A few years ago I wrote a blog post about 10 Websites for English Language Teachers. At the time it seemed to be quite popular with readers but it suddenly dawned that I did not write about any websites which would be best suited for learners of English. So read on to find out the 10 websites which I recommend for learners of English.
1. ESOL Courses
This wonderful self-study website, ESOL Courses, is great for students as all lessons are available online, there is no registration so lessons are free and they cover a range of areas as well as levels. I was first introduced to this website when I met Sue Lyon-Jones and she was referring to this website. I would definitely recommend students to look at this website and do some of the lessons in their spare time.
2. BBC Learning English
I have been using the BBC Learning English website since I first started English language teaching in South Korea. I always used to refer my students to it so that they could develop their own listening and vocabulary skills in their own time. The website has obviously developed and improved over time and there are now videos and activities.
3. Five Minute English
This website, Five Minute English, was one that I came across by accident and it contains quite a number of lessons which focus on listening, grammar, vocabulary as well as a range of other skills. It is fantastic and students can look at this website in their free time. The website is basic but content is good for students to study a little bit more after lessons and is invaluable for those students who have very little time for self-study.
4. ESL Podcast
This website, ESL Podcast, has small listening lessons for students to learn vocabulary and idiomatic expressions related to a particular theme. When students look at the lesson, there is a script. There are not any activities but it is just an additional opportunity for learners to improve their listening skills in their own time.
5. English Page
English Page is an engaging learner focused website which offers areas of study with grammar, vocabulary as well as weekly lessons. It is a useful website with exercises within the website so students do not have to download or print activities. This can reinforce what is being studied during lessons.
Flo-Joe has been around for years and I was introduced to it when I was working in Korea as it was the go-to website as lessons were associated with Cambridge ESOL Examinations and it still is. It is still an invaluable website for those learners that are preparing for examinations such as the PET, KET, FCE or any other Cambridge ESOL focused examination. Students will develop a lot of exam skills and they will be able to use this in their free time.
7. English at Home
English at Home is a great website for students as there is a focus on spoken English, vocabulary and grammar. There are lessons available but most of the activities are basic ‘choose the correct answer’. However, it is a useful website that students could use to refer to during their selfstudy.
You cannot write a blog post for learners of any language who wishes to study in their own time without mentioning the great DuoLingo website/application. I have this on my phone whenever I feel inspired to study French or German. However, there are courses for students whose first language is not English but wish to selfstudy English. For example, a South Korean student can access DuoLingo and learn English with the ease of using their L1. You should definitely recommend your learners to access this website on their smartphones or on their laptop.
9. Breaking News English
This is a wonderful website for students who wish to learn more about what is happening around the world, with regular updates to Breaking News English by Sean Banville. Students have free access to all lessons and activities as well as the audio. Students may need some support and introduction to the website but you could always get learners to complete a listening activity as part of their homework and then share their experiences of learning through this website.
10. University of Victoria Study Zone
The University of Victoria has free access to a Study Zone and learners may benefit from the numerous online lessons. It is primarily aimed for students from the University of Victoria. This website has a lot of resources available for students with a focus on grammar, vocabulary and reading. It does require a bit of learner training but once students have developed confidence with the website, it could supplement lessons quite nicely. Lessons are organised into levels and there is also a grammar index.
As an idea for getting students to become more aware of online content to complement their studies, I try to show the websites in class with a class set of laptops or Chromebooks, students then choose a lesson, from one of the websites, to complete during the lesson. After they have completed a lesson, they then chat to their partner about the website and for homework I organise students to write about their thoughts of the self-study content and a review with a Google Drive document, which can then be shared to all other learners when they return to class another day.
What are your favourite websites to get students to learn English outside of the classroom? Do you recommend any that have not been mentioned here? Do you have any activities that you incorporate in class to supplement learner autonomy and training?
*An update to this post and to all my readers. I was nominated and successfully won the delightful Teaching English Blog of the Month Award. A huge thanks to everyone at the British Council for their support and massive thanks to all my readers, colleagues and friends for their help. To receive recognition for the work that I do and the blog that I maintain is fantastic, so a big thank you to everyone.
When I first started teaching all those years ago, I was not so keen on the teaching of pronunciation or phonics. It was after I returned to the UK, that I decided to learn more about the teaching of pronunciation. I also attended a training session by Adrian Underhill on the use of the Phonemic Chart and discovered that the area of phonics and pronunciation is not so difficult after all. Fast forward a few years later, having read up on many pronunciation books, I found the use of vowel sounds and their spelling still quite unpredictable. It was quite a relief to receive a book, written by Bob Knowles, dedicated to the sounds of vowels.
This book is called, as one would expect, “When Vowels Get Together” and focuses on “the different ways that vowels pairs can be pronounced” (Knowles, p.1). I was unaware how unpredictable and ambiguous the English language can be, especially when it comes down to vowel pairs. In fact, the other day I came across a video on YouTube which demonstrated this perfectly.
For the First Chapter, Bob Knowles introduces the paperback version of “When Vowels Get Together” very well and introduces the reader to the considerations included within this publication. These include why the book was written, why readers should use the book, how readers could use the book as well as the differences between a paperback and electronic version – it is invaluable that this book is available in different formats.
