Delta Assignment 3 -Teaching Conditionals

From the title above, it would seem like I chose a rather easy topic for my second systems LSA. Well, the actual title of the LSA was Teaching Past Counterfactual Conditionals to High-Level Learners. What the..?

‘What the..?’ is exactly what I said and felt when I heard the more technical term for conditionals.

More often than not, ESL books divide conditionals into four categories – zero, one, two, three. Easy peasy. This is also probably the terminology you are familiar with from when you studied grammar in school (or at least when I did, in the 90s in India). But of course, it is very likely that you were taught traditional grammar in a boring, non-communicative manner. However, as has been well-proven in my own experience and that of learners all over the world, a traditional approach to grammar teaching does not increase communicative competence.  (more…)

Delta Assignment 2 – Multiword Verbs

..or phrasal verbs?

My second LSA was a systems one, and I chose vocabulary. Chunky, piecemeal, lots of fun activities to keep learners engaged and quantifiable ways to demonstrate learning towards the end – this was going to be fun!

And it was – fun. But it wasn’t easy. Multiword verbs are such a vast field of language that it took me a lot of reading to wrap my head around their semantics and systems. Not only that, I had to understand what the Lexical Approach is and then, how to teach vocabulary using this approach – because hey, we’re in 2012 (and now in 2016!) and you can’t not be using the lexical approach in teaching vocabulary. (more…)

Delta Assignment 1 – Developing Storytelling Skills

I started my Delta in early 2012 and did a face-to-face intensive Module 2 over eight weeks. There are four assignments, or LSAs, one needs to pass in order to pass Module 2, two of which need to be skills-based and two systems-based.

I thought I’ll start easy and chose to focus on skills for my first LSA. I thought I could teach speaking but I was quite surprised that I was expected to plan a whole 60-minute lesson focusing on speaking skills.

Until this point, I had only taught speaking as an incidental part of teaching reading, listening, writing, grammar, or vocabulary lessons. But speaking to our amazing Delta tutor, Beth Grant (if you get a chance to work with her, jump at it), I thought I could take this on as a challenge and learn to teach speaking not just in the brainstormingactivating schemata, or post-reading/listening discussions, but as a rightful skill in itself that deserved focused teaching of its various nuances. Come to think of it, this is why most students go to language centers or freelance teachers – to learn how to speak – and yet, most ESL teachers do not know or realize the value of teaching speaking as a skill in itself.  (more…)

Sneaky micro-writing activities for students who hate writing

I’m so happy to announce my first-ever guest post on Ms.ESL. This one is by Stuart Price, a fantastic ESL teacher with about eight years teaching experience, who also happens to be my husband! Without further ado…

I love writing and I love teaching writing but since coming to Saudi Arabia, I have found it a tough task. When it comes to writing, Saudi students have a unique set of problems, apart from the ones that plague nearly all ESL students:

  • the whole Roman script thing
  • no vowels in Arabic which leads to astonishing spelling problems
  • writing from left to right and
  • a lack of ideas to put into a paragraph of short piece of writing

As well as the usual paragraph structure / ideas flow issues, this makes writing a particularly demotivating task for students here. But as I said I love writing and like a moth drawn to a flame, with the inevitable frazzled end, I can’t but try to pass on, if not my love, then at least a glimmer that it is possible to write 150 words about your last holiday or to cobble together a story from a picture board.

So I sat down and gave it some thought. And after some serious mulling I figured I would need a two-pronged approach to 1) address their structural / compositional needs and 2) increase the amount they wrote (to give them practice) but in a way that wouldn’t seem labourious, or like ‘oh-no-not-more-writing!’. (more…)

CELTA: What will you learn?

Whether you have zero experience teaching or a few years’ worth, if you are considering the CELTA, you have probably wondered what you will learn from it? There is a reason the CELTA is the world’s leading TEFL certification and even though the intensive course is only four weeks long, the CELTA certificate is globally recognized as one of excellence. So what tools can the CELTA give you which you will need as an ESL teacher? Or if you already have some experience, what new tricks can a four-week course teach you.

