CELTA Language Related Tasks Assignment
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If you are a native speaker with little or no language teaching experience, this may be the assignment that you find most daunting. Many of us are not really taught much in the way of grammar at school, often finishing high school not knowing more than “noun, verb, adjective and adverb” and possibly being unsure between those. Most non-natives shouldn’t struggle too much with this assignment as they will have (most likely) learnt about English grammar during their studies of English, although knowing what you need to write may still be challenging.
If you are worried, hopefully this guide will help you to understand what you need to know and how to find this out.
What do you have to do?
For this assignment you need to analyse a number of grammar and vocabulary (lexical) items. These may be presented in a text or they may simply be a list of items. In some cases, you may get a choice of items. Typically you will have between 4 and 6 items to analyse, with 2 or 3 grammar items and 2 or 3 lexical items.
You are required to write between 750 and 1000 words. This needs to be split (though not necessarily evenly) between the items. You are therefore going to need to write between 170-250 words for each item depending on how many there are. This may sound like a lot of words, but it actually isn’t when you realise how much you could write.
There are a number of aspects of the language point to be analysed, which includes:
- conveying meaning
- checking understanding
- problems and solutions
These are potentially scarier than lexical items, so we will start with these. You could be given items such as:
- The weather has been less severe than expected.
- She had left when they arrived.
- He‘s already eaten.
The first thing you will need to do is identify what the grammar item is so that you can talk about it. It is important to be correct about the terminology here. CELTA providers like to include perfect tenses. The above examples are:
- comparative adjective
- past perfect
- present perfect
Having correctly identified what the items are, you will need to explain what they mean. You may need to be careful here when dealing with some grammar points that can have more than one meaning. For example, the present continuous can be used to show a future plan as well as a situation that is happening temporarily or is in progress in the present. You will therefore need to consider the context to understand how it is being used.
For the above items:
- The comparative is used here to compare the actual weather with that expected.
- In this example, the past perfect is used to show the first past action happened before the second.
- The present perfect is used in this example to show the completed action of eating has a present consequence e.g. he does not presently require food.
Once you have explained the meaning, you need to think about how you would get this meaning across to students.
For tenses, many teachers like to use timelines. These are great for this assignment because as well as making the point clear, they also use few words.
For other grammar points, timelines may not work. You therefore need to find some other way to convey the meaning. This may be through other examples, images, video, realia, etc.
For the above examples:
- Tell students I went to Iceland in December. Draw a table on the board. On the left, write “I thought…”. Elicit how students thought the weather would be. Write/draw their suggestions in the box. On the right, write “but actually…” and draw the sun and write 10 degrees. Ask students what I expected and how the weather was different.
- Draw a timeline (include the timeline in your answer) with an arrow for now on the right hand side. Draw two x’s at different points to the left of the arrow and number them 1 and 2. Elicit which is when she left and when they arrived.
- Draw a timeline (include the timeline in your answer) with an arrow on the right hand side labelled now. Draw an x in the past and a solid line up until now with a dashed line continuing afterwards. Write next to the x “ate food”, and above the line “not hungry”.
However you choose to convey meaning, you will be expected to check understanding. The CELTA-preferred way to do this is to ask CCQs (concept checking questions). This is not the only way to check understanding of something, but there is no point re-inventing the wheel at this point.
A CCQ (which I will probably do a post about at some point and hopefully remember to link here) is a question that shows the student understands the key concept that is being described. They should:
- avoid using the grammar point being checked;
- be simpler than the grammar being checked;
- require a short answer (often yes or no).
You should aim to have 2-3 CCQs, and these often build on each other. You should also give anticipated answers which are typically written in brackets.
For example (using the same grammar points):
less severe than:
- Did I think the weather would be good or bad? (bad)
- Was the weather bad? (no, it was okay)
she had left when they arrived
- Which happened first: she arrived or they arrived? (she arrived)
- Was she at the party/event when they arrived? (no)
- Did she see them when she left? (no)
he’s already eaten
- Did he eat something? (yes)
- Do we know when he ate something? (no)
- Does he want to eat now? (no)
You may choose to complete the form before focusing on meaning. This is perfectly acceptable in the context of this assignment (but remember we deal with meaning first in lessons). For this, you simply need to name the component parts of the structure, e.g.
