Category Archives: CELTA

“Reflections in Lifelong Lifewide Learner Journeys”: RaPAL Conference 2015

Some of you may know that, in addition to being a runner, amateur cook/baker, (former) literature student, and singer/enjoyer of music, I am also a teacher of English as a foreign language. There have been hints of that on my blog, from my experiences teaching English in Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer to blogging about my journey through the CELTA course a couple of years ago. Last fall I slogged through the DELTA course but didn’t blog about it since I was working full time in parallel.

Anyway, at the moment I am an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher for the Women’s Project of an east London charity; we work with settled migrant women in the community and I teach courses from basic English and literacy to accredited ESOL courses. I love it. As part of my job I was fortunate enough to attend a half-day conference last week in London, put on by RaPAL (Research and Practice in Adult Literacy). The theme for the annual colloquium was “Reflections in Lifelong Lifewide Learner Journeys.” Here’s what I got out of it.

Jim Crowther, a University of Edinburgh Senior Lecturer in Community Education, gave a keynote speech on embracing the uncertainty of a learner’s ever-changing, continually unfolding journey. He talked about Scotland’s Social Practice Approach in literacy and numeracy, which 1) starts with learner strengths, not weaknesses; 2) makes the material relevant to the learners; and 3) fosters and supports critical thinking in an “informal” (i.e., community education) setting.

Crowther said:

Education is about a relationship built on trust.

We may learn things we didn’t want to learn or things we didn’t think about learning. He also said:

Risk and trust are important ingredients in learning.

Claire Collins gave a presentation on Practitioner-Led Action Research (PLAR). I had to do a bunch of action research for my DELTA course and this session helped remind me of its importance and usefulness for self-development and professional practice as well as to keep exploring what my own “best practice” is.

In short, PLAR aims to improve and involve teaching practice while increasing the understanding of practice by practitioners. PLAR helps us to engage in real problems and can be useful to other teachers in similar situations. It’s useful for critical reflection and linking theory and practice.

We did a group activity to brainstorm what we would consider carrying out research on:

I would consider carrying out research on...

“I would consider carrying out research on…” (view larger:

My favorite part of the conference was Julie Furnivall’s presentation on applying the Reflect Approach to professional practice in adult literacies, which she calls Reflect ESOL.

Reflect ESOL is a learner centred approach with the following characteristics:

  • It addresses power relationships between teacher and students
  • The teacher steps back to listen for the students to have more say
  • The teacher empowers students rather than forcing things on them
  • It gives students a voice
  • The teacher uses his/her facilitation skills

This approach works to help students create their own meaning through sharing experiences, which produces language that can be developed. To use Reflect ESOL you start with a visualisation of issues. This could take the form of a map, photo, or diagram. Furnivall showed an example of a tree image in which the trunk represents a problem, the roots describe the cause, and falling fruit represents issues that arise.

We did a Reflect ESOL taster with a river image: where will we go (flow)? My colleague and I decided to use our river to represent a woman’s journey through study at our centre:

Reflect ESOL River: Women's Project learner journey

Reflect ESOL River: Women’s Project learner journey

Here’s what some of the other groups did with their rivers:

Reflect ESOL: Rivers

Reflect ESOL: Rivers (view larger:

The Reflect ESOL approach reminded me a little of the Dogme ELT approach, in which the teacher presents the class with a discussion topic — or, in Reflect ESOL, a drawing project — and uses that as a jumping-off point to share thoughts and opinions before the teacher identifies a language point or two to help his/her students develop.

I am excited to try and implement some mini Reflect ESOL sessions in my classes, both to help my students develop creativity and autonomy, and to help me better recognize and cater to their learning needs.

In sum, I took a lot of useful tidbits away from the RaPAL Colloquium that I can share with my colleagues and think about trying out in my own teaching practice. Thanks, RaPAL!

Year in Review: 2014

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr! З Новим Роком!

I can hardly believe it’s already 2015, can you? 2014 was quite a year, I hardly know how to sum it up. For brevity’s sake, let’s go with some good ol’ bullet points.

2014 by the numbers:

  • blog posts published: 92 or so
  • books read: too many to count — some for fun and lots for my MA course
  • miles run: 549 (quite a lot less than last year, due to hip/knee issues)
  • miles cycled: 2,028.65 (mostly commuting in London, but a decent amount of road cycling in the first half of the year)
  • courses completed: 2 (1 MA in English & 1 DELTA course)
  • countries been in: England, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA
  • weddings attended: 2

Looking back on my intentions for 2014, I more or less achieved most of them, although things like improving my German and staying in better touch with friends and family could always be worked on. My main intention for 2015 is to find a healthy balance between work, exercise, time with F, and my other hobbies like cooking. That comes with some sub-intentions, like building up my running mileage and speed without getting injured.

