Sep 29

CELTA -Advice on Presenting Grammar and Vocabulary

Teaching language
Advice on presenting language
Arguably, one of the most difficult parts of the CELTA course is preparing to teach new language (grammar and vocabulary). If you're struggling and want some advice- this is for you!
Video transcript

I had an email recently from somebody who was struggling to present language and asking for my advice. This is such a common problem for CELTA trainees.

Arguably, the trickiest part of teaching language, is... focusing on language items in the classroom by clarifying relevant aspects of meaning, form and phonology to an appropriate depth.

It’s criteria 2e in the CELTA5 and it’s often where trainees (and novice teachers) struggle. Want some helpful hints on how to do this well? Keep watching.

I’m Jo Gakonga, I’ve been a CELTA trainer and assessor for over 20 years and I run a website at with material for CELTA trainees, for novice English language teachers and for those a bit further down the line, too.

So- focusing on language items by clarifying relevant aspects of meaning, form and phonology to an appropriate depth. The key to this (as with many things in teaching) is in the planning and I’ve got two pieces of advice here.

Number 1- Know your language
Before the lesson, you need to make sure that you know exactly what the language looks like and how it works. If you’re teaching the present continuous, for example, you need to know all of it’s common meanings, it’s form and how it’s usually pronounced. It doesn’t mean that you have to tell them all of this. It’s your job to understand how it works so that you can help your learners down a simplified, level-appropriate path that you’re going to show them. Remember that we’re looking for ‘appropriate depth’. How much you have to know and how much you have to tell them aren’t the same usually..

Plan how you’re going to do this and how you’re going to check they understand. If you want some support with this, I’ve got courses on my site that’ll really help.

Number 2- Practise what you are going to say
The other piece of advice I have for you is to actually practise what you’re going to say to the learners. There’s something about muscle memory that makes it easier to say in class if you’ve actually said it out loud beforehand. More than once.

Thinking in your head is not the same. Don’t do this. Actually say it out loud. Ideally you want to do this in front of a real person. Your partner? A CELTA colleague? Your dog? If none of these are available then you could just do it in front of a mirror- that works, too.

Another good tip here is to record yourself and listen back to yourself. It’s really interesting how we can’t really hear what we’re saying when we’re actually saying it. A recording helps to show where you could improve.

But, you might be thinking- I can’t practice the whole lesson. No, fair enough. There are three parts that I’d say are worth spending time on, though.

1. Instructions
It’s surprising how tricky it is to give very clear instructions even when you know what you want the learners to do. I’ve got a whole other video on this here, but practise them!

2. Presentation
This is where you clarify the meaning, form and pronunciation of the language that you’re teaching. It’s inevitably a more teacher led part of the lesson but you should also be asking learners questions to check they understand as they go along. It’s definitely worth practising this- keep it concise and clear.

3. Feedback on control practice
Finally, another part of the lesson that it’s useful to practise is the feedback that you’re going to give on the control practice. Being able to give good feedback here means that you don’t have to over egg the pudding in the presentation stage. A lot of the language that you’re teaching won’t be completely new to your learners, especially if it’s grammar, and so you can elicit the meaning, form and pronunciation from them, then give them an exercise to practise and use the feedback from this to ensure that they understand. That’s why the feedback stage here is important.

Going through these questions beforehand and making sure that you understand WHY the answers are correct will help to give you confidence when you are actually in the classroom and eliciting that from your learners..

You obviously won’t have to practise all of this out loud every time you teach, but if you do it the first few times, it will start to build up a muscle memory for you and make it easier as time goes on, I promise! Good luck with it and have fun.

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