Jun 29

Using AI for CELTA Assignments- The Skills Assignment

CELTA assignments and ai
Using AI for the Language Skills Related Task 
If you're doing CELTA and want to know how AI can help with your assignments, you're in the right place. Here are some thoughts from an experienced CELTA tutor about AI and the Language Skills Related Task (or Skills Assignment as it's often known).
For help with the other assignments, there are more videos in this series taking you through all four assignments, so watch out for them!
There is also lots of help on assignments in the Resource Library on my site and you can download the text used in this video from the link below.
Video transcript

Doing CELTA assignments? If you’ve got to the Language Skills Related Tasks – the Skills Assignment as it’s often called and you want to know how AI can help with it, keep watching…

I’m Jo Gakonga, I’m a teacher educator and I’ve been a CELTA trainer and assessor for over 20 years. I’ve also got a website at ELT-Training.com where I make video based support material for English language teachers at all stages of their careers. Check it out and if you like this, give it a thumbs up and subscribe, I make a new video every week.

Before you go any further, as with any of these videos I’ve got on CELTA assignments and AI, MAKE SURE you check with your tutors before you use AI in any way. Different centres have different rules for this and you don’t want to fall foul of them!

As well as that, there are always two important things to keep in mind as you can see here in the NILE guidelines:

AI is used as a tool to support the development of information. The participant, however, maintains a critical analysis and contextualisation of any information so produced in the same way as they would any other materials, and are transparent in the processes they have followed.

The first is that using AI is the same as using any reference material- you need to be transparent about what you’ve used- to cite it- and in order to show how you used it. To do this, make sure that you begin a new search and copy the share link, or take screenshots, to show your prompts and how you adapted the material you got through the chat.

The second is that, again as with any reference material BUT EVEN MORE SO, you need to make sure that you’re engaging CRITICALLY with whatever AI gives you. You can’t just take it all at face value because sometimes it’s WRONG. So use your intuition as a fluent speaker of English and do your research in other places, too.

OK- with those caveats and provisos out of the way, AI is a helpful friend and will be in your teaching life, so it seems to me that it’s a good idea to learn how to take best advantage of it. Here are some ideas on how AI could help you with the Language Skills Related Task.

You can see a walk through of this assignment here but a brief overview is that you take a text- in some centres they’ll give you one and in others they’ll ask you to find an authentic text that you like such as a newspaper article. You have to do some research into receptive and productive skills development and then say WHY the text is suitable for your learners and devise appropriate tasks for developing receptive skills (reading or listening) and productive skills (speaking or writing). Let’s look at these things one by one.

Receptive skills
With this task, you need to do some reading around skills development and cite this and it’s still important to do this in the old fashioned way. Look at some of the books recommended by your centre and find out more about receptive and productive skills to give a rationale for your tasks. This background will also give you a better ability to do what I keep saying is important and critically appraise the tasks that AI can produce.

I’m going to work on the assumption that you’re dealing with a written text. You could do the assignment on a listening text, but it’s easier to show with the written word, so let’s stick to that. Here’s the example I’m going to work with (you can download the text from the link above).

You have your text and you want to see if it’s appropriate for your learners. If you want to know what the level of the text is, you can paste it into Vocab Kitchen and it’ll tell you how difficult the vocabulary in the text is. You have to be a bit careful with this. It’ll give you an idea, but it’s not perfect because it only deals with single words and vocabulary is made up of more than this. For example, ‘look’ is an A1 word and so is ‘up’ and ‘to’ but ‘look up to’ means something different and is B2 level.

Putting the text here’ll also help you to pick out any vocabulary that you might need to pre-teach.

Remember that you can’t pre-teach everything they’re not likely to know- especially with an authentic text- so aim for anything that will really block understanding of the WHOLE text and anything they need to know to answer the questions you ask. In this case, for example, ‘desperation’ and ‘temptation’ are coming up as C1 level words but not knowing them won’t stop learners understating the text. The other C1 word, ‘uninhabited’ on the other hand, is pretty important and I would pre-teach that.

You can ask AI to pick out words for you but it doesn’t do so well with this- it tends to choose too much vocabulary and it’s often not needed or would be known. Here’s an example from ChatGPT.

At B1 level, I would definitely expect that smoker/ mobile phone/ extra life/ shave my head/ achieve my goal would all be known and the only word here that’s really important to understand the text is ‘uninhabited island’.

So, you could ask for words to pre-teach, but treat the list it generates critically.

Let’s look at reading skills next.

You’ll probably need to devise a task for reading for gist reading and another for reading for specific information. Gist first.

Gist tasks aren’t easy. You want something that makes sure learners have an overview of the whole text. How do you do this without asking specific questions?

If you put in the text and ask Gemini or Chat GPT to give you a gist task, they don’t do well. They’ll give you a list of comprehension questions and that’s not what you want.

You could give learners the title of the article and ask them to predict the content- maybe in pairs- then elicit some ideas and ask them to read to check. You don’t need AI for this but it won’t work with every text. Can you see the problem in this case with that task?
Smoker to spend month alone on tiny Scots island in bid to break cigarette habit - the title tells the whole story- there’s no need to read at all.

How about a couple of other ideas that AI CAN help you with? Here we go. Remember you need to be critical.

The first one is to give your learners three different titles so that they read quickly and decide which is the best. You can, of course, make them up yourself, but AI can take the back work out of it, leaving you to critically choose between the ideas it generates.

I put the text into Chat GPT and asked it: Give me three possible titles for this article. One should be a GOOD possible title- two should be BAD titles.
This is what I got…

If you don’t like these, just ask for more. Now decide which two of these four are best/ most plausible/ for your learners and use these with the ‘good’ title for your gist task.

I asked Gemini to do the same thing with much less successful results. In this case, the AI gave me titles that were less good but still appropriate.

As with all things AI, the important thing here is to try out different tools, different prompts and don’t be afraid to be critical and edit the result.

A second gist task could be to give the paragraphs subtitles and ask learners to match the mixed up titles with the paragraphs. Again, in this case, ChatGPT gave me a pretty reasonable set of subheadings- you can see them here…

…but Gemini’s were too complex and in one case just factually wrong (cold showers aren’t mentioned in the text.

Let’s move on now to comprehension questions.
AI can generate questions that require an overall understanding of the text. And reasonable T/F questions, including answers - just ask it but there are three main issues to watch out for:

ISSUE 1- it doesn’t differentiate questions that can be answered from real world knowledge.

ISSUE 2- some of the questions it generates will include language that can be lifted from the text- maybe not understood.

ISSUE 3- language grading- can ask it to make the language simpler but easier to edit yourself.

With all of these a useful way forward is to ask for more questions than you need (ask for 15 if you want 10, for example) and then use the best ones, weeding out any that have issues 1 and 2 and editing any of the others to make sure the language grading is OK for your class.
In your assignment explain how and why you did this.

Productive skills
So that’s the receptive skills side of things- what about tasks to develop productive skills- speaking and writing?

AI does a good job of this, too. I asked it for three speaking activities that would be useful from the topic of the text and got these three, all of which I feel are useful and relevant.

Your job here is to critically decide which would be most suitable for your learners based on their age, ability and interests. You might also want to include how you would set the activity up and any potential difficulties there might be with it, for example with the language needed or with the set up- classroom management issues such as more confident learners dominating.

I hope that this has been useful – look out for the other videos in this series and good luck with it!
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