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?
“FILM IN ACTION: TEACHING LANGUAGE USING MOVING IMAGES”: BOOK REVIEW
Teachers around the world attempt to engage their learners using various methods, one of which is the use of video in the classroom. When reflecting on video, I remember, within my first year of teaching, attempting to get all the young learners motivated by watching a cartoon or child-friendly movie. However, I was fresh out of ideas on how to exploit it in an educational manner. What I tended to do was just wheel out the TV and DVD player into the classroom and hit the play button. We would all just sit there and watch the DVD, totally immersed within the video with very little educational benefit. Now with the development and popularity of online video distribution websites, as well as smart mobile filming devices, teachers are now in the position to motivate and engage their learners with the language of English via the medium of video.
It now seems fitting that the latest publication from the DELTA Teacher Development Series attempts to illustrate the educational benefit by which teachers, and their learners, could use video to supplement the teaching of English. “Film in Action” (2015), written by Kieran Donaghy, is a wonderful resource for teachers seeking further ideas on how to exploit video inside and outside the classroom with their learners. As with previous publications from the DELTA Teacher Development Series, you can expect three parts to this book: Part A, Part B and, if you hazard a guess, Part C. Within Part A, Kieran attempts to answer six key questions related to:
The role of film within society;
Film within education;
The relationship between film and literacy in the twenty-first century;
The importance of the young analysing and creating their own personal films;
The educational benefits of creating moving images; as well as
Strategies to using films inside and outside of the classroom.
Each focus is clearly written, with reference to further reading in the bibliography, which guides the reader towards the relationship between education, film and teaching. The final focus of Part A – using film in the classroom – offers some invaluable and reflective tips for using feature films or short films in creative and educationally rewarding ways. Part A offers the reader websites related to short films, general film resources as well as additional lesson plans and projects.
Part B, which offers a wealth of lesson ideas, is split into two chapters: Chapter One focuses on learners actively watching film with the aim of improving their language skills as well as developing their visual literacy, while Chapter Two offers concepts of lessons designed to encourage learners to actively produce their own film with a focus on English. Chapter One, which contain in total 68 lesson ideas, in the predictable lesson structure which is clear, methodical and well organised. This simple and effective process, as with all of the DELTA Teacher Development Series, offer readers inspired lessons to incorporate films within the classroom. All the lesson ideas in this section are further split into 8 other categories related to actively watching film: exploring film (7 lesson ideas), exploiting moving images (12 lesson ideas), exploiting still images (7 lesson ideas), exploiting sound (12 lesson ideas), exploiting music (4 lesson ideas), analysing characters (8 lesson ideas), analysing scripts (8 lesson ideas) as well as exploring new film genres (10 lesson ideas).
Chapter Two, within Part B, focuses on learners producing and creating their own films in an educational manner. It is, again, clearly organized using the DELTA Publishing formula. The focus of learners actively producing their own films, of which there are 43 lessons, is split into three main areas: creating narrative (15 lesson ideas), creating images and sounds (9 lesson ideas) and creating moving images (19 lesson ideas). One of my favourite lesson ideas, within Chapter Two, Part B, is getting learners to create a ‘how to’ video. Kieran has written a wonderful lesson plan which naturally develops towards students creating their very own ‘how to’ video. The lesson itself is incredibly powerful as students are no longer restricted by the topic. They can work together to create a video, which can then be played back to the rest of the class.
There is a natural development towards Part C, which considers the adoption of a ‘three C’ approach to film: Cultural access, Critical understanding and Creative activity. Kieran considers exploiting the three Cs approach, within Part C, by considering four projects which readers could incorporate within their classroom: the film club, film circles, film chronicles, and the film course. With these four considerations, which any language institution could incorporate to supplement language courses, the author highlights very important aspects to consider. For example, with a film club the reader is reminded to consider equipment required, the environment, legal implications as well as selecting appropriate films. Additional resources and lesson ideas are offered for readers in the final Part, with readers feeling motivated to attempt film projects with their educational institution.
