to mention criticisms of others but not of myself; blame it on Barry for encouraging me to exorcise the demons. I’ve been stuck on Day Four as though I were trapped in a warped time machine, and going off on tangents like an out-of-control spinning top… (Freya, cue: smile!)

OK, so you think my ranting and raving has been totally over-the-top, that I have no evidence, that I’ve been somewhat unprofessional… is that right? OTT, debatable. Evidence, I have… some. Professionalism? Yea, talk to me about that. Anyway, let’s take a look at this CELTA course from the top down, or is it bottom-up? Let’s roll up our sleeves, push up our glasses, and crack on!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d do the course again, no doubt about that. I enjoyed it for many reasons – No8Do Seville, the ambience, the unfinished (and the non-existent) conversations, the shattered fantasies and the grim reality, the lost, dreary looks, the bonding, the tension, the laughter, the tears, the love, the fear, and a multitude of various other human feelings; yes, I’d do it again. So, why all the ranting? Because I believe in continuing professional development and that applies not only to myself but to everything else above, including, naturally, CELTA.

I know I’m a nonentity, but I’ve lately got into the habit of talking to the screen as no-one else would talk to me, so, here goes…

I’d actually planned to do this at the end; it would have made more sense after I’ve had the chance to review everything, but the demons saga has pushed everything out-of-sync, and I just felt I had to take it a step further. Perhaps I’ll do another review right at the end.

What would you do if you were to give this lesson again? We were constantly asked. I ask: what would you do if you had a chance to change the course?

Primordial

Have you seen the stats? No, I won’t give the link again. Go to my last post and look for it. Doesn’t something stick out a mile from it? Does it look “normal”, does it look “professional” even? The very first thing that I’d change would be to have two grades: PASS and FAIL. That would, at a single stroke, remove tremendous pressure from trainers and trainees alike.

No matter how much is claimed about trainers being trained and standardised, they are humans, not robots. Humans have feelings. Humans err. Humans get tired. Humans have good and bad days. Having just a pass and a fail grade minimises the effects of these “defects”.

Streamline

The second thing I would do is to streamline the whole assessment and evaluation process; I’d cut the number of components by at least half. I’ve mentioned before in one of my older posts that I had no idea how trainers are able to do so many things and to evaluate on so many aspects… except by not doing it to the best of their ability. It’s simply c-r-a-z-e-e.

The check list should be reduced to just a few essential items. A box could be used to add additional aspects that trainers see fit to mention. Not once was a box marked N/A (not applicable) when clearly, there were circumstances when it would be so. An example would be “organising the classroom”. Imagine a scene where each trainee gets to the front and start rearranging the classroom! Multiply that by the number of teachers, lessons, days and soon, you’ll end up with no students.

So, reduce check list drastically, getting rid of, quite frankly, senseless components. Allow for N/A. Allow a space for additional comments.

Feedback

Readers of my other blog know that I regularly ask for students’ feedback, often after every lesson. I don’t know if the “guinea pigs” of CELTA courses give feedback. I suspect they do, but only once for each teacher, no doubt. Whether they do or not, trainees themselves do not get to see it. I’d change that. First, I think a feedback after each class would be useful. They could have a 20-minute feedback just before the tutor’s, or they could do it online and could also remain anonymous. Whichever way, trainees ought to be party to it.

Input sessions

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels these need to be overhauled. Are they the same for all centres? I have no idea. To go into detail, I’d need to look into my notes and recordings, something I’m not prepared to do at this stage. I will comment on them as I review the day-by-day events. However, a couple of them springs to mind.

We had, if I remember correctly, three phonology sessions. Don’t get me wrong; I dig phonology and I’m an Underhill fan, so in a way, the sessions weren’t of much benefit to me, but that isn’t the reason why I think, quite frankly, they should be either scrapped or reduced to one session. My general view of the trainees is that they needed more a grammar than a pronunciation lesson. They can get by without knowing the phonetic script, but can they get by without knowing grammar? I’ve seen them breaking down in class because the lesson aim was beyond them. It’s not pleasant to watch that; one feels so helpless, not being allowed to help a fellow trainee.

The other was the Young Learners session. It was fun; it was enjoyable, but did we need it? I suppose now that the “A” in CELTA no longer stands for adult, it’s justified? Or perhaps it acts as a filler, happening towards the end when some have actually finished all their TPs. If we have the YLE, why not one on business? Or 1-2-1? Or telephone/online lessons?