As a CELTA trainee back in 2009, I was one of only four people in my group of twelve that had no prior teaching experience. As I struggled to keep my head above water planning lessons, writing assignments (you can download my CELTA assignments here), and dealing with a two hour commute everyday (yeah, I lived in San Jose and drove to the BART, then took the train to San Francisco to attend the course.. I honestly don’t know how I ever managed to pass the course!).

Anyway, as a trainee all those years ago, all I knew at the time was that there was a very steep learning curve for me. Last year, after I did the CELTA Trainer-in-Training, I realized exactly how steep that learning curve is. (more…)


Once the CELTA was over, life resumed again. Except I still had to write the evaluative essay – a 1500 word piece reflecting on the rigors of the training and my self-perceived strengths and weaknesses as a qualified CELTA tutor. According to the Trainer-in-Training handbook, this is…

…an evaluative piece of up to 1,500 words on the process of undergoing training and what the trainer- in-training feels his/her strengths and weaknesses are as a prospective tutor. The trainer-in-training’s interactive journal, daily log sheets, Observations and notes made during the course will provide the basis for this piece of work.

I had spent at least two weeks on the pre-course tasks and an entire month on the during CELTA tasks (see all the CELTA Trainer-in-Training tasks here), and I’d been very good about doing things on time. But I have to admit I procrastinated for at least a week before I sat down to write this essay the weekend after the CELTA was over. Which was a silly thing to do because it’s incredible how quickly memory fades, especially when one is seven months pregnant as I was at the time.

The 1500 word limit seemed monstrous – before I started. But when I finally sat down to break it down, I realized it was going to be incredibly difficult to contain all my thoughts and reflections and (ahem) criticisms in 1500 words.

Anyway, the first step was to organize the essay into sections – headings that I could write under. This is how I went about it:

a. Pre-course task
b. Interview

a. Input sessions
b. TP Observations and feedback
c. Tutorials
d. Written feedback on assignments
e. Peer observation tasks
f. Trainee progress

a. Trainee reports
b. Post-course evaluation

Once I had divided the essay into these broad headings, I started looking through the notes I had made before and during the course for each of these topics. In the end, all I had to do was select the relevant portions from my notes, add commentary, and plug it into the evaluative piece. Sounds pretty easy, and it was. Polishing it up and ensuring that it flowed smoothly took a bit of time but I think I was able to wrap this up in about 3-4 hours.

Here’s the finished product – my sweat and sleepless nights summed up in 1500ish words. Read and enjoy but please don’t be a monkey and copy (Cambridge is strict about it and I’ll be pretty upset if you plagiarize my work). You can download my Evaluative essay here.




This is the last in the series of tasks I had to do as a Trainer-in-Training. Well, the last one I had to do on the course. There was a mammoth of an evaluative essay I had to write after the CELTA was over, but hey, the CELTA was over by then. Read that again with an accompanying drumroll and fireworks show – the CELTA was over, finally! That’s how relieved I was at the end.

Getting back to the task on hand (see what I did there?), there are two standard tutorials for each trainee during the course – these are called the Stage 1 and Stage 2 tutorials. On an intensive course like the one I trained on, the Stage 1 tutorial happens mid-week in Week 2, and the Stage 2 tutorial happens mid-week in Week 3. As you can see, there is very, very little time in between the two tutorials but what a difference a week makes.

The Stage 1 tutorial was done in the form of written feedback in trainees’ CELTA5 booklets. To be honest, neither the trainers nor the trainees really have time mid-course for two sit-down sessions of tutorials, so it was just as well the Stage 1 tutorial was just a few lines of (mostly encouragement – it’s only Week 2 after all!) feedback from the course tutor.

The Stage 2 tutorial was more serious (more…)