The following is a journal of one of our CELTA trainers as he goes through each day of the CELTA course. Here is what goes on behind the scenes in the very challenging CELTA program. Specific references to a particular group or time frame are not the most recent CELTA course. Click here for the previous article: Behind the Scenes of CELTA: Day 6
DAY 7: Putting Theory into Practice
Today for the first time the onslaught of new ideas and approaches is put on hold and we give trainees time to start to put some of what they have learnt into practice. It was a welcome relief and much-needed opportunity for reflection and consolidation.
The morning session is devoted to researching pieces of grammar and then presenting the findings to the rest of the class. Trainees work in pairs and analyse various items such as modal auxiliary verbs used to express obligation or some of the many ways we have for expressing the future. They consider the language from the students’ point of view, identifying the “meaning”, i.e. why we use a particular tense in a particular situation, it’s from and how we say it, thus putting into practice the knowledge gained last week.
In Teaching Practice, Tutors see the first lesson plans of today’s teachers. Some have got the idea well but others haven’t really planned in sufficient detail, particularly those stages for clarifying the language. The language analysis on the plans was also a little lacking resulting in one teacher being hit with a lot of tricky questions that she wasn’t quite prepared for; it was an uncomfortable experience but a good lesson to learn. Students will ask lots of questions and we need to be able to answer them. Only careful and thorough analysis of the language will enable us to do this. As a language teacher, you are of course an expert in the language. That’s not to say we will be able to answer every question a student may ask.
DAY 8: Crunch Time
Today is the day the Course begins to bite. The discipline and time needed to produce a detailed plan eats into the evening and assignment deadlines are beginning to loom. The mood is a little subdued, not everyone got their eight hours last night…
The day starts with observation – so not too demanding – but then the final assignment is set. The session is designed to help them and prepare them to do it. The Assignment is on skills, and it’s a fun one to do, finding a text and thinking about how you could use it in class. But the prospect of another assignment is not a pleasant one. As a Tutor, I do see the benefit of these assignments but writing four assignments in four weeks on top of everything else is a big ask and it can get in the way of lesson planning and tire people so much that they are less alert and receptive in input sessions. On a part-time course, this is much less of a problem, of course.
DAY 9: Language Tasks Assignment Due
Ohhh… There were some haggard looking faces in the room this morning! The first assignment was due: the Language Tasks. Most got it in at 9.30…One or two members of the Course needed a quiet word of encouragement and reassurance. As a Tutor, you need quite a lot in the way of counselling skills as we enter the middle phase of the Course. It is absolutely not an aim or purpose of the Course, but people do find out things about themselves that they perhaps find unsettling. It may be that someone has always been a high flier and very successful but suddenly finds in this new environment they are out of their comfort zone and merely competent.
We do Second Tutorials today, similar to last week but this time much more in depth. There are 44(!) criteria set by Cambridge that must be fulfilled to pass the Course. We have to go through all these and tell students whether they are fulfilling these or not. Candidates also have to consider these and in a soul-searching exercise and decide if they are up to scratch in each of these areas.
We have seen enough of people now to have a clear idea of strengths and weaknesses and can identify anyone who is in danger of not passing. With these, we have to make very clear what is required of them in the second half of the Course. We can also indicate to people who are showing real potential that they might be in for something better than a Pass Grade.
Trainees will be teaching their last lessons with their current students and switching over to a new level. This is, in many ways, a new beginning; a whole new ball game. Some may blossom with the new level, others may struggle initially: the adventure continues!
DAY 10: The End (of the Week) Is Nigh
And, thank God, it’s the weekend. We try to do input but it’s like trying to cram an extra sweater into an already overfull suitcase. The prospect of two days to breathe, sleep, catch up and even to get ahead puts a smile on most faces. Monday’s teaching is unassessed so lesson plans aren’t needed, meaning trainees can focus on finishing off their Focus on the Learner Assignment over the weekend and start to get to grips with the Skills Assignment. Good progress on this will ease the burden of next week. For the Tutors, there are all those Language Tasks assignments to get marked…
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About the Author
Rick Ansell is the Senior Teacher Trainer at Saxoncourt Teacher Training. He has been teaching English since 1985 and has been training people to teach English since 1994. He loves seeing people realise there is a better way of helping people learn than the ways they were subjected to at school. He also loves watching people come to discover their own language as they realise how and why they use it the way they do. When I’m not teaching, he enjoys mountaineering and is an active fell runner, competing regularly on the British hills.