Thursday, 8 March 2018

#CELTAchat Summary Monday 5 March by Amy Blanchard

Many thanks to Amy Blanchard @admiralamy for the following #CELTAchat summary.

CELTA Chat 5th March 2018: Alternatives to Coursebooks in TP

Participants: Cathy Bowden @Cathyofnusle, Fiona Price @fionaljp, Darren Bell @bellinguist, Giovanni Licata @GioLic1976, Amy Blanchard @admiralwamy


The need for an alternative

It was quickly agreed that despite problems with coursebooks (out of date or boring materials, prescriptive lexical sets, a repetitive formula of text-based presentations), trainees need to know how to work with coursebooks, and this is an important skill to focus on during CELTA courses.  Giovanni emphasised that he encourages trainees to adapt the coursebook from the word go. Amy includes an input session that evaluates coursebook practice activities and teaches trainees how to adapt them to make them more relevant/engaging/useful.
However, we all agreed that it would be useful to consider alternatives to coursebooks. Cathy and Amy shared a similar approach; following the coursebook until week 3 and then encouraging trainees to make their own materials/find more suitable materials, based around the language presented in the coursebook. Thus, the coursebook is still responsible for setting the syllabus, a fact that Amy finds unsatisfactory at times.

Needs analysis and moving away from a CB based syllabus

Fiona suggested that trainees do a needs analysis with the TP students - they can get to know sts and think about needs so syllabus is needs based not CB based. Some worry was expressed that this would create more work for trainees, when they are already under so much pressure, though Giovanni countered that sometimes coursebooks can create work for them. “If you focus their attention on the learners and their identity as learners rather than the teaching, you can really remove some of the pressure”. Fiona added that trainees would need guidance but the tutors could provide TP points based on needs analysis to show as example / model for reflection. Darren talked of his experience on a course where the trainees had time early on in the course to speak to the learners about the lesson and to get their feedback. The self-evaluation was as much about the learners as it was the teacher, which could feed into a needs analysis. It was then pointed out that needs analysis/course planning is not part of the Celta syllabus - more a Delta level skill, though Fiona made the point that trainers need to promote the right message i.e teaching the learners not the course book. The FOTL assignment requires a needs analysis, so it was suggested that could be tied in with preparing for that assignment, though on some courses by the time trainees have done that assignment, they've changed to the other group of students. Fiona suggested after completing the FoL assignment they could have an input session to share ideas to inform TP content for the next level (with tutor guidance). She suggested aiming for a 50/50 or even 60/40 CB- based/needs analysis- based approach to TP points make it more workable.

Authentic Materials

Cathy raised another problem with coursebooks – if TP students attend a few courses, they will have already completed the units in the coursebooks. She told us about a solution they’re working on: “So we've batted about the idea of creating our own packs of 'starting point' materials, less a finished product than coursebooks, which could be combined more flexibly and where candidates have to create tasks around the material. Just an idea so far”.
Cathy said that on her courses she used to ask trainees to create a lesson using authentic material for first round of TP in week 3. “It was interesting and gave room for strong candidates to show ability but was v demanding too. They had pretty much a free rein and they tended to be skills lessons…I liked it but colleagues felt it was too hard for weaker candidates, and we abandoned it. They had a point”. Giovanni follows this approach for TPs 7, 8 and 9. He added that trainees usually cope very well. He checks that the text they choose is "suitable" and that's all. But he believes that for them to succeed there needs to be a focus on the use of authentic materials right from the beginning. Fiona helps with this by using authentic material for reading skills input to highlight sub skills and provide a model for assignment.


An unplugged approach to teacher training

Anthony Gaughan @anthonygaughan wasn’t involved with the chat but has talked about his ‘unplugged’ approach to teacher training here:

There was some support for an input session that focussed on dealing with emergent language, though Amy expressed concern that it may be asking too much from trainees. “No doubt it would help make them more effective teachers... but there's nothing in the CELTA criteria about emergent language, is there? Not til Delta?” Giovanni pointed out that it’s part of monitoring, which is something we expect trainees to do. He suggested demonstrating it as a technique in some of the grammar seminars. On courses with free TP teaching slots, Amy has done some of the teaching and encouraged trainees to get involved during the freer practice parts, to practice really listening to students, noting down things they said that they'd help with etc. This is useful practice, but wasn’t as effective as she had hoped.  However, this practice was supported by the following responses:

Here is a link to the Wakelet transcript of the  #CELTAchat

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