CELTA, Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults, is the most highly recognised and regarded initial English teaching certification worldwide. Most expect to put in hard work and lots of time, and they are right. There are input sessions, teaching practice, observations and additional work outside CELTA course hours (liasing with other course participants for timetabling and lesson planning, viewing of teacher training videos and written assignments).
There are four assignments during the CELTA course:
1) Focus on the learner
2) Language related tasks
4) Lessons from the classroom
These will be set as the course progresses, though not necessarily in the above order and it is possible that two of the areas may be assessed in one (longer) piece of work. In this article, we will talk about the first assignment.
The aim of the assignment “Focus on the Learner” is to develop your ability to assess the needs of a language learner and use this information while finding and designing appropriate material for language support. Depending on the centre, you might be required to create a profile of an individual learner, pair of learners or a group of learners you’re focussing on.
How to prepare for this assignment?
So your first step is to choose a student (students) who has difficulties with language learning as you will need to write an analysis of the student’s language problems and suggest activities for them to improve their English. Therefore, I recommend on the first day interview several students in the class you observe (conduct needs analysis) and collect the information about their language learning background. Then observe these students closely during classes, write down how they participate and interact, react to teacher’s actions and comments, what they say, how they study, if they use a dictionary, L1, take notes and so on. During the first two lessons, you should choose who exactly you’re going to write about in the paper. Then observe their use of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and write down some particular examples of successful language use and errors. You might ask how you know which language points to focus on when writing the “Focus on the Learner” Assignment. What I would suggest is to try to make a note of lots of different points of language during the time you are watching lessons (but not teaching). From your notes, you can then choose only the repeated errors or language points that you know how to explain because there will be probably many, many different points if you have taken lots of notes!
How to write this assignment?
Part 1 — Background
You start the paper with learner(s) background. The learner’s profile should include relevant information:
-L1 and knowledge of other languages;
-Cultural factors affecting their learning (Refer to “Learner English” by Smith and Swan);
— Education and previous English language learning experience;
— Motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic. Read more about it in this article);
— Preferred learning style (Read more about it in this article);
— Language areas (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation) and/or skills the learner thinks he/she needs to improve.
Part 2 — Establishing strengths and weaknesses
The second part of the assignment is the analysis of the students’ language problems, their actual strengths and weaknesses in English. You will need to comment on:
— Abilities in terms of different skills: receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing);
— Problems that the student has with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation supported with examples;
— Reasons why these errors happened.
Part 3 — Identifying Area of Language Development
In this part, you need to suggest activities for improvement sections to help these learners improve. That can be an activity from published sources to focus on improving their knowledge of grammar rules or a simple suggestion to try to spend more time speaking with native speakers to improve their confidence.
You will need to refer to different books to show that you’re reading around the topic and that you are aware of the different academic thoughts on these things. The best book to help you with this part of the assignment would be «Practical English Usage» by Micheal Swan.
CELTA is one of the few courses which has a high level of practical, classroom training. More and more institutions worldwide require their teachers to have the CELTA and virtually everyone who has taken the course has said they would recommend it to their friends and colleagues.
If you have any questions regarding the assignment «Focus on the learner», write in the comment section below.