Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Tag: grades

Week 2, Day 2: The dreaded 20-minute TP

by celtaconfessions

Yes, I dread these 20-minute TPs – not much can be achieved in such a short space of time. By the time you’ve warmed up, your time’s up; and if you’re coming after someone else (as I tend to do), what you do may be unrelated to the previous “lessons”, thus making the morning a very disjointed affair.

However, as I’d mentioned in my last post, the three of us would be attempting to work together to try to deliver a seamless lesson. It was a refreshing change to have Ts 1, 4 and 6 followed by Ts 5, 3 and 2 instead of the usual 1-6 consecutive order.

So it was that Hatty went first, followed by Al, and then, the resident top-of-the-bill, namely me. Haha. It’s amazing how I was always at the end of the pack…

20-minute TP on CELTA

Hatty on being successful. Copyright 2012 Chiew Pang

We were to do one of these survey-personality test – you can see it in the previous post. Hatty would do the reading-vocabulary, Al would get them to actually do the test, and I would get them to calculate their score and get them talking.

I’d prepare a PowerPoint and my warmer was to ask them 3 questions:

  1. Do you think your assessment is fair?
  2. Do you think this is a good test to assess personality?
  3. Which are the most/least useful question? Why?

I’d also prepare some images of successful people.

To be honest, I didn’t really like what I’d prepared because I wasn’t in control of what would happen before I came on. Much would depend on what Al did and where he’d stop…

With the experience of what’d happened to me in the first 20-minute TP, when I decided at the spur of the moment to divert from my stage plan, this time, I “cleverly” wrote down my introduction like this:

Why? To initiate rapport with the students.
What? T introduces himself and carries on from the previous lesson.

Cheeky, huh? Haha.

As it happened, I frigging did it again. I couldn’t help it, could I? Al was going on about being truthful and lying on these tests, so when he finished, instead of doing what I’d prepared, I went off-the-cuff again. It just felt so right. I wrote, if I remember, three sentences on the board, one of which was a lie. I told the students to guess which the lie was.

They lapped it up. Rapport was established and they were very animated.

I told you I’m not made for these 20-minute TPs. My aim was to get them talking and talking was what they did. But, of course, my timing went out the window. When you’re doing a course like this, you have to play their game. They are big on aims, they are big on control. I hate stopping students when they’re having fun speaking! To cut a long story short, I rushed at the end because I suddenly realised that if I wanted to pass this practice, I’d have to fulfil my “aims”!

What a disaster.

Consequently, I received my first Ns – one for conveying meaning in context (I wasn’t clear about what this referred to) and the other was for presenting materials with professional appearance and copyright requirements. I’d made reference to this latter point somewhere else in this blog, in one of my many rants. Why did I get an N? Because I didn’t use any materials! The students already had the test handout from Hatty. I had no need for the PowerPoint I’d prepared. The proper grading should have been non-applicable, surely? I can only assume that IH CLIC does not dish out NAs like some other centres. Beats me.

However, to compensate, Ceri gave me S+ on establishing rapport and developing motivation, and providing appropriate practice activities. At least she recognised my warmer for what it was! There’s hope here!

My thoughts

I was relieved that there would be no more 20-minute TPs after this. I wonder if those courses dealing with only two levels – and I think these are more the norm than our 18-trainees, three-levels course – would only have one 20-minute TP and not two like us. I’m the first to admit that I don’t control these mini-TPs very well, at least, not to CELTA’s criteria.

What was good, however, was that we worked together and our three lessons appeared more like one lesson with three different teachers.

My advice: Twenty minutes go by quite fast, really. Be sure to know your aims clearly. When planning your timing, remember to add time for giving instructions. Monitor well, and slot in a PACS. It’s not easy to fail, so try to enjoy it, establish rapport with your students, and don’t worry about the grading, which is quite ridiculous. In 20 minutes, the trainer has to grade you on 20+ items! Not for the faint-hearted!

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.

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.

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