Throughout the book, the author introduces the vowel sounds in a logical fashion, with readers being guided through vowel sounds beginning from ‘A’ all the way to ‘U’. With each vowel sound, there is an associated vowel pair in alphabetical order. For example, with the vowel sounds beginning with ‘A’, Knowles has incorporated spelling with all different variations of vowel pairs such as ‘aa’, ‘ae’, ‘ai’, ‘ao’ and ‘au’. With each dedicated chapter or sub-chapter, Knowles has created a wonderful table for the pronunciation variables with each vowel pair and their corresponding percentile for the respective pronunciation variables. Therefore, you may refer to page 20 and note that the vowel sound represented by the spelling of ‘ai’ will have a 68% chance of being pronounced with the sound of /eɪ/. There is a table also included with a variety of different spellings.
Each chapter focuses on the sounds from various different vowel pairs and Bob Knowles provides the information in an easy and logical format. You soon realise that almost all words are underlined in the tables throughout the chapters. Initially, I was unsure why these words were underlined but then you discover that in the eBook versions, there are links to the Macmillan Dictionary Online where a reader could tap on a word, they are then transported to the definition to the word as well as the pronunciation of the word. You also notice that this book has real potential as an eBook but unfortunately that is lost with the paperback version.
“When Vowels Get Together” is a fantastic book which helps the reader learn more about the relationship between varying vowel sounds and their respective vowel pairs. It can be usefully exploited by teachers for classroom use, and if teachers are keen to develop learner awareness of vowel sounds and spelling then this book is absolutely brilliant. I would recommend any teacher to have the chance to refer to this publication so that they learn more about the reason how particular words could be pronounced and for learners to make an educated choice when faced with a new word.
I received a small package from Cambridge University Press last week and was eager to open it up and see what I had received. Sure enough, as I was expecting, my new copy of “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” had swiftly been delivered. My first reaction was, “wow such a small book” and then I started to look at it in more detail. I instantly realised that this book is not meant to focus extensively on English language teaching, but is solely a practical source of information for teachers in various areas of teaching. We already, for example, have books which focus on Classroom Management Techniques or lesson planning, and it is refreshing to read a book which cuts down on the waffle and offers readers practical and clear ideas to incorporate in class. Penny Ur has authored or co-authored many practical books before such as “Vocabulary Activities”, “Five Minute Activities”, “Teaching Listening Comprehension” as well as “Discussions that Work”. Incidentally, my favourite book in my early years of teaching was “Five Minute Activities” and there were so many practical ideas which I incorporated into my teaching. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at her latest publication.
The book is split between 21 chapters – these including the Introduction and Index – and cover a range of areas of teaching. Penny Ur’s introduction explains why she wrote the book, covers a little of her teaching career and inspires the reader to continue on. There are a lot of sub-chapters from the remaining 19 chapters and the Index allows the reader to easily find an area of teaching, such as error correction, picture dictation or speaking, easily accessible. These chapters are organised into the following:
Beginning and ending the lessonThe Coursebook
Testing and assessment
Each of the chapters, which offers the reader the opportunity to make an educated guess on the topic to read, has between four to seven teaching tips apart from the final chapter, ‘P.S.’. The author has written the book in such a way that teachers do not have to read it from cover-to-cover. Readers can decide on a topic and then get some inspiration from a particular area of teaching. For example, if you are interested in the area of teacher talking time, you could look at the contents list and refer to the 6 sub-chapters related to the chapter on ‘Teacher Talk’. These topics sub-chapters include:
Talk a lot
Keep eye contact
Teach common classroom language
Use mother tongue occasionally
Invite short responses
Should you decide to read more about telling stories, you can go to the relevant page. Each sub-chapter has a page worth of teaching tips, therefore there are 100 pages of teaching tips within this book. Each teaching tip is easy to digest as there is not too much information on the page with a suitable sub-heading which encapsulates the topic effectively. For example on the subchapter on ‘Tell stories’, there is inspiring piece of sub-heading:
“One excellent way of exposing students to spoken English through teacher talk is storytelling – not only for young learners.” (p.94)
Further down the page there is additional teaching tips and techniques which the reader could easily incorporate into their own classes, such as using a picture-book with young learners to tell a story, using online video versions to support your story, as well as using jokes or other strange events to support the telling of stories and also keep students’ attention. This is one example from the many practical ideas within “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips”. All tips are broken down into an easy-to-read format and inspires the reader an opportunity to incorporate these invaluable ideas.
The major advantage to this book is that it is also downloadable as well as being available in paperback. The digital formats available include Apple iBook, Google ebook, Kindle ebook and an eBooks.com ebook. So if you wish to purchase this but are unable to purchase a paperback copy, you can purchase it in a digital format. It is not going to be a thorough book on all aspects of English language teaching as this is not what it is focused on. It is a book on the areas of teaching which are more pertinent to teachers and offers a number of ideas which readers could use or tweak if they should wish. As Penny Ur mentioned in her introduction, readers should not “regard [the teaching tips] as directives from an authority, but as suggestions from a colleague” (p.viii). The reader is encouraged to use the tips and techniques selectively.
Actually, this book reminds me of the teaching tips nearer the back of Jim Scrivener’s “Learning Teaching” where there were a number of recommendations for teachers to consider on all aspects of language teaching. I was so inspired by some of these statements by Scrivener that I typed them up on a computer, printed them out, cut these up and laminated them. These self-made flashcards are with me to remind about teaching which can so easily be forgotten. But I am also pleased to say that the book will also be with me so that I am able to get ideas for teaching.
