I got the first chance to observe an experienced teacher on Tuesday. It was only the first two hours of a four-hour class, but it exhibited in reality what we’ve been dwelling on the theory of quite well.
Yesterday, I had quite some difficulty with my third practice. It all boils down to a microscopic level of planning that I just didn’t have. The problems I anticipated were not the problems that occurred and that threw my timing off and made the planned activities impossible to complete. The tutor’s words really strike home now as I’m preparing for my lesson for next week: “The lesson plan must read like a recipe that anyone could pick up, immediately understand, and be able to perform.”
In the real world, my lesson would have been quite adequate, but for the CELTA program there must be a somewhat unnatural level of exaggerated clarity. It stuck me that the course is just like a driving test. You may be a good driver and check your mirrors, but during the test you must be seen to visibly demonstrate that you are checking, pronouncedly crane your neck to look at the blind spots, etc. Even if your actions in the class are understood by everyone in the class, it’s still necessary to check off all the boxes for every element of a “good” lesson.
Last week was quite something. I taught my first 40 minute skill class on gist and detail reading. It went quite well but I need to work on time management and my own voice projection. After doing the reading class in the morning we had a tutorial on how to do a reading class. The reverse planning there was not such a bad thing.
Having the chance to observe the other trainees on Wednesday was almost a more valuable learning experience than the regular “learning” sessions. The afternoon session covered learner focused activities.
Coming up this week will be my first “professional” observation, my third day teaching, the submission of assignment one on grammar and language analysis, and an interview with a student in preparation for assignment two on learner style and motivation and how those traits inform effective lesson planning.
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).
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The posts coming up will likely be of even less interest to anyone but myself than usual, but I need to keep a record of the events of the next few months for myself so this is where that will be. The writing may be marginally readable, but the intent here is to preserve my notes for my own recollection (just because, and also just because a future assignment asks for an overview of my experiences). This will eventually evolve into a more reflective journal, but it will begin quite tediously while hopefully becoming less so …
Today was the first day of my first formal teacher training and development class: CELTA. I was not only concerned about the class, but also the transportation logistics. These fears were unfounded, as the tutors and fellow trainees are delightful, and the MRT to the Toa Payoh branch of the British Council actually had seats available since the direction I have to travel is opposite to that of most of the human mass during my commute time.
The class will have written assignments (4) and actual teaching (9 observed classes). The teaching will be in the mornings and the afternoons will be filled with input, tutoring, and planning. The evaluation of, and feedback upon, our progress will be continuous so there’s no chance of being caught suddenly unaware of impending failure.
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I understand that Siri is still in beta, but it can still be extremely irritating how it interprets some things so oddly. I asked “How far is it from Singapore to Amsterdam” with Siri just insisting that it “cannot give directions in Singapore.” I’m sure everyone knows already, but it’s often best to prefix whatever you want to ask with “Wolfram” to increase your chances of getting some sort of sensible response. I suppose this would be much less important in the US … and have anecdotally heard that some Australians are having trouble getting the word “wolfram” itself to be recognized. <Giggle>
Before it’s suggested that SingTel has def!nd out now as a localized Siri, def!nd works fine to search for local things, but is and never was intended to be a drop-in Siri replacement despite what some deluded reporters like to put in their headlines.