Preparing for the CELTA in Nine Easy Steps

A previous blog post looked at 10 books recommended for the CELTA course but I also received a number of questions on Twitter, Facebook and this blog from readers wondering about how to prepare for the CELTA or where to take the course. In this post, I will be referring to the four week intensive CELTA (or equivalent), with some additional information transferable towards the 12 week part-time or online CELTA course, and how best to prepare for such a course. The majority of certificate courses are usually held over four weeks and incorporate various teacher training sessions as well as observed teaching practice. Nevertheless, I have provided 9 tips and pieces of advice for those that want to do the CELTA with answers to some of the most common questions asked.

1. Where can I take the CELTA?

CELTA CentreThis is the first question you need to ask yourself is whether the course is available near to where you reside. You can find this out by going to the Cambridge English website and clicking on “Find a Teaching Qualifications centre near you“. You will then be directed to another page where you can find CELTA centres based on country and region within this country. What I do recommend is that you choose a centre which is in close proximity to where you reside otherwise you will be commuting to and from the centre as well as preparing for lessons in the evening. For example, I had to commute one and a half hours to the centre into Seoul and then back home again (a total of three hours each day) with me having to arrive at least by 8:30am. Thus, I had to be up by 5am to get the train to Seoul at 6am and especially not for the faint hearted. So try to choose a centre which is around 30 minutes away from where you will be residing during the next four weeks. I have heard that some people decide to do a CELTA abroad and find temporary accommodation during the period of their CELTA course.

2. Pre-Interview Task

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After applying for the CELTA, you will be asked to complete a pre-interview task. The pre-interview task is your chance to show your awareness of the English language, the differences between similar words, the sounds of the English language as well as completing an essay related to teaching or what constitutes a successful lesson. With regards to the language awareness, you will be provided with several learner errors and asked to correct the mistakes by writing a grammatically correct sentence. Below are examples of the pre-interview tasks which have been sourced and are freely available from the University of Texas.

Error Correction:

Each of the exchanges below contains a mistake. In each case:

  1. write the corrected version in the space provided
  2. clarify your correction in simple English to explain the mistake


  • Mr. Smith:  “Do you have much experience in the restaurant business?”
  • Giorgio:      “Yes, I’ve been working as a chef since 10 years.” 
  1. I’ve been working as a chef for ten years.
  2. We use ‘since’ before a point in time – for example, since Tuesday, since 1992, since 5 o’clock. We use for before a period of time – for example, for two weeks, for six years, for ten minutes. In this case ‘10 years’ is a period of time, so we need ‘for’.
Differences in meaning:

Comment on the difference in meaning between the following pairs of sentences, and outline how you might teach these differences in meaning.


  1. Claire is working late again; she’s so passionate about her work!
  2. Jane is working late again; she’s so obsessed with her work!

In the first sentence, the word ‘passionate’ suggests that Claire’s reason for working late is that she is driven by a love for her job and a healthy desire to succeed. In the second sentence, the word ‘obsessed’ suggests that Claire’s reason for working late is that she lacks a healthy balance in her life. She is so fixated on her work that perhaps she doesn’t do anything else, or perhaps other areas of her life are negatively affected.

To teach it, I would draw two pictures (or bring in two photographs). The first would be of a person working at her desk in an office. I would show the time with a clock on the wall (showing 9:30 pm). She would have a smile on her face to show that she was happy (and passionate about her work!)

For the second sentence, I would have a picture of Jane at her desk in her office, but she would look tired (and a little stressed). The time would still be 9:30pm on the clock. I hope these two examples would show the positive/negative aspects of the two sentences.

Word stress and stress patterns:

Word stress, which focuses on the stress within particular syllables, such as ‘banana’ and the stress being bolded and underlined: baNAna. You will receive a possible grid of particular stress patterns (oOo, Ooo, ooO, etc.) and you must try to place words under their corresponding stress item. The activity below will help you better understand what is expected.

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The final activity, related to the corresponding sounds of English, is attempting for you to connect same sounds with different words.  If you are able to complete the following activity, it will help you learn about the sounds of isolated units from words. You may receive an activity to connect words with the same vowel sound (lead & sheep). There may also be an activity whereby you have to connect consonants or focus on the endings and beginnings from different words. It is not a tough task but you do need to spend a bit more time on this activity. An example activity is available below and, again, you will be download this task from the University of Texas website.

Match the underlined sound of the words in column A to a word in column B with a corresponding sound. Note: the sound can correspond to any sound in the words in Column B. For example: advice goes with sip. Beware! The spelling of the sound may be different!

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All example tasks above are credited from the University of Texas ESL department.

3. Interview Questions

Prepare for the interview, Wikimedia © 2015

When you first decide to do the CELTA (or equivalent), it is best to prepare for your interview. You do not exactly go to a particular centre and expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you. You need to show that you are enthusiastic about teaching and keen to undertake a gruelling training course. One way for trainees and the centre to gauge your suitability for such a course is to interview you. When I went to the British Council in South Korea, I was interviewed with another possible trainee and we both had to work together on a particular task. We were then taken out of the room and interviewed individually. As well as being interviewed in person, we also had to write about a teacher that we admired when were students. So be prepared to write something in a short space of time – I think we had around 20 minutes. There are some questions that you should prepare in advance for the interview, as with any important interview. Some of the following questions you should consider answering for the CELTA interview could include:

  • Why do you want to do the CELTA course?
  • What do you know about the CELTA course already?
  • What is the most important thing to do in first lessons?
  • How do you see yourself in a team?
  • How do you react to feedback and criticism?

