CELTA Skills Related Tasks Assignment
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The skills related task is usually the third assignment on the CELTA. By this point, you have hopefully already had two assignments back with a pass (if you’re following these guides) and are getting into the swing of writing these assignments.
What do you have to do?
For this assignment you need to outline a lesson based on authentic listening or reading material. Depending on the course provider, you may be given a choice of material to use or you may have the freedom to choose any authentic material you wish.
You are required to write between 750 and 1000 words. This does not include the listening or reading material or the tasks that you design.
Either your CELTA provider will give you a number of materials to choose from, or you may have complete freedom to choose any authentic material. Remember that authentic materials are those that are not designed for language learners and, therefore, have not been graded for students.
You will need to justify why you are choosing these materials for the particular students at their particular level. The centre may or may not require you to pick materials for the students you are teaching on the course. However, even if this is not required, it is a good idea because then you can actually use the lesson for one of your TPs.
When I did my CELTA, I picked rental adverts in newspapers (I had total freedom to choose). My justification for this is that I was teaching students living in the UK who were likely to need to find a place to live at some point. As upper intermediate students, I felt they could deal with a lot of the vocabulary, but that there were certain phrases that were particular to this topic and genre that could cause students problems.
And when I did this lesson as my final TP (as I say, you don’t have to teach the lesson if you don’t want to), despite suffering from a terrible cold, I can confirm that it was my strongest lesson on the course. Most notably, two of the students in the lesson were whispering to each other at one point “listen, we need this for when we move next year!”
When choosing the material, keep in mind the interests of your students and what they would like to do with English outside of the course. You also need to make sure it is of a reasonable level for the students. Of course, what really determines the level is not the text itself, but the tasks that you devise.
That said, for most tasks students will need to understand around 95-98% of the words to gain any benefit. In other words, there shouldn’t be more than one new word in every twenty. It can be a useful activity to go through the text and highlight what you suspect will be new words.
There are also tools that will tell you what CEFR level the words are in a text. You can copy and paste the text here for example and get a breakdown of the level of each word. You don’t need to reference if you use such a tool, but it can stop you making the claim that a lexically dense and difficult text is suitable for a low level.
Introducing the Material
After justifying the choice of material, you will likely need to say how you would introduce this material. Basically, you need to describe a lead in to the material that will activate the students’ schemata (their pre-existing knowledge).
It may make most sense to deal with this aspect of your lesson outline last. When you know where your lesson is heading, then it becomes easier to see what is important in a lead in.
When you’re ready to describe the lead in, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel here. Strong lead ins could include activities like:
- discussing questions in pairs
- watching a video clip with a question
- ranking some ideas or pictures
- sharing a personal anecdote (with a question for students)
The next step of the assignment is likely to ask you about the language you would choose to pre-teach and why. Contrary to popular belief, it is not important to pre-teach every word that students may not know, and in fact this may be undesirable.
The main reason why we wouldn’t want to pre-teach a word is because we would then be depriving students of an opportunity to work it out for themselves. Generally, when we work things out ourselves, we tend to remember them better, so it is better if students are able to do this.
Look at these two sentences. In each a made-up word is highlighted. Can you guess the meaning:
1) The coach grawled the team in front of the media for not working hard enough.
2) She put the book on a monpurain.
Probably, you can guess that the first word means something like criticised, since this is what a coach can be expected to do if his team doesn’t work hard. The second is much more difficult; it could be an item of furniture, but it could equally be something else. Of course, another sentence could reveal this meaning in a text, not just the sentence it first appears in.
The other important consideration for pre-teaching is whether a word is necessary to complete the task you want students to do. Of course, you won’t know that until you have designed your tasks.
Once more the three considerations for pre-teaching vocabulary are:
– Does the student know this word? (If so, why teach it?)
– Does the student need it for the task? (If no, teach it when they need it)
– Can they guess the meaning from the text? (If yes, give them the opportunity to guess)
The real meat of this assignment is devising some tasks to do with the materials. You will need to have at least two tasks and these should focus on two different “sub-skills”.
The sub-skills you may cover are reading or listening for:
- specific information
- detailed information
You need to make sure you understand what these three sub-skills are and that you use these labels correctly within your assignment. You are advised to read about them in more detail in the recommended books. However, in short:
Gist concerns the overall meaning of the text. A gist task therefore tests whether students have understood this correctly. For example, a gist task could be to listen to a conversation and say who the speakers are, where it is taking place and the broad topics that are covered.
Specific information is about key points of information such as a price or a fact. Such tasks test the students’ ability to distinguish these. An example could be finding the prices in a menu to price up a meal, or to listen for a reference number.
Detailed information concerns more nuanced information such as a person’s opinion or reasons. Such tasks require a deeper understanding of the text to distinguish these. Such a task could be to listen to a complaint from a customer and pinpoint the reasons why the customer is upset and what they want to happen.
When choosing tasks, we would ideally try to emulate what we really do with such texts. However, this isn’t always possibly and so our tasks often end up being somewhat artificial.
Two things you certainly shouldn’t do are:
- Plan to have students read or listen to the text without any task at all. Always ensure students listen/read and something. This could just be answering a question.
- Don’t plan to have students read the text aloud. They can read the text to themselves.
You will also likely be expected to say what you will do after the reading or listening. This can be either writing or speaking. It is often expected listening will be followed by speaking and reading with writing but there is no reason why it has to be. Listening to a phone call, you may decide that writing a letter is a sensible follow up task. Similarly, if the students read a letter, a telephone call could be a sensible speaking task.
As with other parts of this assignment, you will need to justify why this task is applicable to the text and to the students.