The book itself covers a variety of areas with film in the classroom in a well-defined and logical fashion that naturally guides the reader towards different aspects to consider when incorporating film in the classroom. Readers will gain confidence and inspiration when incorporating ideas suggested by Kieran Donaghy. There is such a wealth of recommended websites and links that it can initially seem daunting for any reader. Yet, with enough perseverance and determination, these websites can support and complement the lesson ideas. “Film in Action” is a vital book for those teachers wishing to incorporate film in the classroom with some stimulating and rewarding ideas for lessons. It would have saved me countless times when I incorporated film in the classroom.
My previous post, 10 recommended books for the CELTA course, was somewhat well received and I have been thinking about a suitable follow-up for this post. Anyhow, after observing teachers during the week, I thought I would write up another post to support those teachers that have been successful for the CELTA course or those that have inspections or lesson observations due. In this post, I will recommend ten things to remember for any formal lesson observation.
1. What are your lesson aims?
You have planned your lesson, have a great idea for starting the lesson and also have cut-up all your material and you are ready to teach. However, look at your lesson plan and think very carefully what your aims and objectives are. I would really encourage any teacher to write their lesson plan by starting with this sentence: “By the end of the lesson, students will be able to …”. It is important to know what your students will achieve by the end of the lesson. Ask yourself “Why am I teaching this? How will I know that I have achieved my lesson aims?”.
Get some practice by writing up a list of quick lesson aims on the whiteboard for students to know what they are going to do during the lesson. If you are using a coursebook with your learners, it will help your lesson aims as most coursebooks, these days, have language aims and “Can Do” statements adjusted from the Common European Framework. Unsuitable aims or objectives in lesson plans could include the following:
My students will learn vocabulary about …
Students will have some speaking practice about …
By the end of the lesson, students will have completed listening.
2. What’s in a name?
It really does show if teachers don’t remember the names of their students during observations. You cannot just wave your finger like a magic wand and say “You there! What is the answer to …?”. Not only does this illustrate that you do not know your learners’ names, it also suggests that you have not really thought about your learners when preparing a lesson. It is important to remember the names of your students and there are a few things you could do to help you out with this:
Keep a floor-plan of those students and where they are sitting. Refer to this when you are stuck and test yourself when you have a chance.
Get students to make a name card which can be made in the first lesson or with new students joining the class. Ask students to move around and then test yourself with students to remember their names.
If you can remember the names of your students, you are half-way there to generating rapport with students and learning more about them as individuals. Students will know if you don’t know their name. They will not be very happy if you cannot remember their name. How would you feel if you were in class and the teacher couldn’t even remember your name? You wouldn’t be happy.
3. Have a walkabout
When you are teaching a class, it is important to walk around a bit from time-to-time to monitor students. It doesn’t help if you are stationary during the lesson at the front of the class. It is important to walk around the classroom during lesson activities. Follow this basic advice and you will not go far wrong:
Whole class instructions should be given at the front of the class
Students are completing pair or small group activities and the teacher should try to walk around each small group or pair of students
Students are doing a presentation and the teacher could sit in the corner of the class or among other students at the back of the classroom
If you are constantly present at the front of the classroom, it may appear top heavy with the teacher controlling the lesson and the students’ contribution. It is better to merge within the classroom and this will reflect well in your lesson observations.
4. The computer says “No!”
If you are using interactive whiteboard (IWB) or a computer as part of your lesson, make sure it works. It really is soul destroying to see all your hard work fall flat if the technology decides not to work and you are left rushing around to try to find a solution. It inevitably ends up getting the IT person involved to help with the situation. What is more annoying is if you boot up your computer with five minutes to spare and then it decides to update and you are left with a PC that is just sitting in the corner and you cannot do what you planned to do as the computer is now out of action. There are a few things to consider when preparing your lesson observation, if it includes any form of technology.
Check that all equipment is working on the day and that you have a quick run through
Make sure that the PC you are using has been booted up and it has updated itself
Have a backup plan, should the unexpected happen, with a ten or fifteen minute activity to keep students occupied while you remedy any technological alarm
If you organise yourself well in advance and have a backup plan, you will be fully prepared for any situation or emergency. Teachers that are well organised are those that think about the unexpected happening.
5. Keep it short and sweet
You have nailed your lesson plan, you remember the names of all your students and, so far, the computer is not playing up. However, you have a task for students to do and you are about to give some instructions. You have not planned what to say but you know what the students have to do and so you commence this rather long commentary.
