CELTA Week 1, Evenings 1 & 2

OK, first week of CELTA down. How many to go? I’ve forgotten, but they go on till mid-June!

So two 3-hour evening classes now under my belt – around 5 hours of learning. I want to write this post quickly because I should really be doing homework…

They’ve started off well. When I got there, before the tutor got going, I suggested to other trainees that I collected their email addresses, phone numbers and Twitter IDs. (only a couple of the 12 trainees had Twitter – none used it seriously). I thought this’d be a good idea because we’ll be doing group projects in the future and will need to communicate. Anyway, that seemed to get me in good books with tutor and meant the ice was broken with other trainees.

We’ve been introduced to only one tutor so far – the other has been very ill. Our tutor is quite jolly and smiley, manages the class well – gets attention without raising voice, competent, gives fairly clear explanations. It’s obvious that Cambridge keep a tight rein on everything and there’s not much scope for deviating from guidelines. They need to come in and inspect our work efficiently so I guess the rigidity makes some kind of sense.

I had problems with the paperwork: there’s lots, and we’re expected to keep it filed, but the paperwork supplied wasn’t hole-punched or put in any sequence and it’s not clear what section it should be filed under. If we’re meant to keep stuff in indexed sections and if it’s the same every course then why not supply all the bumpf in one hit, with dividers, pre-prepared? The pre-course tasks suggested 2 folders laid out in one way, the CELTA booklet we were given suggested two folders in another way…

Interestingly, I was labelled as an organiser even before the session had started, for suggesting I collect email addresses. Maybe I am – with my collections of blogs etc. I hadn’t really thought about it before. Maybe I’m an obsessive for nit-picking detail(?)  Hmmm… I need to reflect on this!

I was surprised by the gender ratio of 4 women to 8 men. I had expected the opposite. There’s quite a range of ages – from about 22 up to 60 at a guess.

Evening 1

So what did we do on first lesson? I’m struggling to remember and it was only five days ago!!!

Oh yes, started with a warm-up, a getting to know you exercise. We all went to middle of room with a prepared lists of questions. Find Someone Who… lives in Oxford, has a January birthday, owns a Kindle, speaks more than one foreign language… and so on.

Then dishing out paperwork.

Did a Recognising parts of Speech exercise using minor celeb Rolf Harris to raise interest. Tutor had a prepared lesson plan which would have been normally used with EFL students. She ran through it with us. The ultimate purpose was to analyse the various parts of speech in a piece of text. Firstly, to build up interest in the text by doing fun activities. The idea was to show us trainees how a lesson might progress but also for us to learn how to identify the parts of speech.

Evening 2

1 As a filler needing no materials, while we waited for a latecomer, we paired up in order to compile a list of 3+ things we had in common. Then shared with group.

2 Learning a foreign language. Tutor taught us a bit of Polish language just so that we might understand how it feels to be on the receiving end.
It was quite eye-opening. We started by drilling a few words as a “choral” group – safety in numbers – then chose a student who sounded confident and asked a question, then gradually built up by selecting others, then all in group, one at a time. There was no real correcting. The mood seemed to mirror the tutor’s mood. It was OK to make mistakes and, by keeping humour up, no one quit.

Then written words were introduced. This, I found, was incredibly distracting. A different alphabet and unfamiliar sounds, made us lose the ability to pronounce correctly what we had before. I found myself writing things down “phonetically” as notes.

Spoken repetition is essential. After the main lesson we reflected on learning. How many words do I remember without prompts? – about 6 straight after and about zero now!  How many would I recognise if I heard them again? All, I reckon.  What grammar had we learned? Little – that wasn’t the aim.

3 Introduction to Receptive Skills – the essentials of reading – skimming, scanning, reading in detail.  We started by listing what types of writing we’d read today and discussing whether they entailed skimming, scanning or detail. Then we did pair work – of  nine reading scenes decide which was skimming, scanning etc.

We talked about a typical reading lesson and played a “game” as pairs – placing bits of card in the right order, describing the tasks in a typical lesson plan. The problem I had was that what was written was un-punctuated and seemed in the incorrect order – I found it difficult to get the sense of each stage. We somehow muddled through but I found it frustrating that it wasn’t clearer. Perhaps the idea is that this might be a typical lesson plan with cryptic stage notes. Anyway, I got somewhat frustrated. Once we’d discussed the order we then had to match up cards describing the purpose of the stages and this was equally random for me. I’m not sure what I learned from this – just that the language could have been clearer and I got a bit lost.

Homework is to take a short piece of descriptive text and “think of things students could do which involves reading the text”. Not too tough!

One thing I did find though was that tiredness at the end of the day really does have a big impact on brain function!

That’s enough for now. Hope it gives you the flavour of the first two classes.



  1. kmariej

    Hey, Clive! I’m glad you are blogging about your CELTA course. It surprises me that only a couple classmates are on Twitter. Have any expressed interest in learning more about it and how it might be used to facilitate collaboration and networking among teachers and students? I’m obsessed with that kind of thing!

    I’m also a volunteer EFL tutor (aiwr.org). I teach English via Skype to an Afghani student. In the past I’ve taught face-to-face EFL classes…but via Skype (with no video) is a totally different experience. Since we have such limited time together (two one-hour classes per week) and she is keen to work hard on her English, I’m going to try using a Tumblr blog for continued reading and writing throughout the week. Have you done anything like this with your students?

    Looking forward to sharing ideas! Take care!


    • clivesir

      Hi Kelly, thanks for dropping by and commenting, and following up on Twitter.
      It’s always a little tricky writing a blog when classmates or tutors might discover it … I have had to moderate things a little. I’ll try my best to report how things really are.

      Yes, I’m a real proponent of Twitter. I was met with a lot of blank faces when I mentioned it in class. I will have to follow up and see if I can encourage others to give it a whirl. It is so brilliant for educators!

      Nope, I haven’t done any distance teaching. I think I’d have to get myself a bit more organised before I try! Good for you for doing that!

  2. Lucy Carrington

    Great piece of writing – bringing the exhaustion from my CELTA back to me in droves!

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