In some blog-related reflecting, here are two listicles of my top posts — via views and via my opinion — from 2014:

The 10 most popular posts in 2014 (your favorites?):

My 10 favorite posts/moments in 2014 (in no particular order):

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2015

English Grammar Workshop: Prepositions

As part of my job as Peer Tutor for the UCL Union’s Writing and Language Support Programme, I’m expected to give some workshops on grammar and/or “British culture and conversation.” At the end of Term 1, we compiled a list of the most common mistakes made by the non-native English-speaking students who come to us for writing help — common mistakes include articles, prepositions, various verb form problems, punctuation, and sentence structure/phrasing and idiomatic expressions. This list gave us a good idea of what workshops we should put on in Term 2.

I started things off in January with a workshop called “‘In Between the Action’: At, In, On & Other Prepositions.” Using the classic School House Rock video, “Busy Prepositions,” we then identified prepositions and prepositional phrases before doing some activities to spot the students’ weaknesses and open a dialogue about tricky prepositional usage.

The lesson went well, though I spent too much time with “engage” activities and not enough on the “study” and “activate” segments of the lesson. (That’s what happens when you don’t teach in a classroom for almost a year! This was my first classroom-type lesson since I finished my CELTA course last April. It felt really good to teach a group of people again.)

Some great preposition-related questions the students had at the end included:

  • Why do we say “on the train” and “on the Tube” but “in the car”? Aren’t we also within/inside the train and Tube? Yes, this is one of the (many) exceptions to general rules in English.
  • Using for vs. since. The students had to correct sentences, and the sentence sparking this discussion was “She has lived there since 15 years.” Obviously, this should be corrected to “She has lived there for 15 years.” We talked about how for is used for a period of time, and since is used for specific dates or ages (“She has lived there since 1997″ or “since she was 15 years old”).
  • Using by vs. until. In the same fix-the-error activity, the students correctly changed “I can do it until tomorrow” to “I can do it by tomorrow.” We worked out that by is used for positive statements and to indicate that the task will be finished before “tomorrow.” Until, on the other hand, is usually used in negative statements to indicate that the task cannot be started before the time stated: “I cannot do it until tomorrow” means you will not do the task before tomorrow.
  • After vs. in“I’m going there after 10 minutes” should read “I’m going there in 10 minutes.” This is a tricky distinction that often trips up non-native English speakers. In in this situation refers to a period of time. You’d use after if the sentence referred to a specific time of day; for example, “I’m going there after 5pm.”
  • In a gap fill exercise, I received some questions about “the far end of the house.” I explained that here — and often in academic writing — of represents possession, as in “the house’s far end.”

It was a good workshop, and I think my five attendees got something out of it that will hopefully help them in their English writing and speaking. It was fun for me to be in front of a class again and connect with the students. I ended up having to cut a couple of activities because I spent too much time on the beginning of the lesson, but now I know what to work on for the next workshop.

Year in Review: 2013

Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr / Guten Rutsch! З Новим Роком!

2013 was a year full of changes and new experiences for me, like moving to a new country/city, getting an English teaching certificate, and starting an MA program (back to university after three years out). My German improved — and my Ukrainian waned. I also joined an amazing running club in my area of London and was able to spend much of the summer at home in the States with my family and F. Overall, 2013 was a really good year. Here are some more fun statistics summing up the year:

2013 by the numbers:

  • blog posts published: 155
  • books read: 19 for fun, plus >30 for my MA (including some short stories/poetry/essays)
  • visitors hosted in London: ~19
  • miles run: 931.89 (76.71 miles less than in 2012, but I cycled and swam more in 2013 so overall probably racked up more mileage)
  • qualifications received: 1 Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • countries been in: England, Belgium, Germany, USA
  • memories made: too many to count

Are you satisfied with your 2013?

Looking back, I am satisfied to have achieved most of my intentions for 2013: learning my way around London, living frugally, cycle-commuting, “me” time, exercise time, healthy eating, starting an MA program, and staying in touch with people . I didn’t take advantage of as many free/inexpensive opportunities as I could have, but we did visit quite a few of London’s free museums and markets with visitors.

