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 name
||Breakthrough or beginner
||Waystage or elementary
||Threshold or intermediate
||Vantage or upper intermediate
||Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
||Mastery or proficiency
||-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?
Thursday: My 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 planning, learner 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
- 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.