The interview is essentially to see if you are able to undertake such a demanding course as well as have the personality to that will aid you when working with other trainees.

4. Other Trainees

Get on with all other trainees on your CELTA course, Bloomsbury News Blog © 2015

When you are on the CELTA course with other trainees, it is important that you get on well with them and you should not be on a witch-hunt when observing other trainee’s teaching practice. The first day is important as you will meet the other trainees as well as the trainers. It is vital that you get on well with all people on the course and with your trainers as they will be providing and offering feedback on your very own teaching practice. If you end up giving a lot of negative feedback which is not so constructive and rather personal about your peers’ teaching practice or not listening to your own feedback from the trainers, you will find the course very tough indeed. Trainers will want you to incorporate a lot of what they mention into the teaching practice and you will be expected to offer constructive feedback on your peers’ teaching practice. I remember have heard trainees being shown the door if they are unable to take on board the feedback from input sessions or teaching practice or have difficulty adjusting to what is expected. Treat your other trainees with respect no matter how heavy the pressures are with the course. All trainees are in the same boat and you will be expected to work together as a team and helping each other (when needed) to assist in the preparation of your teaching. The biggest thing is not to lose your cool and not to start any personal vendettas against your fellow trainees.

5. Social Calendar

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 15.00.26When you are doing the CELTA course, you will find that you will have very little time to socialise during the week and at the weekend, you will feel like having a rest from the course.  It is a very tough and intense course, with very little opportunity to relax so best to cancel all those evenings out with your friends, forget birthday parties as well as your partner. They will see very little of you during the next four weeks. I remember having no social life during the four weeks. The Director of the school came into the session and compared the CELTA Course to a ‘boot camp‘ for English language teachers. It was a simple analogy but it is in fact very true. Once I finished the course, all trainees went out with the trainers to celebrate completion of the course and we had a lovely meal all together. During weekends, I was too tired to do anything and would wake up late on Saturday, spend time with family before returning to lesson preparation on Sunday for the Monday. It was a tough and arduous four weeks but you will feel a great sense of achievement. However, you should ask yourself if you have the support and understanding of family and friends while you are focusing on the CELTA Course for four weeks and have very little time to devote to them.

6. Lesson Planning

Harry Potter LessonPlanning your lessons is not meant to be easy and it will take a while for you to get used to the expectation from the CELTA trainers. Your trainers will probably give you an input session on the first day on how to write lesson plans and what they expect from their trainees. It is likely you will receive an electronic lesson plan template which you could use for all your lesson planning needs. Prepare to spend as much time on the lesson planning as much as preparing all the material for your lessons. There are some areas you need to consider when writing your lesson plan and you may have a coursebook to refer to when preparing your lessons. If you have a coursebook which you could refer to during the course, then read the Teacher’s Book. It will have a lot of information about the relevant pages from the coursebook as well as suggested staging of the lesson. You will be expected to supplement the coursebook as much as possible and incorporate some of the teaching ideas and activities suggested during teacher input sessions by the trainers.

When writing your lesson aims, it is best to focus on the following: “By the end of the lesson, students will have …”. This attempts you to reflect on your lesson and what your students will have achieved by the end of the lesson. If you look in the Teacher’s Book of the coursebook, you will see some aims and this will guide you completing this section of the lesson plan. When you look at subsidiary aims – those aims which are not as vital as those primary aims but do play a role in the classroom – you do need to access what skills and systems are being practised during the lesson. For example, if you are focusing on a role-play at a Post Office, then main aims are likely to be functional language and subsidiary aims could be question and answer formation, listening and speaking skills. As well as aims, there are other vitally important areas in the lesson plan, such as the class profile.

While writing the class profile, ask yourself the following:

  • What are their names?
  • What are their linguistic strengths and weaknesses?
  • How long have they been studying English?
  • Why are they studying English?
  • Are there any particular pronunciation issues?

It is important to ask students this in the first lesson and to keep a record of your learners as this will help you within this area of the lesson plan. Write your class profile and update if you learn something new and share this information with the other trainees. Finally, when writing the staging of the lesson, try to focus on the methods suggested by the trainers or those demonstrated during the input sessions. While thinking of the stages, think about the activities that you want to cover, the mini-stages as well as how to achieve your primary aims from the lesson plan. The first question asked by the trainers is, “Did you achieve your aims?” followed by “How do you think the lesson went?”. Keep the staging logical and try to refer to it as much as possible. The more practice you have with lesson planning during the course, the better you will get at anticipating how long activities may take.

7. Lesson Observations & Feedback

As mentioned previously, the feedback focus on your teaching practice will look at whether the aims and objectives were achieved but trainers will always ask leading questions to ascertain whether you think your lessons was satisfactory. Lesson feedback is not meant to criticise your teaching but is enabled to support you as a trainee and feedback, as was part of my course, was conducted in front of all other trainees. The other trainees are prompted to provide feedback so do not feel surprised by the trainers asking for opinions from other trainees. During the observation tasks, trainees will be requested to focus on particular areas related to the teaching practice. A memorable activity from my CELTA course which I was asked to conduct was to look at particular tasks or areas of teaching that I would like to incorporate in my classes and some suggestions for things to recommend for the trainee to incorporate into future lessons. It is very important to provide balanced feedback on a lesson that you have observed and to move away from pure criticism. The trainers and your peers, as mentioned previously, would not thank you for your negative contribution.