Here is my non-exhaustive list of intentions for 2014, in no particular order:

  • Successfully complete my MA degree
  • Expand my skill set in teaching/tutoring, writing, and editing work
  • Keep improving my German
  • Stay healthy and fit:
    • Run a half marathon or two and take part in as many running club events as I can
    • Get more comfortable with road cycling by riding or spinning consistently
  • Keep exploring London via free/inexpensive activities
  • Get a job and work visa after my MA so I can stay in London
  • Stay in better touch with friends/family in all parts of the world (make better use of Skype, WhatsApp, etc.)

What are your intentions for 2014?

If I Hadn’t Joined the Peace Corps

Recently on his blog, a fellow Ukraine RPCV, Danny, asked himself the following question: “What might my life be like, if I hadn’t gone off to Ukraine with the Peace Corps?”

Like Danny, I’ve often thought about this question. I can certainly say what my life wouldn’t have been like if I hadn’t joined the Peace Corps:

  • F and I wouldn’t have gotten together; circumstances and location put us in a fortunate position. Had I remained in the States, probably nothing would have transpired.
  • Following that previous point, I wouldn’t be in London. F and I decided together that London would be a good place to live/study, as it offers opportunities for both of us to pursue our interests/specialties. If we hadn’t gotten together, I might have extended my service in Ukraine to the end of the school year (spring 2013) and then returned home to the States to start grad school there. Instead, here I am embarking upon an MA degree in London!
  • I may not have done a CELTA; part of the reason I decided to do one was to be productive in London while waiting for grad school to start. I had generally thought about doing some kind of TEFL certification after Peace Corps, but who knows if it would’ve happened if I hadn’t moved to London.

So what would I have done, if I hadn’t joined the Peace Corps? Here’s my best guess:

  • I would probably have taken a year off to work, likely in Rochester while living with my parents. During that time, I would probably have studied for and taken the GREs, then started a PhD program in the U.S., on the straight and narrow path to academia.

But now, starting my MA after three years out of school, I’m not sure if I’ll end up in academia or not. And I’m okay with not knowing — if nothing else, the Peace Corps certainly taught me flexibility and openness to change!

It’s amazing how the decisions we make affect the rest of our lives. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Dickens’ Great Expectations:

Imagine one selected day struck out of [your life], and think how different its course would have been. …think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

Perhaps my “first link” was the decision to join the Peace Corps in Ukraine…I’m certainly glad of my chain formed thus far and look forward to how it will continue to be shaped.

Quarter Century Birthday Wisdom

Yes, that’s right — today I turn 25. A quarter century! I certainly don’t feel that old.

I spent my previous two birthdays in Ukraine. Two years ago I was actually working at a camp run by a fellow PCV — my “team” gave me a lovely framed picture as a gift, and I believe flowers and cake were also involved. Last year I was at site in Sniatyn and remember having a delicious-as-always pizza lunch at Kapryz with Janira and Natalia; other Natalia gave me a leather wallet from her shop that I’d been eyeing and Ilona gave me a ring/earring/necklace set; it was a Wednesday, so there was English club and my adults gave me some really nice gifts, flowers, and well-wishes.

This year’s birthday finds me in Münster, Germany, where F studied. We’re visiting friends here and, because F’s dad shares my birthday, we’ll go to his parents’ tomorrow for weekend celebrations.

But this post is not to tell you about how I celebrate my birthday; rather, it’s to reflect a bit on the past year and share the traditional birthday wisdom, as I did last year.

this is the most recent photo I have (taken by Anthony) of myself

this is the most recent photo I have of myself (taken by Anthony)

The past year has been one of great changes: I finished my Peace Corps service, having to say goodbye to two years’ worth of accumulated friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and places (not to mention stuff); I moved home to my parents’ for a couple of months, then uprooted again to move to London. Since my last birthday I’ve run one half marathon, a 10k, and a bunch of 5ks (including a PR/PB) — now I’m “aging up” in road racing (darn!), so the competition gets stiffer. I also returned to formal education, earning a CELTA and being accepted to an MA program at University College London beginning this September.

My 25th year has seen lots of new, exciting, and different things. There have been lots of adjustments and adaptations to make. So with that in mind, my birthday wisdom for this year is as follows:

Give yourself time to adapt to change. Don’t be too hard on yourself or expect yourself to immediately feel at home in a new environment or living/working situation. Focus on one thing at a time, living in the moment and addressing each new thing as it arises, and adjustment will eventually come.

I wish you all another year of change and adaptation.

CELTA Course: Week 13

The last week! If you’re just joining my CELTA journey, you should really start at Week 1.


