The central part of the CELTA, the part that makes it one of the better TEFL certificates out there, and much better than a purely academic or online only certificate is the observed teaching hours. Every other day trainees are expected to teach a full class of students, and on the days they don’t teach they must observe other trainees teaching and write comments. Each trainee must have at least 6 hours total observed teaching hours.
Stages of Teaching Practice
- The day before they teach, trainees brainstorm their lessons and (should) start writing their lesson plans. At the end of the day everyone scheduled to teach the next day can sit down with the instructors and review their lesson plans to ask questions or advice. Trainees must write a lesson plan before they teach.
- Trainees teach actual 40 minute – 1 hour lessons every other day of the course while both the CELTA instructors and other trainees observe and take notes. The instructor and other trainees are not involved in, and will not interrupt, the lesson – they just observe. 2-3 trainees have back-to-back lessons each day.
- The day after a trainee teaches they must write a self-evaluation and give itto the CELTA instructor. The instructor will then have a discussion with the entire teaching group, first asking for the positive parts of the trainee’s lesson, then asking about any problems or mistakes,
Trainees are graded on all aspects of this process. As the weeks pass, they are expected to become more independent in their lesson planning. The instructors also expect trainees to incorporate skills and methods from the morning courses into their lessons. Trainees must manage their time carefully – a few minutes off mark is fine, but they should try to not be more than 5 minutes over or under the scheduled time. Finally, self evaluations can be important – instructors like it when they can identify their own mistakes. Trainees should write evaluations honestly, both the good and the bad.
As the course progresses, instructors quickly and systematically remove themselves from trainee’s lesson planning. Below is an overview of how this works week to week and what the instructors seem to expect each week.
Week 1 – Instructors tell trainees exactly what to teach, how they should cover it, and what is expected of them. This week is mostly diagnostic – instructors are looking for what skills trainees have coming into the course and how they handle a full class. The instructors are more than happy to help in every aspect of lesson planning. Ask lots of questions and get your mistakes out early.
Week 2 – This week they tell trainees what to teach, but not how to teach it. Trainees must look at the assigned chapter and make their own list of goals for their students and find activities to fill the lesson. This week instructors are looking to see that trainees absorbed something from the methods covered during morning lessons. Trainees can ask for help, but should have some kind of lesson plan prepared before asking instructors for advice.
Week 3 – Starting this week trainees must choose their own chapters or outside material for their lessons, and talk with other trainees to make sure their lessons don’t conflict. If trainees ask instructors for help, it is ideal to have a formal lesson plan written before talking to them. At this point instructors don’t like being asked for broad advice, they want to discuss specific concerns. This is probably the most important week for grading trainee performance.
Week 4 – Instructors should be mostly independent at this point, able to choose their own materials and plan their entire lesson without instructor’s help. If one has questions or problems with their lesson plan it’s best to ask fellow trainees for advice before talking to instructors. This is a good time for creative lesson plans – if possible use material from outside the course-book, or forget the book completely. Instructors are more forgiving with their grading when trainees think outside the box.
As I said before, this is just an overview of teaching practices. Later I will share a few of my own experiences, including my experience lesson planning, my self evaluation and the feedback I received