While teaching, try to take on board some of the feedback that you have received from your fellow trainees as well as from the trainers. If you demonstrate that you are incorporating their suggestions and taking on board their feedback, you will have minimal problems. Your trainers will praise you for doing what they recommended. It is easy to think that you know better than your trainers or fellow trainees but keep your opinions to yourself, there are only four weeks and you can return to what you think works better for your afterward the CELTA course.

8. Primary Reading

A previous post which I wrote related to the top ten CELTA books is incredibly useful but there might be additional reading that your centre will recommend. I would recommend reading as many books as possible related to teaching English as a foreign language whether they made my list of the top ten CELTA books or are recommended by your CELTA centre. You will receive a list of recommended books to purchase prior to starting the CELTA course and the majority of the books that I recommend are very useful. They can be referred to during the course and will help you while preparing your lesson plans as well as the written tasks which are provided later in the course.

The four books you should really consider purchasing for your course are:

  • “Grammar for English Language Teachers” by Martin Parrott
  • “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan
  • “Learning Teaching” by Jim Scrivener
  • “Classroom Management Techniques” by Jim Scrivener

9. Enjoy the Course

The biggest tip that I can give trainees doing the CELTA course would be to enjoy their time and experience. The four weeks ends very quickly and you will find yourself missing the other trainees and trainers when you have finished. The course was fantastic and I learnt so much in such a short space of time. It is difficult to enjoy your time while doing the CELTA but if you relax, learn from all feedback as well as the input sessions and get on well with all other trainees, the course will a lot more manageable and you will receive a great deal more support from others. If you isolate yourself, you will be counting down the days until you finish. If you have enjoyed the course and the other trainees, you will make a lot of new friends and will end up keeping in touch with other teacher trainees. The trainers will also be able to offer some career advice regarding English language teaching and if you make a good impression, it may be possible that you secure some employment with the centre afterwards.

I hope all the advice above is useful and you take this on board. What did you take away from the CELTA course? Would you have any words of wisdom for our readers?

ETp Live Conference 2014: Brighton

I was fortunate to attend the English Teaching Professional Live Conference this year, which was held in Brighton – so just a short train journey to the event. I arrived, collected my badge and was given a wonderful goody bag filled with various books and other things. There were 11 speakers at the event which included Chia Suan Chong, Antonia Clare, Jeremy Harmer, Mike Hogan, Philip Kerr and Ken Wilson, so I was spoilt for choice on which talk I would attend. It was quickly decided that I would attend talks based on personal importance and those that were possibly necessary for my school.

Thus, I decided to attend Jeremy Harmer’s opening talk “Sacred gift or faithful servant? Focus and creativity in the classroom”, followed by Dennis Davy’s talk “London calling – practical ideas on how to use London (or any city) as the theme of a series of lessons”, then Philip Kerr with “The brave new world of adaptive learning”, next with Anna Musielak’s talk with “How to incorporate drama, games, literature and popular culture into the classroom”, then Chia Suan Chong’s talk on “Creating the right impression – the politeness and pragmatics of EFL” and finally with Ken Wilson on “Ten ways to get your students to DO something”.

“Sacred gift or faithful servant? Focus and creativity in the classroom”: Jeremy Harmer

Opening plenary ETp Live 2014The opening of English Teaching professional Live 2014, in Brighton, was started by Jeremy Harmer.  As usual, he was incredibly energetic during the talk and started the conference by giving a quote by Sheryl Crow on what she has sacrificed for her music, which was her love life, but she also said, during a Guardian interview “I think whatever you give your attention to is what thrives”.  Jeremy attempted to link ‘more heart and more creativity’ in the classroom by focusing on what you love doing: teaching.  However, before answering this question, Jeremy wanted to remind attendees of the conference of important issues in teaching such as prompting creativity and attention in the classroom as well as demanding more from your learners.

Jeremy also, having been to various of his talks, linked musical practice to repetition in language learning which would then prompt automaticity.  There was a nice spin with the improvisation of jazz music with lexical chunks, with jazz musicians knowing over a hundred licks which could then be included during improvisation.  The obvious metaphor was that learners should have a bank of lexical chunks which they could pepper their speaking with to sound more fluent.  There was also another link with musical practice and English language teaching, which I had not thought about before, where Jeremy attempted to link ‘deliberate practice’ and ‘mindless practice’ with an emphasis that deliberate language practice is more cognitively important, where mindless language practice is unsuitable for any teacher and learner.  He finally suggested areas to improve focus and creativity in the classroom, such as demanding learner focus, seizing the teaching moment, providing CLIL-based tasks, etc.

It was wonderful start to the conference and it is always a pleasure to see Jeremy give such an enthusiastic and thought provoking talk.

Additional Reading: What Sheryl Crow gave her attention to

“London calling – practical ideas on how to use London (or any city) as the theme of a series of lessons”: Dennis Davy

Dennis DavyThe second talk that I attended was by Dennis Davy on using cities, with him offering London as an example, to develop cultural awareness and interest in language teaching.  There were various ideas offered by Dennis and it was nice to see that a teacher based in France was keen to incorporate cities into their repertoire of lessons.

The talk started with Dennis getting attendees to think of famous poets, musicians, painters, etc that were related to London.  There were numerous ideas of this shared in the room and then we moved on to the teaching of cities.  Dennis mentioned that the course that he developed in France was 30 hours in length and was loosely CLIL related.  The content of the course was negotiated by the learners and his learners were academics with the main aim to develop cultural awareness and cultural competence.

