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A lesson should not just be a collection of activities that are thrown together somehow. Your job as a teacher is to curate the flow of the lesson so that it is logical, meeting the aims that you have defined.
Where to Begin
There are a number of lesson frameworks that you are likely to be introduced to on a CELTA course. If you have some teaching experience, you may have heard of some of them already. The one thing that they all have in common however is a lead in.
A lead in is simply to set the context for the lesson that is going to follow. It aims to ‘activate schemata’, which is a fancy way of saying that the context should help learners to remember what they know about this topic already.
For example, if I was going to teach a lesson about travel, I could start by showing some pictures from my holiday and having students talk about them.
What will be appropriate will depend on the rest of the lesson. If you were writing a book, a common piece of advice is to write the introduction last. It is the same when planning a lesson – it is best to plan the lead-in last so that it matches the rest of the lesson.
The Lesson Frameworks
There are different lesson frameworks that you will be expected to use on CELTA depending on what type of lesson you are trying to deliver. By the end of the CELTA course, you should have a pretty good idea of which framework to use for each type of lesson, and the stages involved.
The frameworks presented below are not necessarily the only options possible, but they are the ones most often taught on CELTA and other initial teacher training courses. They include:
- Text-based lesson
- Receptive Skills
- Product Writing (or Speaking)
- Process Writing (or Speaking)
PPP stands for present, practise, produce or presentation, practice, production. This is a framework for teaching either grammar or vocabulary. It is not suitable for teaching skills.
If, for example, you were teaching vocabulary about holidays, you would first deal with presenting these words or phrases. This could be through pictures and eliciting what the items are. Then students might practice these items by putting them into gaps in sentences or a paragraph. Finally, students have a (usually) spoken task where they need to say the words such as describing holidays they have been on in the past.
If you were teaching “used to”, you would start by presenting this structure. Students would then have some practice such as putting “used to” in gapped sentences. Finally, students would produce “used to” perhaps by discussing how their life is different now.
While this framework appears very logical and simple, there are some problems with it. Firstly, it assumes that students don’t know any of what is being taught. Really you would only know what they knew when you got to the production stage, and at this point you might assume that the fact students are using the target language is down to your brilliant teaching. In fact, they may have already known it.
Secondly, because the production stage is at the end, this is the part that teachers struggle to give adequate time to. In many cases, students have already come across the target language before. What they really need is the time to use it.
PPP is therefore best suited to lower levels who you can assume know less. Elementary students could be looking at the present perfect for the first time. It is unlikely to be appropriate at above an intermediate level. Even at Pre-Intermediate, students will have met a lot of language points previously.
A better framework therefore is likely to be TTT.
TTT stands for either test, teach, test or task, teach, task. This is often seen as preferable to a PPP framework, especially if it is likely students have seen the language point before.
A TTT framework follows a lead in with a task or exercise to test what students already know of the target language. Generally, we want to test what students can use spontaneously in conversation, so this is likely to be a task that resembles the production phase of a PPP lesson. For example, if you wanted to test whether students could use narrative tenses, the obvious thing to do would be to have them tell an anecdote to each other.
Monitoring during this test or task stage is very important because you need to know how well the students performed. To simplify it somewhat, let’s just say you are trying to confirm which of the following best describes the class:
- The students knew all of the target language;
- The students knew none of the target language;
- The students knew some of the target language.
Deciding which of these descriptions is most accurate is key to this framework, as the teach stage should be based upon what you have observed. After all, if it is clear to you that the students know all of the target language, what is the point in teaching it?
For the teach stage, you should therefore have different contingencies planned. If the students didn’t know any of the target language, then you will teach the target language. If they did know some of it, then hopefully you are planning to teach what they didn’t know. And if they knew it all, you will need to have a plan to teach something different.
After clarifying the language and checking students understand it, a controlled practice activity typically follows. This allows students to begin practising the language point.