My input suggestions

  • In methodology, we had TBL, DI, and skills. I would definitely include Teaching Unplugged. Maybe even a 30-minute TP. Imagine there’s a power cut. No photocopier, no printer, no internet, no IWB, no PC, hell, not even lights. No tools, no paper. Get up there. Give your lesson.

This is real life. This is survival.

  • Technology. It cannot be assumed that everyone has sufficient knowledge of this. Some of us may take tools such as PowerPoint and media players for granted, but there are others who struggle with the most basic of techy stuff.

 

  • CPD. I’m surprised this wasn’t included. Half of the trainees, if not more, were probably not even aware of what it stands for. I’d expected at least one session of this because I thought they would be wanting to sell their other courses, but I was mistaken. This is ESSENTIAL. What forms of CPD are there? Why is it important? How to use social media for CPD, etc. Tons of stuff to talk about.

These are some suggestions which came to mind at the time of writing. I’m sure there are more, and I may mention them in future posts. What do you feel about them? Do you agree/disagree? Were you a trainee once? What would you do to improve the course? Are you a trainer? Are you happy with the current programme?

Let the demons out!

by celtaconfessions

Let the demons out by Chiew Pang

Image copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

This is dedicated to Barry Jameson for “encouraging” me to let the demons out, as though I needed encouragement! 😉

Allow me to fast forward a couple of months or so… and allow me to “analyse” the detailed grading, or rather my detailed grading. I’d love to have the views of CELTA tutors… 😉

As regular readers must be aware by now, even if I had only arrived at Day 4, I felt I had been unfairly evaluated almost from the very beginning. Perhaps I’m really bad; that could also be possible. Why not? No-one has stood up for me, have they? But, still, this being a free world, and this being my blog, I can rant and rave all I want and feel good about it! 😉

The detailed grading is broken down into four categories:

  • Planning for the effective Teaching of Adults (their caps) – 7 components
  • Classroom Teaching Skills – 14 components
  • Awareness of the Teaching and Learning process – 5 components
  • Professional Development – 6 components

There are 4 different grades for each component: 1 = excellent; 2 = very good; 3 = to standard; 4 = requires attention.

If you think the CELTA grades shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt, take a look at these statistics from 2011: http://www.cambridgeesol.org/what-we-do/research/grade-stats/2011/celta.html 😉

Let’s begin the journey, shall we?

PTA

  • Identifying appropriate learning outcomes

I wonder if the tutor knows what he’s grading here. Tutors? Tell me. What deserves a 1, 2, 3 or a 4? How much can you identify when you see your group of between 9 to 15 students about, what, six times? That was in our case. So, should we be evaluated differently from those who see their students for twice as much? And how did he judge what I could or could not identify? I would really like to know. Well, actually, I’d like to know how he judged me on every component!

  • Planning for a learner-centred classroom

My priority had been, was, and is the learners. Probably more than the tutor’s himself. What grade would he give himself, I wonder. Lower than me? Remember my last post, about changing my warmer because the students looked as though they had had enough before I even started? OK, credit to him – he gave me a 2! It must have been a terribly difficult decision. But, why not a 1? What prevented him I wonder.

  • Selecting/designing tasks and activities appropriate for the learners, stage and aims.

Another good one. Most of the time it was he himself who suggested the tasks. So? Would he have preferred me to argue with his choice? And those activities I selected myself, personally, I thought they went down well. The learners enjoyed them, thought they were useful, etc. Perhaps my problem was that I hardly ever used the coursebook. Is that it? Because I was bold enough? Because I was creative enough? Because I believed in a learner-centred environment? Or perhaps he considered me a little arrogant bastard who had the nerve to neglect coursebooks, or adapted them to suit the learners’ needs?

  • Selecting, adapting and using an appropriate range of materials and resources.

This one made me laugh. I can bet you my bottom dollar someone who had stuck through thick and thin with the coursebooks had got better than the 3 he gave me. Oh, c’mon! Give me a frigging break! Oh, perhaps I got penalised for relying more on paperless materials and resources.

  • Presenting materials with professional appearance and regard to copyright requirements.

