CELTA =Teaching English
Tips on Cambridge CELTA
So you’ve been accepted for the Cambridge CELTA course. Congratulations!
Before you dive in there are few tips that might come in useful, because, as a CELTA survivor, I can say from experience, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
It’s not so much that the work is hard it’s just that you don’t have much time to digest it and apply it!
Grammar: Chances are you are not a world expert on English grammar. Not to worry. The recommended books will explain it all so take it one step at a time and don’t try to do a crash course in grammar it will just add to the confusion and anxiety levels.
But more importantly, if you have to give a lesson on a grammar point (and you will), remember it’s just one grammar point, not a comprehensive overview of English grammar.
If, while giving a lesson, a student asks you a curly grammar question tell them,
“Good question, but we will be dealing with that in another lesson.” (say it calmly and confidently)
I was caught out - just didn't see it coming
It was the simple use of an apostrophe. I had individual students write their answers on the board and asked the class if they agreed or disagreed.
All was going well until one answer brought a mixed response. When I looked at what had been written on the board, my mind went blank, I just didn’t know if it was right or not.
I let the class debate it out for a few minutes, felt the trainer's eyes boring into me and realised I was in trouble. I quickly decided, “We’ll leave that for the moment. You have a think about it and we’ll get back to it.”
I was hoping that time would allow my mind to calm down and I would be able to clarify the point.
Leading students to discover the language is the way to go! What you discover for your self you remember. (CELTA mantra)
Luckily I had a very bright student who quickly arrived at the answer and explained where the apostrophe should be placed and why. Phew! I had not only survived but excelled according to my tutor and my peers.
You may not always know the answer, but never, ever let on you don’t have a clue. Always have a few well rehearsed lines ready to use to avoid compete exposure as a fraud.
The stock answer is: “Good question, but today we are looking at this grammar point. You’ll be studying that later in the course.” And move on quickly with the lesson.
The Lesson Planning
- The lesson plan is THE most important element of the CELTA course. It took me awhile to catch on to this as nobody tells you. The lesson plan is to show the tutors that you know exactly where you are going with the lesson and that you understand what you are doing.
- The best bit of advice regarding the lesson plan is to very quickly find out which of your peers are getting the top marks for their lesson plans and ask to have a look at their work.
- You may also find that some of your peers keep very quiet about their excellent marks while everyone else is moaning about their marks. It’s the quiet ones’ work that you need to look at. While there is a general air of co-operation among the CELTA group, it really is everyman for himself.
- One of the most stressful parts of the Cambridge CELTA is the lack of information. For some reason no one told us that it was the lesson plan that was the most important element. While the assignments are important they are not as important. Getting that lesson plan done perfectly with every detail, every word, every foreseeable problem, every acknowledgment etc down clearly and precisely is crucial.
- When preparing lessons always make sure you do any test or exercise that you will be giving in that lesson. Sometimes the questions are difficult to understand for the students (and the student teacher). Sometimes the answers cause confusion and need explaining. If you haven’t done the exercises, you may end up in deep water, sinking, and that’s just downright embarrassing. I should know!
- If you have to resubmit an assignment, do not panic. It is a pain because you also have to get the next lesson plan done and time is scarce. Calmly ask the tutor for advice. Our tutors did not give us the answer or even where to find the information needed which was extremely frustrating, but a thoughtful approach to the wording of your question or asking the more approachable tutor will help clarify the area you need to fix.
- As the course proceeds you will discover that the all important lesson plan is actually “just scaffolding” for your lesson. Initially you will cling to your lesson plan following every word on the page. But as the course proceeds it is wise to start making brief notes about your lesson plan and working from them. This looks really good and gets the thumbs up as long as you know what you are doing.
- During the CELTA course you will give a variety of lessons, grammar, pronunciation, writing, speaking and listening etc. Make sure you cover all areas before the last two lessons. If you have not covered all areas you will be told what you have to teach and this can be rather stressful if it’s an area you are not comfortable with.
