Post-CELTA Confessions

Aspiring to be a better teacher

Tag: grammar

How much grammar do you need to know for CELTA?

by celtaconfessions

I’ve just been reviewing Week 2 Day 3, our first 60-min TPs, and I felt compelled to write a post to answer the question “How much grammar do you need to know for CELTA?”. It seems especially apt after the previous review of the input session Grammar (Introduction to Language Awareness).

You see, there was this trainee who’s a wonderful teacher – I’d recommend her without reservation – but grammar wasn’t her strong point. Her pride was such that she refused my offers of help, and consequently, I had to watch her suffer on at least two occasions, one worse than the other, or perhaps it was me who suffered more because I could feel her insecurity and noticed the errors she kept making.

Presenting tenses graphically by Chiew Pang

Do you know your tenses? Copyright 2013 Chiew Pang

If you’re a native speaker, unless you’ve done courses, you may not be very familiar with grammar. For your Celta course, you will probably have to do at least two DI lessons plus the fact that your students are adults means that they will at some point or other ask you grammatical questions.

CELTA courses DO NOT teach you grammar; in fact, they assume you have more-than-basic knowledge of it. So, if you ask, “Do I need to know grammar?” the answer from me will be a definite “yes”.

“How much grammar do I need to know?” A rudimentary knowledge is essential. You must at least know the name of the tenses! You can’t afford to confuse the past perfect with the present perfect, for example. You can’t have the students know more than you in this aspect because they will know the names and form of the tenses even if they don’t use them properly.

In this lesson I was reviewing, her main aim was “for, since and ago”, but she had spent the whole night preparing an analysis on the past simple, the present perfect and the present perfect continuous, probably more for herself than for the students. Subsequently, she spent too much time on this part, which ought to have been a cursory revision, and not enough time on her main aim. It could be that she was following the coursebook, which would be yet another lesson for future Celta trainees – use only what’s necessary! Know what your main aims are – don’t try to do too much because you won’t have the time to cover all of them.

You won’t have enough time in the course to devote to learning grammar points from scratch; it’s all right to have to study them in greater detail in preparation for your lesson, but you can’t be burning the candle at both ends because you’ll be messed up in the morning, and end up with an under-par lesson.

So, if your grammar knowledge is lacking, or even rusty, I’d suggest doing a course before Celta. I don’t get paid for saying this, but I can recommend Cambridge English Teacher; they offer a 5-hour grammar for teacher language awareness course for free – you’d only need to register.

Recommended books

[Learning Teaching: 3rd Edition Student’s Book Pack] [by: Jim Scrivener]

Teaching English Grammar: What to Teach and How to Teach it by Jim Scrivener ( 2010 ) Paperback

The Practice of English Language Teaching (4th Edition) (With DVD) (Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers) by Jeremy Harmer ( 2007 ) Paperback

Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott

Practical English Usage by Swan and Walter, also here.


Week 2 Day 2: Grammar (Introduction to Language Awareness) and CCQs

by celtaconfessions

This input session lasted for an hour or so and went like this:

Each table was given an envelope with two batches of strips of coloured paper containing headings and words. Pink strips contained headings, such as “conjunctions”, and blue strips had words such as “and”. The object was to match the words to their headings. When we’d finished, we were to run up to the front and squeeze a squeaky toy. So, lots of shrieks, whoops and squeaks…

The best part were the ICQs – take note. How many words are there under each heading? THREE! What colour are the headings? PINK! Blah, blah, blah…

Sounded a bit like the coach before sending the players to the battle pitch: Who are the best? WE! Who are we going to thrash? TEAM X! Blah, blah, blah… 😉

Next, we were given five quotes and we discussed, in pairs, to see if we agreed or disagreed:

  1. The study of grammar as such is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning to use the language.
  2. It is through speech acts that new language ‘sticks’ in the learners’ mind. Insight into grammar is an equal partner in the dual process of acquisition/learning.
  3. Grammar is the engine behind language – it’s what makes the language stick together.
  4. Without studying grammar you can’t learn a language.
  5. Teachers of English should know all its rules.

What drew my attention was the fact that no sources were mentioned! Were we not told that we had to cite all sources, and we were graded negatively when we failed to comply? Mmm…

In discovery activity 2, we were to put 12 examples of verb forms into these categories: simple, perfect, continuous.  For example: He’s waiting / I’d imagined, etc.

I wasn’t sure as to the aim of this activity. Take “She’s been living”. I know it’s a present perfect continuous tense, but which category would you put it under? More importantly, does it matter?

Then, the second part of this activity was to deduce the rules on how to identify these three categories:

  • Simple tenses have no auxiliaries
  • Perfect tenses always have “has”, “have” or “had”
  • Continuous tenses always have a form of the verb “to be” plus a verb in -ing form (they liked to call the latter “verbing”).

Finally, discovery activity 3 was to name the tenses of four sentences based on the rules we “discovered” above.

My opinion:

I personally got nothing out of this session apart from a few laughs as it was quite a relaxing afternoon, in that sense. I know that Celta trainees are basically a mixed bunch of pre-service teachers and more experienced ones, and there are those who are familiar with grammar and those who aren’t. Some trainees didn’t know their perfect tenses from the simple. So, perhaps this session was aimed at the middle ground, which, to me, served little purpose. For those with inadequate grammar knowledge I doubt it enlightened them very much and for those with advanced knowledge, it was an hour’s worth of socialising, nothing much more than that.

What did the rest got out of it, I wonder…

Before this session, we had another, one on Conveying Meaning. I don’t have many records of this, which is why I haven’t reflected on it to the same extent. We were basically informed of the different ways of conveying meaning followed by examples of checking meaning, which means…yes…you’ve guessed it! Concept Checking Questions! I don’t remember much else except one of the sentences the meaning of which we had to convey was This milk is sour.

Application form and tasks

by celtaconfessions

Day: 6th June 2012

Several days later, I got a reply with which were attached instructions and the application forms. Briefly, I looked at them.

The closing date for the competition was the end of July and the winner will do the course between October 2012 and March 2013.

I read the terms and conditions and skimmed through the tasks. Apart from having to write an essay of no more than 1,000 words explaining how I believe being awarded a free place on IH training course will change my life, there were a few “pre-selection” tasks.

Task A dealt with language awareness. I had to choose the odd one out and justify my choice.

The first one was a list of four words: sip, gulp, slurp and drink.
Then, some modals were thrown in:

  • You can’t smoke in here.
  • You don’t have to wear a suit.
  • You mustn’t be late.
  • You aren’t allowed to buy alcohol.

The last one dealt with past tenses:

  • I lived in Miami for 6 years.
  • I used to live in London.
  • I was born in Edinburgh.
  • I’ve lived here for 3 years.

Task B was titled “Anticipating learner difficulties”. I had to identify and explain the general problem that learners might have with each of the following groups of words/phrases:

  • may well go, might possibly go, probably won’t go, is likely to go and will definitely go. (I personally thought this is tricky, even for natives, so it’d be hardly worth the time analysing the subtle differences, if any exists, between may well go, might possibly go and is likely to go)
  • 3 idioms: out of the blue, down in the dumps and from the horse’s mouth
  • four tricky words: import, perfect, record and permit (pronunciation differences between noun and verb forms)

Task C dealt with helping learners with meaning. I had to say, first, what the differences were and then elaborate how I would explain these to students.

  • When I got there the party started / When I got there the party had started.
  • interfere / intervene

Well, I read the tasks and started thinking about the essay…probably losing a few nights’ sleep along the way…

Not sleeping for CELTA

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