Dennis suggested different practical ideas which could be incorporated to practice the various skills of English:

  1. Speaking: presentations, discussions, spoken commentaries on paintings, etc
  2. Listening: TimeOut London, podcasts, films, music, etc
  3. Reading: poems, newspapers, short stories, etc
  4. Writing: essays, summaries of presentations, etc

The talk was invaluable for those teachers that had not considered teaching with the focus on cities, but there were a few questions from attendees enquiring whether students would be ‘sold’ on this idea of teaching, how student progress could be measured during the course and what the assessment criteria would involve.  Nearer the end, I felt that Dennis was giving a commentary of his slides as he was showing slide after slide of painters and paintings, and unfortunately I started to switch off.  I did come to this talk to see what could be included in the classroom not to see numerous slides of paintings, architecture, etc.  However, it was a good chance to reflect on what our school could develop or deliver by developing learner interest in cities or places of interest within the classroom, prior to our learners visiting these places.

“The brave new world of adaptive learning”: Philip Kerr

Philip KerrPhilip Kerr’s talk was about adaptive learning and it was the first time that I had come across the term ‘adaptive learning’.  Adaptive learning is online computer education which amends the delivery of teaching material based upon the answer provided by the learner.  Kerr painted a picture of the industry of English language teaching which was slowly becoming more and more reliant on technology with publishing houses focusing solely on adaptive learning applications to supplement and complement coursebooks.  He gave a first-hand account on how a large publishing house had spent their budget on the technology rather than focus on the content in the coursebook and the project had to be shelved in the end.

The second part of the talk looked at the replacement of teachers with technology and interestingly I read an article a number of days previously about teachers being replaced by technology and it is a worrying proposition by educational institutions.  Despite the debate of technology versus teachers, the big global institutions are able to drive their market to affect language teachers and schools.  The final focus of the talk by Kerr, focused on the development of learning management systems which were being developed and used for English teaching institutions such as Macmillan Campus and Pearson MyLab and Philip proposed that ‘technology in the classroom is offering a solution for no problem’.  Although the talk was of any practical nature, Philip maintained interest in the industry of English teaching that it was as useful as any other talk during the day.

Additional reading: Adaptive Learning in ELT

“How to incorporate drama, games, literature and popular culture into the classroom”: Anna Musielak

10503750_10154274374345573_1336425711_oAnna’s highly practical and invaluable talk was wonderful and it was so nice to go to such a talk and take away so many ideas which could be incorporated into the classroom.  She started the talk by asking attendees what we could do with drama, pop culture and/or literature with many ideas include:

  1. Drama: role-play, body language, etc
  2. Pop Culture: entertainment, instagram, etc
  3. Literature: Shakespeare

Anna provided examples of the different valuable games and activities which teachers could use in class.  Some of the best ideas which were proposed included:

  • Grab a slip: a pair of students are acting in a scene, the example at the talk was about the weather, and then when the teacher blows a whistle or claps, the students then have to grab a piece of paper and try to use the phrase as naturally as possible for the context.  Obviously, Anna created some funny phrases for the conversation and topic and both people demonstrating the activity were in hysterics.  I would like to use this activity in the near future with my young learners and you can change it from phrases to words or people, etc.
  • Snowball fights: everyone at the session wrote a question on the piece of paper, rolled it into a ball and then we threw them around the conference hall.  When Anna blew her whistle, we all picked up a paper ball and then wrote an answer to the question.  I would love to do this activity for get to know you activities and will use this in the future.
  • Talk gibberish: a pair of student work together and then one student is talking gibberish or some old literature like Shakespeare and then the other student is now translating in more modern and up to date English.
  • Cheering corrections: Anna told attendees of an engaging and interesting idea of correcting learners through the use of cheering or booing.  If an answer is incorrect, students should boo, and if it is correct, students should cheer.  It was a nice and engaging way of maintaining learner interest in the highly useful area of learner feedback.

Anna’s talk was really useful and I would recommend any teacher to attend her talk in the future.  She has some wonderful ideas which young learner, or adult, teachers could incorporate straight away into the classroom.

Additional Reading: Anna’s Twitter

“Creating the right impression – the politeness and pragmatics of EFL”: Chia Suan Chong

Chia’s talk on politeness in English was a very educational and helpful talk.  Chia initially shared her experiences of being considered ‘rude’ and ‘impolite’, when she asked her housemates, “Can you take the rubbish out please!”, in a very direct and loud way – which is often considered rude and impolite.  She introduced the concept of English as a Lingua Franca, known as ELF, and Kachru’s 3 circles of world Englishes.  This reminded me of my MA studies when I was looking at ELF and a Lingua Franca Core (LFC) by Jennifer Jenkins.  The great thing about this talk was that research had been conducted, with Chia sharing the results of this.  What she had done was record a day on the front desk at IH London and then go through the recording and transcribe this, then finally interview what was considered polite and impolite.

It was a very useful talk, with Chia demonstrating important areas of ELF: pronunciation, politeness, etc.  We finally looked at the ‘impressions of (im)politeness’ through the use of a video and being asked what was impolite about the situation in the video and then comparing it with a similar situational video.

