The CELTA Trainer’s Diary Part 2 – My trainee’s maxims of teaching

The story up till now…

I discovered that my CELTA trainee and experienced teacher Güven Çagdas was blogging about his CELTA experience. We decided that it would make a great archive if I blogged in parallel to him. In his first post, Güven blogged about his response to my foreign language lesson – a session that I have found crucial to helping trainees put themselves in the shoes of the learner and establishing the basic principles of teaching. (Click here for the lesson procedure and rationale of my foreign language lesson)

And here are the ‘maxims of teaching’ that this month’s trainees’ came up with.

1.    Be friendly, active and animated.

It encourages learners to be relaxed and feel at ease, thereby reducing their affective filter and enabling them to better make use of the learning opportunities.

2.    Invite learners to practise and to make mistakes

It’s almost impossible to learn a language if one is unwilling to be adventurous and make some mistakes. I often tell my learners, ‘Mistakes are good. If you don’t make mistakes, I don’t have a job!’

3.    Build your learners’ confidence

Echoing the first two points, it is important that the learner is not made to feel stupid or lost. Offer praise to the learner and make them feel good about themselves. But be careful because too much praise can render your kind words insincere and meaningless.

4.    Use body language, mime, visuals, realia, and ANYTHING that will help you convey meaning

Meaning is king and no amount of work on Form or Pronunciation is going to matter if meaning is not successfully conveyed. But meaning clarification does not have to be boring or teacher-centred. Get students involved in discovering the meaning to language.

5.    Keep the pace up

A slow pace can really bore the students and cause them to lose their intrinsic motivation to learn. However, going too quickly and not giving students time to think things through, to make notes and to formulate what they need to say could also be detrimental. It is a fine balance that the teacher has to manage.

Which brings me nicely to the next point.

6.    Allow time for students to think and to produce language.

7.    Use pair and group work as often as possible

Putting students in pairs or groups ensures that increases the opportunities for students to practise speaking, allows them to learn from each other, promotes authentic cross-classroom interaction, and avoids putting shy individuals on the spot in front of the entire class.

8.    Nominate students and do it randomly.

Nominating ensures that all students get a chance to participate, and not just the confident and louder ones. It also allows you to get a better idea of who really knows the answers and who does not. Nominating students in order of their seating arrangments often means that students can predict when their turn is about to come and be thinking about what they are going to say instead of listening to their classmates.

9.    Provide step-by-step support

Scaffold the language input and the difficulty of tasks so that learners are not thrown into the deep end too quickly. Whether it be drilling, or guided discovery, or controlled-to-freer practice, provide the support and slowly remove each supporting beam, while ensuring that the ‘+1’* is always provided.

  • See Krashen’s ‘i + 1’ theory.

10. Think also in terms of lexis and don’t get too obsessed with grammar.

Many trainees starting the Celta, especially those unfamiliar with English grammar rules, often feel overwhelmed by the amount of grammar they are expected to learn. Considering the amount of information overload, the intensiveness and the pressure experienced on a typical Celta course, this obsession with grammar can cause more unnecessary stress. Grammar can be learnt. But don’t forget that lexis is important too.

11. Monitor and take note of emergent language

Always ensure you have a notebook or scrap paper with you so you can take notes as you monitor. And remember not to get too drawn in to particular groups when monitoring and neglecting to listen to what is happening with the other groups as a result. Avoid making eye contact so that students are less tempted to draw you into their conversations. But be ready to support and help when asked.

12. Do not overwhelm students with too much language!

Too much input can make students feel lost, insecure and overwhelmed. Limit the language input and do not expect them to produce all of it successfully just because you have ‘covered’ the language points. Language learning is not linear.

I fully intend to print this out on A3 size paper and stick it up in my input room…and hold the trainees to these maxims they have come up with!

Meanwhile, did I mention that this is my 100th post?

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