CELTA Course: Week 2

[You’ll be less confused if you read about Week 1 first.]

Monday: We need to teach for 6 hours total as part of the CELTA requirement. We need more than that of teaching observation. In order to get our 6 hours’ worth of “teaching practice” (TP), we will teach a total of 10 lessons over the next 12 weeks. Our TP lessons are broken down into shorter time chunks; today we only taught for 15 minutes, but starting on Thursday we’ll teach a bunch of 30-minute lesson chunks and work up to a few 45- and 60-minute teaching sessions by the end of the course.

Each person in my 6-member teaching practice group taught 15 minutes on Monday. I’d forgotten how quickly 15 minutes goes by in the classroom! I felt rushed for my entire chunk of time and had to squeeze a lot into the session. I did it, however, and our tutor Bobby gave me an “above standard” mark for the lesson — we’re graded on a scale of “not to standard,” “to standard,” or “above standard” for each lesson we teach — because he liked a matching activity I did on the board. He gave us good constructive feedback, too — I need to ask more closed questions and provide more examples when teaching vocabulary, and I need to make sure I explain an activity before handing out the materials for it. I teach again on Thursday so will have an opportunity to fix those things quickly!

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Tuesday: The first hour was the most interesting; we spent it learning about Phonology. What’s that, you ask? It’s all about the sounds of a language. The smallest unit of sound is called a phoneme. English has 44 phonemes, or sounds. Roughly half are consonant sounds and the other half are vowel sounds. Many non-native English speakers have problems differentiating between all the vowel sounds, because English has so many. Ben, the second tutor for our course, went over each sound and sign with us; they are tough to remember — it’s like learning a whole new alphabet.

Southern British English phonemes (sounds)

It was funny, too, to discuss how people with different accents use — or don’t use — some of the vowel sounds. Natalie, from the Liverpool area, just plain doesn’t use the vowel sound as in “up” and “love.” As an American English speaker, there are a couple of vowel sounds that I don’t use either. In terms of consonants, there are different types: fricative vs. plosive (think “sssss” vs. “k”; sounds you can carry on making versus those that are sharp and short); voiced vs. unvoiced (your throat/vocal chords vibrate for voiced sounds; say “vvvvv”); and sounds that we make with our lips (one or two), mid-mouth, and back of the mouth. It was a fun lesson and though I’ve by no means memorized all of the symbols, at least now I’m more familiar with the chart so I can try to make use of it in my lessons for pronunciation practice.

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Thursday: Teaching again! 30 minutes this time. We had a full class of 12 students. I taught first and my part of the lesson was completely vocabulary (lexis)-focused: my job was to teach 10 phrasal verbs. I felt again like I’d planned too many activities for the amount of time I had; I felt rushed and had to gloss over or skip a few parts of my lesson. (Next time I teach first, I’ll take into account that starting the lesson — passing out name tags, etc — takes a good five minutes off of teaching time.) But the lesson went well, and the students even applauded me at the end of my section! The three CELTees in my group who were not teaching yesterday had to do detailed observation of we who were teaching. They, along with our tutor Bobby, all gave me really positive feedback on my board-work, variety of tasks/activities, structure and timing of the lesson, and how I elicited information from the students. Bobby gave me another “above standard” mark for my lesson! (I’ve set the bar high for myself…I better keep it up.) The “action points” he gave me to work on in my next lesson are: set a clear task before a reading or listening activity; get entire class feedback after having them discuss in pairs/small groups; and do an example of a task with the whole class before setting them loose on it.

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No class this Saturday, woo! On Monday the three others will teach and I will observe. Stay tuned for Week 3!

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