Additional Reading: Chia’s blog

Ten Seven ways to get your students to DO something”: Ken Wilson

The closing talk was by Ken Wilson and it was the first time that I was going to see a talk by him.  He proposed seven, not ten, due to time restriction, ways to get students involved in the classroom and getting them to do things.  It was a very useful and practical end for the last session of the conference.  His seven strategies included:

  1. Make your students curious: what do you think this person is?
  2. Challenge them: a 7 second reading challenge – what can you remember?
  3. Teach unplugged (Dogme): abandon your plan and see what happens.
  4. Let them use their imagination: personalise the lesson and content.
  5. Do something just for fun: an active role-play – “What time is it?”
  6. Turn your class into a spider web: throw out answers back to the students and see if they agree or disagree.
  7. Be enthusiastic: if you walk into a class looking pretty miserable, your students will be bored and not want to be there.

It was a quick and paced talk with attendees having to do various activities during the session and before we knew it, that was the end of the talk.  It was so useful.

The talks were so useful and I really felt that I had acquired new practical ideas which I could incorporate into the classroom.  I was so happy to have met so many other teachers who were incredibly motivated and enthusiastic about teaching and I would highly recommend teachers to attend the next ETp Live event.

Instructions in the Classroom: Teacher Training Session

Instructions 3Instructions 1Instructions 2

Last Friday, I gave a teacher training session on “Instructions in the Classroom”.  I had been reading an awful lot about instructions and tried to plan a good training session for these two recently qualified CELTA teachers and it was the first time that I covered this area of classroom management.  There was a good selection of blog posts that I had read recently about instruction giving and a highly invaluable blog post written by about preparing an instruction training session.
Here is a breakdown of what happened during the training session:

  1. I introduced the topic of the training session and the usual aims.  I started off the session by giving my teachers some really bad, wordy and poorly designed instructions: “What I would like you to do is stand up … but not yet [they sit back down again] … you need a pen and you both need to go to this side of the room.  Sorry … just one person to this side of the room and you sit down here!  You need a piece of paper … do you have a piece of paper? On this err … this paper … just write down some … err ideas or things about err …” – you get the idea.  I asked the teachers to make a list of good and bad instructions and work together.  Hopefully, my really bad instructions inspired my teachers to create a good list.
  2. The teachers sat down together for about three minutes and noted down some ideas: “Eye contact with students”, “Gestures”, etc.  I then showed some ideas that I had from my PowerPoint (please refer to this below).
  3. I then handed out some coursebook activities (roleplays, listening, speaking, etc) and asked the teachers to prepare their instructions for a minute.  The teachers were recorded by my smartphone and then we listened to this playback and then they each gave each other peer feedback.
  4. After a few turns, I then gave each teacher an activity to prepare instructions on the spot with no prior preparation.  This seemed to work quite well and the teachers were getting into giving instructions to a group of ghost students.
  5. The teachers were then asked to consider ICQs to supplement the instructions and for each activity given previously.  The teachers prepared their ICQs and then peer feedback was given again.
  6. Next, I showed the teachers some advice regarding ICQs (“Always prepare a question where the answer is either x or y”, etc).  They noted this down briefly.
  7. The following activity was looking at gestures in the classroom.  I got the teachers to consider suitable gestures to include for common areas: “Listen to me!”, “Please repeat that”, etc.  They were all standing up and they looked as if they were traffic cops or going through a dance routine.
  8. Finally, I handed out some additional reading and referred to some books to consider looking at in their free time.  Reading included teacher training books as well as blog posts (links are provided below).

The PowerPoint slides are available to view via Slideshare (embedded below) and if you have any questions regarding this training session, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Otherwise, you can ask a question in the comment’s section below.

Additional Reading:

Some of the following blog posts are incredibly helpful if you would like to check a bit more about instructions and ICQs. They were really helpful when I was preparing the training session and I also referred my teachers to these blog posts.

English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference: Handouts

This is a blog post for complementary material to accompany the talk given at the English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference in London on 9 November 2013.  I have included a PDF of my handout, a slideshow of my presentation as well as a YouTube tutorial about using Google Drive for online research in ELT.  I hope this is useful and thanks for either attending my talk or reviewing the material on this topic.

English UK 2012: Annual Teachers’ Conference

The Shard reaching into the clouds.

On Saturday, I travelled up to London for the 2012 English UK Annual Teachers’ Conference and was fortunate to give a talk on my favourite subject … Dogme ELT.  I met up with a colleague, from my school, on the train but had to get up very early.  Around 5am to be honest.  Anyhow, we arrived at the venue on time for the registration and collected our badges.  At the venue (nearby Borough), we were greeted with juice, coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat as well as a range of other goodies and a good chance for a rather needed breakfast.

Before the first plenary, I was able to meet with some of the publishers and was able to say hello to a few familiar faces.  I had an hour so managed to sit down somewhere for a bite to eat, a coffee and a chance to catch prepare my final things for my talk.  I met Tom from English UK who helped show me the presentation equipment for my talk and I was able to go through my talk one last time.  Of course I had some butterflies in my stomach but wasn’t overly nervous and was looking forward to my talk.

Anyhow, the Opening Plenary was by none other than Jeremy Harmer (who I last met at Bucharest at an ELT talk).  He decided to go through the Opening Plenary with no overhead slides, no videos or any images – it was decidedly refreshing.  Jeremy developed six questions for his talk and provided the attendees the opportunity to offer their insight and experience.  Some of the questions focused on issues such as the use of IT, CLIL, as well as language testing.   After his talk, we were guided back into the main hall and was given the opportunity to collect some more coffee and biscuits before the key talks for the conference started.

