CELTA Week 6, evening 12

Evening 12 (Thurs 2012-02-23)

This was an evening of teaching practice. Four of us, each teaching for 30 mins, focusing on speaking. I was the last to go on, and quite nervous. The outline given by the tutor split my lesson into two activities – phonology and a speaking/listening/fluency activity. Both looked pretty intensive to me so I split them equally at ~15 mins each. I wanted to improve my instructions and had even written them all out longhand! That’s something the tutor suggested – planning the delivery to keep it concise and unambiguous. She said that even if we read from the notes the students wouldn’t be too concerned and probably wouldn’t even notice. I have no proof that she was right – I didn’t manage to stay on script!

Really I had too much to cover – that was the basic problem. It might have gone better had the students not struggled with the phonemes and, as the tutor pointed out, had I gone faster. I actually didn’t think I’d gone too slowly – I just spent a bit more time making sure that everyone had grasped what we were doing and why. My belief is that it’s better to carry everyone with you even if it means a bit more repetition for the quicker students, to allow the slower ones to catch up. Better that than have some students get nothing from the lesson.

It meant that I had to curtail the phoneme exercise and rush the speaking exercise, since the tutor takes a dim view of any overrunning. That’s something else I’ve learned – even if you start late because of students’ late arrival or a previous trainee overruns, you still have to finish on time – just as you would in a real life teaching situation.

I introduced the concept of phonemes by having the students look at the dictionary, first for “phone” and then for “phoneme”. I didn’t want the definitions per se, I wanted them to tell me what else the dictionary gave – the corresponding part of speech and the pronunciation. They then confirmed their understanding that IPA symbols represented sounds but had no clue about which sound corresponded to which symbol. That generated interest and led on to introducing a few symbols and then to an exercise in matching the symbols to sounds in words.

The second part of my lesson was “freer” practice, involving splitting the class into pairs, with one student reading and noting down keywords in text “A”, while the other did the same for text “B”. Then they each had to tell each other their story using only the keywords. If there’d been enough time I would then have got the “A” students to tell the “B” stories to the group, and vice versa, but time was much too short. It’s the principle of doing a bit of individual work, then “pairs compare”, then “whole class feedback” – a mantra on this course.

The lesson was too ambitious for the time available. Maybe I should have trusted my instincts and reduced the amount to be covered – perhaps even dropping the last task or turning it into a game of Chinese whispers.

I was disappointed with the outcome, even though the tutor reckoned it was quite good, and was an improvement on my previous efforts. I know I can do better.

Here are the slides. They might be useful to someone – just remember that they need a bit more work!

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