The CELTA Trainer’s Diary – Part 1 and Using L1 in the Classroom

It must be fate.

Or coincidence.

Go TEAM GB!
Flickr.com/ELTpics : Photo by @SandyMillin

 

Coincidence number 1

Team GB wins their first gold at the Olympics today.

And they go on and win another.

Singapore wins their first medal today.

I win the TEFL.net Site of the Month today.

Today must be a very good day.

Vicky Loras and me with some of our lovely PLN in Paris for the BESIG Summer Symposium

Coincidence number 2

Blogger and experienced Turkish university English teacher Güven Çagdas has been blogging about his reflective practice online.

He gathers a following, some of whom are in my PLN.

Güven decides to come to International House London to do his CELTA.

Of the 5 different CELTA courses running at IH London at the moment,

Güven is allocated to mine.

Güven blogs about his Day 1 on his CELTA, Vicky Loras reads it and realizes the tutor he is talking about is me.

Vicky is in both our PLNs.

Vicky RTs the post with me in cc.

Coincidence number 3

Güven tells me he intends to blog daily about his CELTA experience.

I feel tremendously lucky to have a way of getting daily feedback on the teacher training I do (instead of having to wait till the end of the CELTA for course feedback).

I write a long comment on Güven’s post regarding the first day of his CELTA.

The comment gets lost in the ether and neither of us knows where it’s gone.

I realize that I could blog alongside Güven about the CELTA course I’m running.

And that this could be an amazing resource and archive of a trainee’s and a trainer’s diaries of the same CELTA course.

Güven agrees.

I post the lost comment as a blogpost here on my site.

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And so here it is…my lost comment… (Do read Güven’s entry before reading this)

And the start of The CELTA Trainer’s Diaries – Part 1.

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Thank you, Güven, for journaling your experience on the CELTA.

This would no doubt be a invaluable resource for those who have done a CELTA, are doing a CELTA, or are thinking about doing the CELTA.

It’s amazing how the 30-minute Chinese lesson, in and amongst the 5 hours you spent with me on the first day of the CELTA, was the part you remembered most.

I suppose that it goes to show the fact that no matter how experienced we are, we must never forget what it feels like to be a language learner all over again.

As for the issue with the use of L1 in the classroom, I won’t go out of my way to avoid it. There are times when the use of L1 is either unavoidable or could actually be beneficial.

Although I know that some teachers feel that any amount of English in the classroom would mean extra exposure to the language, there is also an argument stating that L1 could be useful in the classroom.

In Vivian Cook’s Portraits of the L2 User, he gives some good reasons for the use of L1, including:

  1. Learners are going to translate it into their L1 anyway, even if you don’t.
  2. Telling learners off in L2 just doesn’t carry the same weight.
  3. Instructions, especially for lower level learners, are more effective when given in the L1.
  4. Using L1 for contrastive analysis e.g. comparing the tenses between two languages, can prove helpful.
  5. Using L1 for translation exercises can help learners develop a valuable skill that at some point of their career, they’ll need to use. They may not become professional translators but they might be asked to translate an email or an excerpt from English. We mustn’t be put off by the shadow cast by the Grammar Translation era. We are no longer talking about random meaningless translations here.
  6. Using L1 and L2 concurrently can help learners develop the skill of code-switching (i.e. switching between two languages when communicating). This is becoming a more and more common phenomenon we see amongst learners who speak English but share another language. What fun!

Sometimes the use of L1 could just be the sensible thing to do.

After all, why spend 20 minutes trying to explain and concept check the verb ‘happen’ to a group of Elementary learners when you can spend 2 seconds translating it and getting it across perfectly.

Evidently, many words or lexical chunks do not have a direct translation and these are the times I might concept check in English and give examples of usage instead.

Then there are times when the use of L1 helps the learner to get a feel of the phrase/sentence.

When getting learners to get their tongues around phrases like ‘It’s none of my business’ or ‘What has ~got to do with ~?’, I’ve found it helpful to get my multi-lingual classes to say the phrase in their own language (with the accompanying gestures) and then again in English, so that the emotions attached to the phrase is transferred to the English phrase.

