Most mornings during the CELTA program I attended “input sessions”. Separate from the practice teaching sessions, these form the classroom portion of the CELTA. They are required, and you can’t afford to miss them, however they are not graded, so this is one time in the day when trainees can relax somewhat. My input sessions were held from 9AM ~ 11:45, with a 10-15 minute break in the middle. My previous post “Szia” is an example of the first input session of the program.
About the sessions
I personally found the input sessions to be interesting and informative. My instructors made a real effort to make them interactive and engaging. At least once during every session trainees are asked to get up, move around the room, do group work, etc… Don’t just pay attention to the content of the lessons, also pay attention to how the instructors plan and manage the lesson. They plan these input sessions using the same guidelines and classroom skills that they want trainees to use in their own teaching practice sessions.
My favorite input sessions were the foreign language lesson in Hungarian, how to teach young learners (kids),, adult literacy, modal verbs, and sentence stress and intonation. Some of them were actually fun (during the young learners session we had to design a game to teach kids a grammar point), others were just very informative. They did a good job of making me understand the various challenges students face learning English, as opposed to other languages. I found a lot of little ideas that I know I could have used in my classroom in Korea.
Types of lesson
- Classroom skills – these are specific skills that can be used in the classroom. Some examples are how to correct student errors and mistakes, how to manage groups, how to give clear instructions, and how to check that students understand what the teacher is saying.
- Lesson planning – The CELTA program advocates a very specific, formal method of planning lessons. The lesson planning process includes how to structure the steps of a given lesson, what activities will be used, how the teacher will use the whiteboard or projector, and what problems the teacher expects the students to have during the lesson. The first week they don’t expect a lot, but after the first week all these elements must be written out in detail, using a form they provide.
- Student awareness – These sessions discuss different types of students and how to deal with them as a teacher. Some examples include children vs adults vs teenagers, different learning styles, cultural differences, and large classes vs small classes vs one-on-one tutoring.
- Language awareness – The nitty-gritty of grammar and pronunciation. These sessions deal with the trickier aspects of English – auxiliary / modal verbs, irregular verbs, pronunciation and stress timing, the phonemic alphabet, syntax, etc…
Input session tips
During the input sessions, just pay attention and get fully involved in the activities that the instructors have planned. Don’t worry too much about taking notes to remember the content, more often than not the instructors give good, detailed handouts with all the information from the lesson and more.
An important point about the lesson planning. Experienced teachers may find the formal lesson planning process of the CELTA frustrating and unnecessary. No teacher I know in the real world makes lesson plans as detailed as those demanded by the CELTA. However, I think it’s important to remember that this is a learning experience, the purpose of making detailed lesson plans is to force trainees to think about every aspect of the lesson carefully. Speaking from personal experience, the more work I put into my lesson plans (real work, not just busy-BS-work) the better my lessons were.
And finally, one more thing to note about the language awareness lessons. No one expects CELTA trainees to be complete experts in English before, during or even after the CELTA. The important thing is that trainees make an effort to learn what the trickiest parts of English can be, and learns how to find answers to questions that their future students may have, and most importantly does enough research to explain whatever they cover in their practice teaching sessions. Trainees should find their favorite grammar book or website and get good at referencing it for lesson planning and written assignments.
No matter what the content of the input session, it’s a good idea to try and incorporate the ideas from the lessons into practice teaching time. It’s a good time to experiment, and even if things don’t go well, the instructors really appreciate when trainees try to use new ideas in their lessons, it can help trainees grades a lot.