CELTA: nearly half-way there

A poster I created to help get students in the mood for learning the second conditional: “If I won a million pounds I’d…” (the building featured houses about 5 classrooms that we teach in).


Wah. Shatterficated. That’s what I be.

We’re now almost half way through CELTA. The pace hasn’t let up at all, really is intense.

I’ve found that I need to get in to uni for about 8am most days, after doing my Willyaki deliveries. Lunchtimes are pretty much taken up by lesson planning, so it’s basically non-stop input and output all day; we are finishing by about 6pm most days now though which is nice.

For the first week, we were basically spoon-fed our lesson material. We’d write our plans with our tutors. This week however, we’re just told what subject to teach, and pointed in the direction of what we might find useful. Next week it’ll all just be left to us.

Last night, after four hours planning for today’s one-hour lesson, I was thinking about how much longer it’s taking me to prepare for lessons here than it did in Japan. The main reason for this is that if we are not careful to meet all the criteria, our lessons (which are observed by three other trainees and our tutor) will be failed (and quite a few people have been failed. I had a near-miss in today’s grammar class teaching the second conditional, but thankfully just managed to pull it off). Fails can be made up for in future classes.

In class, I find it really challenging to maintain awareness of everything going on around me whilst at the same time focusing upon my lesson aims and objectives, and providing clear grammatical explanations (my weak area). I feel I need a clone.

This afternoon whilst explaining the difference between would and could to an individual student who was struggling to create example sentences, I noticed that two students on another table had finished and were looking around with bored expressions.. not good (and of course picked up by my assessor). I find in those situations my brain actually splits in half through necessity – one half continuing to deal with the student in need of an explanation, and the other figuring out what mini-activity to distract the advanced types with (should be on the plan though if I’ve done it properly).

Overall however, classes are going well. My strong point is rapport with the students (at the end of today’s lesson a student announced to the class, ‘You will make a great teacher Joseph!”). My weak points: board work, keeping the pace going, grammar explanations.

Back in the classroom where we are the students, there’s been a lot to take in. Today we were looking at lesson sequencing (devising a plan that covers a series of lessons), and then later, integrating the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing). That was a lot of fun as we were set a ‘running dictation’ – a competitive race done in pairs – with one person writing, and the other running back and forth to a text stuck on the wall at the end of the hallway remembering and dictating the passage sentence by sentence. Very funny 🙂 We also learned more about the problems that learners face with English verbs, notably when ‘present’ and ‘past’ tense verbs are put to other uses.

Yesterday, we studied phonemes and were taught the phonetic alphabet. That was absolutely fascinating (I’m not kidding!). We also looked at how we physically create these sounds (what parts of the vocal gear we employ) – you know I never realised that the sound ‘d’ is an unvoiced ‘t’, that ‘j’ is an unvoiced ‘sh’.

Time and time again I’m staggered by the amount of stuff we know without even knowing it! The way I move all those muscles in order to produce the word ‘hello’ – and I can do that at the same time as walking up a flight of stairs, skillfully (and unconsciously) maintaining my balance through thousands of computations telling my body to move this way or that in response to input from my balance sensors. Just incredible how it all work. 

Also yesterday, we looked at study spaces (our group offered the IC’s CILASS Collab 2 as a model study space, adapting it to suit a deprived African village), and the use of technology / realia (that’s real ‘things’).

Other sessions this week have included ‘teacher talk’, materials development. assessing, and questioning – with such a variety (and at such a pace) I don’t find myself tuning out at all, no matter how shattered I am.

Oh, we received our first (grammar focused) written assignments back today, the ones we were warned that we probably wouldn’t pass first time. They were right – out of 16 of us, 13 failed! That’s ok though, it’s written into the plan. We now have the weekend to go through the incredibly detailed feedback and submit them a second time next week.

Anyway , almost halfway through the intensive course, I’d have no hesitation in recommending CELTA to anyone thinking of teaching English as a foreign / second language. And whilst I haven’t done the one-year version, I feel that this intense course is possibly more effective (maybe? Maybe not. OK, so they are different things really. Perhaps). 

I dunno, it’s just that with teaching practice two to three times a week, and immediate feedback on virtually everything we do, we have a chance to rectify our mistakes and focus upon our shortcomings whilst they are still fresh in our minds. Rapid and effective change. Faults dealt with before they have a chance to become patterns.

I think it’s also a lot more fun – it’s like being locked in a submarine with a bunch of strangers for a month. Allows for friendship development to occur at ultra-high speed; such a pleasure to experience (especially with such a nice group of people).

Anyway, I need some shut-eye. Today’s Teaching Practice has left me pooped. Need to rest as much as possible in prep for the weekend which I think is scheduled to be filled with re-writing assignment 1, and writing assignment 2!