TuesdayOne final input session with Bobby on different teaching contexts. (Different as in not teaching a classroom full of adults.) We focused on two other common contexts for teaching English: teaching young learners (in the TEFL world, that’s anyone under 16 years old) and one-to-one tutoring. I enjoyed both sessions, especially since I have taught young learners and could contribute some of my Ukraine experiences to the class. We talked about how teaching young learners is different from teaching adults: different life experience, kids respond better to more visual/kinesthetic activities, kids have different levels of maturity… Classroom management is also more of an issue with schoolchildren, so we talked about some techniques that could be used to get silence in the classroom, such as “armchair aerobics,” a countdown, last one silent, or a stop sign. In Ukraine I often used the sit-in-silence-and-look-at-the-kids-until-they-start-self-policing-and-shushing-each-other technique; it often took a few minutes but usually worked.

What’s your most effective technique for silencing a class?

In the session on one-to-one tutoring, we talked about advantages and disadvantages for teachers and students as well as some good one-on-one activities. One of the ideas I liked the most was writing a conversation — if both the teacher and student are tired of talking, they can have a break and practice writing by scrawling notes back and forth. One of my classmates even pointed out that in today’s world you could do that via text message or email/chat on the computer. I noted that 20 Questions was always a hit with my kids and could also work well for one-on-one sessions.


Thursday: The final day of the course! We could hardly remember our first 15-minute lesson 12 weeks ago… No official input session today, though we spent some time talking about what job/career opportunities a CELTA can give you: work at a private or public school at home or abroad; tutor one-on-one, in English and/or writing; work at a summer language school; become an administrator at a language school; write materials for coursebooks or websites; get a DELTA and then become a teacher trainer… It is sort of exciting, how many options a CELTA opens up. Some people from my class are planning to go teach abroad, in Turkey and Asia, among other places. Others, like me, won’t use their CELTA right away but are happy to have it as an option for future opportunities.

After our post-CELTA discussion, we just finished up the administrative stuff in our portfolios, then went out for dinner to celebrate. It has been great to spend 13 weeks with such an interesting, fun group of people. I hope to stay in touch with some of them.


As I’ve said before, there are three (well, four) options in terms of the final grade / level of CELTA that we are awarded: Fail, Pass (the majority get this), Pass B (about 15% of all CELTA participants), or Pass A (2% of CELTA candidates). I should get my grade and preliminary certificate from Oxford House College within a week or two…fingers crossed for a good grade!

CELTA Course: Week 12

It’s the next-to-last week of the course! Start catching up here


MondayA. and S.’s last lessons. I hate to say it, but A.’s grammar lesson was not good. He had very little grasp of both the meaning and form of the narrative tenses that he was teaching — it was tough to watch. Luckily, S. turned my mood around with one of her best lessons of the course. Her lesson was so creatively designed: she opened with a song and used a video for her listening tasks. Her pace and timing were also much better than they have been. It was an engaging lesson that the students clearly enjoyed.


Tuesday: Two interesting input sessions with Ben. The first one was on assessment and teaching exam classes. First we talked about forms of assessment, such as placement tests, progress tests, self-assessments, peer assessment, tutorials, homework, “test your partner,” etc. Ben advocates for a process approach rather than a product approach when assessing students’ progress and helping them prepare for an exam. That is, the teacher should help the students understand what the exams/examiners are looking for and then go through detailed examples in controlled practice tasks.

Our second session was on teaching with technology. Ben basically gave us — and had us brainstorm — myriad ways we could use technology (if you’re lucky enough to have access to that and can hold a class in a computer room) to teach grammar or another part of language. Some examples from the session: use Wikipedia to practice narrative tenses by looking up and reading about a famous person, then imagining a different past for that person; use eBay or Amazon to practice comparisons; use pictures on Facebook to practice describing people or talking about interests; use smartphones to do a trivia race and then have students write their own questions. The list goes on, and I got some great ideas. Ben also gave us three useful websites where we can find full lesson plans:

And one site for concordance and linguistics research and much more:


ThursdayIr. and G.’s last lessons. Ir. taught grammar — “used to” for repeated actions or states in the past — and it was one of his best lessons. He was calm, collected, and in control. He was slightly shaky on a couple grammar points, but overall I was impressed and he really showed how much he’s learnt from the course. G.’s lesson, as usual, was excellent: smooth, well-paced, clear, and interesting. The students responded enthusiastically to both lessons, and it was a really nice group of mostly “regulars.” I’ll miss them!


One week to go — can’t believe the course is almost finished!

CELTA Course: Week 11

Three weeks to go! Catch up here.

