Review of CELTA

by Syeda Ahmed (level 3 student of English Language and Linguistics at UWE)

What is a CELTA?

A CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Training to Adults) is an intensive four-week (127+ hours) divided into planning, staging, observed teaching practice, teaching practice feedback and 1:1 tutorial support.

Who do you teach?

Trainee teachers teach English to a range of adult learners from pre-intermediate – upper intermediate. The maximum number of students in each level are 18 international students and in total there are 9 teaching sessions: 2 x 30 minutes, 6 x 40 minutes and 1 x 60 minutes. This adds up to 6 hours of taught teaching practice.

CELTA courses vary in the number of intakes from centre to centre. The course at the University of Bristol, has an intake of 18 applicants. Trainee teachers are split into three teaching practice groups on the first day of the course where you are put with six other trainees and a trainer. The trainer is a qualified teacher and teacher trainer who will provide the necessary support during your lesson planning and give advice on how you should teach, as well as giving trainees extensive feedback on the lesson.

Trainees teach three times at each level (pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper- intermediate) from a workbook specifically designed for the course and is aimed at teaching English to adults. However, as a teacher you will have to adapt the materials, if necessary, and plan a strategic lesson to cover your overall aim for that lesson. For example teaching the present continuous for future arrangements to Pre- Intermediates may require you to create your own examples and activities for the students to practice.

You observe and take notes on your fellow trainees in your allocated group and vice versa. At the end of your teaching session you receive feedback from the trainees and trainer who has been carefully observing your lesson. The trainer makes extensive notes on how you’ve staged your lesson (lesson plan) as well as the actual deliverance of it.

Classes are taught in the afternoon with the exception of Fridays where it is in the morning. During the morning period trainees are given input and taught about the phonological, grammatical and teaching methodology aspects which can be directly placed into your class.

My experience

I thoroughly enjoyed the CELTA course. I think one of my main worries was having limited teaching experience and having a fear of teaching grammar to adults. But everyone is in the same boat as you and despite there being teachers who already had a PGCE and had been teaching for the last 10+ years, some of them really struggled with the teaching English aspect of it.

The course is very well structured and you form close bonds with your trainees, trainer and the students too. In terms of the amount of input needed for you to succeed on the course is immense. We were informed from the very beginning that the course is very demanding, but the extent of just how demanding is soon noticed after the first two days (most days I left my house at 8am and arrived back home at 8pm!).

One of the best aspects of the course is that you are teaching from the third day of the course (eeek!). However, there is plenty of guidance throughout the teaching practices and you are equipped during the morning with the required skills needed to teach. As the course progresses you have greater freedom on how you teach as the trainers take a step back to help you prepare for that all important 60 minute lesson which you will plan and prepare yourself without using any materials from a coursework.

There are no exams on the course, but there are four written assignments which you will be given. The assignments all have a direct link to you becoming a teacher and teaching so it’s all relevant and I really enjoyed it. The most difficult thing I found was the constrained timeframe we were given to prepare and plan our lessons (sometimes only 24 hours). It’s also very difficult if you miss a day, students are only able to miss a day due to exceptional circumstances, and once you return you must make up the missed sessions. This can be incredibly difficult due to the fast nature of the course and sometimes becomes overwhelming if you need to make up a teaching practice as then you are teaching two 40 minute sessions over two days, as well as planning your lesson for the following day.

The grading criteria for each lesson you teach consist of a ‘PASS’ or ‘FAIL’. It can either be a strong, mid or weak pass and students who deliver a exceptional lessons are awarded with an ‘S+’ (above standard). Every grade you have received adds up to your overall result and around 70% complete the course with a PASS, 8-10% with a Grade B and 3-5% with a Grade A. Upon completion you have survived a very demanding and gruelling 100+ hours, but it is very rewarding as you have gained an international teaching qualification!

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