The first talk I attended was by Josh Round about “Putting the C and P into CPD“.  He delivered a very interesting presentation through the use of Prezi.  Personally, I am keen to learn a bit more about cloud presentation software available on the internet and I have much to learn about Prezi.  Anyhow, Josh looked at activities available for teachers to continue CPD, the role CPD could play in future job prospects as well as developing an effective CPD programme in a language school.  There was also reference towards Twitter and role it has played in language teaching or the sharing of ideas or teaching experiences.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any talks during second session as I had my talk.  For those that missed my talk, I have attached a copy of my slides and eHandout below.

English UK 2012: Balancing Dogme ELT in the Classroom

English UK 2012: eHandout

The final talk that I attended was by Nick Robinson about the opportunities available for budding ELT Authors. He gave a first-hand account of being an author and the expectation for those that were keen to get in this field.  Nick was able to refer to his personal experience and the majority of attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions or share personal experiences.  During the talk, I was introduced to the Pomodero Technique for completing various tasks (something that I haven’t heard before and something that I will definitely include in future tasks when writing).

Nick talks about the act of using a cat as a writer.

Nearer the end, Nick echoed something that Josh mentioned during his talk earlier that any teachers that were keen to get noticed needed to demonstrate potential.  Nick mentioned that teachers needed to demonstrate potential through the use of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) with Twitter, blogging, the creation and sharing of material and some other areas.  When I was on the MA course at Sussex Uni, one of the students had co-authored a coursebook for Cambridge University Press.  She gave a talk about becoming an author and much of what she mentioned was echoed in Nick’s talk.  As in both talks (at English UK and at the University of Sussex), I found myself being referred to as a case-in-point (blogging, Twitter, etc) – get yourself noticed through your blog, market yourself and create a following.  It was great to meet Nick in person, having been following him on Twitter for quite a while.  I also hope to meet Nick at future conferences in the near future.

Chia starts the Closing Plenary.

That was the end of the Conference today and I was looking forward to attending Chia’s Closing Plenary.  I haven’t attended a talk or plenary held by Chia and was keen to see her in action (so to speak).  She started the talk by introducing herself and her ideas about language teaching.  She was incredibly energetic during the plenary and her presentation was visually engaging: videos, pictures, etc.

Chia covered all ELT theories in her talk (which was a first for any plenary or talk that I had attended) and the attendees had the opportunity to guess or predict theories that were presented.  Chia successfully incorporated some highly amusing videos with her talk to show the use of particular language theories and methods.  One of the most amusing videos that was shown during the talk is below.

Chia and Jeremy after the Q&A Session.

Finally, Jeremy and Chia finished off the conference with a Q&A Session.  Some of the attendees were offered to the opportunity to answer questions from the attendees, which they handled superbly.  There were various questions about CLIL, Dogme ELT, the focus between teaching methodology versus learning methodology (which I attempted to ask), as well as a range of other points.  There were some interesting debates developing but the Q&A Session finished and attendees were guided to the main hall for drinks and a good chin-wag.

I was able to meet other attendees over a few beers and ended up having a conversation with three other attendees about Dogme ELT and my proposed “Balanced Approach” which developed further for my talk.  It was a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and insights into language learning with other likeminded individuals and I would highly recommend other teachers to attend the English UK  Conference next year.

English UK 2012 Teachers’ Conference: Dogme ELT Talk

On 10 November 2012, there is the annual English UK 2012 Teachers’ Conference held in London which is held at Prospero House.  I will be holding a talk during the day at the Conference about Dogme ELT and is related to my IATEFL Talk in Glasgow earlier this year.  Further details regarding the venue (Prospero House) is located below.

Obviously, there will also be others presenting during the Conference and with some big names in ELT such as Adrian Underhill, Rachael Roberts, Nik Peachey as well as many other names.  Jeremy Harmer will be involved with the Opening Plenary and the conference opens its doors from 9:15am with a Closing Plenary with Chia Suan Chong at 3:30pm.  The Conference Programme is available to view below:

Conference Programme 2012 Web

It will be wonderful to meet some familiar faces and I look forward to seeing some at my talk on the 10 November.

BELTE 2012 – Conference Summary

From left to right: Huan Japes, Bill Randell and Gordon Watts

Last weekend, it was the BELTE (Brighton English Language Language Training Event) 2012 conference and has been the 3rd time that I have attended this training event.  It was pretty easy getting the train to Brighton and I met some familiar faces from LTC Eastbourne at the train station.  We all sat down on the train to compare the list of presenters and decide who we were going to see at the conference.  This year, there had been a number of famous ELT professionals such as Luke Meddings, Hugh Dellar as well as Martin Parrott to name just a few.  Having received the BELTE 2012 timetable early, thanks to Gordon Watts, I had already decided which talks that I was wishing to attend.

Anyhow, once I had arrived, I was given the usual goody-bag, free books supplied by Global ELT and had an opportunity to speak to the various publishers.  The best thing about the annual BELTE is that it is free for all attendees and you can get a free book with the goody-bag.  Nevertheless, once I had met some fellow ELT professionals and said hello to some friends to teachers and publishers, Gordon Watts formally opened the event with current Brighton Mayor (Bill Randell) and English UK Deputy Chief Executive Huan Japes.  Brighton Mayor asserted that ELT was an estimated value of £100 million for Brighton, while Huan Japes discussed the complex issue of visa issuance and regulation for non-EU students wishing to attend language schools in the UK.

Attendees choosing which talks to attend.

