How to Prepare for the CELTA Course
Ok, so you've decided where to take the CELTA and even applied. You may even have successfully completed the interview and demonstrated a good level of language awareness and that you can deal with the demands of the course. You feel prepared to work closely and collaboratively with the other trainees in an intense but fun atmosphere...
- You've blocked out your calendar for that four-week period. You ‘ll only have time for the CELTA course!
- You've booked your flights,
- Checked your laptop health and cables
- Been in touch with the training centre about accommodation
- Checked out the options for late night photocopying outlets nearby.
Check. Check. Check.
Now. What is the best way to prepare for the CELTA course?
1. Pre-CELTA Course Preparation Task
Once accepted onto a CELTA course, your tutor will send you pre-CELTA preparation tasks that focus on language. These are really important to do. The tasks will come with an answer key (it's not a test). The objective is to start orientating your thinking.
Among other things you'll be asked to get thinking about:
- What makes a good language teacher
- Motivations behind people learning English
- Characteristics of an adult learner
- Grammar review
- Using dictionaries
- Ways to explain concepts and differentiating between meanings
There’ll things like this to start to become familiar with:
2. Grammar Refresher
It’s a good idea to brush on grammar terms. Check out the Cambridge English Grammar Refresher Course. This is a great idea if you aren't very aware of how language breaks down into its parts.
Remember that during the CELTA course when you are preparing your lessons, you’ll have time to go through grammar on a need-to-know basis; you'll be dealing with specific and controlled situations, not some free-for-all where students are going to bombard you with tricky questions on every possible grammar point.
The process of planning a lesson will help you understand the grammar or language point you are going to be presenting. The best way to learn something is to have to teach it!
3. It's Not All About Grammar
It's important to know that it's not only grammar that you'll be clarifying and presenting. Language is a set of systems and skills:
Yeah, there’s going to be a lot to learn, and quickly. Which brings us to:
4. Online Pre-CELTA Preparation: The ELTCampus TEFL Preparation Course
Once you have been accepted onto a CELTA course, we recommend taking a step back and going over the fundamentals of what will be covered in terms of concepts and ideas in the CELTA that will impact on how you plan a lesson and teach effectively.
With so much to take on board fast, a very comprehensive pre-CELTA programme we recommend is the ELTCampus TEFL Preparation Course. It has been written by a CELTA and Delta teacher trainer with the view to improving your performance on the CELTA by introducing you to core concepts of teaching and language teaching. This introduction will lower the stress related with managing so much new knowledge in such a short time. It will improve your performance as a result and hey, even improve your overall grade.
Some of the topics covered are:
5. Recommended Books
You will receive a list of recommended books to purchase prior to starting the CELTA course. These books will serve you well, not just during the course but also throughout your teaching career. Here are a few of the most popular:
- "Practical English Usage" by Michael Swan
- "Learning Teaching" by Jim Scrivener
- "Teaching Tenses" by Rosemary Aitken
- "Grammar for English Language Teachers" by Martin Parrott
- "Essential Phonetics - for English Language Teachers" by Tony Penston
A fuller list can be found in our TEFL Books Page where you can also find books for Young Learners, Delta and interviews with the authors.
6. What About Lesson Planning?
The CELTA course tutors will give you input on how to write lesson plans and what they expect from their trainees. You’ll be given a lesson plan template which you can base your lesson planning on. You’ll be spending a lot of time planning your lesson and then some time preparing materials (that's when it's handy to have a printing facility where you are staying or access to after-hours photocopying).
But we'll be teaching from a book won't we?
Uh uh. You’ll be expected to take the lesson out of a course book and tailor-make it to your learners' needs - that's what good teachers do, and the CELTA course is going to drum that home!
You’ll have so much to consider in the lesson:
- What is the aim of the lesson? Meaning, at the end of the lesson, what do you want your students to have successfully done?
- What are the lesson stages?
- Language clarification - what do you teach when you teach language? Just the meaning?
- What skills you are actually practising? Is it about speaking? Or reading?
- Is this a task-based lesson? How is that going to be set up?
- What about rapport in the classroom?
- How are you going to get students interested?
7. Feedback, Observations and Teaching Practice (TP)
You’ll get a lot of feedback on your CELTA course. This is aimed to draw out and begin you on the path of reflective practice which will serve you well in your training and in your teaching career. You will always need to be considering what you did well, what went well, what could have been set up or done better. Don't get stressed out if you aren't used to criticism. Take it as constructive feedback. The tutors and your fellow trainees are aiming to make you better, not tear you down.
Observations and teaching practice (TP) are part an integral part of the CELTA Course. In this part of the course you will be looking at teachers and how they are teaching. It’s a great way to see a lot of teaching approaches in action. The experience you have of teaching yourself and of seeing teachers and fellow trainee teachers in action, is multi-faceted:
• It will help you make sense of the overall teaching principles you are learning about
• The constructive feedback on your teaching, and the feedback that you give to others will improve not only your own teaching, but that of others.
A check list of ways to react well and use criticism positively:
- Resist your first reaction - press pause
- Tell yourself it's OK and a good thing, remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism
- Switch your thoughtful brain on and switch the fiery combatant off
- Listen closely and don't interrupt
- Be thankful - thank the feedback givers
- Ask questions and break the feedback down to really understand it
- Go away and APPLY IT!
Based on an article Taking Constructive Criticism
Big tip: Observe your tutors carefully, they are always modelling teaching approaches in the way they teach you.
8. Learn About Yourself
Get ready to learn to teach and oh so much more. The CELTA is like a summer camp - friendships are struck up as you all make your journey together. You mightn't get on with everyone, but give it your best shot, because you'll be living in each other's pockets for four weeks!
You will learn about time management, collaborative work, speaking in front of a group, leadership, teamwork, giving, receiving and applying feedback, critical reflection, working under pressure and to deadlines - lots of transferable skills there to take away in your toolkit.
Finally, get in there, give it all you've got and enjoy it!