Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Tag: feedback

Week 2, day 1, 3rd TP: can I be sued?

by celtaconfessions

For this post, I will summarise my lesson, my third TP. I wasn’t going to do it, but since it was, arguably, my best TP up till this point, I thought it may be of interest to some of you. Freya, it was a shame that both you & Hatty missed this – I would have valued your feedback. The observers (Al, Ingmar, Josh, Phil & David) loved it as so did the students.

This was another 40-minute TP, but with full lesson plan. The aim of the lesson was to have the students practise reading skills where the grammar focus is on the past simple/continuous. It was a good thing that I had the whole weekend to prepare this (although I had to finish off assignment 1, too). The text I was supposed to use was The Perfect Crime from New Headway Pre-Intermediate. It was far far too long, especially for this level and for a 40-minute lesson.

I crunched it by at least half and put line numbers on the left of every 5 sentences. It fitted onto one A4 sheet on Tahoma 11, so that was pretty concise. I won’t load it up here because of copyright issues, but if you wish to have a look at it, email me.

If you remember, I mentioned in a previous post that, again, I would be the last to teach as though I were always the top of the bill, ha ha. That’s the positive way of looking at it, right?

Board work

Neat & tidy board

Lesson

Everyone loved the lead-in. I started with the dramatic soundtrack of Psycho and after a while, in case they still couldn’t identify the music, the famous screenshot of Anthony Perkins with the knife in his hand faded in onto the WB…

My aim was to elicit MURDER.

There were three images in the coursebook. I changed their order, and had them printed (I’d managed to get them off the Internet) onto the handout. On the reverse side of this was my adapted text. The reason for the change was to facilitate the task I set them, which was to predict the story of the text (pair work).

On the other side of the images was the reading text, titled The Perfect Crime. To make sure they understood “crime”, my CCQs were

  • Does crime mean murder? No!
  • Is murder a crime? Yes!
  • Is burglary (alluding to my previous TP with them) a crime? Yes!
  • Meaning: crime is an illegal activity or action. (The Spanish have two words: delito (less serious) and crimen)

I gave them a first-reading set of questions:

  • Did Alice love her husband?
  • Did Henry, Alice’s husband, love her?
  • How many children did they have?

They conferred their responses with their partners first before I told them to turn the page over where the answers were. They checked and compared them with their partners.

Next, I handed them the lexis questions:

  1. What is the word you use to describe a date when you celebrate something that happened in a previous year (lines 1-5).
  1. Find a word between lines 1 and 5 which means “a ceremony in which two people get married”.
  1. Find a word between lines 5 and 10 which means “visit”.
  1. Find an expression between lines 10 and 15 which is used for “emphasizing that you are extremely surprised or angry about something you have seen or heard”.
  1. Find a word between lines 20 and 25 which means an object that can be used to hurt people.

I did the first question with them. They did the rest on their own before checking their answers (on the other side of the handout) with the person next to them. On the answer sheet, I also printed the dictionary definitions, with some examples of further usage.

Pronunciation issues were dealt with at this point.

Next task was a T/F comprehension exercise and they had to justify their false answers. I did the first one with them.

  1. They were married 11 years ago.
  1. They were having a party that evening.
  1. There was a big marble statue in the middle of the living room.
  1. Alice was putting the baby to bed when Henry came home.
  1. The weather was very hot that evening.

Again, they answered the questions, checked them (the correct answers were on the back of the handout) and conferred with their partners.

I ended the lesson with the question:

  • Why was it the perfect crime? Because the murder weapon was destroyed!

Grading

If I had been doubtful of the existence of some form of bias before, this was the lesson that confirmed it. Can I be sued for libel for saying this? The lesson was not perfect by any means, but it was a damn good lesson, especially for a third TP. I hate to sound arrogant, but I’m very self-critical as you can see in some of my posts in The Dogme Diaries. NOT A SINGLE S+! The minimum I’d expected was a superior grading on the material I spent the whole weekend preparing: well-adapted text, self-penned questions, astounding lead-in, copyright information clearly laid out on handouts and on the slides…

It was highly demotivating. I was glad I was changing tutors because it would give me the opportunity to confirm or squash my theory. Unfortunately, the change would only last a week.