Monday: G. and Ir. taught their first hour lessons. G.’s grammar lesson (on “as soon as,” “if,” and “when” for future time in the context of health spas) was brilliantly paced and executed; I hope I can do that good a job in my grammar lesson on Thursday. Ir. taught one of his best lessons, too — his skills lesson focused on boxing and ended with students debating whether or not boxing should be banned. Both really nice lessons that showed how much G. and Ir. have learned and internalized throughout the course.


Tuesday: Input session with Ben on teaching functional language. During the course we have learned how to design and teach two types of lessons: skills and grammar. However, there is a third type of lesson that focuses on functional language. What is this, you may ask? Functional language is set expressions that are used in certain situations — the language is linked to its function. Functions include asking for repetition, disagreeing, etc. Exponents are the expressions that are used for the functions. Here are some examples, with function on the left and exponent on the right:

  • Shopping — “How much is this?” or “Do you have this in X size?
  • Suggesting — “It’s really worth it if…” or “Why don’t we…?”
  • Correcting — “Actually, we met at…”
  • Apologizing — “Sorry I’m late” or “I apologize for being…”
  • Disagreeing — “But on the other hand…”
  • Asking for repetition — “Could you say that again, please?” or “Sorry?

Obviously there are many many possible exponents for each function. The idea is to design a lesson — with the same structure as a grammar or skills lesson — with functional language as the main aim. So the students would read or listen to a text using the functional language for a certain situation, then the teacher would pull a model sentence or two from the text to teach meaning, form, and pronunciation, then the students would do   controlled practice and free practice activities. It was a really useful session — unfortunately, we won’t have a chance to teach a functional language lesson during the course, but this stuff is really good to know for our future teaching gigs.

Ben also briefly went over the Common European Framework for language level with us. Oxford House College doesn’t use this as consistently yet for English level, but many European countries use it for all languages so everyone is trying to transition to the A-B-C system for more consistency. The framework is based on “can-do” statements (see below for some examples; there are tons for each level). Here’s a reproduction of the levels (sorry about the formatting…I couldn’t figure out how to get it all on the page):

Level group A B C
Level group name Basic User Independent User Proficient User
Level A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2
Level name Breakthrough or beginner Waystage or elementary Threshold or intermediate Vantage or upper intermediate Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced Mastery or proficiency
Description -Can understand & use familiar everyday expressions & very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.-Can introduce him/herself & others & can ask/answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.-Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly & clearly & is prepared to help. -Can understand sentences & frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal & family info, shopping, local geography, employment).-Can communicate in simple & routine tasks requiring a simple & direct exchange of info on familiar & routine matters.-Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment & matters in areas of immediate need. -Can understand main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.-Can deal w/ most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.-Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.-Can describe experiences & events, dreams, hopes & ambitions & briefly give reasons & explanations for opinions & plans. -Can understand main ideas of a complex text on both concrete & abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.-Can interact w/ a degree of fluency & spontaneity that makes regular interaction w/ native speakers quite possible w/out strain for either party.-Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects & explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages & disadvantages of various options. -Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, & recognize implicit meaning.-Can express ideas fluently & spontaneously w/out much obvious searching for expressions.-Can use language flexibly & effectively for social, academic & professional purposes.-Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors & cohesive devices. -Can understand w/ ease virtually everything heard or read.-Can summarize information from different spoken & written sources, reconstructing arguments & accounts in a coherent presentation.-Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently & precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

I haven’t officially tested my foreign language skills according to this framework, but I’m probably a high B2 in Ukrainian (at least was when I left Ukraine last November) and somewhere in B1 range in German. How are your foreign language skills?


ThursdayMy and D.’s final lessons! I taught grammar — relative clauses, to be exact. I knew it would be a tough lesson because the grammar focus was not as straightforward as teaching a verb tense; I also took a risk by writing my own text for the lesson, since I couldn’t find a good one in any of the coursebooks. The lesson timing would be tight, too, so I had to make sure to be really focused to get through everything in my lesson plan. Plus, it was my last lesson and I felt a little pressure to make sure it was above standard.

So with all of that on my mind, I really had to psyche myself up for the lesson on Thursday. I put on my power colors (black and red) and positive self-talked myself during the 30-minute bike ride to Oxford Street. The lesson itself went relatively smoothly: I got through all my activities and the students seemed to understand the basics of using relative clauses by the end. I wasn’t sure how Ben would react, though, because my grammar was not super focused. My classmates and Ben gave me helpful feedback that I completely agreed with: my text was not really “authentic” and my writing task for the students (write a story about your pet) didn’t really have a purpose or outcome… Also, I could have focused the grammar better by spending time on subject-object distinctions in forming relative clauses. But despite all that, I earned above standard because I achieved my aims, fixed my actions points from last week, and the lesson was well-executed with good classroom management. My action points for future teaching endeavors: designing tasks — natural authentic tasks — audience, purpose; task design: outcomes; take some risks.

