I promise that my post about my fourth and final week of my CELTA is very nearly finished, but in advance of that, I thought I’d write a quick summary of my first week teaching – although it was a short three-day week since Germany had a Bank Holiday on Thursday and my school kindly created what the Germans call a ‘bridge day’ to mean we had the Friday off, too! So it was a very nice, short introduction to the wonderful world of English Language Teaching without the helping hand of CELTA tutors standing close by and gesturing encouragingly!
For those of you who didn’t know, I am teaching an intensive class comprising 7 students ranging from false beginner (A1) to intermediate (B1) as cover for someone I met in a Berlin Language Workers’ Facebook group. It’s 8.30 – 1.50 every day, which has been requiring me to get up at 5am every morning!
1. Teaching a class of mixed ability is hard, hard work. My heart sinks at the slightly bored faces of the fast finishers, who have raced through the exercise in question, when I compare them to the faces of those weaker students, desperate to understand every last word and have finished before I say ‘OK everyone…!’ and start to run through answers. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had extra grammar exercises prepared for those speedy students, but I need to learn to have other activities on standby, too.
2. Wifi is really important when teaching – particularly, when you don’t yet have a phone contract like me! It’s useful to look up words, brainstorm activities to fill the last 5 minutes of a 110 minute lesson (!) and essential for a touch of humanity and reassurance from home during breaks 🙂
3. The classic language teacher gestures for ‘past,’ ‘present’ and ‘future’ work absolute wonders to prompt self-correction.
4. I hated drama in school and used to do anything to get out of it (including, I am ashamed to admit, faking nosebleeds!) However, in the ELT classroom, I have found myself acting out all sorts: kicking balls to distinguish ‘football’ from ‘handball,’ going up and down a lift, as well as numerous ridiculous actions to make word stress more memorable for my students. A personal favourite is the ‘gee, shucks!’ elbow that goes along with teaching the correct emphasis on the word ‘terrific’ which I believe I first had to teach on the CELTA and has somehow become ‘a thing.’ My students seem to love it!
5. Students love vocabulary on the board and they love to know collocations – even at A2 level (beginners)!
6. Similarly, students seem to love it when I spend a few minutes at the end of every block of lessons writing up mistakes I heard, and getting them to help me correct them – classic CELTA practice, but apparently popular!
7. Always have some paper handy to make notes of mistakes for correction, new vocab that comes up…anything! Then, if you save those bits of paper (/neatly arranged notes!) then you have the basis for a standard vocab test, or something more fun like vocab bingo!
8. It’s worth straying from the textbook: on one of the last sections of Wednesday’s classes (essentially Friday due to the bank holiday), I did a song with my students and they absolutely loved it. Even the weakest of them all was positively gleeful as she told me ‘we can do this again!’
9. Ditto the above for pronunciation practice: I found a very small exercise in a properly vintage beginners’ business English textbook, and used it to teach students the different ways to pronounce the plural ‘s’. Again, to me, it had been planned as a ‘filler’ activity, but to the students it was fun, it was helping them sound authentic – it was great!
In finishing this post over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of this post by Sophia Khan, which she kindly linked to me in her comment on my post about my first day teaching. Sophia’s post is summing up a talk given by Alan Maley and Adrian Underhill about ‘valuing the unexpected,’ and learning not to stick rigidly to a lesson plan but rather to appreciate the learning opportunities which can come from students’ questions and queries. In my three days, or 18 hours, of teaching since my CELTA ended, it has really become clear to me how important and beneficial to students those spontaneous moments are. I had to explain the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ in a lesson on Tuesday, but my students then used it correctly from then on and I had that real warm, fuzzy feeling that I had actually taught them something! The best line for me from Sophia’s post was therefore the following:
What I especially like here is that Underhill and Maley don’t say “expect the unexpected”. Don’t be ready, because you can’t be ready – not for anything, which is exactly what walks into your classroom every day: infinite possibility. But value the unexpected. See what happens and play it by ear. You will be alright. And you can end up learning some great lessons yourself.
So, in the week that I found out that my two wonderful CELTA tutors have nominated me to receive a Pass A grade for my CELTA, I have learnt to stick a little less stringently to my plan for the day, and go where the students feel like going that day! Thanks to Alan, Adrian and Sophie for the inspiration 🙂