What modifications would I make?

  • I would scrap the first-reading questions. I’d remove the title from the handout. I’d introduce a gist-reading activity, which could be any one of these:
    • Write their predictions on the board; after the gist-reading, they decide if their predictions are accurate.
    • Have them think up a title.
    • Give them a choice of, say, 3 titles and they choose the best one.
  • On my answer sheet of the T/F comprehension exercise, I should have put the line numbers so the students could quickly see where they were in the text. I also had the answers on a slide – the line numbers should appear on this, too.
  • Removing the first-reading activity would allow me to add more detailed-reading questions, e.g.:
    • The police suspected that Alice had murdered her husband. (F)
    • The police wanted to find the murder weapon. (T)
    • Alice was an intelligent murderer. (T)
    • Open question: What was the murder weapon? (The ice statue)
  • Ideally, I would finish with a production activity where the students retell the story to each other. I had this on the plan as a back-up, knowing full-well that it would be a miracle if I had time for it.

As I said, not a perfect lesson by any means, but extremely well-controlled – one I would have been proud of in a real environment.

Day 5: The Twilight Zone

by celtaconfessions

As I mentioned in my previous post, on this day, teachers 4, 5 and 6 had to observe the level (in our case, intermediate) they would be changing to on Day 7. I’m not sure how Al and Ingmar took it, but, me, after day 4, which I’d blogged extensively on, I was groping around, disorientated, in the twilight zone.

Part of me was attempting to focus on the trainees in this group (Meghan, Dennis & Sarah Walker) and the students (I started writing their names down), part of me was trying to remain attached to the pre-intermediate group, which I would have to teach the next day and thinking of the lesson plan, yet unfinished, and part of me was helping Sarah to relax – she was a right bundle of nerves! So, while Megan and Dennis were teaching, there was I coaxing her to breathe the proper way, to think positively, etc. I’d like to think I was of help, but I’m not the right person to say it, of course.

Meghan’s lesson was on skills – listening skills. It was something on touring Australia. Meghan, like the others, based her lesson on the coursebook. I thought the listening was tedious; it was quite long, and they listened to it three times: first time for gist, then, for detail, after which they conferred with their partners on their answers, followed by a third listening. By this time, I’d slipped deeper into the Zone, so, sorry, Meghan, I didn’t know if it was for a separate task or not. In a way, it was good that I was helping Sarah as it took my mind off worse things…

classroom, waiting for students

Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

Meghan was cool and collected, laid back in that oh-so stereotypical Californian style 😉 whereas if it were me, having to go through three listenings, my nerves would have got the better of me. I’d be worried about where the students’ thoughts would be… But, as Ceri mentioned in the feedback, it was me who were having issues with the listenings; the students were fine LOL.

In addition, Meghan gave the impression she had slept with the Ten Commandments under her pillow and delivered her ICQs to perfection ;).

Dennis was up next – how come Seville was full of Americans? 😉 His was a task based lesson, before we had the input, so most of us weren’t aware of the rationale behind the modus operandi. That’s what coursebooks are for, right? 😉

Dennis started by giving his example of an interesting tour, backed by visuals, of New Orleans, his home town, and a hand-drawn map. Language aim was advice and suggestions (I think). A few questions later, and it was the students’ turn to produce their own tour of Seville. I can’t remember if it was a 3 or a 7-day tour.

The lesson went really well, with the group getting very motivated over the map-drawing. Not sure about the language, though ;). Seriously, you could see that the students enjoyed the lesson – shame they didn’t have enough time to finish their project.

Then, up went Sarah. Did I manage to calm her down? What was her lesson aim? I thought it must have been to practise or reinforce the language they’d previously seen with Meghan and Dennis, but later, in the feedback, Ceri said that the main aim was listening, which surprised me.

I thought she did quite well. After the two Americans, she was dynamic and the lesson suited her. There was some pair work, some short listenings, some pronunciation drilling. There was a game of matching, followed by a role-play. Unfortunately, for me, the time left for them to do the role play wasn’t quite enough. They were enjoying it.