And now I am basically DONE with the course! I’ve taught my 10 lessons (9/10 above standard) and finished my final assignment. We still have two more weeks of input sessions and my classmates’ teaching, but all I really have to do is show up. I’m relieved to have taught my final lesson and can now relax a bit and enjoy the end of the course.


Saturday: The last Saturday of the course! Interesting input sessions with Bobby on syllabus design/course planninglearner autonomy, and the history of English Language Teaching. The first session introduced us to the four criteria for designing a syllabus: learnability, frequency, coverage, and usefulness of language elements. We also discussed the different types of language syllabi/syllabuses: grammar, lexical, functional, situational, topic-based, and task-based syllabus. Each type of syllabus has its pros and cons, and many coursebooks today use a combination of approaches.

Keeping syllabi and coursebooks in mind, the short learner autonomy session had us leafing through coursebooks to look for how each book encourages learner autonomy. Some do it through DVD or podcast extras, a few use “can you do this?” or “check what you know” checklists, and one book even allows you to create an online account to access more materials and exercises to practice what you’ve learned.

The last session was on the history (or evolution) of ELT. We were divided into pairs and were given two English language teaching methods to research and present to the class. It was an informative session that really highlighted how many methods incorporate elements of other methods and how many teachers today use a combination of methods. Some of the main methods in the history of ELT are:

  • Direct Method
  • Audio-Lingual Method
  • Communicative Approach (what we were encouraged to use in the Peace Corps)
  • Natural Approach
  • Silent Way
  • Total Physical Response
  • Suggestopedia
  • Task-Based Approach
  • Lexical Approach
  • Blended Learning
  • Dogme (ELT)


So I am done with my duties and am looking forward to just showing up and enjoying the last two weeks of the course. Both my tutors told me that I can have high expectations for my course/CELTA grade…I’ll find out what that means in a few weeks! 

Next up: Week 12.

CELTA Course: Week 10

Read about Week 9 before you read this post.


MondayD.’s and my first 60-minute lessons. D. taught for the first hour and his was a grammar lesson. He did a thorough job teaching present perfect and was calm even in the face of some forgotten materials and no CD for his listening (he had G. and Ir. read the tapescript). I taught second, a skills lesson. My focus was healthy lifestyles (of course!), and I led the class through two reading tasks, a “lexis race” (teams race to match words/phrases to their definitions), and a speaking task in which they surveyed their classmates about their healthy habits in order to find out who was the healthiest in the class. For the first time since we switched over to the pre-intermediate group, I was satisfied with my lesson. There are a few things I need to work on, and one of the reading tasks could’ve been harder, but overall I was really happy with the lesson and had an adrenaline rush for about an hour afterwards. (It was above standard, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.) Ben’s action points for my next (and last!) lesson are: more collocation options; less lockstep by inserting little pairwork stages to help organize the board and break things up; re-pair fast finishers; elicit and board ideas and useful language before a speaking task.


TuesdayBobby led a really interesting input session on literacy. We started with an activity: posted around the room were sentences in different languages. First we had to identify all the languages, then we had to take one language in the Latin alphabet and one in another alphabet. Ir. and I ended up with German and Korean. Then we had to copy each sentence three times: 1) normally, 2) from right to left, and 3) with our non-dominant hand. This was to make the points that: A) it takes time to learn to write a new alphabet (I certainly understand that from learning Ukrainian/the Cyrillic alphabet!), so we should bear that in mind when teaching students whose first language does not use the Latin alphabet; and B) it’s hard to write in any language if a person is lacking literacy skills in general. We went on to talk about how to be aware of individual student needs when teaching basic literacy — as some of us might end up doing at some point. We went over some activities for word-level, sentence-level, and text-level reading. It was an eye-opening session and it really makes one appreciate being literate.

Bobby also went over Assignment 4 (the last one!) with us. It’s called “Lessons from the Classroom” and is basically a personal reflection assignment. We have to write about what we’ve learned from the CELTA course, our strengths and weaknesses, how to improve and how to continue developing professionally as English-language teachers. It’ll be fun to write and won’t take long.