I recommend “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” for any English teacher as this book is a wonderful reference book for those seeking a quick technique with regards to an area of teaching. I can see teachers referring to this book if there class observation highlights a few areas to focus on for next time.
There are more resources available for those wishing to learn more about Penny Ur’s latest publication here:
Last week, I was contacted by Amanda Momeni about receiving a book about the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course. For those that are unaware, the CELTA is a recognisable four week full-time (as well as nine week part-time) course for those that wish to pursue a career in English language teaching, either in their home country or abroad. It is recognised as an intensive course and puts all trainees through their paces. When I took the CELTA course nearly ten years ago, the Director of the British Council in Seoul mentioned it was the equivalent of a boot camp for English language teachers and I agree to a point. It is incredibly tough.
Anyhow, I received “The Ultimate Guide to CELTA”, written by Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, and I was naturally curious about how someone would attempt to encapsulate the course within 113 pages. It was first published in 2013, is available in paperback as well as in Kindle format and is a wonderful example of two English language teaching professionals, Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, authoring and publishing their own work. The fantastic drawings are by Kate Hoffmann and are plentiful throughout the book. I was immediately curious about the Glossary (p.107-112) as there is an alphabetical list of acronyms written down which trainees are introduced to during the CELTA course. For example, if you wish to know what TTT means, flick through to page 112. Want to know what ICQ means, go to page 110 to find out. It is a useful index of acronyms for trainees undertaking the CELTA. Looking at the Contents, there are 19 chapters throughout the book – including Glossary. Each chapter follows a methodical and logical pattern with readers being guided through each area of the CELTA course. The chapters are as follows:
Meet the Trainees
Preparing for the Course
Trainee Diary Entries Day 1
Organising Your Time
Observations of Experienced Teachers
The Final Day
Trainee Diary Entries Day 21
Five Years Later
In the first chapter, ‘Meet the Trainees’, the reader is introduced to four fictitious characters named Harassed Henry (a gentleman who has been made redundant and has decided to undertake the course), Fastidious Felicity (a lady who has followed her husband on his career and is now deciding to do the CELTA), Chilled-out Charlie (a chap who happened by chance to do the CELTA course after a gap year before university) and Anxious Annie (a lady who has just graduated from university and is seeking employment yet appears worried about the exposure that she will face during the CELTA). All names include an imaginative adjective preceding their name and you can start to imagine the different type of people that CELTA trainers may encounter during the course.
Chapters two, ‘Course Content’, is quite short having a fictitious conversation between Harassed Henry and his wife, Pleasant Pat about the content of the CELTA, the criteria for passing as well as what the course includes. The fourth chapter, ‘Getting Accepted’, guides the reader through basic questions for potential CELTA candidates to consider, such as “Am I fully committed, and able to dedicate 100% of my time to a full-time course?” or “Have I got the PC skills to manage basic programmes, such as Word?”. It offers possible trainees the chance to reflect on whether the CELTA is suitable for them. Other parts of this chapter include the application procedure, the language awareness test and the interview. It offers invaluable advice for those that are considering the CELTA and areas to consider during the application process.
The fourth chapter, named ‘Preparing for the Course’, suggests ideas for the possible trainee to consider prior to commencing the CELTA course. There is a recommendation by the authors about what they suggest as a ‘sleep bank’ and filling up on your rest prior to the course. There is also a helpful checklist at the end of this short chapter for readers to consider. The following chapter focuses on Day 1 of the CELTA course and I can relate much of my own experience to this. All fictitious characters include a diary insert about their first day of the course and their own opinions. It is an interesting idea and allows readers to reflect on their own first day – had they also graduated from the CELTA. The following chapter, ‘Organising Your Time’, provides readers with some highlights of those well-known characters from the book – if you have completed the CELTA course, you will start to recognise particular traits with other trainees who were present during your course – as well as invaluable tips to consider when organising your personal time, such as ensuring that one is aware of deadlines for written assignments, not leaving anything to the last minute or keeping your CELTA portfolio up-to-date. It is a useful chapter and one that readers of the CELTA course will quickly start to realise when managing their own time.
Unfortunately, for me when I undertook the CELTA course in Seoul, I had an hour and a half commute to the Training Centre. This meant that I had to wake up at 5am, catch the first bus to the train station, catch a train to Seoul and then get a tube to the Centre. Then I had another commute back home where I prepared my lessons till the late hours of the evening. It was one thing that I would not recommend anyone to consider and if I were in a different position, I would recommend anyone to be closer to the Training Centre. I had very little time to waste and much of it was dedicated to the course, so much of what is mentioned in the book is very different to my own personal experiences but I can relate them to those that were on the course with me. There were individuals who were working incredibly hard during the course, and were juggling their own time throughout their four weeks. The weekend is also a time to unwind and relax, as well as catch up on that much needed ‘sleep bank’.