CELTA: 25% down, 75% to go

We made it. First week of CELTA complete. 25% down, 75% to go!

The Wikiepdia description is turning out to be spot-on:

The full-time four-week course is very intensive, and students taking it must be prepared to dedicate all their waking hours to it for the duration. Even the part-time version of the course can take up more time than a full-time job for many students, especially those with no teaching background.

The first three days were the toughest. Studying intensively for over 8 hours a day is not something I’ve ever done before, and my brain felt like it was under siege. So much so that I had to think of a way to give it some relaxation therapy on the way home – if I just did nothing when sitting on the bus it would just be buzzing with the days learning, and aching. First off, I tried the audio book I’ve been making my way through over the past month (Colin Thurbron – Shadow of the Silk Road), but after two days of that I realised I just kept on tuning out, my brain was complaining about having to process even more data; it was hard work to listen.

Music Therapy

I think it was Wednesday that I remembered the power of music. A few weeks back I’d bought the new Coldplay album, sort-of listened to it once or twice, and then forgotten about it.

Why not revive that? – if it was suitable, I could even turn it into one of those key soundtracks to a distinct period in my life (a technique mentioned halfway through this mumble).

It’s turned out to be ideal. With my big headphones on I’m not bothered by the sound of the chatter on the bus, the stress of the shock absorbers when we hit the speed bumps, the squealing of the brakes. The music does not demand my attention, but rather just offers itself as a place that I can relax in. I can drift in and out of it without feeling that I’ve missed anything.

Just 30 minutes of music therapy after a long day in the classroom sets me up for further study when I get home.

CELTA course classes

We’ve covered a huge variety of topics during our first week of classes, including: learner styles and levels; needs analysis; lesson planning; many different teaching methods; grammar; ELT resources; error correction; classroom management …and much much more.

The thing that really strikes me about this course is that we are deliberately being taught how to teach through loop input. That is, our tutors are using the teaching methods on us that we will be using in the classroom (so, in effect, we’re kind of getting 80 hours of teaching in a forty hour week!).

Simple example: We might be put into pairs to do a timed brainstorming exercise on aspects of classroom management, followed by a feedback session in which all students are asked to contribute an idea to a table on the whiteboard – in that lesson then we will not only have learnt classroom management techniques, but will also have picked up more ideas on ways in which to elicit information from students / check understanding of meaning.

Sometimes, our tutors will stop at the end of a mini-exercise and ask us things like, “did you notice that I gave you the instructions before handing out the question sheet…?” (students [myself included] often tune out when given a piece of paper – they just have to read it!). In this way, we are being fed a wealth of little tips that will help us make small improvements to our teaching.

Teaching Practice

The hardest aspect so far has been preparing for our teaching practice. It’s not that it’s been a particularly difficult activity in itself – being week one, we have basically been told what to teach it, and to a large extent, how to teach it. The issue has been time – or a lack of it. Whilst ideally we would be writing lesson plans in the evenings, the exhaustion has left me feeling unable to do much except read sections of my ‘How to Teach English’ text book, and thus yesterday’s (for example) was created between 8am and 9.30am, and then finished off at lunchtime (I think lunchtime for everyone yesterday turned into “Teaching Practice Planning”!). It’s a good lesson in the importance of time management for teachers!

This will of course change the more that we do it. At the moment everything is new, and takes a lot longer than usual.

We’ve now had three Teaching Practice sessions, attended by students from all over the world who are happy to act as guinea pigs in what are for them free English lessons.

The first one was pretty nerve-wracking. It went Ok though, although I did a very poor job of introducing the vocab, and found myself telling a joke which no-one understood (I’m learning though trial-and-error about the extent to which humour can be used – it’s always a bit of a gamble. Keep it simple, or avoid it altogether!).

My second class went a lot better, and I actually enjoyed it; I started to find my confidence. The third class (yesterday) was even more fun, despite a section of my lesson plan inadvertently being made redundant by a colleague who, when teaching the session immediately prior to mine, adjusted their plan so that they ended up doing an exercise that I was going to do! I decided that this was an opportunity to learn about the importance of having a plan B, and it seemed to pay off.

Following our final class last night, we popped off down the pub for a celebratory drink – we’d completed our first week! Looking back on it all now, it’s great to see the progress we’ve made. I’ve not taken an intensive course before, but I’m impressed by just how much can be covered with a well-designed course and dedicated students (who have no life outside of it). It seems to me to be a pretty effective way to learn, and I feel sure now that CELTA is worth every penny of the not-insignificant sum of money invested in it.

Anyway, this weekend I’ve got an awful lot of homework to do. Reading, lesson planning, oh, and I have my first written assignment too… best get on.

joseph

Merhaba! Nasılsın?