Thursday: S. and A. taught their first hour lessons. S. taught grammar: indirect questions and being polite. Her guided discovery was nice, if a little ambitious, so she barely had time for the final speaking task. But the students definitely understood the lesson’s grammar point, and that was S.’s main aim. A. taught a skills lesson about smoking. His reading tasks were beautifully paced and overall the lesson’s timing worked well — despite the fact that he’d hardly had any sleep for the past couple of nights thanks to a new baby at home.


Only three more weeks of the course left! My final lesson is next week and we’ll have our last Saturday session, too.

CELTA Course: Week 9

[Need to catch up? Read about Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, and Week 8]

MondayLast 30-minute lesson. It was above standard again (7 for 8…hope I can keep it up for the last two lessons!), but something about the class dynamic coupled with Ben’s feedback style leaves me unsatisfied with the lessons. Maybe because Ben is really good at pointing out very small details to work on in my teaching — this is great, of course, but sometimes it leaves me feeling a bit bummed. But we all taught nice lessons tonight; S. would’ve been above standard if she had gotten her lesson plan in before teaching, and D. did an amazing job grading his language down to the pre-intermediate level, earning him an above standard. My action points for next week’s hour lesson are:

  • board lexis in more detail (include word class, stress, difficult sounds, collocations & patterns)
  • drill more systematically
  • speaking tasks: elicit and board ideas and useful language to scaffold the task
  • maintain motivation through challenge, cooperation, and/or competition


TuesdayLast live observation. D., S., and I observed Makkie teach a CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) exam class. This is one of the highest qualifications that a non-native speaker can achieve. The students’ exam was the next day, so Makkie spent some time going over the criteria and having them practice for the speaking segment. She was clear, calm, and measured in her teaching style.

After observation, we had an input session with Ben about nouns. We spent some time talking about definite and indefinite, countable and uncountable nouns. Ben’s main point was that nouns are horribly undervalued and under-taught. There are so many components to using nouns and they trip up non-native speakers much more than verbs do.


Thursday: Observing G., Ir., and A. teach their last 30-minute lessons. They had a tough group of students; 12 actually showed up, which was great since we haven’t had a full class since we started teaching the pre-intermediates. But there were quite a few Italians who kept speaking Italian to each other and disrupting the class. A. taught one of his best lessons; he was engaged with the students and they responded well to his energy. G.’s lesson was really nice; she had a solid grasp of the grammar (separable and inseparable phrasal verbs) that she was teaching. Ir. did well, too, though I found his last activity a bit messy.


Saturday: Long day of input sessions. The first 2-hour session was the most useful. It was on errors, feedback, and interlanguage. Interlanguage is a cool term: it’s a mixture of two languages that isn’t quite one or the other. For example, a foreign language translated word-for-word into English will technically be English words, but the syntax and expressions might be a bit funky (“Budapest says hello with arms that are spread-eagled”) so it is interlanguage. The meaning might still be understood, but it’s still not correct English. We talked a lot about giving feedback in this session, since that is a large part of what we do as English teachers. There are myriad techniques for error correction and feedback:

  • reformulation
  • facial expressions (highlighting)
  • non-verbal sounds (highlighting)
  • gesture (highlighting & prompting)
  • questioning intonation
  • pretend to misunderstand (with humor?)
  • correction codes (writing)
  • peer correction
  • fingers (show where the mistake is in the sentence)
  • giving options
  • CCQs (Concept Checking Questions)
  • board use
  • metalanguage (word class, syntax, etc.)

Our other two sessions were on language and metaphor and intonation (our last phonology session). The intonation session was good in that it helped us recognize general intonation patterns in English: rising intonation at the beginning of a sentence, falling intonation at the end of a sentence. Intonation is tough for non-native speakers to understand and use correctly, so practicing it requires a lot of repetition and drilling.


Coming up in Week 10: my first 60-minute lesson, a “skills lesson,” and some more input.

CELTA Course: Week 8

[Need to catch up? Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, and Week 7]

Monday: S., D., and I each taught 30 minutes to our new class, the pre-intermediate group. We’ll now be evaluated by the other course tutor, Ben. The lesson theme was training, education, and jobs. S. opened with a really nicely staged reading activity. D.’s lesson consisted of lots of pronunciation and sentence stress work, which he led well. I taught the last section; my only guidelines for lesson planning were to prepare a free practice activity. I decided to have the students do a role play with job interviews. To begin, they matched pictures of people with jobs (biologist, musician, electrician, chef, etc) to the education/training they might have: culinary school, conservatory of music, Ph.D., apprenticeship, etc. Then I assigned each student a role — either a professional seeking a job or someone from an organization that wants to hire such professionals. They had some time to prepare questions/answers and then they interviewed each other. Overall it went smoothly and I focused a lot on all of my action points from the last lesson.