- more/less + adjective + conjunction (than)
- subject + had + past participle
- subject + have/has + past participle
For the pronunciation, you are expected to make use of the IPA (international phonemic alphabet). You will need to transcribe the part of the phrase (or possibly the whole sentence).
Further, you should highlight other pertinent aspects of pronunciation such as stress, intonation and connected speech.
For our examples:
- /lɛs sɪ’vɪə ðæn/
- /ʃiː hæd lɛft/
- /hiːz ɔːl’rɛdi ˈiːtn/
We could further point out such features as the vowel reduction in than and had.
If you are not confident with IPA transcription, some websites such as to phonetics will convert this for you.
Problems and Solutions
You will also need to identify some problems and solutions that students might have with these language points. A good resource for this is Parrott’s Grammar for English Language Teachers.
Ideally, unless told otherwise, you want to identify problems with meaning, form and pronunciation. You then want to identify ways that you can clarify these for students.
Note that it is not acceptable to simply say that “students might have problems with understanding/pronouncing a word.” Make sure you say what students will do specifically, e.g. students might understand … to mean …, or students might pronounce … as ….
To take just our first example using the comparative:
Problem: Students might think the weather was very good.
Solution: Compare two situations with bad weather.
Problem: Students might write less as les.
Solution: Have students write comparatives with “less” in a gap fill.
Problem: Students might pronounce than as then.
Solution: Drill the use of “than” with emphasis on its unstressed form.
Lexical items aren’t really any different to grammar items – you still need to go through the same stages as above. Nevertheless, we will work through a few examples:
- the plane took off
- he haggled over the price
- she hoped for a romantic getaway
As with grammar items, the first task is to decide what each item is. For these examples, we have:
- a phrasal verb
- a regular verb
- a compound noun
Once more, for each item you need to identify the meaning of the item. Context remains important here – you need to give the meaning of the word as it is used in the context. Try to express this in simple statements, e.g.
- The plane was at an airport. It was on the ground. It left the ground. It was/is in the air.
- He wanted to buy something. He didn’t like the price that the seller wanted. He offered a different price. The seller didn’t accept. The buyer and seller offered several different prices. We don’t know if he actually bought it.
- She wanted to leave her hometown for a short time. She wanted something different to her normal life.
- By writing simple sentences about the word (or grammar point), it is quite easy to formulate CCQs as we did above. For these items:
- Was the aeroplane at the airport? (yes)
- Did it leave the airport? (yes)
- Did he want to buy something? (yes)
- How much did the seller want?
- How much did he want to pay?
- Did they agree on a price?
- Did she want to stay at home? (no)
- Did she want to go somewhere different? (yes)
- Did she want to go for a few days or a few months? (few days)
For the form, you need to say something about the class of word and how it normally operates in a sentence.
For a phrasal verb like “take off”, you might mention its irregular past form, whether it requires an object (transitivity) and whether this object can be after or between the verb and particle.
For a verb such as haggle, you can simply say that this is a regular verb and whether it requires an object.
For a noun like getaway, we might point out that this is part of the compound noun “romantic getaway” and is itself a compound of the phrasal verb “get away”. It is in fact an example of nominalisation, where a noun is formed from a verb. We can also mention countability, and that it has a regular plural ending.
As with grammatical items, when it comes to pronunciation, you are expected to use the IPA, and will be expected to give the word stress at a minimum. For example:
- /tʊk ‘ɒf/
Problems and Solutions
As with grammatical items, you need to try to anticipate problems with meaning, form and pronunciation. For the word getaway:
Problem: Students may think it means a long holiday.
Solution: Have a CCQ about whether it applies to long or short holidays.
Problem: Students may write the word with a space between get and away.
Solution: Ensure students see this word written and provide a controlled practice activity where they need to write it.
Problem: Students may pronounce getaway more like gateway.
Solution: Drill the two words – getaway and gateway – so students can hear the difference.
The last part of this assignment will be to include the references that you have used to find the information. As mentioned before, one of the key references for this assignment is Grammar for English Language Teachers by Parrott. You will also likely reference a good learner dictionary.