Mar 2

CELTA TP Potholes - How to Use a Coursebook Effectively

Teaching Practice potholes
Prioritising activities in a coursebook
A coursebook is a good friend when you start teaching, but sometimes it's difficult to know which activities on the page will take the longest or are more important. This video takes you through an example page and will help to make sure that your priorities are on the money and your teaching practice goes like a dream!
Video transcript

As an experienced CELTA tutor, I see trainees fall into potholes in teaching practice- make mistakes that are both predictable AND avoidable. If you want to know about one of them and get some tips to ace YOUR teaching practice, keep watching!

I’m Jo Gakonga, I’ve been a CELTA trainer and assessor for over 20 years (so I’ve watched a LOT of TP) and I’ve got a website at where I make video based support material for CELTA trainees and English language teachers a bit further down the road. Check it out and if you like this, give it a thumbs up and subscribe, I make a new video every week.

I’ve made a few videos on TP potholes before (you can find them all in one place at the link below) and this one is about how to use a coursebook effectively and understand how it fits together.

When you’re learning to teach, a course book can be a real friend. It’ll give you good activities, it’s been written by an experienced teacher, so they’re likely to work reasonably well and it’ll save you a lot of time preparing. You do have to adapt it for your particular learners of course- that’s your job, you’re a teacher- but it’s worth thinking about the activities and how they’re going to fit into your lesson. Like any useful tool, you need to learn HOW TO USE a coursebook.

One of the problems that trainees often have is that they look at the coursebook page and map it onto the lesson plan without thinking carefully about TIMING, the AIMS of each activity and which parts of the activity you need to prioritise.

Let’s look at an example. This is a typical coursebook page. It’s from Outcomes Pre-int and it’s a free sample unit, so if you want to use it yourself, the link is below.

This is a great unit with some very useful language in it and I like the way it’s laid out, but if you look at it as a novice teacher, you’d be forgiven for not seeing the important parts of each activity because they look quite small.

Let’s look through the page together…

We kick off with a lead in to get them thinking about the topic and start the lesson off with a nice, buzzy pairwork task. Then we move on to some useful vocabulary about solving hotel problems –and as a teacher this is the part where you make sure the learners understand the meaning of these phrases as well as the form and how to say them fluently. This part here- number 3- this helps them to remember the new vocabulary- it’s a controlled practice exercise and then this part – number 4- THIS is the part that needs time and practice. It’s giving the learners an opportunity to use the language in a freer way and practice it.

You might be thinking that this isn’t what you would expect at all. And you’ll be forgiven for thinking that because it looks like such a small part on the page. Remember, though, that learning any practical skill requires practice. If you want to surf, it’s not enough to know that you have to stand up on the board- you’re going to have to do it again and again and again to master it and it’s going to take time. THAT’S what’s being achieved by this small practice exercise at the end.

If we move on, you’ll see that this pattern is repeated. We’ve got a listening exercise here, with listening for gist and specific information and a follow up speaking task… and then we’ve got the grammar of second conditionals coming from the context of the listening. Here’s the part where we check they understand, and then there are two practice exercises- here’s a controlled practice and here’s a less controlled practice. Which one looks longer do you think? Maybe this one? But which do you think is more difficult? It’s this one. So which do you need to spend more time on? This one!

Finally, this activity here pulls all of the language together that they’ve been learning and gives them a chance to use it, recycle it, practice it and make it more likely that they’ll remember it. It’s the most important part of the whole two pages in my opinion.

If you want to extend this exercise, you could listen for mistakes, put them up on the board and do some delayed error correction… then change partners and get them to do it again and again. Repetition of this kind of thing is really helpful.

So this is the rub. My top tip here is to really THINK about how much time it takes to learn a practical skill and make sure that you prioritise the personalised authentic practice tasks, even if they look like a small exercise on the coursebook page.

If this has been useful check out my website at ELT training for support and tips for CELTA and beyond. See you soon.

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