CELTA Lesson Frameworks

I had a request last week from a reader who wanted to know more about lesson frameworks. I wrote about how useful they are a while back, but only gave one example. So, I’ve dug out my excellent CELTA handbook (from IH Budapest) and summarised most of the frameworks mentioned. I’ve added a bit of information to explain some stages a bit more.

Here’s the basic structure for…

Receptive skills lessons

Note: receptive skills are reading and listening

Lead-in – Generate interest in the topic / text. There are quite a few ideas for lead-ins here and here

Orientation to text – What do you need to tell the students about the text to prepare them for reading/listening? This could be text type, text source, speakers’ accents, etc. Whatever is relevant.

Gist task – set a short task based on general understanding of the text as a whole. For reading texts, the gist task is often timed. Students compare their answers together (pairs/groups) first before class feedback.

Pre-teach vocabulary – Teach any vocabulary needed for the detailed task

Detailed task – set a task based on detailed comprehension (formats might include gap fills, ordering events, true/false, etc). Students compare their answers together (pairs/groups) first before class feedback.

Follow-up activity – do a speaking/writing activity based on the text.framework2

The above is the BASIC framework. In practice, and with more time than you get during a CELTA lesson, certain tasks might be extended or added. For example, I often add vocabulary, pronunciation and game stages after the detailed task in my classes. So, the above focuses primarily on reading and listening skills, in practice other skills/systems are integrated.

Text-based presentations

Lead-in – generate interest in the topic / text

Orientation to text – What do you need to tell the students about the text to prepare them for reading/listening? This could be text type, text source, speakers’ accents, etc. Whatever is relevant.

Pre-teach vocabulary – Teach any blocking vocabulary (that will hinder understanding)

Gist task – set a short task based on general understanding of the text as a whole. Students compare their answers together (pairs/groups) first before class feedback on content.

Focus on language from the text – clarify and check meaning, form and pronunciation of target language presented in the text. Guided discovery tasks work well with text-based presentations

Controlled practice of the target language (gap fills, sentence completion, multiple choice, etc)

Freer practice of the target language – give the learners a chance to use the target language in a freer context.

Top tip: a ‘freer practice’ and a ‘follow-up task’ are different. In a freer practice, you want to encourage learners to use target language. It’s part of a systems (language) based lesson. A follow-up task is what you use after a skills based lesson to exploit the text further. These can be easily confused on the CELTA – be careful!

 

Writing lessons

Using a sample text is a good way to model output and language for a writing task. I guess this is similar to a text based presentation really. Below is the framework for a writing lesson that was suggested on my CELTA:

Lead-in – generate interest, set topic

Reading (optional) – provide a model of the text type

Language preparation – vocabulary, expressions, etc. that are introduced through the reading or by the teacher. These include specific features of the text type (e.g. layout)

Content preparation – students’ think of ideas via a mind map, notes, etc.

Writing – the production stage

Feedback to content

Feedback to language – including error correction

In practice my writing lessons almost always include providing a model. I often use writing as a follow-up activity after reading/listening, but I’m normally interested in the content rather than any language, and rarely provide specific language input in that instance. This is the framework I’ve referred to the least – I rarely teach lessons with a specific writing focus. Plus, when I do they seem to follow this pattern quite naturally – they must have taught me well on the course!

Top tip – On the CELTA I was told ‘always feedback to content before feedback to language’. This is one of the most useful tips I picked up. Students are often very keen to share what they’ve written with others, especially if they’ve written something funny. Give them a chance to discuss the content first to show what they’ve produced is actually important/interesting, rather than just correcting their errors.

Speaking lessons

The framework for a speaking lesson is the same as the writing lesson above, but the model text is listening rather than reading. The model suggests preparing content first rather than language. I’d say these stages are interchangeable, as they are above too.