After a break, we had global feedback with Ceri. Here were some points which came up:

  • after listening activities, compare answers in pairs.
  • put instructions on the PPT as well as on the handout, if any – not just given out orally.
  • timing – remember FB time. A 5-minute activity could take up 10, if instructions and feedback are added.
  • visual FB – always useful to support FB by board work, on the handout itself, or other visuals.

In the feedback, I clarified with Ceri on her stance on diverting off coursebooks and lesson plans. She gave the impression she was more sympathetic to this as long as there’s good justification. And, at least, she laughed at my jokes. I wish I had her as my main tutor!

Footnote

I didn’t take any photos of the trainees giving the their lessons because I was afraid of being intrusive or unnerving. I was afraid of making them nervous. This was, after all, just day 5, and we hardly knew each other. It was a shame, really.

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?

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.”

Day Three, first 40-minute TPs

by celtaconfessions

In days 3 and 4, we had to give 40-minute lessons, but only a stage plan was required. That was a relief. My papers are all in a jumbled mess, so let’s see what I can put together.

Chris went first. Aim: to practise speaking and listening. Book reference: New Headway, Pre-Intermediate, p12

Next, Hatty: Aim: getting information (info-gap activity), to practise forming and responding to present simple questions. Book reference: as above, p16

Finally, Freya: Aim: to help students express likes and dislikes. Verb +-ing and grading.

Chris, Hatty & Freya by Chiew Pang; Copyright 2012

Photos not from the day; sorry!

Their grades for the lesson? No idea. You’ll have to ask them. In the feedback, we first discussed the lessons in pairs, focusing on these questions:

  • What did you like about your lesson?
  • What didn’t you like?
  • What would you change if you were to give the lesson again?
  • Were instructions given clearly? Did the students understand them?

I worked with Chris. Later, we discussed as a group with the tutor and here’s a summary of what came out of that session.

Giving instructions (be sure to read this post: The Ten Commandments)

  • Be clear and concise. Never say ‘You can talk to your partner if you want’. It’s better to say ‘You two, you two… Talk to your partner for 2 minutes…’.
  • Be bossy. Tell students exactly what to do. ‘I don’t want you to write. I want you only to speak.’
  • Grade language, speak slower.

Listening

  • Contextualise topic before starting the listening. Consider using images.
  • Before repeating listening, get students to confer – what have they understood from the previous listening?
  • Give students more time to read the comprehension questions before listening. Make sure they have understood them.

Materials

  • Make sure you include a reference to the source of your materials even if you’ve adapted them.
  • If students have different handouts from each other, consider using coloured paper for easier identification.
  • If students don’t get a handout and you’ve written useful information on the WB, ask them to copy it onto their notebooks.
  • Make your worksheets are student-friendly. Write the instructions even though you are giving them orally, too, and if students may be required to take notes (such as asking for information), be sure to leave space on the handout.

Group work

  • Be prepared. You may have an activity for an even number of students, but you have an odd number present. A quick and easy way is to go ‘1-2, 1-2… 1s work together, 2s work together’, the result being that there’ll be one group of 3 students.
  • Remember that to change pairs, it is sufficient to move a person from one end to the opposite extreme.

Teaching vocabulary

  • Consider using images if they make the work much easier, e.g. vacuuming, sweeping.
  • Use a cline for grading, e.g. hate, dislike, like, love. (Good one, Freya!)

Pronunciation

  • If necessary, do some work on it. Model the right pronunciation/intonation and then get the students to repeat.
  • Show it on the WB. Use boxes for word stress; use arrows for intonation. (Great one, Hatty! Thought I’d say it anyway even though I know you don’t read me)
  • The best time for pronunciation work is before speaking practice.

Error correction

  • Reformulation (repeating what students say, but with the error corrected without overtly highlighting it) is often a good way. However, it is also good to show this later on the WB. (Another +, eh, Freya?)

Student-centred

  • Think of contexts which are relevant to students. For example, to work on likes/dislikes, it may be good to do a role-play activity where they interview prospective flatmates.

This has been a short post. I’ll try to continue the day on Part 2.

As a by-the-way, I’ve been getting quite a handful of hits from you Kiwis on the other side of the globe – it’d be nice if one of you could tell me from where you heard about this blog – is it on Facebook?

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