I had been teaching workers in the children and young people’s workforce for a number of years when I started the Celta course. I already had experience of planning lessons, staging, timing and classroom management. I knew nothing about setting appropriate language aims. One of my main weaknesses was anticipating problems that students would have with particular lessons and in incorporating activities to suit the stronger students. This is partly because I am not very sure about what a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner knows.
In our teaching practice we are given exercises to suit the different stages but I would not be very confident, even now, to choose exercises for myself. Another weakness that I have is that although I am experienced at planning timing in lessons I have on several occasions in teaching practice gone over time. I am usually a facilitative teacher, which is a strength – in my experience people learn best when they work something out for themselves.
However, it is also essential when using this approach to ensure that learners’ interest in words and grammar not related to the target language doesn’t overtake the lesson.
It was also identified by Jan that I tended to allow feedback on exercises to go on for too long. It is at this point that I become less facilitative and sometimes repeat what the learners have already said. One of my strengths is the development of resources. I enjoy looking for pictures that will amuse and interest the students – I think that people learn better when the resources pique interest. I also ensure that resources are culturally appropriate or culturally neutral such as making a paper airplane which illustrated the different forms of the verb ‘to make’.
This was an effective tool for elicitation and is one that uses minimal resources. Learning from watching experienced teachers When I started the course I felt very nervous about teaching. When I was observing experienced teachers I noticed that they used relevant intonation, hand gestures and voice projection skilfully. I recognised that by using relevant expressive body language I could increase my own confidence. It is important when teaching to project your voice and speak confidently so that students feel confidence in you.
It is important also not to pretend that you know something when you are not sure. People can often tell if you are not sure about what you are saying. Tutor assessment of strengths and weaknesses Jan identified in my first class that I must reduce the teacher talk time. I think initially that I was talking a lot because I was unconfident and nervous. I was talking to prove to the learners that I knew the target language. I ensured that I started my second lesson with questions to the learners.
This was a good exercise for me in reducing teacher time and in finding more about the level of the group and individual learners within it. By starting off with questions to the learners it encourages more learner participation throughout the lesson. The need for clearer instructions has been noted in a number of my practice teaching sessions. I have improved on this by planning in • model answers • giving only one instruction at a time • asking students to repeat instructions Fellow students identification of strengths and weaknesses I moved from an intermediate group to an elementary group.
Initially I didn’t moderate my meta language to accommodate for the learners’ knowledge of English, which was noted by colleagues in my first observation. I worked on this in my second lesson. I still sometimes forget my plans to clarify instructions when I am teaching. I have found error correction a challenge. I am aware that it is not always appropriate to correct and find it difficult to identify quickly whether the mistake needs to be corrected because meaning is fundamentally changed. This is often because I am feeling rushed because the timing of the lesson is out.
I also worry that learners will feel humiliated if I correct them. I imagine that this is a concern for many teachers who had negative experiences as school students. My fellow student Siroja noticed during her observation of me that I am reluctant to nominate students to feedback. This is also because of a fear of humiliating someone who doesn’t know an answer. Reena noticed that when I ask for general feedback I am prepared to wait and allowed for pauses in the lesson which she felt was a strength because it shows confidence.
Improvements needed Timing is still a major issue for me in my lessons. I have managed to keep a couple of my lessons exactly to time but need still to identify ways to ensure feedback is more succinct. Ways in which I intend to do this: • Learners checking their own answers using answer sheets • Checking answers while monitoring learners I will also aim to make instructions snappier. I observed Reena using post-its which she stuck to her lesson plan – I will use them to write short, easily understood instructions which I will throw away as soon as I have finished explaining a particular exercise.
If my timing is better I will feel less rushed and more able to stop and consider errors and whether the merit or not of correcting them. However, to make error correction easier I will also identify some key phrases that I can use to help learners re-consider what they have said without showing them up. I will aim also to ask the more reluctant students to answer questions, understanding that sometimes they don’t speak up in class because of a lack of confidence. By asking the question directly of the quieter students it is giving them permission to speak. Examples of question I might ask are:
Can you think of another way of phrasing that? Do you think that you used the right tense/preposition there? If I have a few stock phrases it will help overcome my own fears that I am putting down the learners. However, I have also to recognise that learners often want to be corrected and if there isn’t enough time it may be necessary for me to put aside my own sensitivity and give the right form or ask the other students to rephrase the statement. To find out more about what is expected at different levels I will explore the ESOL Adult Core Curriculum because I missed the class.
I will also look through text books for students to get a flavour. This assignment has helped me consider my progress and will help me develop my teaching practice further. I see myself like the child who measures her height by drawing marks up the wall and can see progress. This assignment, the feedback from teaching practice and mid course assessment are my marks on the wall. I can affect my progress by taking account of feedback from mine and colleagues’ teaching practice and from Tuesday evening lessons and grow taller.
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