Observed lesson on a CELTA or CertTESOL course – Experience it!


If you are preparing to embark on an intensive 4-week CertTESOL or CELTA course, you are probably wondering what you are letting yourself in for.

You’ve contacted the center, perhaps had your interview and seen the pre-course tasks. You may have been warned about the intensity of the course by someone who has done it before. To help you set some realistic expectations and give you some tips on how to succeed in the day-to-day rush of the course, here is what it feels like to teach an observed lesson on an intensive initial teacher education course.

I’ll narrate this as an event, for you to pick up the key points and tips.

Morning. Your alarm goes off and wakes you from a dream where you were standing in front of a new group of students who didn’t understand a word you were saying. That’s normal – just part of the fact that you have eaten, slept, and drunk teaching methodologies and language analysis for the last two and a half weeks.

It’s week 3 of the course, and you’re due to teach in a couple of hours, so you’d better get up and at ’em!

On the bus/train/tram to the center, you go through your lesson plan for the morning’s assessed teaching practice. You’ve been through this with a course tutor, who’s OKed it but not really told you how to teach it (that’s up to you and no-one can really tell you how to manage the specific lesson you’ve been working on – it’s yours and no-one else’s!).

You’ve got your materials (remember to make extra copies just in case), and you’ve planned out your tasks, timings, teacher questions (remember not to talk too much).

You’re not sure if the same group of learners will be in the room when you get there (a couple of them have given your co-trainees issues over the past week). All this is going through your tired mind, and you very nearly miss your stop.

Off the bus and into the center. Everyone is rushing around, and there’s a queue for the photocopier (should have printed the worksheets off at home.) You’re third in line and getting stressed, but luckily you took your tutor’s advice and got there 20 minutes early for this exact reason.

A few of your students from last week come in, not a care in the world, stop for a chat, and totally distract you from planning the opening sentence of your lesson. You put on your ‘TESOL smile’, and they don’t catch a whiff of the deep fear and anxiety you and the other trainees in the room are exuding from every pore.

Into the classroom, 10 minutes early (as you were told), and you sit down to wait for the other two trainees to come in and get ready. You’re teaching second out of three, so there’s plenty of time to go over your carefully planned introduction to the lesson before you go on.

Five minutes to nine – Class starts at nine – eight students sit and chat, look at their phones, and take their coats off, bright and eager and ready for their lesson. One other trainee comes in and says she got a call from the third in the group to say they won’t be able to make it in until 10:30, so could you teach first, as she still needs to do some copying for her lesson. Riiiight!!! The tutor walks in, businesslike and in assessment mode, and says ‘right, shall we begin?’

So you do what you have to do. You give the tutor the lesson plan and materials for your class, go to the front of the class, and wing your opening lines, which come out completely different from how you were planning to start.

But it works! Not having a script (but having a very clear idea of how you will get to the language you are teaching, having done the research, and planned out your engaging first activity) has really paid off!

You find yourself talking to the students as humans, not receptacles for your clumsy instructions and anxious grammar presentations. Something has clicked, and the students are having fun with it. Yes! They’re talking so much that you have to break things up to move the lesson on!

After the lesson, you walk out of the room with a spring in your step. You’ve finally relaxed into what you are doing in the classroom, and now you just have to reflect on it.

The tutor’s first question is easy: ‘how do you think the lesson went?‘.

The second, not so much: ‘why do you feel it was successful?‘.

Errr… because you didn’t throw up before starting the lesson? Because you didn’t fall asleep while the students were working on adding to the three hours you got last night?

No, focus… Because you made sure that the students used the language you were teaching, and they felt confident enough by the end of the lesson to go further with it than your activities required.

You’re proud of yourself, proud of them, and that’s what it’s all about. You made that happen, and you have evidence to prove it!

That’s what made the lesson, and any lesson on an initial training course, successful, so good for you.

Summary and Tips:

  • Research the topic, have an aim
  • Plan your engagement activities
  • Make extra copies of your lesson plans and materials
  • Take worksheet printouts at home
  • Reach 10 minutes early
  • Remember, not to talk too much
  • Don’t have a script planned, be natural
  • Focus on the language you are teaching
  • Talk to your students as humans not receptacles

Now to plan tomorrow’s lesson – and finish the assignment that’s due this afternoon – and book that room for the individual lesson that you need to prepare for tomorrow afternoon – and so it goes on. Only a week and a half left and then you’ll have friends, family, and a life again.

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Posted On: July 20, 2020.

Author: Tom Garside

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