This first week of CELTA (yes, I know this is the second day but my particular on-site class sessions are on Wednesdays and Fridays) has been quite a whirlwind of activity. The class philosophy is on reflective learning rather than traditional knowledge transfer. This means rather than talking about teaching and observing teachers, we were immediately dumped into actual teaching (TP = Teaching Practice). They were at least kind enough to allow us a short time slot for the first time in the deep end, though I suspect that this was simply because it made sense for the new students and the new term rather than for any particular interest in my well-being.
Thursday I tried to figure out what exactly a lesson plan should be: the language, aims, stages, procedures, tests, and evidence. I cobbled together some forms (which was admittedly a slight procrastination-based-on-fear diversionary experimentation with the Pages app).
My “lesson” was a “running dictation” in which the grouped students would write up a one page description of a restaurant by individually running outside to read a text and repeating what could be remembered for a scribe to record. It went quite well considering I was frightened to death. I just started with a basic self-introduction before going into the activity and observed the other trainees after my slot. The new students in the class were amazingly good and came from all over the world (Singapore, Russia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Spain, Thailand, France, Myanmar).
Coming away from the class there were quite a few areas in which I need to improve: I need to vary my voice volume and project, to ensure that I stand centrally when facilitating feedback (and facilitate better), and to inject more of a pace or time-sensitivity to this type of lesson to make it more of a competition. On the positive side, the feedback I received noted a pleasant, friendly manner and voice, good use of student names, crisp and minimal teacher talk, clear instructions, good expression and eye contact, and good management in keeping the students on task and engaged.
From my observation of the rest of the class time I noticed how drastically the students changed from beginning to end. They started out very shy, but so steadily warmed up to each other they looked like friends as they left. I noticed the importance of standing front and center when asking and answering questions. My tutor pointed out that we must avoid the natural tendency to move closer when speaking to someone, preferring to move away from them so that everyone is forced to speak across the room so that everyone can hear the interaction. I saw how easy it can be to forget about physical positioning in the classroom when I saw the students confused at an instruction given as an afterthought from the side of the room. I was very impressed at the monitoring done by another teacher when she quietly moved around the room and wrote a few sentences on the board. At the end of her slot she asked the class how they might improve the sentences, thereby getting excellent class involvement and avoiding attributing any mistake to any individual. I need to make sure that all instructions really are unmistakably clear and set out in my lesson plans since I found myself confused by some of what I heard. The set of slots ended on a letter writing task which seemed to bring the mood of the group down from their earlier exuberance, but I suppose not every moment can be “up.”
I’d like to explore ways to maintain a consistent level of involvement from each student since some are naturally quiet and some loquacious. Also, what might be the best way to ensure that everyone stays on task rather than just chatting away at every opportunity when they are in smaller groups? As far as input from the tutor, it was mentioned that the energy of the teacher equates to the energy level of the class so that can be used to best advantage by gearing the energy level to one appropriate for the specific activity. Additionally, always “chunk” instructions and ask specific questions to check for understanding of given instructions (“Are we working alone, or in groups? How long do we have? What do we do when we’re finished?”). We also talked about fluency does not have very much to do with accuracy as far as the modern world is concerned since we are striving for communication and not rote perfection.
Presentation – Practice – Production
Lead-in: Topic introduction, set a context/situation, pre-teach/check essential vocab if needed.
Creating a Marker Sentence (MS): Use one from your lean-in or elicit one from the students.
Presentation: Check meaning and use of MS with concept checking questions (CCQ), encourage students to discover rules and patterns for themselves, elicit and highlight the form on the board, focus on pronunciation and accuracy by modeling and drilling the MS.
Controlled Practice: Elicit other examples from the contxt, students (Ss) repeat and practice MS using target language (TL), teacher provides immediate feedback and leads written and oral exercises while moving steadily towards less and less controlled practice.
Production (freer practice): Students practice role play/dialogue/discussion/writing/etc to freely experiment with the language. While this is happening the teacher will monitor, facilitate and wait until the task is complete before correcting any mistakes that were noticed.
Some other ways to demonstrate new language include verbally, pictorially, in a text (perhaps two versions with the same meaning to compare), in contrast to known language, in a task (test it, teach it, test it), with incorrect sentences for students to correct, or by matching events with a timeline.
Never ask if someone understands. Always encourage active learning and teach to the appropriate level.
Analyze language by looking to the meaning, form, pronunciation, use, and assumptions involved.
Example: Language Item: “used to”
Marker Sentence: “I used to smoke.”
Meaning: An action in the past that was done more than once but is no longer.
Form (as you will write it for the class): (+) subject + used to + bare infinitive(-) subject + didn’t + use to + bare infinitive(Q) did + subject + use to + bare infinitive
Use: Explaining repeated actions in the past.
Assumptions: I assume students are familiar with past and present simple.
Problem (meaning/form/pronunciation): “I used to smoking.” (form)
Solution: Only the bare infinitive is used and not the gerund form. Demonstrate by asking “Can we say … ”
Problem: used to … ‘youzta?’ The “to” is not enunciated but uses the schwa from the phonemic alphabet (the upside down e would be written on the board to make this clear).
Always remember to repeatedly check and check and check for understanding with leading questions. Use the board and voice and motions to make everything clear. Don’t be afraid to do silly things to bring the point across.