If there was clear proof of how difficult it was for him to award me a 1, this must be it. I was the only one who from the time we were told that it was necessary to cite the source, did it not only in the handouts, but also on my PowerPoint slides. What did I have to do? Ah, yes, perhaps use more coursebook materials? Tell me I’m arrogant, but I know what my PowerPoints are like. Some of them have been downloaded thousands of times from all over the world, so don’t talk to me about “professional appearance”. Do you want to know something? My main tutor probably has a minimal knowledge on tech; my secondary tutor was far ahead; I’m sure she appreciated my efforts more.

  • Anticipating potential difficulties with language and activities.

I’m of the view that the more you anticipate the better rather than the other way around. We’re not clairvoyants. The problem is when something arose which you hadn’t anticipated. All my lesson plans had very positive feedback, yet it was considered I deserved no more than a 3. Beats me.

  • Setting out details of staging and timing

If there was an area I could agree with, it’d probably be this one, although apart from one or two lessons, my timing was quite all right, I’d say. In any case, I don’t attach much importance to this component. If your learners are your priority, timing becomes quite secondary. You can’t rush learning, nor can you pigeonhole it into rigid time slots.

CTS

  • Establishing rapport and developing motivation

Giving me a 2 here can only be considered an insult, unless it was because I didn’t sing and dance in class nor go out and have a couple of beers with them at night…

  • Adjusting own language to meet level and needs of learners

All I know is that I often asked students (out of class) if they understood me, if they liked the lesson, etc. and their answers have always been very positive.

  • Giving clear instructions

I think I’ve dealt with this enough times, so I’ll pass on it. See The Ten Commandments.

  • Focusing on specific language.

A head-scratcher, this. What exactly are you grading here, CELTA trainers? Is specific language supposed to mean that which they are meant to be taught in any one lesson? Or does it mean something else? And if useful language emerges, something which can be considered essential, but it’s not directly related to the “language of the day”, what is the trainer supposed to do? I bet tutors have no guidelines on this and each one is left to grade as he sees fit.

  • Focusing on language skills and subskills.

So, why give me a 2 for this and a 3 for the above? That I focused better on their language skills than the language they used?

  • Conveying meaning in context

I wonder if he noticed the errors the others made as much as he did mine…

  • Checking learners’ understanding of language

I suppose what’s being graded here is how many CCQs you’ve used during your month-long course… 😉

  • Clarifying forms of language

I don’t want to sound arrogant, yet again, but I believe that I was the only one in the group who dared explain with marker on the board when students threw their grammar questions at us. Ask the students. I didn’t have to resort to ‘If you stay behind after class, I’ll explain” kind of delay tactics. So, give me a break.

  • providing natural, accurate and appropriate examples of written and spoken language.

Another of the many mysteries. Do tutors have to provide justification for each grade they awarded? If they do, mine must make interesting reading… to me, anyway!

  • Helping students with their pronunciation

For some reason unknown to me, my tutor never liked my drilling techniques. That was the impression I got. Because I dared to inject a bit more creativity into it? Maybe it was just because I didn’t have an Oxford accent.

  • Providing a full written record of the lesson and language

Oh-oh-oh, this must be a REAL JOKE, right? A 3???? Justify yourself, my dear tutor, if you dare! Where did I fall short? Because I used more paperless PowerPoints instead of tree-chopping handouts? If you look in my portfolio, you’ll find that I actually chopped some trees and filed hard copies of the slides, albeit in miniature forms (to minimise the tree-chopping, you see). Ah, I know. It’s because I failed to include instructions on one handout on my second TP. Ah, I’ve realised another. On my second TP, too, I did a warmer of which there was no record.

  • Identifying errors and sensitively correcting oral and written language.

Another it-beats-me star awarded!

  • providing appropriate practice activities

Ditto. This is getting to be a tad boring.

  • Monitoring and evaluating learners’ progress.

I bet it gets to a point sometimes when tutors must be so tired and bored, that they take pot luck and say, mmm, I’d better give a 2 on this one.

ATLP

  • Teaching with sensitivity to the needs, interest and background of the group
  • Organising the classroom to suit the learners and activity
  • Setting up and managing individual, pair, group and class work
  • Adopting a role appropriate to the aim/stage of the lesson and the teaching context
  • teaching in a way which helps to develop learner self-awareness and autonomy

What can I say, Mr Tutor? I don’t envy your job, your tasks. But, I’ll say this. The first room was so small, there wasn’t many, if any, possibilities of changes. In any case, it was fine the way it was for everyone for every activity. I even had them moving, remember?