The next stage is a second test or task stage. In this stage, you are attempting to ascertain that the students have learnt what you taught them while giving them another chance to use the language.
The final test or task could theoretically be the same as the first. However, this runs the clear danger of being boring for students while also having the obvious issue that students would likely do better the second time they did any activity.
Hopefully you can see the advantages of a TTT lesson over a PPP one. As a teacher you will be planning to adapt your lesson based upon the students’ needs.
In my experience, CELTA candidates sometimes confuse this with a receptive skills lesson. This is actually a systems (vocabulary/grammar) lesson, in which the target language comes from a text (which may be either a reading or listening).
The text is introduced after the lead in along with a gist task (remember that a text should never be introduced without any task). A gist task is one that focuses students on understanding the general meaning of a text.
Now that students have understood the text on some level, it is time to draw their attention to language in the text. This could be by asking them to underline particular items or matching a word or phrase with an equivalent in the text.
Following this, the teaching or clarification stage comes next. In this stage you need to convey meaning, form and pronunciation and check students understand.
The next stage is for students to practice the target language in some form of controlled practice before finally being given the opportunity to produce the language in some productive activity.
A receptive skills framework is for the two receptive skills (listening and reading). This is really your only option for a receptive skills lesson on a CELTA (although other options do exist) and it is pretty difficult to get wrong – though people do!
After the lead in has set the context for the audio or reading, you might choose to pre-teach some language that will help students to understand the text. However, you should bear in mind that pre-teaching potentially deprives students of a chance to deal with unknown vocabulary themselves, which is a valuable skill. Nevertheless, your CELTA tutor will likely expect to see a couple of items to be pre-taught.
When selecting items for pre-teaching, you want to choose words or phrases that:
- Will be new for students.
- Will be necessary for solving the tasks you will set.
- Are not guessable from the context.
After pre-teaching, you will generally have at least two reading or listening stages that deal with different reading strategies (you may hear tutors refer to them as sub-skills instead).
Typically, you have three options to choose from:
- Reading/listening for gist (to get a general understanding of the text)
- Reading/listening for specific information (to find particular details)
- Reading/listening for details (to get a deeper understanding)
When setting tasks, we tend to go from general (i.e. gist) to specific (i.e. specific information or detail). In other words, you are most likely going to do a gist task followed by one of the other two.
A common gist task is the predict and check combination. For example, if I have an audio about a person who had a problem with an item of clothing they bought online, I could ask students to guess what problem he had. Then the students listen and check if it was something they guessed. This can equally be done by giving a headline, a picture or just some clues and having the students predict what they will read or hear.
A specific information task checks specific details such as numbers, dates, places or names. There are a variety of questions that can do this though closed questions and true/false statements tend to be popular.
Detailed meaning tasks focus more on the meaning that is less explicit in the text often asking students to infer from what is said or written. These might involve more open questions as there may be more room for individual interpretation.
After the reading or listening stages, there are several post stages that may follow.
One stage that can follow is post-teaching. We already looked at pre-teaching. Post-teaching solves the problem of denying students an opportunity to dealing with new vocabulary themselves. If they still have problems with new vocabulary it can be sorted out here.
Finally, a productive follow on IS usually expected on CELTA. This typically involves students using the information contained within the text to do some speaking activity (though of course writing would be fine but is more difficult to fit into the tight timeframe of a CELTA lesson). For example, if the text gave tips about getting a better deal when shopping, a simple speaking activity that could follow is for students to share their own tips or discuss the ones they already use.
Product Writing (or Speaking)
Product writing, as you might guess, is aimed at teaching writing. However, it can also be applied to speaking lessons.
After the lead in, a model is typically introduced. This is a model of the type of writing that is expected to be produced at the end of the lesson. You shouldn’t just give students the model of course, you will need to accompany that with some kind of exercise that gets them to read (or listen) to it. This could be to turn the text into some kind of gap fill, or it could be a gist task to check the students’ overall comprehension.
