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CELTA P/T

Karolina Szybinska

ASSIGNMENT 4:

LESSONS FROM THE CLASSROOM

I decided to take CELTA course as part of my continuing professional

development. I am working in a FE institution and I am training and assessing

NVQs at the moment, but have wanted to move on to full time ESOL and

literacy for quite some time. I also really wanted to go travelling and thought

that teaching could be the answer to any cash shortages on the way. The three

month-journey I put myself through with CELTA proved to me that I can

actually start thinking seriously about pursuing a career in ELT and gave me

confidence to kick start my travelling preparations, because I do not have to

worry so much about coming back and finding myself without a job, money

and career perspectives. All through my life people told me I would make an

ok teacher and now I think I believe them. I thoroughly enjoyed the “ride”: the

lesson planning, the stress of standing in front of a group of people, the hectic

atmosphere of working and studying at the same time, the deadlines, the

madly long hours in the library and most of all, the overwhelming feeling of

wild satisfaction I get after a successful lesson. I do realise, however that there

is a long way to go before I reach the standard I set for myself, but the end of

the course does not, in any way mean the end of development for me.

To learn language teaching in three months is really a challenge, but

because of its structure, the course facilitates a tremendous learning curve in

all students. When I think about it now, at the end of the journey, I think that

part time course is the only option that could work for me, not only because I

am in a full time employment, but because the course lasts over 12 weeks, it

provides an opportunity to finish my lesson, sit back and really think about

the strengths and weaknesses and the progress and areas to improve.

My TP experience started with some good comments; Fay wrote that

my “presence in the classroom is flawless and you are very well organized”.

She also said that my kinaesthetic activities and engaging materials made the

Assignment 4: Lessons From The Classroom Karolina Szybinska CELTA P/T

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lessons student-centred. During one of the input sessions we watched a DVD

in which Jane was drilling and using clapping to mark the stress. I thought

that as much as effective it was, it was a bit scary too, so in my lesson I decided

to use some hip hop music (instrumental) and use punching in the air to mark

the stress. It proved to be a success with my students and I got really good

feedback from Fay, my colleagues and also from my students, whom I met in

IH after I changed to the upper intermediate level.

One of the first lessons I observed was Jess’s Study Skills Low. She had

a really good reading and writing lesson and I thought she did an amazing job

getting her Korean students (who are traditionally quiet and shy) to speak. In

her writing part of the lesson she played some classical music and I thought it

worked really well and helped with the atmosphere in the classroom. I decided

to use music in my lessons too, but changed the genre, as classical music really

lowers my energy levels. Background music really helps, especially in freer

activities, because it takes away any inhibitions and students can speak freely.

Observing Jess also showed me the importance of sitting down instead of

towering over students and also standing back and letting them speak freely,

even if they make mistakes. I am a little bit of a control freak so I found both

sitting down and standing back quite uncomfortable, but I challenged myself

throughout the course and I think I now prefer the laid back approach.

My feedback was not all rosy, though. I had a lot of action points to

work on too. From the very first TP I had problem with my assumptions about

students. In my first three TPs I assumed the students would know the lexis

which turned out to be at higher levels. Because of that, I spent too much time

on lexis and CCQs, and consequently had to drop other parts of the lesson (for

example missing out on freer activities). I learnt from Laura’s lesson, it is

always better to “hope for the best, plan for the worst” and prepare yourself

(especially when dealing with lexis) on some resistance from students. Well

planned CCQs can save you from wasting your time during the lesson,

struggling to come up with some decent definitions of the word.

Another big challenge I had to face was to learn to plan the right

amount of activities, as I tend to overplan a lot. I struggled with it for some

time, having to drop some controlled practice stages or the free activities. I

guess it is a work in progress and there is no ideal formula. You make

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assumptions about your students, you plan and if your assumptions turn out

to be wrong you need to think on your feet and adapt your lesson so the

students do not miss out on anything. One thing I definitely learned that

helped me with timing and planning was to always get to my main aim in the

first half of the lesson (Clare mentioned: “you had clear aims and met them

with plenty of time”) Otherwise the students will never have enough time to

use the TL in a free practice.

Throughout the course I worked really hard to improve the areas

mentioned in my action points: assumptions about students, free practice, and

the ability to adapt the lesson to the students, timing, and the use of CCQs and

visualising the TL by using the white board. I improved a lot in some of those

areas; others will still need a lot of practice. I will continue to work on my

instructions, as sometimes they are not as clear as I would like them to be; I

will challenge myself to always provide feedback stage after free practice, even

if it is a one minute wrap up and I will also work on trying out new ideas I may

have seen and would like to try out. I also need to improve my grammar

lessons, I learnt from Sara’s lesson that they should always be student-

centred, and that is a real challenge to someone who was taught in a teacher

centred way (and I was). Overall, I learned loads from the input sessions.

David’s, Fay’s and Devon’s lessons were really helpful and provided brilliant

ideas for TP, but the ability to try it out and practice and learn from my

mistakes was in my opinion the facilitator of the amazing learning curve me

and my colleagues achieved.

As evident, I still have plenty of work to do on my teaching skills and I

will definitely push myself when working with students on literacy and ESOL,

I will also watch a lot of teaching DVDs, and try to take as much out of it as

possible. I am also strongly considering volunteering or trying to get a part

time position at IH, because I think it is an ideal place to develop my skills.

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