After the formal opening of the BELTE, attendees were encouraged to write on boards which talks that they wanted to attend.  Of course, with over 300 attendees to the small conference event, all the talks were very popular and good attendance for each talk.  For a full list of the presenters for the BELTE, please view my previous blog post (This Year’s BELTE – 20 October 2012).  I decided to attend Luke Meddings’ talk on Dogme ELT (due to a personal interest in the subject), Hugh Dellar’s talk on Translation in the Classroom (a subject that I haven’t really considered before) as well as Rachael Roberts’ talk on the IELTS Examination and the implications for fluency in the test.

10:30: ‘What Happens When We Unplug’ by Luke Meddings

The first talk which I attended at 10:30am was Luke Meddings’ focus on “What happens when we unplug?“: a talk focused on the implications of Dogme ELT inside and outside the classroom.  A few weeks ago, I attended a talk at the British Council in Spring Gardens about “Found Objects” and was keen to learn Luke’s take on Dogme ELT compared to my dissertation on this subject.  Anyhow, he started the talk by getting attendees to write down the first thing that they had mentioned, thought or said to another person and scribble this down on a piece of paper.  These notes were handed back to Luke to refer to later in the talk.

Luke Meddings during his talk at BELTE 2012

He then proceeded to share his experience of initial teacher training during the equivalent of the CELTA 25 years ago and some feedback from the teacher trainers.  He then started reflecting on the use of Teacher Talking Time (TTT), which struck a chord as I had blogged about this two weeks previously (How Appropriate is TTT in the Classroom?).  Some of the thoughts and reflections that he mused over regarding TTT many years ago were similar to personal thoughts and ideas that I had, as Dogme ELT is associated with an interactionalist approach to language teaching.  As Luke maintains: “Talking with the learners, rather than talking to the learners”.  I suppose the reflections on TTT is more relevant towards the provision of instructions rather than a conversational approach to teaching.  Nevertheless, the ‘conversational-driven‘ aspect of Dogme ELT is rather interesting (as this philosophy of teaching is not new when considering the amount of teachers proclaim that they already incorporate elements of Dogme ELT either knowingly or unknowingly) and Luke then decided to share of the ‘materials-light‘ tenet of teaching unplugged.

Luke decided to focus on the aspect of materials in the classroom and pointed out that with the amount of technology in the classroom, the amount of materials has actually increased in real-terms.  For example, teachers and learners have access to coursebooks, CDs, DVDs, IWB materials, online forums, photocopiable materials, teacher manuals, supplementary learner books, dictionaries, digital apps, etc.  When I started English teaching, we only had access to student coursebooks, teacher manuals and CDs.  There appears to be a digital revolution occurring with English teaching resources.  Many people thought that the advent of technology would make the learning experience more motivational and adaptable for the classroom.  However, material has been piled on with teachers and learners expecting more bang for their buck.

Nearer the end of the talk, Luke reviewed the three key tenets of Dogme ELT (those being ‘conversation-driven‘, ‘materials-light‘ and a focus on ‘emergent language‘).  The talk then considered the ‘test-teach-test’ of language learning and Luke suggested that Dogme ELT should be related and focused with an ‘assess-teach-assess’ element of language learning.  It was highlighted that when teaching in an unplugged style, it is reactionary rather than prescriptive.  Thus, you are always assessing teaching opportunities, assessing learner capability, making informed decisions on language learning then reassessing learner understanding, hence its relationship with the ‘assess-teach-assess’ philosophy.

The next part of the workshop, Luke used various prepositions (in/out, above/below, etc) for attendees to discuss the relationships with language learning with the person sitting next to them.  There was some very interesting discussions with all attendees and Luke elicited some examples from those that were present.  Finally, Luke picked up the pieces paper (which had been passed along at the start of the workshop) and he then read out some examples from the first thing a person said:

  • “Do you want to go for a walk?”
  • “I’ve knocked over some water! Towel, towel, towel!”
  • “Oh my god!”
Luke gave some wonderful techniques to teach with the suggested sentences.  Some of this included drilling, analysis of grammar, L1/L2 translation, etc.  It was a wonderful example on how to incorporate a ‘materials-light‘ approach to teaching and one that I will try out with my learners in my next class.
As a final attempt to demonstrate the ease of technology in the classroom to develop interaction, elicitation and experimentation in the classroom, Luke brought out his iPhone with some pre-recorded material in particular places.  He played the audio (which consisted of some people chatting, some loud clanging, etc – which was actually the train station) and he got attendees to guess the place.  After some suggestions, one person got the right answer.  Luke mentioned that through the use of some very common tools with technology, you could create a rich and engaging lesson.  Obviously, the use of material flies in the face of a ‘materials-light‘ tenet of Dogme ELT, but this tenet is not ‘materials-free‘.