 

framework4

testing times…

Test – Teach – Test

One of my favourite frameworks. I don’t know why – maybe as I find it quite easy to plan using it. Also, it’s a good bit of jargon to bring up in the staffroom when someone asks for help with planning: ‘hmmm, I might approach that using test-teach-test’! I feel like I know what I’m talking about when I say it, but I probably come across like a cocky so and so! Seriously though, it’s good for checking what students already know, and makes it quite easy to check that language input has been understood. I used this a lot when I first started out.

Use this framework for language based lessons (specifically grammar and vocabulary)

Lead-in – generate interest in the topic

Test 1 – Give students a matching, categorising, ordering, gap-fill etc. task to check what they already know. For example, if your target language is 10 vocabulary items, you could get students to match the words with the correct definition.

Feedback to test 1 – check what students get right. Give language input or clarify what they didn’t understand (remember, when introducing new vocabulary always think MFPA: ‘meaning, form pronunciation, appropriacy’)

Test 2 – Controlled practice of the target language. Give students a chance to put what you just clarified into practice. For example, if you did a matching task in ‘Test 1’, maybe you could do a gap fill in ‘Test 2’, where learners choose the appropriate word in context.

Freer practice – give students a chance to use the language in a freer context. Discussion questions, roleplay, etc.

 

Presentation – Practice – Production

I often hear teachers call this ‘the traditional PPP method’, which seems to have negative connotations. I’m not sure it’s so bad, it serves a purpose, but it’s considered a deductive approach. Language input can always be made more student-centred though.

Basically, you present the target language, give students plenty of controlled practice, then the production stage is like a freer practice. It’s explained very well by the British Council here so I’ll leave it to the experts!

 

Task-based approaches

Scrivener (2011:32) says that a Task-Based Learning (TBL) approach is a variant of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and it focuses on ‘the preparation for, doing of, and reflective analysis of tasks that reflect real life needs and skills’. We didn’t cover TBL much on the CELTA – I think the British Council have summarised that pretty well here too. We’ve been using TBL approaches on our CELTA Young Learner extension course recently, with these main components:

Pre-task – students prepare for completion of the core task. They are given appropriate language input (or choose the language they need themselves), the core task is modelled, success criteria is highlighted, etc.

Core task – students complete the main task

Post task – extension work based on the main task, which normally involves feedback or use of main task content, delayed error correction, etc

On my CELTA, the framework we were given expanded on the above a bit:

framework5

people experiencing feedback…

Pre-task

(Core) task

Feedback – similar to post-task

Task – repeat the same task, addressing errors or further input given during feedback

Feedback

Top tip: On my CELTA, ‘upgrading learner language’ was a buzzword I remember from the input on TBL. During the feedback stage, you might want to give further input or alternative expressions to expand on students existing structures. Also, you may want to draw attention to good language used by learners and encourage others to use it when you repeat the task.

This ‘task then feedback’ pattern can repeat again. To be honest, I find it very hard to pin down key features of a task-based lesson myself, beyond the ‘pre, core, post-task’ structure. Once you get into it, there are often far more elements involved in helping the students achieve the main task. Confusingly, many of these are ‘non-tasks’, which may involve language input and will lead to the outcome, but don’t have a clear communicative goal in themselves! Nightmare, huh?! (If that didn’t make sense, here’s the Wikipedia link to TBL, and a nice summary article from Rod Ellis).

Actually, the difficulties in defining key stages of a TBL lesson highlight an important point when using these frameworks. They are all outlines, and are useful for general reference but they are not rigid. They are really useful when you’re starting out, and I honestly do still refer to them now and again. Even so, the more confident you become with your own teaching practice, the more you will shape these frameworks, extend them, try stuff completely new, etc. In the meantime, I do hope the summary above has helped to clarify a few things!

Image rights: herinst.org, vapartners.ca

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7 comments

  1. Another useful post Pete. It’s useful to have simple, clear frameworks. People on the CELTA need to experiment with a few. I think most people, unlike you, seem to find the Test Teach Test the most difficult! Maybe because you don’t know what problems it’s going to throw up and you need to be confident yourself in the grammar. I’ll recommend this post. Thanks

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