Once the model has been introduced, you need to highlight language or other linguistic features for students. One approach would be for you to stand there and tell them, but this would be teacher-centred. Better would be to give them something to look for and find themselves. This could be finding polite language in a letter, for example, or descriptive language in an advertisement.
The next stage is to start preparing students to write their own version of the model. This means planning their ideas and the language that they will use.
The final stage is usually for students to produce a similar piece of writing (or speaking). As a general rule, writing is a solitary activity and students should be expected to produce their own text.
There can be one more stage, and if you really want to grow your students’ interest in writing it is highly recommended. In this case, the final stage is the publication stage. That doesn’t mean you actually publish your students’ work, but that you create a scenario in which your students read each others’ work. Students then engage in giving feedback to each other. A simple way to do this is to put the finished work on the walls around the classroom and send students around to read them with a question such as “which do you like best?”
Process Writing (or Speaking)
The opposite of a product writing lesson is a process writing lesson. Once more this could also be adapted to speaking.
The idea of a process writing lesson is to focus less on the final piece of work and more on developing the writing process.
Rather than starting from a model, a process writing lesson starts with planning. Telling students to plan a piece of writing is however a daunting task without a model. Instead, the planning stage tends to consist of brainstorming activities such as thinking of the advantages and disadvantages of something.
The next stage is drafting. Again, asking students to write something whole may still be daunting at this stage. Instead, the lesson may focus on writing smaller parts such as sentences or paragraphs. If focusing on essays, for example, this could focus on writing topic statements or a body paragraph rather than the whole essay.
Once parts of the text are drafted, the next stage is to actually write. Students should use the parts they have written and write them into a more coherent whole text.
Crucially, this is not the end of the lesson as the next stage involves editing what was written. This often then leads to another writing stage as the final piece is written, hopefully without error.
If you’re wondering how this could work with speaking, it could look like this. A student prepares notes on a topic. They then write some of these notes into whole sentences. The student then tells a partner about the topic. After this they reflect on whether they were able to convey all of the information they wanted to and perhaps re-draft particular sentences. They then repeat with a new partner.
Many teachers in practice actually fuse elements of a product and process approach into a hybrid of the two. For a CELTA lesson, it would be advised to treat the two frameworks in their purer forms.
Task-based learning (TBL) is another framework that is superior to PPP.
At the core of a TBL lesson is the task, though there are some optional stages that come first.
A model may be provided for the task which is typically a recording of two students doing the task. You may also want to highlight key language from the model that can be used when students do the task.
Unless you do either of these stages, the first stage is the task itself. Like in a TTT lesson, by putting a task early on you ensure that students get the productive practice and provide an activity from which their true needs can be diagnosed.
After the task, students will report back to the class on how they performed. Before they do this, there is a planning stage for students to discuss what they will say about their performance of the task.
After reporting, the lesson then shifts to a language focus to develop the language needs that arose from their performance of the task and reporting on it. This requires a teacher to be responsive to the language that students produced. It would be odd to see a teacher give an activity on second conditionals here if the students used them accurately in their task and reporting.
Finally, another similar task could follow (making this cycle similar to that in a TTT lesson) which gives students a chance to put into practice what they learnt.
You can pass CELTA (and with a pass B or even pass A) without using TBL. Unless you’ve been told that you’re likely to get one of these higher grades, I wouldn’t attempt it on the CELTA, but definitely experiment with it once you are in practice.
First reading/ listening (gist)
First reading/ listening (gist)
Highlight useful language
Second reading/ listening (detailed)
Second reading/ listening (detailed)
Highlight language from text
The lesson frameworks mentioned and their stages are summarised in the table above.
If you want to do well on CELTA, you will want to get to grips quickly with these different frameworks and their stages. At the very least, by the end of CELTA you should not be saying that you are going to use PPP to teach a reading lesson or some other incompatible combination.