11:45: ‘Translation: Tackling the Taboo’ by Hugh Dellar

Hugh Dellar starts his talk at the BELTE.
The next workshop that I decided to attend was related to translation in the language classroom, an area of language teaching which is a rather under-respected topic mainly due to its pedagogical relationship with grammar translation methods of language education.  Historically, grammar translation was taught when children had to learn Latin, having to translate reams of text from Latin into English, learning the grammar forms as well as learning verb conjugations.  However, as my wife is a professional Korean translator and interpreter, I have a personal interest in translation methods of teaching in the language classroom and whether a place exists for translation/interpreting in the classroom.  There is a commonly error between the difference between translation and interpreting.  Translation is the conversion of text between one language to another, while interpreting is the conversion of speech between one language to another.
Dellar arrived after a brief panic (his underground train was delayed and he spent a number of hours trying to travel to Victoria Station then to Brighton), but he was not late for his talk.  He rushed in, got things organised and started his talk.  He obviously didn’t refer to the difference between translation and interpreting (perhaps something that he could focus on in a future talk) but his talk was aimed for translation in the classroom and he initially looked at why translation was considered a taboo in the classroom.  He encouraged attendees to discuss this amongst themselves and whether they have ever used translation in the classroom.  There was much debate about the use of it in the classroom and whether L1 should actually be included within the lesson if the aim of the lesson is L1.
Practical applications of translation in the classroom.
After some discussion and pointers by Hugh, he suggested some wonderful classroom ideas to incorporate translation in the classroom.  These included writing up a script of L1 to L1 interaction between learners and getting learners to translate this, providing students with the materials to translate which they may encounter in their work as well as raising the awareness of differences between language and culture by getting learners to translate from English to their language then, after a while, back into English (usually called back-to-back translation and a tool used by professional translators to assess quality of translation projects and something that my wife is forever doing).  However, the teacher will have to have some knowledge of the learner’s L1 if they are expected to incorporate some ideas for the classroom but is a wonderful opportunity for learners to teach their teacher about their own language/culture.  The workshop appeared to pass by so quick and it was already time for lunch and the Q&A Session.

14:00: Q&A Session with BELTE Experts

The Q&A Session is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to ask their questions to the professionals during a very informal and lighthearted part of the BELTE.  Some of the teachers asked questions related to the recession, ESOL and charity work, examining, translation as well as developments in technology applicable for the classroom.  It was very insightful and for those BELTE attendees that asked questions were given a free book so I was dead keen to ask a question about translation (considering I had attended Hugh’s talk just before).  Hugh Dellar was chairing the panel and some comments from the professionals were invaluable.  One thing that I was interested to hear about was the role of charities with private language schools and how they could both benefit each other.  As I work for a charity in a voluntary role, I am keen to see what opportunities there are for the charity and I would be keen to link English in the Community with local language schools.

15:30: ’11-14 Minutes of IELTS Speaking Hell?’ by Rachael Roberts

The last session that I attended was Rachael Roberts’ session on the speaking element of the IELTS, possibly the most daunted part of the IELTS for students taking the test.  I have never really felt much interest in attending examination workshops before, as I like to gain new ideas for the classroom rather than attend a talk about examining which won’t offer me possible ideas for classroom techniques.  However, I was really glad to attend Rachael’s talk as she attempted to bridge both areas for those interested in the examination as well as those more interested in classroom ideas.
Rachael introduced the descriptors for IELTS assessment which included fluency being one of these descriptor which is assessed.  She used the term ‘fluency‘ to create a Wordle so that attendees could see the most common and least common terms used to describe ‘fluency‘.  After showing the image, Rachael got attendees to share their own ideas about the teaching and preparation for learners (particularly in relation to the speaking part of the examination) with the IELTS and to try to describe fluency in their own words.  The descriptors which are assessed during the speaking element of the IELTS includes the following:

  • Fluency and coherence (the main focus of the talk)
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
Some quotes that Rachael referred to during the talk to describe fluency included the following:
  • Fluency is the “production of language in real time without undue pausing or hesitation” (Ellis and Barkhuizen 2005).
  • “Fluency is not so much speaking fast as pausing less” (Thornbury 2005).
The next part of the workshop, Rachael offered suggestions on various lexical phrases for specific functions (making recommendations, justifying opinions, agreeing, etc) which is quite useful for those teachers preparing learners for the IELTS.  When you drill learners phrases for speaking, by using some of the suggestions that Jeremy Harmer mentioned during his drilling and repetition talk in Bucharest, it can be invaluable and more useful when teaching examination preparation classes.
After the introduction of the 11 useful set phrases appropriate for learners to acquire for the IELTS, Rachael then focused on awareness raising activities to improve fluency and accuracy in English.  This included a nod towards an old book known as “Function in English” by Blundell, Higgins and Middlemass (1982), which is now discontinued and is now due for a revival for current language teachers, for more creative aspects of language preparation classes.  In some respects, language awareness and the development of emergent language is loosely related to Dogme ELT and it is interesting to see how close this philosophy of language teaching is affecting examination preparation classes.
Rachael suggested that the key for improving fluency and language awareness was to promote autonomy in the classroom.  She suggested that particular activities could be included such as:
  • Using phrase cards
  • Maintaining pressure during the classroom
  • Using a student as an observer
  • Developing more awareness raising activities (which I would recommend teachers to read “Teaching Unplugged“)
It was a wonderful workshop and I was glad that I attended an examination-based talk.  As mentioned previously, this was my first exam-focused workshop that I attended and I would recommend other teachers to attend them in the future particularly for those that have an opportunity to attend Rachael’s talks.  She was able to incorporate some aspect of her latest IELTS Coursebook for the workshop but it played a minor role in the talk and it was very nice to meet a fellow educator that I follow on Twitter in person.

BELTE 2012: Conclusion

Overall, the BELTE Conference was probably one of the best organised so far.  There were some big names from the ELT profession and the Q&A Session was very useful.  The attendees to the conference were given the opportunity to receive some free books and the best thing about the conference is it is free of charge.  You can hob-nob with some EFL professionals and meet other like-minded individuals during the day.  However, the day of the conference conflicted with other big events such as the Language Show (which is held annually in London) and preferably I would love to attend both conferences.  Nevertheless, one cannot complain about the quality of the talks and presenters during the conference.  It is invaluable for all educators and you will have the chance to meet other teachers or publishers.