The additional chapters throughout the book are wonderfully written, guiding the reader every step of the way with advice on the actual teaching practice, the input sessions, writing the lesson plans or the written assignments of the CELTA course with delightful illustrations supplementing each chapter. The chapter before last, ‘Trainee Diary Entries Day 21’, is a well written conclusion for those that have completed the CELTA. I can relate well to this chapter as I remember finishing the course with all my other trainees and being invited out for something to eat and drink with them. It was a wonderful chance to relax after such an intense and tough course. The final chapter, named ‘Five Years Later’, looks at predictably at all CELTA trainee characters from the book and where they are now. Each character has moved on from the initial course, each carving out fictitious careers paths in the whole world of English language teaching. I recommend readers to leave the final chapter until they have read the entire book as it would spoil the benefits that this chapter has to offer. In fact, I would recommend those that are doing a CELTA course to leave this chapter until they have written their five year plan. Ideally, readers should leave this chapter all together after five years and reflect back at their five year plan from the CELTA course. I remember from my course that I wrote that I wanted to focus on teaching Military English, become more involved in Examining and teach more adult language learners having taught primarily to young learners. How things have turned out.
The book is aimed at potential trainees for the CELTA and offers some incredibly valuable tips to consider while undertaking the course. One aspect would make the chapters more accessible were if they had been numbered. Each chapter, although not a problem, seems to seemingly cross to the next chapter but perhaps it would make sense for readers to have some signposting when introduced to a new chapter. If you have completed the CELTA and would like to reminisce about it, I would recommend this book as it would offer the reader a chance to think back about what they had undertook and what was included. It was a very memorable event and reading back on all stages of the course, leaves me with fond memories. This book helped reflect on these. Finally, it is by no means a single book which helps the trainees throughout the course, they still need to do the hard work and there is all the other recommended reading for CELTA trainees to consider purchasing as well. This is a supplementary book which is solely focused on the CELTA course and I wish it had been around when I took the CELTA all those years ago. I’d recommend the book for those that are considering doing the course and would like to discover what is involved in the CELTA. It is also a light-hearted look at the course and supports graduates from the CELTA to reminisce.
Today, I read an a very interesting article on the BBC News website about rituals students and their parents undertake before a very important examination. Being inspired by such a reading, and something that would generate conversation in an English language classroom, I thought I would create a lesson about this news article.
Aims: By the end of the lesson, students will learn more about exam rituals from South East Asia and extend their cultural awareness.
Level: Intermediate or above
Timing: 60 minutes or more
Focus: Conversation and Scaffolding Emergent Language
Materials: Images, Headings and Text (sourced from BBC News)
Step 1: Warmer
At the beginning of the lesson, write up the following questions on the whiteboard for students to discuss in pairs or small groups:
Have you taken an exam recently? What?
What did you do to prepare before taking the exam?
How did you do in your last test?
What would you do differently for your next test?
Would you take any lucky objects with you to the exam? If so, what and why?
Would you eat a special meal the night before the exam? If so, what?
You could give a dice to the students and then get them to ask the question corresponding to the number on the dice that they roll. Monitor learners during the conversation and provide feedback or scaffold language where required.
Step 2: Introduce Images
Hand out the following pictures for learners and ask them to guess why they are lucky and which country these could be from and why there might be particular superstitions related to them.
If learners are having a bit of difficulty, you could get them to look at the images and ask them what they are or what they represent.
Step 3: Matching Exercise
Tell students that they will receive headings related to the images above and that they have to match the headings to the images. Demonstrate with one heading as an example and write it up on the whiteboard. For example, you could write up “Avoid washing your hair” and ask students which picture it is related to. Students should be able to match it up pretty quickly and then ask them why people would avoid washing their hair. Tell them that they need to match up the remaining headings to the pictures.
How KitKat got lucky
An apple a day
Avoid washing your hair
Going nuts over exams
A slice of luck
Praying for success
Lucky watch versus slippery soup
Wear red underwear
Pray for mercy from the “Bell Curve God”
Give students a bit of time to work together and allow them to discuss and link up the pictures. Then once students have finished, you could check as a whole class which images match the headings.
Step 4: Text Matching
The next part of the lesson is for students to match the remaining text to the headings and images. Give the students the text cut up in to ten corresponding parts. Read the first sentence and ask students what image/heading it corresponds to. All text is available on the website but is also available below.
How KitKat got lucky
Traditionally, Japanese students would eat Katsudon before or on the day of an exam, comprising a warm bowl of rice topped with egg and a deep-fried pork cutlet. The dish name’s likeness to the word “katsu”, meaning “winning” is thought to bring students luck. But KitKat in Japan has also been marketing itself as a bringer of good luck. Pronounced as “kitto katto”, the chocolate’s name is similar to the phrase “kitto katsu”, meaning “surely winning”, making it a good candidate for a good luck charm.
An apple a day
Canteens across Hong Kong University campuses serve apples, and a variety of apple dishes, in the run-up to the exam period. “The pronunciation of apple in Chinese is “ping guo”, which also means “safety”. So it’s considered that you will safely pass the exam,” says Chong Wang, from Nanjing in China.
Avoid washing your hair
In your vicious cycle of all-night revision, microwave food and highlighter pens, you may have forgotten to have a shower. But not to worry – in South Korea, it’s thought that washing your hair could wash all the knowledge out. “There was one boy in our class who didn’t wash hair before exams. The rest of the time he was very clean, but once you came to know his exam ritual, you didn’t want to go near him,” said one student about a classmate.