I suppose, like most things in ELT, it’s all about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 5 – Anthony Gaughan on the Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT

Tuesday, 20th March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 1

The first coffee break was spent gawking at the size of the exhibition hall this year, and greeting old friends and online friends who were not at the PCE or Karaoke event the night before (Hi @SandyMillin !). In fact, we got so caught up by it all that we had not noticed that all of us were heading in the same direction for the next talk: Anthony Gaughan’s The Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT.

The room was full by the time we got there, and many of us experienced our first conference disappointment. Thankfully, Mike (@irishmikeh) had reserved two seats and we managed to get in…I then came out two seconds later to loudly announce to James (@theteacherjames) that Mike had reserved him a seat too (it was my first ever conference lie!), thus getting him past the ‘bouncer’ who clearly had missed a huge career opportunity in riot control. This very same scary ‘bouncer’ came in several minutes before Anthony’s talk to chase out the couple of people who were sitting on the floor (What kind of TEFL conference is it when no one’s allowed to sit on the floor???) and lecture us on how we are not allowed to ‘reserve’ seats by putting our belongings on them. James, Mike and I simply kept our heads down and hoped that she wouldn’t notice that the 3 of us were sharing 2 seats…

I certainly felt like a schoolgirl, hoping, with all fingers crossed behind my back, that the discipline master wouldn’t find out that we had been eating in the classroom…

Now, back to Anthony Gaughan’s talk.

Photo by Mike Hogan

Anthony starts by telling us the 3 things he was not going to.

He was not going to tell us anything we don’t already know;

He was not going to ask why we were there;

And he was not going to get us to agree with him.

This set the relaxed mood for his entire talk, in which he skillfully went through the Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT (as shown below) and debunked each of them, always reminding us never to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Photo by Mike Hogan

1.    Repetition Drilling

Starting with espousing behaviourism and reminding us that language is much more a habit than we realize, and that we can make what we drill meaningful by utilizing substitution drills etc.

2.    Translation and the Use of L1

One common criticism is that L1 can’t be used in multilingual classes, but a quick show of hands immediately showed us that monolingual classes are in fact the majority.

Another criticism is that translation does not encourage students to think in English. Anthony goes on to question, ‘But who says your students are thinking in English anyway?’

He then goes on to suggest ways of using L1, e.g. mini-text translation, asking ‘fifth skill questions’ and using the L1 to contrast with L2.

3.    Students using dictionaries in class

Is using dictionaries time-wasting? Anthony wonders why some might feel that teaching learners to work things out for themselves is not time well-spent.

4.    Teacher explanations

There’s nothing wrong with explanations, Anthony asserts, saying that students would feel cheated if they paid you, the expert, and instead, you try to constantly elicit from them, leaving them unclear.

The issue here is the quality of the explanations. Students stop listening when the answers are unclear, too long or abstract, or when it is not answering their question. Perhaps learning to give good explanations, rather than getting rid of them completely is key.

5.    Reading texts aloud in class

Anthony’s 3 commandments for reading aloud:

  • Insert lines to show breaks and pauses in text (to help with phonological chunking)
  • Bold fonts for main stress (or nucleus)
  • Mark parts of text where students can give attention to weak forms and linking.

6.    Telling students they are wrong

Correcting mistakes upsets students? Anthony blames Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis for teachers tip-toeing around students and being afraid to correct them. He maintains that it is all in the approach (can we correct them in a supportive and gentle/friendly manner?) and that all learners want feedback.

7.    Teacher talk time

Just as there aren’t any issues with teacher explanations as long as they are good ones, there are no issues with teacher talk time as long as they are good quality ones.

Photo by Mike Hogan

All in all, one of the best talks this conference! Thought-provoking, attitude-challenging, and definitely full of great teaching ideas!

It of course didn’t hurt that these were 7 points that I totally agree with Anthony on.

Perhaps potentially 7 more Devil’s Advocate installments with Anthony that are possible here? *wink*

Click here to have a read of my Devil’s Advocate (DA) with Anthony Gaughan on teacher training.

For more updates on Day 1 of IATEFL Glasgow, watch this space…

…to be continued…