In the other room, were you aware that it was I who, by simply moving a desk from one side of the room to the other, it gave us, the teachers much more room to move, and we could walk comfortably around the class to monitor the students? No, probably not, because I did it when you were not around and I didn’t think it necessary to shout about it. It wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t even noticed it in the first place!

PD

  • Assessing own teaching strengths and weaknesses and making practical use of this
  • Listening and learning from comments made by tutors, colleagues and students
  • Liaising with colleagues and commenting constructively on their lessons
  • Working independently and taking responsibility where appropriate
  • Attending fully, and arriving punctually
  • Professionalism

Hallelujah! It must have broken his pen to award me a 1 for the last two components! The rest of the PD got the it-beats-me award! For your information, Mr Tutor, I was always there for my colleagues. When Ingmar, Chris and Al couldn’t get their PowerPoint or the PC going, there I was. And when Hatty had doubts with wishes and regrets, I was there, too. And, Hatty, I know there’s only a one-in-a-billion chance you’ll read this, but if you had only asked for help the night before, I would have been there too and you wouldn’t have gone to bed at 4am and almost drowned in your own tears that day (and you would have also found out that I didn’t want anything in return). Freya, well, she hardly needed any help from me, but I think there might have been once, but I can’t remember for what it was.

And I was also there for some of the others not in my group… when they were nervous and needed calming, when they didn’t know how to download YouTube videos, when there were problems with printers, with pen drives, …

To end, let me ask another question. What about PD after CELTA, eh? I was surprised not a word was mentioned of this. I thought there was going to be an input session regarding this; I would even have volunteered to talk about it. There is life after CELTA, you know, and life after CELTA is, indeed, very different.

Day Four: a guest post, + taking a stand on the stand

by celtaconfessions

Those of you who have read Day Four, I was left to hang would have noticed that I left out the tutor’s criticisms of me, claiming them too hurtful. Perhaps I was exaggerating a little, but I have my reasons. Freya, one of the other trainees in my group thought it unfair of me to “criticise” the others but not myself. I thought she had a point. I’ve been wanting others to voice their opinions for long enough and have said so enough times too, so I jumped at the chance and told her straight out, “Why don’t you write it?” I claimed that I wouldn’t be objective enough. Since the tutor wasn’t playing fair with me, in my humble opinion, I’d refused to repeat all the things he’d pointed out.

Needless to say, I was over the moon when Freya accepted! It’s short, but better than nothing! Thanks Freya!

Freya says…

As Chiew mentions in his post about this lesson, he was the final teacher of that morning, a difficult job considering the fact that students had been there since 10am without a break (it would be 11.20am by the time Chiew started teaching) and although it was the first week of October, this is southern Spain, and the mercury was still hitting 35C most days.

These factors combined, the class was a tad sleepy and energy levels were definitely low.

Chiew responded very well to this – if I remember correctly, he asked all of the students to stand up (everyone seems a bit sleepy = introduce some kinaesthetic learning asap!) and asked them to sit down when he said the time they had woken up that morning. He began at 7am, listing times in 15 or 30 minute intervals until everyone was seated. A simple task but it was great as it got students out of their seats and gave them a chance to revise the time. Even if it wasn’t directly related to the topic of the lesson it certainly engaged everyone, woke them up a bit and helped build a good rapport.

Chiew then moved on to the main part of the lesson, revising regular and irregular past simple forms. The students enjoyed the lesson and definitely got something from it. One of the things I think could have been improved was during the “test” part of the lesson, where the teacher tests the students’ prior knowledge (especially important during the CELTA course as you don’t know what the students have learnt before), Chiew only selected 3 students to give examples of regular/irregular past forms. Contrary to what I would have thought before teaching, most (if not all) of the students are keen to share their answers and will always want to know if their answers are correct, therefore it was a shame that Chiew didn’t get feedback from all of them.

I enjoyed the story that Chiew chose for the students to work with and thought he created interest in it very well, initially showing just a photograph and the title and asking them to try to predict what the story was about. Chiew had also pre-prepared visual aids to help with some definitions [I’ve written in my notes that you showed the students a picture of a purse when one of them asked what it was, apologies if this never happened!] Although this was helpful, it meant that Chiew didn’t elicit a definition from the students – this would have been a good opportunity to ask the group if any of them knew what a purse was, and encourage them to use the English words they knew to explain the meaning to their peers. The image then could have been showed to the group for clarification if anyone was still unsure of what a purse was.