Going nuts over the exams
Around a month before exams start in Hong Kong, students in clubs, societies and residential halls, will gather for “superpass”, or going guo. “Superpass” is a series of activities aimed at helping you pass your exams with a top score. The first part is the superpass dinner, which is usually held at a Chinese restaurant. It’s important that students eat pork cubes with cashews, one of the signature superpass dishes. The Chinese word for “cashews” sounds like the word for “wish to pass”, and “pork cubes” sounds like “desire for a distinction”. Homophones, or homonyms, play a big part in ritual and superstition in many East Asian languages.
A slice of luck
Returning to the hall, it’s time for everyone to have a turn at slicing through a giant roast pig, considered to be an important sacred offering in China. Each participant is given one try at cutting the pig into two halves. Those who succeed are thought to go on to pass all their exams the first time round, and those who fail, will have to re-sit some. This is followed by eating kiwis, as the Chinese word for the fruit sounds like “easy to pass exams.”
Praying for success
Many students in East Asia have the attentive support of their parents, whether they want it or not. “Some parents wait for their children outside the exam hall praying for them to pass,” says South Korean teacher Ji-Youn Jung, “My mum did, but my test results turned out to be awful.” Ultra-keen parents will go as far as praying at Buddhist temples every day for the 100 days leading up to the exam.
Lucky watch versus a slippery soup
In South Korea, the slipperiness of the widely-eaten seaweed soup is thought to mean you will lose all the knowledge from the notes you’ve been revising like mad. “I try not to have seaweed soup before important plans like exams or interviews. But if I happen to eat it without consciousness, I don’t worry too much,” Ji-Youn says. But Chong Wang from China says: “My personal tradition is to have noodles for breakfast on exam day, as noodles mean “everything goes smooth” in Chinese. But I also take my lucky watch.”
A bit of sugar might give you an energy boost, but South Koreans also believe that this sugary snack could have exam-passing powers. Yeot, a traditional sticky food, is eaten before important exams, especially university entrance exams. Ji-Youn explains: “Yeot is a sticky sweet, and the Korean words for “sticky” and “pass entrance exam” sound the same.” Or else drink some chicken juice, which is thought to give your brain a boost. Students in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China tend to drink this while revising for exams, and on the morning of the exam itself. “It’s nothing superstitious,” says Dylan Lee Soon Yoong, a Singaporean student at University College London. “I drink chicken essence on the morning of the exam… you down it like a shot after heating it up. It’s supposed to help your concentration and is marketed pretty heavily to students in Singapore.”
Wear red underwear
Red is widely believed to be a lucky colour in China. So many believe that it’s a good idea to wear some red clothing, or more specifically red underwear, during an exam. When a person is particularly successful, there is a Chinese saying, “Are you wearing red underwear?” But Chong Wang warns: “Some people may avoid wearing red during exams because in China, fail scores are written in red on score sheets.”
Pray for mercy from the “Bell Curve God”
The Bell Curve God is an embodiment of university students’ fears of the bell curve grading system used in Asia’s top universities, such as the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. Bell curve grading means not just measuring how well you did in an exam, but rather how you did in relation to everyone else in your class. In an already high-achieving country, that pushes competitiveness to the max. Shrines to the Bell Curve God have been set up at both universities, where food and candles are left as offerings to the “God”.The National University of Singapore has gone as far as setting up a website, Facebook and Twitter account for the Bell Curve God, so that students can pray electronically. “As students, we are subject to the omnipotent, inscrutable force that is the Bell Curve God. He is the arbitrary being that decides our grades,” Dylan Lee Soon Yoong explains.
Step 5: Text Analysis
As a final activity, you could get students to read the text in more detail and do various activities such as underlying or highlighting particular words or vocabulary which learners are unsure of, getting students to write up questions for the text or for you to scan the reading and then come up with your own questions.
Step 6: Describing Examination Preparation Habits
As a final activity, the students could then share their own personal examination preparation habits with their peers. It is a useful exercise and you could exploit it further by getting students to write about their preparation habits or experiences of examinations.
Let me know how this lesson goes and if you have any feedback and I hope your learners enjoy this lesson. It can really prompt learners to share their own experiences of exam preparation in relation to their own country or culture.
You know what it’s like, the students are sitting down in their predictable places and you say “Right! We are going to move you around. Listen to your number!”. You give a number to each student and you pair them up with their corresponding number. In essence, you just move the students – which is meant to be their new – partner but the same person that they are with for the remainder of their course. Why not pair up students or groups of learners in a different way? Mix it up a bit and add some variety to the class layout where students are expected to sit! In this post, we look at five exciting and innovative ways to pair up students together.
1. Reaching New Heights
A simple and useful way to match learners together in pairs or small groups is to get them lined up and then ask them to go in order of height (from smallest to tallest – a good way to review superlatives). You can then put them together with the student next to them or reorganise them into small groups. It is quick, simple and affective. In fact, this was something which I was introduced to when I first enlisted in the Royal Air Force and they had all new recruits standing in a line from shortest to tallest. We were then divided into three with our flight being placed either at the front (shortest), middle (mid-height) or the rear (the tallest). It is nothing new when you do this in your classroom and want to make the pairing up of students unpredictable and spontaneous.