Okay everyone. We are going to do a speaking activity now so I want everyone to sit down. I am going to hand out this piece of paper. On this paper there is one word such as ‘Detective’ or ‘Nurse’ and you have to act out that particular character. Now, when you receive your piece of paper you must try and not show anyone else in the classroom but you must try to act like that person. The other person you are talking to must try to guess your job and write it down on this other piece of paper here. OK? Any questions?
When looking at the instructions above, it can seem rather daunting to begin with and how to improve instructions but with a bit of preparation and awareness of the activity, it is rather easy. Think how to say a sentence between 4-10 words in length and you will improve your instructions and students will not be fazed any longer. If you have a chance, demonstrate the activity if it is quite complicated. For example:
This paper has a job title. You must act like that job. What is my job? [You act like a bus driver and students guess the job]. Good! You write the job on this [show another piece of paper]. All students have a different job. Keep it secret [place the paper to your chest].
With some preparation, your instructions will improve and observers will recognise the effort you went through to ensure the setting up of an activity.
6. Heads or tails?
You are handing out the first worksheet but you have not even given instructions to the students just yet so you decide to give instructions once you have finished the act of handing out worksheets. You then decide to tell all students what to do just to ensure that they know what they are doing. However, when you talk to all the students on what they are about to do, all you see is the top of their heads. They are not listening to you but are staring at the newly received worksheet. This is an example of how not to stage a lesson for worksheets until learners have received some instructions. Here is some advice for you to consider the next time you are about to provide a worksheet:
Tell students briefly what they are about to receive, what they are to do and a time limit.
Ask students some instruction concept questions (ICQs) to ensure understanding.
Hand out the worksheet to students and monitor.
If you follow the staging above with any worksheet, you will not have any problems with instructions, worksheets or student attentiveness.
7. Photocopy the day before
It is important to prepare as much as possible the day before your observation and this includes any photocopying you may have to do. Should you arrive in the staffroom the day of your observation with a plan to photocopy your worksheets and activities, you are bound to come across problems. Paper may be in short supply, it could be located in a different part of the building or there is a huge queue to the photocopier. No matter how tired you may feel, it is important to get all your photocopying and preparation done the day before. It will save any last minute issues and if there is an inspection, it will really stress staff if there is a battle to the photocopier.
8. Death by worksheets
All teachers, at some point in their career, have printed out worksheets to keep their students busy but this should not be considered a possibility during any observation. Worksheets are fine to consolidate and practice a language focus but you should not take a whole lesson with any form of worksheet. If you want to exploit a worksheet or a page from a vocabulary or grammar book, try to bring it off the page and personalise it for your students. Some ideas for exploiting material could include getting students to finish different parts and practising in context or creating their own worksheets for use in a future class. It is important to teach the learners rather than teach the material, as this will not go down well during any formal or informal observation. For example, if you want to teach a grammar lesson, refer to a grammar book, consider how you could present it, how the students could use the language in context and how it could be reinforced with language consolidation. Should you wish to teach a lesson using the Present Simple, you could do the following:
Present the grammar point by showing daily routine: I wake up at …, I get up at …, etc.
Show a time line and ask students to put the daily activities in order on a time line
Ask students to now write about their own routine but using their own personal time line
Get students to share their time line but to also think of questions as well as answers that could be considered about daily routine
Review the grammar focus by consolidating the lesson with the use of some grammar exercises (gap fill, sentence prompts, etc.)
It is not difficult but you just need to think about trying to get the students using the language in context and reviewing the language focus as a class. Stick to this, and you will not go far wrong.
9. The whiteboard
The whiteboard is sometimes one of those pieces of equipment which is often overlooked while planning a lesson. It is always used during the lesson and something to write up vocabulary, functional language, etc. When being observed, it is important to use the whiteboard effectively during these lessons and show that you are a ‘whiteboard wizard’. There are some simple tricks to keep you on top of any whiteboard issue:
I probably do not have to say it, but keep the whiteboard clean and free from smudges during observations.
Use margins on the whiteboard to split up between lesson aims and objectives, vocabulary and the main area for brainstorming language/ideas.
Try to use colours which are easily readable during the lesson. One pet hate is when teachers use a red pen on the board and then expect students to read it at a distance. Use black for main text and colours to highlight pronunciation, intonation or other lexical collocations.