In this morning’s first class we were treated to the most extraordinary experience. It was absolutely captivating, and made me forget all about the scary half-naked man at the bus stop 30 minutes earlier who had thrown bricks at a carpet-delivery van containing three men, one of whom had briefly emerged with a long iron bar and said some rather rude words to the half-naked man.

We arrived in class, only to be greeted by a woman we’d never met before who immediately started to talk to us in a made-up language. It was complete nonsense, a few of us couldn’t help but laugh.

Then someone remembered – we were time-tabled to have an ‘unknown language lesson’, to give us a sense of what it might be like if we go to teach English in a foreign country where the students have absolutely no prior knowledge of English.

And we had none whatsoever of this ‘language’. During our interviews we had been asked to list all the languages that we spoke – even if it was just a tiny bit. Our course directors then found a teacher of a language that appeared on none of the resulting 16 lists.

Having gathered from her gestures that she wanted us to go into a different classroom, we moved next door and sat in the chairs that had been arranged in a semicircle. She then started repeating strange-sounding phrases to us. We gathered that this was a drilling exercise, and so played along.

She’d say a sentence several times, we’d repeat several times. This went on for some time, gradually building up to about 7 phrases. Nothing was written on the board, and we were banned from writing anything down ourselves. It was all just these sounds in our ears that we copied, not knowing what they meant.

We were then shown a short video of two people saying these phrases. At certain points the people indicated towards a picture of a shop, then a house.

Slowly, the sounds started to mean something. “Merhaba!” must be ‘Hello’ in whatever this language was.” Sen” appeared to mean “you”. Ah… and “Nasılsın” must be “How are you?”

After thirty minutes of watching, listening and repeating (and nothing else), the meaning started to become clear.

Hello!
Hello!
How are you?
I’m fine, how are you?
Fine thank you. Where are you going?
I’m going to the shop (or was it an office?!) Where are you going?
I’m going home.
Good bye!
Good Bye!

We were paired off, and practised this new strange language.

(We later found out that it was Turkish that we were speaking).

This exercise struck me as being absolutely remarkable, and afterwards I felt positively elated.

Why?

It had given us the chance to do something we could never normally do. We were allowed to return to babyhood and experience the first year or two of language development within the space of one hour!

It really felt like that. We had no other ‘language’ that we could fall back on, all there was was these new strange sounds that we tried to emulate with no concrete idea of what we were saying. It was only through use over time that we figured out the meaning – although not all of us did, with some only finding out in the feedback session afterwards.

It was so exciting to be learning to communicate all over again, from scratch.

A brilliant exercise. Thank you ELTC.


We had our second teaching practice today. I really enjoyed it. After I’d finished my bit, one of the the students passed me a note “You’re going to become a great teacher” – this was was very encouraging, and much appreciated. Still a long long way to go though.

Of course I’m absolutely shattered again. I’ve made my packed lunch for tomorrow and will go to bed shortly. I know I really should do my teaching plan for tomorrow’s course – I’l start it, and see how far I get before falling alseep!

night night

p.s. coursemates really are bloomin wonderful.

a brief hello

The way things are shaping up I think there will be very little in terms of blog activity from me this month. Or any other kind of activity, other than working towards gaining my CELTA certificate.

It’s incredibly intense. from 9.30am to 6.30pm (7pm yesterday) the 16 of us are either in our classroom being taught how to teach, or, just up the road in another classroom, teaching.

When we get home, we have a considerable amount of homework to do, including lesson planning for the following day’s class, and the study of English grammar.

My brain doesn’t know what’s hit it! Eight hours+ of constant input is very draining, and leaves me feeling pretty out of it when I do get home. The weekend is only 2 days away – but then we have the first of four assignments to complete (for the Monday).

Not that I’m complaining – It’s a fantastic course, and we must be learning an awful lot. I’ll appreciate it when it’s overm I know 🙂

There’s the camaraderie too, couldn’t have wished for a nicer bunch of CELTA classmates. It’s only day three – but we’ve already spent a whole 24 hours working together in a group, and thus know each other pretty well.

Our students are nice too. They’re our guinea pigs, getting their lessons free (I guess I’m actually paying to teach them!).

I’m glad I have a comfortable home I can collapse in. I’m staying at my friends’ house whilst they’re in China (nice bit of synchronisity there). Part of the deal though is that I deliver sushi to 5 outlets four times a week for their catering company in return – thus it’s up at 6am on those days.

I think i’ll need a holiday when I get to japan!

xxx

Graduation photos

Live from the Little Chef on the M6 heading south from Sheffield… some shots from today’s graduation ceremony.

Well done all of us. Thanks Sheffield!

seas on the steps_9125

joseph graduation ceremony_9102

joseph and twinkle graduation_9119

joseph anne peter twinkle_9148