2. Binomial Pairs
This is possibly my favourite activity for pairing up learners together. I am unsure where I learnt this from but I think it may be from the wonderful time when I worked with Peter Clements (ELT Planning). He has some great ideas and highly recommend his blog. It is quite an easy activity to prepare. All you do is write down one half of binomials on a slip of paper and the corresponding half of the other binomial on another slip of paper. If you have ten students, you will be using five binomials split in half, such as:
Safe and Sound
Sausage and Mash
Sick and Tired
Give and Take
Peace and Quiet
You could demonstrate the activity first by writing up examples of binomials with half of them at random on one side of the board and their corresponding halves randomly on the other side of the board. Ask students to match each halves before handing out the binomial slips of paper. You will then hand out ten words and ask students to find their partner with the corresponding word. For example, if a student has the words “Safe and” then they must find their partner “Sound“. It is a great activity to pair up students and you could change it slightly if you want to use collocations or other related words.
3. Vocabulary Pairing
This is another take from the activity above. Instead of using binomial pairs to match students up with another student, you could change it slightly by preparing vocabulary written on one slip of paper and their definitions written on another piece of paper. Essentially, students holding key vocabulary in their hand have to find a partner who is holding a corresponding definition. To make it slightly more complicated, you could get students to keep their vocabulary or definitions secret and those with the key vocabulary must describe it in their own words or the person with the definition must guess the vocabulary and say it. Once students find their partner, then they can sit with them and continue with the lesson. It is a great matching exercise for learners and a wonderful way to review language which had emerged from previous lessons.
4. Sentence Halves
As with the previous activity, what better way to review grammar structures than using this as a way to pair up students together. For example, if your previous lesson focused on conditionals, you could prepare a number of sentences split in half (i.e. on the second clause) and get students to guess what would start or finish the sentence that they are holding in their hand. Get students to move around and find their partner. You could use some of the conditionals below to help you get started:
I will take an umbrella if it rains later today.
I am not going to work tomorrow if I don’t feel well.
I’ll arrive on Sunday if I can get a flight.
You’ll be cold if you don’t wear a coat.
He’ll be hungry later if he doesn’t eat now.
If a student is holding a piece of paper with “I will take an umbrella …” then that person must find a student who has a corresponding sentence to match with it such as “… if it rains later today.“.
5. Random Names
For the last experimental way to make random pairs or small groups of learners, you could use a very simple way which requires a lighter approach to preparation is by getting students to write their names on a piece of paper which you give them. You place all the names in a bag or box and mix them all up. Make sure you don’t look at the pieces of paper and you pull out each slip of paper with a name and then tell students to be matched with another name. It is a simple and quick activity to pair learners up together but it ensures that you have no way to engineer the pairing up of students. This will leave learners with the reassurance that whoever they are placed with, they will not blame the teacher as it is much to do with luck than anything.
If you have the name of the learners to hand on a register, you could type the names out and laminate them for future use as well. You could also use the laminated names placed at particular desks so students have to sit at this location.
These are five ideas that I have used from time-to-time to pair up learners together but have you got any favourite activities for pairing learners up together? Do you simply count across the classroom and then get corresponding numbers matched together? I hope you try out some of these ideas and experiment in the classroom a bit more – your students will love it!
Reading can be such a passive and monotonous activity in the classroom: you walk in the classroom, tell students that they are going to read about a particular topic, brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic to activate their schema and then go ahead with the reading. They complete some comprehension questions, get them to check in small groups before eliciting answers and correcting where necessary. If you follow this basic format for reading activities, students will find it quite disheartening and you will start losing the will to live. Are there any different ways to spice up the activity of reading in the classroom? Well do not worry, I offer 10 different ideas.
1. What’s the Question?
You could follow the initial format of generating interest in the reading by getting students to discuss some questions related to the topic and then introducing some vocabulary but why give students the questions to the reading? A lovely activity that I enjoy doing, particularly for examination classes or any other for that matter, is to get small groups of students to write the questions for another group. You will notice students reading the text in greater detail and then liaising with others in their group to come up with suitable yet challenging questions. I usually allow students around 20-30 minutes to read the text and allow them to develop their questions and then another period of time to answer another group’s questions. It develops learners’ awareness of what they are reading and prompts learners to continuously question what they are reading and provides prediction skills particularly for examination classes.
2. The Hot Seat
If you use coursebook or other related reading material, you will notice that the reading is on the same page of the questions. One thing that I like to do is crop the reading and just copy this for learners and then remove the questions from the page. So learners only have the reading at their disposal. What they don’t have are any questions. You tell students that they are going to have a quiz in a certain amount of time and during this time, they must memorise the reading as much as possible: all facts and information. You monitor and help learners with any vocabulary they have issues they may encounter. After the time is up, put students into two groups and nominate a learner from one group to come to the front of the classroom and to sit in a chair facing the other students. You need to create at least 10 questions to check comprehension of the reading but students will not have access to this reading at this point during the lesson. Once you have the student in the ‘hot seat’, you then ask all questions to him or her. The student is likely not to remember everything and then you choose another student from the other group, then repeat the questions. The student/group who can answer all questions is the winner.
3. Reading Relay
One slightly fun activity to get students up and walking around is to stick up the reading around the walls in the classroom or even better stick it up in the corridor outside the classroom. Students are placed into to pairs and they you give them a list of questions about the reading but they must not take any pens, smartphone or the questions to the reading. One person from the group memorises a question, walks to the reading and then scans for the answer, memorises the answer, returns to their partner and then dictates the answer. Their partner then memorises a question and repeats the activity. The first group to complete this task correctly is the winner. After students have finished you could then check questions as a whole-class activity and getting students to nominate themselves to answer questions when checking with the class.