- Try to incorporate a few elements in all your lessons eg you may be teaching a grammar lesson when a student stumbles over the pronunciation of a word, stop the class and get them all to pronounce the word as a group, as pairs and individuals, then write it on the board. Just because it’s a grammar lesson does not meant you ignore other elements if they arise. Spend a couple of minutes on it. This will show your ability to adapt to the needs of students.
The Cambridge CELTA is an arduous course, but it’s over very quickly. Some of your peers will break down, cry, throw tantrums and some will drop out. Do not be distracted, you just don’t have the time.
Remember you are there to get your CELTA certificate, not to make new best friends.
Focus on why you are there – to get your CELTA certificate, your passport to the world. Once you’ve completed a task don’t mull over it too much, move on to the next task.
The Cambridge CELTA requires determination and an ability to keep going even when you are exhausted and anxious.
When it’s all getting too much:
Take a few deep breaths, have a laugh, make sure you go for a walk, eat well, get some sleep and just tell yourself, “I can do this.”
All the best teaching English!
faten on April 09, 2014:
I'm going to start my CELTA and I'm wondering if I didn't show the progress that the trainer needs, am I going to be swapped into another course called Ihc?
Camelia on March 16, 2012:
Where did you do your Celta?
maddot (author) from Northern NSW, Australia on October 02, 2011:
If you are doing the Cambridge CELTA they will have you teaching very quickly. You will be given the topic and the information you need to give the lesson but you will have to write out your lesson plan which is very detailed. I was also anxious - I think everyone is when they get up to teach. I often would take 10 minutes on my own before class and do some deep breathing to calm my mind. Once I was in front of the class I was fine and actually enjoyed it. Don't let your fear run you. Step back from it and focus on your goal - getting your Cambridge CELTA certificate. Once you've given your lesson you will be given your lesson plan back with comments on it from the trainer. Make sure you take notice of the ares you need to improve and incorporate them into you " personal aims" for your next lesson plan. The lesson plan you submit is THE most important aspect of the course - get
that right and you are on your way.
Take a deep breath, take control of the class and try to have fun. All the best.
PS. use the Internet for class fillers if you have a few minutes left a the end of the lesson in case you finish a bit ahead of time.
Ben on October 02, 2011:
Thanks very much for this. I've already taken a 200 hour OnTesol TESOL course online, and I'm starting the CELTA tomorrow. I'm reading as much as possible last minute in preparation. I have the welcome dinner in just a few hours and to be honest, the level of work doesn't bother me, I'm a workaholic and I sleep only 4 hours a day. But the thought of getting up infront of all those beady Vietnamese eyes is frankly terrifying haha. But that's one of the things I hope to conquer. Can you give any tips as to the actual perfomance side of things? When was the first time you actually had to stand up? What did you do/teach? I'm panicking that I'm going to be so shaky I can't hold a pen or get my words out and it's just going to be like watching a car crash. Please give me some words of wisdom haha.
Bashier on August 25, 2011:
Thank you for quick response. My apology. I will take your advice and google it and see what I can find out. Again, Thank You.
maddot (author) from Northern NSW, Australia on August 25, 2011:
I don' think this is the right forum for posting a lesson plan. However if you Google "CELTA lesson plans" you will find sites that offer a huge variety of lesson plans.
Bashier on August 24, 2011:
Thanks for all those great suggestions. I was wondering if you would share one of your lesson so I can use it as a reference. I am not native English speaker but I am determined to take Celta in near future in United States or possible South America pass it with flying colors :).
maddot (author) from Northern NSW, Australia on August 19, 2011:
Good luck with the course Kamran!
Kamran on August 19, 2011:
What a great article. I agree with almost all of your thoughts. I'm doing CELTA myself and while I'm writing these comments, I'm going home from Manchester Academy of English...One week is over and I'm not happy with my progress. My first lesson was to the standard but the lesson I've given today is below the standard. As you said, main problem is time. I don't really get time to prepare. Anyways, Thanks for writing this informative article. Thanks