I got an A in my CELTA, but I had some teaching experience before the course. I find one of the hardest things about teaching is actually standing up and doing it. I am a really nervous person, and this trait has plagued me for a long time. Without some experience of being in front of people and presenting information I would have really struggled, but this wasn’t much of a concern for the less neurotic people on the course!
Anyhow, teaching experience was not the only contributing factor to my A grade. If I could pinpoint the exact moment that my trainers gave me that mark, I’d say it was Tuesday, Week 4, about 12pm, just after Teaching Practice 7. I’d just finished a class on the present perfect continuous, which makes my CELTA grade all the more special as teaching grammar remains my biggest weakness.
What made that lesson so effective? Well it wasn’t the best I taught during the course, but it really showed that I’d listened to the tutors and tried hard to put one of the input sessions into practice.
We were using Cutting Edge as a class textbook on the CELTA. After learning how to design a text-based presentation a few days before, I decided to scrap the textbook and make my own text to introduce the aforementioned grammar point.
On the ‘lesson frameworks’ page in my training booklet, I saw this tip for making lessons more student-centred:
‘Use a guided discovery worksheet, containing questions about meaning, form and pronunciation. This works well with text-based presentation lessons’ (tip copyright IH Budapest)
Well, that sounded like a challenge…
What is guided discovery?
Here’s a quote from the British Council website:
‘Guided discovery, also known as an inductive approach, is a technique where a teacher provides examples of a language item and helps the learners to find the rules themselves’
This approach is the CELTA through and through really. The way we are taught to clarify vocabulary and grammar is very inductive. We are not taught to tell students a rule, give examples of use, then get students to practice it. Quite the opposite. On the CELTA you normally present new language items in context (not isolated), focus on the meaning first and get students to notice what the rules are. You use concept checking questions to see if they understand the meaning, then move on to how to form the language items, etc. Guided discovery tasks are a way of making this whole inductive process more student driven. Rather than the teacher introducing everything themselves, they can give students tasks to complete individually or in collaboration, and let the learners explore the target language. Obviously, the teacher can intervene at any point when students don’t understand, but students have a lot of freedom to work things out on their own. GD tasks usually lead in to controlled practice and freer practice activities as normal.
What’s so good about guided discovery?
These types of activity are student-centred, so the learners often invest a lot more in them. But let’s think about the CELTA trainee for a moment! How can these activities benefit us?
A) less teacher-centred lessons means a bit less pressure on you in SOME ways. You’re not preaching at the front of the class, eyes aren’t on you as much. Giving students more investment in an activity can give you a bit more thinking time – if things go to plan that is.
B) You will require other teaching skills if you use a guided discovery worksheet. Maybe you will need to micro-teach (maybe teach to a small group within the class). You will need to monitor carefully to check students are on task. You might need to learn when to take control back as the teacher. These are great skills to show your CELTA trainer. Well, I guess they would be anyway!
How do you make a guided discovery task?
This is only the gist of it – your CELTA trainers will do an input session on it so trust their word more than me! I’ll talk about it from the perspective of using a text-based presentation
- Think about the language point you’re teaching and consider a suitable context for it
My example: a good context for the present perfect continuous is seeing an old friend
A: Oh my god! I haven’t seen you in ages! What have you been doing?
B: I’ve been working in Hollywood!
- Build a text around the grammar point. Here’s mine:
- REMEMBER: this is a text. You need the students to show some general understanding of it. Make a gist task for it:
Dave and Susan are old friends. They haven’t seen each other for a long time.
Read their conversation. Was Dave right to lie?
- Draw out the important language from the text – i.e. the language focus. In this case, the present perfect continuous. Make some concept checking questions around it. You can maybe add tasks like a ‘timeline matching’ activity, especially is the grammar point has a few different meanings:
- That should cover ‘meaning’. Now get students to construct the form
- Give students a controlled practice task (e.g. sentence formation)
- Give students freer practice of the language focus. Think of a relevant context (for the present perfect continuous, I used a high school reunion).
I’ve attached an example of the resource I used for this lesson. I’ve also attached the lesson plan that went with it.
By trying your hand at an activity like this, you’ve covered a lot of bases:
- You’ve created your own resources from scratch
- You’ve used a text-based presentation
- You’ve tried making a guided discovery task
- You’ve shown willingness to make activities student-centred
- You’ve practised classroom management skills such as monitoring and micro-teaching
Warning: I am not saying that this activity gets you a good CELTA grade. I’m just saying that your willingness to engage in what you’re doing and give what you’ve learnt a go can only be positive. Your CELTA trainers will no doubt give you loads of help if you wanted to try this sort of thing. But if you’re not confident, no worries. Get the basics right. You’ve got a lifetime of teaching in which to try this sort of thing. Here’s another guided discovery I made last year. My boss (Martin Sketchley) was the subject of it – he is a CELTA expert by the way, check out his blog.