4. Jigsaw Reading
This activity requires some additional preparation but the learners will really enjoy it. If you have a text which you are preparing to use in a lesson, you could split it up between two groups – one group will have some key information missing while the other group has other key information missing. The whole process of this reading is to get each group to write questions to find out the missing information which the other group will have in their reading. For example, it could be about a famous person (musician, actor/actress or politician) and within the reading. I usually board the following to provide an example:
Student A: Michael Parkinson is an English ________ (1)who was born on 28 March 1935.
Student B: Michael Parkinson is an English broadcaster who was born on ________ (2).
I then ask students what the question could be for each missing piece of information and then elicit and write up the question up on the whiteboard. The good thing about this type of reading is that it prepares learners to critically question their reading and think of suitable question forms for any missing information. This type of reading best works best for famous people or places.
5. Shuffled Reading
Your students receive a block of text, read it and then have to answer questions about it. Seems a bit boring to be honest, so why not spice it up by breaking down that reading into nuggets of information which could be reorganised? All you need to do is type up your text but then after each sentence or so add in a couple of line breaks. In the end you will have your text spread over a couple of pages with space between each sentence or two which could then be cut-up and then shuffled up. What do students have to do? Well simple really! They have to reorganise the reading into order. You may ask what students will benefit from this. They will be looking for cohesive devices or linkers between the previous sentence and the next one. You could demonstrate this task by handing out the shuffled and cut-up text to each and asking them to look for the first sentence. Once you have elicited the correct first sentence, you could tell students – as I usually tell them – “I have had a really bad day and cut up all your reading today. Could you please help me and put it back in order?” Once students have agreed on the order, you could reorganise the groups so one person goes to another group and then compares their text to their own. A final activity could be the standard reading comprehension questions but by this time, the students will have focused heavily on the reading that the questions are pretty much redundant.
What are your favourite reading activities? Do you have any special ideas to spice up the reading and make it a bit more interesting for language learners?
It has been an incredibly busy year at work and home. Unfortunately, the biggest problem this has created is the lack of opportunity to blog more consistently. The flip side is that what I have written – which I aimed to be more practical and supportive for English language practitioners – was practical with some ideas for readers to incorporate in their own class. I have decided to review five of the most popular posts from this year.
This was initially written to answer some of the questions which my Facebook Group is constantly faced with: “What books do I purchase for the CELTA?“. It seemed rather popular with over 7,000 visitors checking this post out and commenting on it as well. Many thanks for finding this a useful post.
Another popular post was, again, CELTA-related dedicated for those wishing to undertake a CELTA (or equivalent initial teacher training) course. It followed the most popular format on my blog by offering small nuggets of information which the reader could digest and use.
This post was more practical and aimed for current teachers of English. When I wrote this, I was always looking for a different way to introduce target language and wanted to be as creative as possible. In the end, I thought it would be worthwhile to put some of my ideas down and share with my readers.
At our school, we were going through a process of observing teachers and during this time, I thought about some of the lessons that I had observed with teachers with years of experience but was still left scratching my head with questions such as “Why did you do that?” or “What did the students get out of the lesson?”. I decided to get some things straight by sharing some things to consider when you, I or anyone else has a lesson observation. Read the post for more information.
In our school, we had some in-house teacher training sessions and one was the idea of using QR Codes as part of lessons. After the training session, I decided to get back to the drawing board and by writing up some lesson ideas to accompany the session and share with my teachers in our school. It seemed so worthwhile and, as has experienced, some of the teachers needed a helping hand on how to create the QR Codes and what to do with them. Thus, after I created a handout to share, I decided it was worthy of a blog post and decided to share with my readers. I hope you found it worthy.
So these were the most popular posts for 2015. What was your most popular post on your blog? Nevertheless, apologies for my lack of writing this year. It is one of my aims for 2016 is to write more often and to engage more with you, the readers.
What would you like to see next year? Are there any areas of teaching you would like to me to cover? Thank you for deciding to visit my blog over the year and I do hope you found it useful.
It has been a while since my last post, about two months actually. Apologies it has taken so long for this post but it has been a very busy period for us at LTC Eastbourne with a lot of young learners coming through for the summer school. Nevertheless, this blog post is all about the different ways us teachers could introduce or elicit target language during lessons. The benefit of getting students aware of target language is to activate schemata/schema which essentially means getting students tuned into the language and preparing them for the lesson. For example, if you say to students let’s talk about food, they can predict that the conversation will obviously focus on vocabulary related to food and nothing related to jobs. Anyhow, let’s get started!
1. Antonym Matching
The usual way to introduce key language is to just write them up on the whiteboard and provide the definition. This, in itself, is rather mundane and predictable. So, to liven things up a little more is to write up the words on pieces of paper all cut up and then write the opposite meanings on different pieces of paper. Get students to match words with their opposite meaning. Not only does it give the learners a chance to think about the target language but it also gets them thinking about corresponding words which have an opposite meaning. An additional idea is to just type up all the target language on one side of paper and their corresponding antonyms on the other side – all mixed up – and then learners have to match it that way.