Get students to copy down language and things from the whiteboard before erasing everything. It seems simple but the number of times that I have seen a teacher erase the whiteboard while students have not been given a chance to copy from the whiteboard or half-way through their copying is more common than thought. Do not be a whiteboard demon, get students to copy things from the whiteboard.
Write neatly and at a correct size for all to read. It seems such a basic idea but there are still teachers who write things on the board and both the observer and the students are unable to decode what has been written. If it is too small or too messy, both parties will have difficulty reading your board-work. It is best to write in non-cursive writing which is more reader friendly for language learners.
10. Relax and be yourself
Formal, as well as less formal, lesson observations can be a rather stressful time for teachers. With all the paperwork to prepare before the lesson observation, there is the prospect of a colleague, line manager or external observer coming into the lesson to see how things are going inside of the classroom. To make all our lives bearable, it is best to keep any negative comments to yourself and not to criticise those that are coming in to observe you. It is important to be as professional as possible and also relax a little. Take a deep breath and then just jump in with both feet. Essentially, lesson observations should not be a witch-hunt but they are not easy for everyone.
If the observation is part of professional development, then the feedback session will be a point of reflection for both the teacher and the observer. If you are observed, it is important not to defend every single thing that is pointed out in the reflection process but it is merely used to prompt a discussion to better understand why and how things were decided and staged during the lesson process. If the organisation is supporting those teachers that need assistance, there will be clear and attainable goals highlighted to consider and it is very important to follow these up and share your development with the person who observed you. Consider asking whether it would be possible to undertake peer-to-peer observations as these will be more beneficial and they will give you some more practical ideas which you could incorporate into future lessons.
Relax and be professional, as observations are there to help you.
There are some final tips for lesson observations and things which should be mentioned:
Don’t be late and try to arrive 5-10 minutes early in your classroom so that you are able to arrange the class for your lesson.
Don’t forget to print off your lesson plan the night before. It will not be a good idea to print the lesson plan on the day.
Don’t stress your students about the lesson observation. They are still your students and keep things as natural as possible.
Don’t change your entire lesson 5 minutes before you are due to be observed. It is a recipe for disaster.
Best of luck with your observations and I hope you enjoy them.
It has been a number years since I took the CELTA Course, at least seven years since I actually completed the course at the British Council Seoul. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Native English Speaker Teachers (NESTS) and Non-Native English Speaker Teachers (NNESTS) resident in Korea wishing to develop professionally as teachers. We all shared our commitment to the profession and wanted to improve our skills as teachers. I enjoyed the course so much that I created a CELTA Group on Facebook to keep in touch with the other trainees. Anyhow, I have been thinking about books that were recommended before starting the course, as well as books that I have come across after the CELTA course, and I thought a blog post suggesting potential books to aid the CELTA trainee would suffice.
The first book, Learning Teaching, that was recommended for trainees as part of pre-reading and preparation before as well as during the CELTA course. It is an incredible book which looks at teaching various skills (reading, writing, speaking, etc.) and proposed approaches for the classroom, which when learning to teach English to language learners, is invaluable. Also, there are sections within the book which assist teachers, both experienced and less experienced, which cover classroom management, various styles of teaching, methods and approaches to language teaching as well as professional development opportunities to consider. I remember the CELTA trainers advising that this book should be our bible during the course and we should attempt to read the various sections when required. Not only is it a useful book for before and during the CELTA course, but it has always been a book that I have constantly returned to, when getting ideas on developing a curriculum or planning courses and lessons.
Another book which I had discovered invaluable as part of lesson planning, language awareness and teaching practice was Advanced English Grammar in Use. It was incredibly helpful when I wanted to look at particular grammar points in context and in more detail. For example, Raymond Murphy offers additional focus the use of the Present Simple in context with daily routines or habits. You could look at some of these suggestions and personalise it for your teaching practice. As well as the demonstrating of isolated grammar points, Advanced English Grammar in Useoffers some thoughts on written grammar practice and this again could either be recreated and personalised in your teaching practice. If you are new to the teaching of grammar, you could purchase the lower levels of English Grammar in Use to better understand the premise behind certain grammar structures.
