Creating your own lessons on the CELTA course

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It isn’t uncommon for trainees on CELTA courses to create their own lessons from authentic materials, and this is often an extremely motivating and rewarding experience. However, not every trainee has the confidence to try...

In the first of two blog posts, Ali, a trainee on a CELTA course in April 2014, writes about the experience of creating and teaching a lesson she had designed and planned herself. She will also share the feedback she received and suggest what she could have done differently.

In the second post her tutor Danny will write about the value of creating your own lessons on the CELTA course and suggests ways in which these lessons can then be refined when you start your first job and have a lot more time to spare.

Ali’s lesson

Level

Upper-intermediate

Aims

SS will be able to use ‘would’ to talk about what they would do if they were king or queen for the day.

Materials

Text 1: Jackie Collins adapted from the Stylist magazine 

Jackie Collins

Text 2: Annie Mac adapted from the Stylist magazine 

Annie Mac

Gap fill (own materials)

If I was queen/king for a day prompt sheet (own materials)

  Lesson procedure

  1. Lead in: Using a visual prompt, the students talk about what they associate with kings or queens, e.g. possessions, duties, role etc.
  2. Reading task: The students read one of the texts (Jackie Collins or Annie Mac) and find 4 things each person would do if they were queen for a day
  3. Students find a partner who has read a different text to exchange ideas
  4. Students look back at the text to find examples of ‘would’
  5.  Teacher uses discovery questions to focus on the meaning, form and phonology of ‘would’ for hypothetical intentions
  6. Students complete a gap fill to practice the form of ‘would’
  7. Students decide on what they would do if they were king or queen for the day and share ideas
  8.  Feedback as students share their ideas

Interview with Ali

What made you decide to create your own lesson from scratch?

I wanted to try something different for my last lesson within the relative safety of the training classroom!

I had also been inspired by another trainee who had created her own lesson using authentic materials, and it seemed to flow better.

The students responded well, so I wanted to see how that worked for me.

How did you choose the text?

I wanted a fairly simple topic, something the students could grasp but interesting enough to generate opinions and discussion.

Everyone loves talking about what they would do if they won the lottery or ruled the world so I thought this theme would be a good one.

I could also see a fun competitive idea forming where one of the students got crowned king or queen at the end of the lesson.

How did you go about planning? Was it easy or did you make lots of changes to the procedure?

I knew the overall shape of the lesson I wanted fairly early on and found it quite easy to plan.

I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to use several interviews so there were enough ‘decrees’ to generate discussion.

There were also lots of different examples of ‘would’ so I could highlight how it was being used. I did have to edit the texts a little becauseoftime constraints though.

The main problem I had was creating a controlled practice task. I actually changed this 3 times before settling on a gap fill.

I think I struggled with this because I wasn’t confident that what I was creating was the right level of difficulty.

Gauging how challenging a particular language point is going to be for a group is something that I guess comes with experience.

How did you plan to deal with language during the lesson?

I anticipated that there would be some confusion between the use of ‘would’ and ‘will’, so I planned questions I could ask to elicit the difference.

I wanted the idea of hypothetical meaning to come up early to ensure the students understood it before we focused on the form, so planned to use the questions in the feedback to the reading task to clarify the meaning.

How did the lesson go and what feedback did you get?

It went pretty well. The students were engaged from the start and a couple of them told me at the end that it was very good.

Despite some hairy moments where tangential questions threatened to derail me, I kept generally on track and really enjoyed the lesson, although I could definitely have done with more time.

The staging was slightly more fluid than I had planned, partly because I was worrying about timing and ended up skipping some of my questions to clarify hypothetical intention, but this actually worked better in practice as some of the students picked up on the concept without my prompting which then allowed me to backtrack and explore it in more detail, ensuring it was clear.

I also initially planned for groups to feed back to each other following the jigsaw-reading task but decided it would take too long so changed it to open class feedback instead.

Creating lessons on the CELTA

I also planned to make a cardboard crown for the best decrees, but ran out of time!

Timing was an issue I struggled with in general as there was a lot to get through and each stage could easily have gone on longer.

The other trainees liked the lesson and felt it had been executed well with a good level of interaction from the students.

The same trainee I had originally been inspired by even went on to use the lesson herself after the course had finished!

My tutor suggested that I could have allowed more time to explore ideas that came up during the lead-in and that all students get to read or hear about all the texts in the jigsaw reading task, otherwise some students won’t really know what the others are talking about.

However, the feedback was very positive overall, acknowledging that the lesson as a whole flowed really well, used challenging, interesting texts and contained good skills work and tasks.

The main emphasis was on how the lesson could be improved and extended by exploring the texts in more detail and allowing the students to discuss the ideas in greater depth.

This would all be possible with more time.

What changes would you make to the lesson if you did it again in the future?

I’d make it longer to allow for more discussion on the content of the texts and perhaps for some debate about specific issues.

I’d also have more time for group feedback in the jigsaw-reading task so the students can tell each other about what they read.

Having extra time generally would also give scope for a longer lead-in so we could explore language and ideas more.

As students are likely to use the ideas that come up here later on in the lesson, it’s worth spending some time on it.

What advice would you give new teachers or trainees about designing their own lessons?

Don’t be scared! Start with something short and simple, and build on it.

Don’t be afraid to modify or edit to simplify language and if whilst reading an article you can already see how a lesson might take shape, go with it.

You could even find an article based on the same theme as a section in a textbook so you could use some of the tasks or questions supplied to support you until you become more confident.

I think some students are instantly more engaged if they can see a lesson is based on something real and hasn’t been taken from a textbook – especially if they believe you are genuinely interested in it yourself.

This means you are far more likely to get better levels of interaction from them.

You can even enjoy the lesson more yourself if you take a risk and go ‘off-book’.

Bios

Ali Jordan completed her CELTA at IH London in April 2014 with a Pass B. She’s now working in the South of France doing a variety of teaching jobs, including online tuition.

Danny Norrington-Davies is a teacher and teacher trainer at IH London. He was Ali’s tutor during her CELTA.

Teacher training at IH London

CELTA Trainee

Whether you’re a recent graduate or looking for a career change CELTA will give you the skills and confidence to teach English to adults.

5 Comments

Cathy Xuereb

Cathy Xuereb

August 22, 2014 07:18

Thank you for this. It was very inspiring and I can see how much confidence it has given the trainee. I know that trainees often feel restricted by course book material and this blog will really help.

View all comments by Cathy Xuereb

August 22, 2014 06:31

Hi Catherine. Hope it went well today. Our trainees are doing the same this week. Another benefit is they use texts that we can cherrypick. I saw a great one today where a trainee used a youtube clip about eyebombing. I learnt something and have a future lesson. Let me know how it goes. Danny

View all comments by Danny

August 21, 2014 10:22

Thanks for sharing this. Good timing as I'm looking forward to some of my trainees teaching their last 40' lesson tomorrow using authentic materials! We gave them the choice of doing this or us assigning materials/focus and most of them chose this. Looking forward to being pleasantly surprised!

View all comments by Catherine McFarlane

August 20, 2014 05:42

Cheers Richard. Let me know how it goes.

View all comments by Danny

Richard

Richard

August 20, 2014 01:09

Thanks for this post. It's really interesting and I will be showing it to my trainees who are in week 3 and planning for week 4 tomorrow.

View all comments by Richard

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