Chiew replies…

Thanks, Freya, for your contribution, and, with your permission, I’d like to comment on a few points.

I remember the kinaesthetic activity; what I didn’t remember was that I did it in this lesson and that I’d use “the time I’d woken up” prompt. I suppose it must have been very much in my mind – all those 5am starts…

On my stage plan, I’d written the warmer as “to ask about the previous two lessons, to ask what they’d learned…” but I recalled that they looked as though they were ready to go back to bed, or to head to the nearest pool. They had hardly engaged in any speaking activities; they’d hardly moved; they’d sat through reading and listening tasks and I wasn’t about to add to their agony by some god-almighty grammar explanations! So I said sod it to the stage plan. That was the first and last time I did that with Ian’s class. At a later date, I would try it once again with Ceri, but that was the very last time I veered from my (written) plan during the course.

CELTA, to me, is a bit Govish in its attitude; it’s like going back to rote-learning and you aren’t encouraged to think on your feet, make changes as you see fit to adapt to the students in the class at that particular time. It’s about planning and sticking to your plan. Real-life teaching is very different to the CELTA training practice. You liked that activity, didn’t you, Freya? You saw how the class reacted, being the observant teacher you are. I decided on the activity a minute before I stood up to take the stand. I wasn’t going to be the lamb about to be slaughtered. It was a no-win situation. From one point of view. Either I get slaughtered for sending the students to sleep or I get slaughtered for veering from the plan. I chose the latter. Because I knew I’d win with the students, which I’d placed on a higher pedestal than CELTA’s rigidity. Of course, as we neared the closing stages, I wasn’t going to risk not passing and became more like what they wanted.

Ian didn’t mention this change of plan on the feedback session, but remarked it on paper.

But, you know something else? Perhaps even you had failed to notice… the activity wasn’t only to get their blood circulating, but also to subtly get their minds into ‘past’ mode: What time did I/you/she wake up? I woke up early. No, earlier than that. Irregular past. Interrogative. Past auxiliary. Comparative. 2-syllable comparative ending in -y.

No, Ian didn’t notice that. Or, at least, didn’t want to.

I could have done the whole 40-minute class using this activity alone. Probably. And chucked the lesson plan out the window. And still achieved the aim. This isn’t being arrogant – I apologise if it appears that way. I’m just saying real life is about adaptability. About knowing your students. Example: I could get them into pairs or groups and they could say something like, “If you drank more than 3 beers last night, touch your nose with your left elbow”. [Your left elbow, Al, your left! Sorry. Couldn’t resist that! ;-)] Just think of the fun (and the language). They would have forgotten about the heat.

Image beers in a bucket by Chiew Pang

More than 3 beers… Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Anyway. Too much said. Onto the next point.

The “test”. Ah, yes, the test. This was one area where I goofed BIG TIME. You are right, Freya, and I would have gone through the whole test…in real life. It took me three random verbs to know that they didn’t have problems. So I moved on. Reason: one of my aims was to prove to CELTA that I could stick to the timing. And I did. 40 minutes to the second. But, this came at a price, and one of this was, not so much that I didn’t go through the whole test, but I’d forgotten to tell them that the answers were on the back of the handout! I swore I believed I’d told them, but apparently, I didn’t! And Ian repeated this enough times in the feedback to make sure it registered in everyone’s minds. It was a mistake for which I didn’t forgive myself, and I spent the following few days thinking how I could have missed it, but in real life, it wouldn’t have mattered the slightest. I’d bring it up in the next lesson, period. With Ian, it was like I’d forgotten to cross all my Ts in my final test paper.

Maybe you’ll all look at me very critically, but still, I’ll say this: other trainees have made mistakes like this before (and after), and I have recordings to prove this, but he’d say, ok, you forgot that, but it was in your plan, so that’s ok. You achieved your aim. That’s good. Good lesson. Well done.

Next point. The purse. Yes, I did show it on a visual. I had anticipated this so I’d prepared the image. I thought it was enough to show them this rather than spend talking time on this non-blocking lexis. I did, however, think it useful to point out the differences between UK and US usage, but Chris poured cold water over that one! LOL. According to him, US say the same: a handbag’s a handbag, a purse is a purse.