This was another book which was on my recommended reading list for the CELTA course and I ordered it specially from the UK and it was delivered a week later in Korea. It is incredibly informative and will help trainees with preparing lessons focused solely on key vocabulary and grammar. This book is very well organised alphabetically from ‘abbreviated styles‘ to ‘yes and no‘. I have used this book to prepare lessons on vocabulary for higher learners such as newspaper headlines as well as focus on grammar. When you combine this book with other recommended books in this post, it is really really useful and I would urge any potential CELTA trainee or experienced teacher to go and buy this book. It is most likely in most English teacher’s staffroom but it is one of those books that you will return to and those teachers that have completed the CELTA, who had not bought this book, should really purchase Practical English Usage.
This is the second book by Scrivener that I am recommending but this is not to suggest that I swayed by his books. Although Teaching English Grammarhad not been published when I took the CELTA course in 2008, I was introduced to it when it was first published. Had this been available in my course, it would have helped immensely during the lesson planning stage. Scrivener aids the reader through various things to consider when teaching areas of grammar with suggested context building activities, language practice ideas, suggested concept checking questions (CCQs) as well as possible learner errors occurring for each grammar item. It is incredibly useful and despite not having this book during my CELTA days, it has been great to get some ideas for teaching.
This is a wonderfully organised book which breaks down grammar into easy-to-understand chapters. As with some of the previous books which I have recommended, Grammar for English Language Teachers was recommended for the CELTA course as it could be referred to during the written assignments. As with previous reference books, this grammar book offers the reader the chance to consider some key aspects, provides the key forms of the referred grammar, typical difficulties for language learners, as well as some consolidation exercises to practice what has been learnt and improve your skills as a language teacher. When I speak to other teachers, they always tell me this is a good place to start when preparing lessons for teaching grammar.
There are a few books that focus solely on pronunciation and after my CELTA course, I purchased Sound Foundations, by Adrian Underhill. I just found this book a little too theoretical yet with a bit more reading and focus, there were some suggested practical ideas and they were great. I do in fact recommend Sound Foundations for those that are interested in pronunciation as an area. However, with The Book of Pronunciation, the authors have created some fantastic ideas for isolated lessons on a range of pronunciation areas such as homophones, stress, intonation, as well as many other areas. This book offers some interesting areas which CELTA trainees could incorporate as part of their lesson and had I acquired this book before my training, I would have been able to experiment during teaching practice.
When you start your CELTA course, there is a lot of acronyms you need to get your head around; TTT, STT, CCQs, ICQs, PPP, etc. It can all be a bit overwhelming to be honest and you have a lot of other things to think about such as your lesson planning, assignments and input sessions that you need to attend. Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT offers a quick reference for all those hard-to-learn acronyms and abbreviations, and as everything is in alphabetical order you can find terms quite quickly. As well as this, the book provides the trainee some background reading into some of the theories and ideas behind language acquisition and learning. Once you have finished the CELTA, Thornbury’s book can be referred to as you develop as a teacher and is also recommended for the DELTA, should you decide a few years later to do this.
Apologies but this is going to be the third and final book that I recommend which is written by Scrivener, but to be honest his books are great for those individuals undertaking or wishing to undertake the CELTA. Nevertheless, one key element which is focused on the CELTA course is the area of classroom management which is heavily focused upon during the observed teaching practice. I remember the trainers telling me to improve my instructions and reducing teacher talking time (TTT). Of course it is useful to receive such feedback about classroom management but there was minimal reading with relation to this. However, with Scrivener’s latest publication, Classroom Management Techniques, he hopes to fill this void. The book is easy to read with some great illustrations, and it great for any teacher training sessions which I focus on with experienced teachers. There are many areas that Scrivener focuses on which include; the classroom, the teacher, the learner, lessons, etc. As with previous recommendations, this book is invaluable for the day-to-day running of a course and it offers some wonderful ideas to think about should you have trouble with a class or selected learners. At the end of each chapter, there are some questions for reflection on particular areas of classroom management. Unfortunately, this book had not been published when I took the CELTA course but it was one of those books that I purchased immediately as soon as it was available.
