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. The trainers have a long list of teaching skills to check off before they can award a trainee a ‘pass’. Course expectations are high and trainees have to demonstrate understanding and practice of communicative language teaching skills that are the USP of the CELTA.

So what are these skills and how do you develop them? Here is a neat little chart that lists the skills CELTA trainers look for in trainees’ teaching at various stages of the course.

CELTA teaching skills

As you can see, the list is long and time is very limited. On an intensive CELTA, the early stage of the course usually lasts only the first week or two Teaching Practices; Week 2 and Week 3 of the course, i.e. Teaching practice 3 or TP3 to TP6 are considered mid-stage; and the final week (Week 4 where trainees usually teach their final two TPs – TP7 and TP8) is the late stage of the course.

Teaching skills are divided into early, mid, and late stages of the course based on two criteria – (a) difficulty level, and (b) the sequencing of the input sessions. For e.g., there is usually a session on Focus on the Learner which covers needs analyses and learner types in the first week of the course, and therefore ‘rapport and understanding student needs’ is an early course teaching skill. Similarly, phonology is not usually covered until the later stages of the course and therefore, ‘integration of phonology’ is a late course teaching skill.

The gradual progression in challenge is motivating for trainees and gives them a real chance to develop and demonstrate progress.


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