More criticisms

OK, Freya, you win. I’ll mention a few more “awfulness” that you’d missed (maybe on purpose?) but with my justifications.

Although Ian mentioned “clear instructions” in the overall comment section, further down the page he said, “slow down your speech when giving instructions, ss had difficulty understanding some.” No doubt he was right. However, it was probably towards the end when I had an eye on the ticking clock approaching 12…

In the feedback session, and this hurt, he himself said it that others had done the same (but surprise, surprise, he hadn’t mentioned it in any of the feedbacks before, and after all the bad things he’d said, he chose to tell me, in my session, adding salt to the wound: AVOID using “Do you understand?” Avoid asking “What are you going to do?”  (For more maxims, read The Ten Commandments)

There’s more. I hadn’t anticipated someone asking “Is burglar the same as thief?” Another goof. I should have been prepared for this. I knew this was an issue, so I had no excuse. I stumped at that moment. In my defence, others have made more serious errors, such as wrong grammatical explanations, but no word of them was mentioned during feedback. The tutor had his reasons I guess. But it beats me.

You want more?

I should have written instructions on my second worksheet. Obvious as they were, I still should have done so. Point taken. But, same as above – he should have said the same for the other trainees, too.

Then, there’s the game. Remember? The observers at the back read a past simple verb, students (who were divided into three groups) wrote them down. When they’ve finished writing all the verbs, one from each group then came up to the WB to write their list. I thought this went well. The students moved, and had a great time. But, again, this was shot down. Quote: CONFUSION, CONFUSION, CONFUSION! INSTRUCTIONS WERE VERY QUICK AND NOT CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD!

I don’t remember this. Maybe I did rush through the instructions – I blame the clock. But point is, they understood me, didn’t they? Or they wouldn’t have been able to play the game. So? Because I repeated the instructions? SO GODDAM WHAT? They were complicated instructions for this level. Did I achieve my aim? Yes. They listened, they spoke, they moved, they read… They realised the difficulty in understanding some past simple verbs and I demonstrated how the same word could sound different depending on the speakers – I got them to hear some words spoken in a Southern British, Kiwi, Australian, American, and my own peculiar British-influenced global accent.

And, to cap it all, in spite of there not being enough time to do everything I’d done, especially if I were to slow everything down a further notch, he said I could have done another activity… for them to discover the rules for forming past simple forms! That would take another 20 minutes, for crying out loud!

There you go, Freya. Now, do you see why I didn’t want to do this in the first instance? I knew I wouldn’t be able to control myself. Now, I’ve let it all out.

If any of you have anything to say, I’m all ears.

What would I change…

if I had this lesson again? The warmer will remain ad hoc – depends on the students at the time of the lesson.

Yes, I would definitely remember to tell them that the answers are on the back of the test. Would I do the whole test? Maybe, maybe not. There were only 12 verbs, so I might do them all – much depends on the timing, how long I spend on the warmer. Lots of learning can be done in the warmer stage, too, and when students are having fun while learning at the same time, well, I never stop them.

I’d try to give even clearer instructions, but if I had to repeat them, that’s cool. It’s listening practice. As regards the game instruction being confusing, I honestly don’t remember it being so, but if I noticed it, I could do a demonstration with a couple of verbs first.

I’d make sure I know how to explain the difference between a burglar, robber, thief, etc.; in any case, if we had to have a full lesson plan prepared, it would have come up in the language analysis. Remember that at this stage, we had only to prepare a stage plan.

I would include instructions in all exercises, regardless of how obvious they are.

Guided discovery? No, definitely not. Not with this schedule. At a later date, I did do a guided discovery with Ceri , in Intermediate, in a 60-minute lesson – and she loved it, but that’s for a future post.

Postscript

I’d like to thank Freya again for her contribution. It was much appreciated. Now if any of you (since only about 6 from my course read my stuff, I’m addressing to all the rest of you from all over the world, trainees, past, present or future, even trainers…) would like to contribute your point of view, drop me a line – it would give me tremendous pleasure.

Thanks for reading!

Day Four, I was left to hang

by celtaconfessions

First to go was Ingmar.