This book, by Nigel Turton, seems to be in short supply but if you can get your hands on ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, it would be highly recommended. The book is organised alphabetically with particular words and grammar forms. Nigel illustrates some common errors – these could unsuitable words, word order or grammatical errors – as well as their corrections in a systematic and organised way. This book can be easily referred to during the CELTA course to assist in anticipated errors for students and this could be written into lesson plans. It would also assist in the developing awareness while teaching English and the potential pitfalls that language learners may encounter. With this book, you will be armed to to write your lesson plans in the best way possible. Get this book and you will not regret it. However, what this book lacks in possible errors that particular nationalities may encounter is recommended by the final book in this post.
This is the final book for this list and also the second recommended in this post which is written by Michael Swan. Learner English, much like ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, is a highly informative book which prepares trainees in teaching and possible errors and first language interference possible language learners may encounter while acquiring English. Swan’s book focuses on potential phonological and grammatical errors based upon particular language speakers and this is invaluable for trainee teachers or those teachers new to particular speakers of a language. Each focus on language speaker, such as Arabic, has a general breakdown of phonological areas which are common in their first language and those phonological sounds which are not transferred to English. As well as this, the book also covers grammar and sentence construction with a literal and more reader-friendly translation to aid readers in judging how particular nationalities create sentences in their own language and better anticipate potential first language interference. As with other books, this book will help teachers develop their awareness of teaching various learners as well as monolingual groups of students. It is really useful and I would always recommend this book to trainee and experienced teachers.
So this is my top ten list of recommended books for the CELTA but what books would you recommend? Do you have any favourite books that you like to refer to on a daily or weekly basis? What books do you always read? As always, leave your comments below.
Last year, I wrote a book review for Philip Kerr’s book on “Translation and Own-language Activities” for IATEFL Voices. Today, I was participating in an ELT Chat discussion about own-language use in the classroom and I was looking for this book review for a while. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t included it on my blog. Apologies for the delay but please find the book review for “Translation and Own-language Activities” below.
Hello all. I hope you had a wonderful Easter and you haven’t eaten too much chocolate. I have been very good and resisted as much chocolate as possible, but I have been very naughty and decided to eat it after my resistance faded. Anyhow, I have another lesson plan – this time focused on the Harry Potter books – which you could use in class. It is hope that students would react positively to this lesson plan and then decide to read the Harry Potter novels in their free time.
The lesson focuses on the different books, the names of the books, more specialist Harry Potter language as well as a jigsaw reading activity about Harry Potter. For a nice activity at the end of the lesson, students have a quiz. You can access the lesson plan and all material below but I have been kind enough to attach the lesson to this blog as a PDF file.
Please enjoy and let me know how you get on in class!
After reading Scott Thornbury’s blog post about his forty years in the ELT profession, I thought, rather than post a large reply to his post, I would write a personal blog post about my journey in the ELT profession. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about Scott Thornbury’s decision to teach as a way to travel as well as being taught the International House method of teaching the grammar of English in ‘contrived’ ways. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a wonderful chance to share my own journey of becoming an English language teacher as well as the changes that I have noticed in the English teaching industry.
When I first started teaching, it was back in December 2005, after completing a degree in International Business. I travelled to South Korea with my family fresh off the plane with a rejuvenated sense of teaching Korean young learners. All that was required when I arrived to become a professional English teacher was to have the following:
A university degree
Be a native English teacher
Fortunately, I met these requirements and at the time I didn’t even need a certificate, such as the CELTA, to teach English. I was so happy and keen to jump into the classroom.
I suppose this was the first thing that I noticed in the English language teaching profession was this ownership of the teaching of English, and the backwash was that institutes would only be allowed to recruit teachers from countries which were from either America, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa – which is the inner circle of language native speakers of English. This had the unfortunate drawback that non-native speakers did not have the opportunity to teach in South Korea – but this is another blog post. These days, from my personal observation with the South Korean English education system, they are more adaptable with regards to non-native speakers of English – especially for those teachers who are Korean themselves. However, there still remains some issues of recruitment with non-native speakers of English from those countries which were not mentioned above.