That said, I was sitting in feedback groaning to myself with every small “mistake” that Ben pointed out from my lesson and thinking, “This couldn’t have been above standard.” But when Ben handed back his feedback sheet, he had indeed given me an above standard mark for my lesson — probably because I fixed all of my previous action points. I was not completely satisfied with my lesson — my board work and feedback felt a bit messy and I felt like the role play was too big of a task for a 30-minute lesson — but I’ll take the good mark! Lots to work on for next week’s lesson. Ben’s action points for me are:

  • board language feedback as it comes up during a free practice activity
  • move the bulk of the lesson balance (timing) toward the stage that helps me achieve my lesson’s main aims
  • elicit and board useful language before a speaking task
  • model useful functional language before a role play
  • stage freer practice to encourage rehearsal and recycling of new language/lexis


Tuesday: Two useful input sessions with Bobby: evaluating coursebooks and getting some tips on planning our final 60-minute lessons. Our last two lessons will be one hour each; one lesson is a grammar lesson and the other is a skills lesson (focusing on two of the four skills: reading, speaking, writing, listening). Bobby led us through a general procedure for each lesson and then we had some time to plan with our teaching practice groups. We divvied up grammar and some of us chose topics for our skills lessons.


Thursday: Observing A., Ir., and G. teach 30 minutes each to the pre-intermediates. Their context was money and millionaires, which A. did a great job engaging the class about. Ir. taught the best lesson I’ve seen him teach so far. He bungled a couple simple things, but his elicitation, boarding collocations, and drilling were impeccable. G. also taught a smooth lesson and staged a really nice “speed debate” activity at the end, which got all the students engaged and chatting away with each other. The pre-intermediate group is tricky. We haven’t had a full 12 people yet — 6 on Monday, 7 today — so that can make it tough to get discussion going. There are also a couple of difficult personalities; that certainly keeps us on our toes!


Read on for Week 9

CELTA Course: Week 7

[Missed the first half? Catch up here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6]

Monday: Observing S and A teach 45 minutes each to the upper-intermediate class. S’s lesson was well-paced, and though some of her feedback was rushed it was a really good lesson and she deserved the “above standard” that Bobby awarded her. A’s lesson was decent; he obviously tried really hard to learn the grammar he was teaching (1st, 2nd, and 3rd conditionals) and that showed.


Tuesday: Spent the first hour observing “real teacher” Dan teach an intermediate lesson. He was tough and clearly had high expectations for his students, which I liked. The class had clearly not studied the night before — and this seemed to be a trend — so Dan spent the first 20 minutes of his lesson trying to get the students to understand the usefulness of studying lexis in context in order to better remember it.

After observation, Ben led a session on teaching writing skills. Obviously I liked this. We won’t have too much opportunity to teach writing during the CELTA course, but the session was useful for the writing we will teach and also for our future English-teaching lives (if we ever teach a writing-specific course). Ben emphasized the importance of having a clear writing task for students, along with telling them their audience/reader and genre of the writing they’ll do. A good session.


ThursdayD, S, and I, finished with the upper-intermediates, switched over to observe the pre-intermediate class that we’ll begin teaching on Monday. We watched N and B — two of our colleagues/classmates from the other teaching practice group — each teach 45 minutes. The lessons themselves were nice; N had great rapport with the class and clearly understood what she was teaching. I wasn’t as big a fan of B’s style, but his lesson was good and he had a nice free practice activity at the end. Ben runs feedback sessions much differently from Bobby; he talked about a few general points (boarding lexis, reformulation, etc) before going into person-specific feedback. It’ll be interesting to work with him for our last four lessons.


SaturdayTwo short and useful sessions on connected speech (how word combinations sound/change sounds when native speakers speak at a regular to fast pace) and free practice activities (ideas for how to set them up and focus them on the target language). Then Bobby held individual tutorial sessions with each of us — just a quick, 10-minute chat about how we’re doing halfway through the course. We had to assess ourselves, then Bobby assessed us for the same criteria. He and I agreed that my work — teaching — is above standard so far. Main points for me to work on as the course progresses are: including collocations when I teach lexis; incorporating more pronunciation work into lexis and grammar teaching; and making sure I do thorough language and content feedback/correction after freer practice activities. All doable.


Week 8 is next!