Aim: to practise reading comprehension & improve speaking skills. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p18-19 (jigsaw reading)

Positive:

  • Great opening with a video of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York”. This created interest and set the context before actual reading tasks.
  • Graded language well.
  • Clear comprehension questions.
  • Clear discussion questions.
  • Adapted coursebook well.

Could be better:

  • He had prepared 3 texts, and had been banking on 9 students. I’d mentioned before, I think, that it’s essential to prepare yourself for all possibilities. When you’re “on the floor”, if you aren’t prepared, you may get stumped for ideas, which was what happened to Ingmar. He had two possibilities – he could get two of the observing teachers, or he could have gone 2+2+3; instead he did neither and opted for using only two texts. Unfortunately, this caused a little confusion, especially when students saw three “answers” and didn’t understand what was going on.
  • Instructions. Possible because of the above, some instructions were not readily understood. he’d had a go at some ICQs (well done, Ingmar, if you’re reading) but not enough, according to the tutor.
  • Too front-loaded. Students should have had more time to confer and discuss among themselves.

Advice coming from the feedback session:

  • Early PW is important. Students often do not get the chance to practise speaking outside of class and the last time they spoke in English is likely to be in the previous class. So, it’s good to get them into gear, so to speak.
  • Practising reading comprehension is not a vocabulary lesson. Blocking lexis (vocabulary which impedes the ability to answer the comprehension questions) must be dealt with, but if it isn’t essential, it is quite all right to tell students, if they asked for its meaning, “Don’t worry about it. You can answer the comprehension questions without the need to know the meaning of that word.”
  • There are two main ways of dealing with blocking lexis:
  1. Provide a glossary with the text. If doing this, be sure to highlight the words in the text. If this isn’t done, chances are that they won’t be noticed, or will be ignored.
  2. Test the students. A matching activity is a good way of getting students to work out meaning from the context.

Next to go was Al

Aim: to revise present simple, to express annoying habits that people have + vocabulary of bad habits. To practise listening comprehension. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p20.

Positive:

  • Good language grading. Al actually spoke slower and clearer today. (Well done, boy!)
  • Introduced the subject well by giving examples of habits which annoy him such as his girlfriend ringing him when he’s out having a great time – drinking – (did you draw a picture of this, Al? I don’t remember this well) and leaving his sunglasses at home (using realia) on a sunny day.
  • Early PW on what they find annoying
  • 3rd person feedback on the above
  • Fantastic rapport with students
  • Visuals to convey bad habits
  • Dealt with technical issues well – the sound files didn’t work, so Al read the listening text himself. Good thing to have the script at hand!
  • Students conferred after the listening comprehension.

Could be better:

  • Your maths, AL! Remember how you took 10 minutes off your 40-minute slot? Shame I didn’t have the camera then. And we were trying to catch your attention without either Ian or the students realising?
  • Meaning of “annoy” conveyed, but not the form nor the pronunciation (or was the latter done?)

Advice from the feedback session:

  • Be sure to do the language analysis first and not gathering the materials. What is the aim? What problems are the students likely to have?
  • Part of the aim was to revise the present simple. On the handout of images of annoying habits, it would have been a good idea to have sample sentences. Perhaps there could have been a match-the-sentence-to-the-image type of exercise.
  • regarding the same handout, the answers have to be given, either on the handout itself, or on the WB.

Finally, my turn

Aim: To revise and practise past simple regular and irregular in positive, and negative forms. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p22-23.

Verdict: I was happy with the lesson; I thought it went well – great visuals (always my strong point), great rapport, dynamic… I even got my timing spot-on. The students enjoyed the lesson… Not sure about my fellow trainees – I think by the time it got to my turn, everyone was just thinking of their lunch break.

Then, Ian massacred me. Literally. Left me to hang out to dry. So, I don’t want to go through the pain again.

Iberian ham in a restaurant

Left to hang; Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Instead, I’ll console myself with his “glowing” comments:

  • Friendly with students
  • Graded language well, clear instructions
  • Adapted coursebook well
  • Tested students twice on past simple verb forms
  • Got students to predict the story
  • Tested students on recognising past simple verb forms
  • Ended with an oral summary.

“This was a stimulating, fun lesson that the ss really enjoyed. You have a great rapport with the students and gave them plenty of listening practice via the written text and the live listening exercise. This showed how difficult it is for ss to hear/recognise past forms.”

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