After a year, I joined a four week intensive CELTA course at the British Council in Seoul. I had to go to their centre and go for an interview before being accepted on to the course but it was highly competitive and I was the only Brit on the course. It was a joint interview with a fellow non-native English teacher and it was so nice to see the British Council accommodate non-native speakers of English on the course. It didn’t seem such an exclusive course for just native speakers of English and we were able to share ideas of teaching English to adult language learners. We were introduced to the British Council/CELTA method of teaching English – much like Scott Thornbury’s IH method – where we taught small elements of language items and grammar through a context. I was very keen to put this into practice with my learners at our small school in a rural town of Korea but quickly realised that this was not so transferable towards young learners and I wanted to teach at an adult institute and I moved on to Wall Street English in Seoul.
I was so enthusiastic and keen to teach English via this newly discovered communicative method that I was quite popular among the learners. My basic stages in all my lessons were:
Introduce the topic and elicit possible vocabulary
Introduce vocabulary for main activity
Undertake the main activity (reading, listening, etc)
Provide feedback and end lesson
I perfected this method so well and gave space for Korean language learners to communicate, that my lessons were rather popular. I noticed an improvement in their fluency and keenness to speak with each other in English – a marked improvement from Korean young learners but a different kettle of fish. After a few years, I returned to the UK.
My initial impressions of English language teaching in the UK was different to my views from South Korea. I felt like I had just started out again as a teacher. I was used to monolingual classes with students who were intrinsically motivated rather than groups of students where I had to try to encourage less motivated learners in class. I was a bit wet behind the ears and jumped in with both feet. It was the first time that I had taught alongside non-native English teachers. This was one development that I saw in English language teaching from two different perspectives.
Soon after completing a few years experience in the UK, I decided to take a post-graduate course at the University of Sussex in English Language Teaching. I decided to do the one year full-time course with a dissertation at the end of the academic year. The first academic term was incredibly challenging but I pushed my knowledge and understanding of second language acquisition for language learners. It was here that I was introduced to the concept of World Englishes and the ownership of English – which is still a hotly contentious issue. At the end of the academic year, after completing a Diploma level course as part of my MA course, I decided to research teacher and learner uptake of Dogme ELT. It was under-researched at that point in time and I found a new passion in language teaching. I had only discovered the book “Teaching Unplugged” after receiving a copy to review on my blog just a month or so before I had to start my research. I met with many teachers, posted a lot on Twitter and was keen to practice much of the lessons in the book as much as possible. I completed my dissertation with a mark of 80% and was so happy. I also volunteered at the IATEFL in Brighton that year and met up with the likes of Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings. It was so nice to feel part of a group of language teaching professionals who were keen to strip back to basics with English teaching and it was then that I noticed a change in the air where teachers were becoming more experimental in their teaching practice.
After completing the MA course, I gave a talk at IATEFL Glasgow a year later on Dogme ELT to highlight the results of my research and, still at this time, it was a popular discussion in the ELT world. However, since then, the discussion of Dogme ELT has quietened down a little bit more but there are the occasional posts from other bloggers but it has focused now more on culture in the classroom and translation has had some kind of resurgence – with a recent book by Philip Kerr “Translation and Own-language Activities“.
Finally, last year, the assessment of English, particularly those that are involved in certain professions, has stoked some interest by some academics and I was asked to attend a round-table discussion on the testing of English and the replacement of the Common European Framework (CEF). In the classroom though, the CEF is rather popular and many coursebooks now align towards the CEF with “can do” statements. It is an interesting development for teachers and something which kind of constricts learner freedom in language education where students are expected to acquire certain nuggets of knowledge and not beforehand. However, there is the understanding that language learning is an unexpected and emergent phenomena which is completely unpredictable.
So, where have I seen language teaching develop? Well, we had a resurgence in the communicative method when I started out – but this could have been going on for years before I started teaching. There was also some interest and enthusiasm for more experimental and eclectic forms of teaching – Dogme ELT – but translation and own language use in the classroom is becoming more accepted in the classroom. As a side note, I once asked in the CELTA where we stand in relation to translation and all I got was a lot of stares from the other trainees and trainers on the course. I never felt that comfortable with translation in the classroom again. There is finally some focus on standardising English teaching through the CEF and it is becoming less flexible. However, there is some interest in teaching cultural aspects of language rather than grammatical items and I hope that in the future language teaching develops on to more cultural specific areas and the sharing of cultures through a common language.
I hope this answers your question Scott: “What’s changed since you started teaching?”