2. Definition Matching
A similar activity to above is to write out the target language on one side of a worksheet and the corresponding definition on the other side and get students to match the word with the suitable definition. It is a good activity for learners and it is best to have some learner dictionaries to hand in case students want to check definitions if they are unsure. This activity is also a useful exercise at the end of the lesson for students to review the target language they have acquired during the lesson. An optional activity is to split up the class into two groups, give one half the class the target language to find and write out the definitions from a dictionary on a separate piece of paper and give the other half the class the remaining half of the target language to find in a dictionary. Once they have finished, collect the words and definitions from each group, redistribute the words and definitions and then the groups try to match words and definitions. It is a useful exercise and it would provide an opportunity for students to review language at the end of the class.
3. Unjumble the Words
A simple and effective way for students to work out the target language is to jumble up all the letters from target language. It is such a popular activity for teachers and it takes little time to prepare for this activity. I just find it easier to write out the target language on a piece of paper and then write out the letters in any order just underneath it. When I go to class, I can refer to this when writing up the jumbled words on the whiteboard. Very simple and then you could then use one of the other ideas in this post to introduce the language to your learners.
4. Missing Vowels
This is another quick and easy task for learners to focus on and is especially invaluable for Arabic learners of English, due to their weakness of reading and writing in English. It is very easy to do in MS Word and all you need to do is type out a few underscores where the vowels are. It is simple to do, type the word in MS Word and then highlight the vowel by pressing “Shift” and using the arrow keys. Then type the underscore where the vowel is located. Handout the worksheet to learners and give them a time limit to complete. Once learners have finished, you could nominate students to come up to the whiteboard and write out the words, without their worksheet, from memory. Again it places students to focus on the spelling when reviewing the language and you could then use some of the other activities in this post to exploit target language fully.
5. Flashcard Drills
This is one of my most popular activities for introducing target language and one that students also enjoy. You first show a picture or a word and then read it out in a clear voice and then get students to repeat. All students could repeat or you could nominate particular students to repeat. Another activity is to sit in a circle, select a flashcard, speak the word or phrase, pass the card to another and then that student repeats the word or phrase. The flashcard is then passed around the circle of students until it arrives back to you. This activity could be sped up by passing the flashcards to students on your left and on your right, with learners trying to keep up with saying the target language and all the flashcards being passed around.
6. Stress Patterns
An alternative activity is to write out the target language that you would like to introduce and then determine where the stress is placed within the word. You then create a table with the different stress patterns and ask students to complete the table by placing the words under the corresponding stress pattern. It is a useful activity which could then lead on nicely to a pronunciation focus with target language.
7. Phonemic Words
Another activity to focus on pronunciation is to write out the phonemic script for target language to get learners to become more aware how words are pronounced. It is also a great idea to get students thinking about how they would spell these words and they will start to see patterns with vowel sounds and the spelling of these. The teacher could first introduce the words one-by-one with the use of flashcards – and using idea 5 above – or the teacher could place all words on the whiteboard and nominate students to pronounce selected words. It is a quick and easy activity and it does not take a lot of preparation for this activity.
8. Lost in Translation
I like this activity and used it a long time ago when I first started teaching elementary learners. I first translated target language into Korean and then asked students to try to find a suitable translation in English – this is called back translation and quite effective. Learners could use their mobile devices and electronic dictionaries to translate the target language. You may find that learners will discover synonyms of target language. A different activity which involves translation could include translating the target language in the learners’ first language and also having the language in English, on separate pieces of paper, and getting learners to match the translated words with the corresponding Korean words. Translation goes a long way and can be useful for students wondering what the language is in their first language or the other way round.
9. Disappearing Words
A previous colleague of mine, Pete Clements, from LTC Eastbourne demonstrated this activity to me a few years ago and I was quick to use this in class afterwards. Essentially, what you do is write up all the words around the whiteboard, drill the language, explain the definition of the key language. You then tell students to close their books – if they were making any notes of the target language and their definitions – and tell them that they have one minute to remember as many words as possible. You then draw a circle around all words or phrases, point to it and students say the word. You slowly erase the words, keeping the circles that you drew around the word and then point to it. Students have to recall the word from memory and you then start to remove more and more words, so in the end all you have is a blank whiteboard with circles around missing words or phrases. It is up to the students to remember as many key words or phrases that they can remember and it is an engaging activity for all learners no matter their age.
This is a wonderful activity that I like to do either as a vocabulary review or an introduction, particularly for young learners. It is easy to create a wordsearch, all you have to do is search for the term ‘Wordsearch Maker’ in Google and you will be directed to various different websites dedicated to the creation of word search puzzles. However, I would recommend the Teachers Direct website as a tool to create puzzles for language learners. It is wonderfully simple to create and all you have to do is to type out the target language in the website. This activity lends itself well to non-romanic language learners such as those that are Arabic or Asian speakers as they must get used to the spelling of the English language.
There you have it, all 10 ideas for introducing target language in the classroom. What are your favourite ways to introduce language in the classroom? Do you have any additional ideas? Why not share your 10 ideas? Thanks for reading and I hope you get some of these ideas into the classroom in the future.
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?
This 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
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.
Each of the exchanges below contains a mistake. In each case:
write the corrected version in the space provided
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.”
I’ve been working as a chef for ten years.
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.
Claire is working late again; she’s so passionate about her work!
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.
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!
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
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
When 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
Planning 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?