All posts by Shakespeare School

Action Research – Part 2

Last time we were talking about my friend Eliza’s problems with a rowdy FCE group and how none of the solutions we brainstormed worked. In the end we came to the conclusion that action research was the answer. To remind you, action research means looking at your teaching with a critical eye, identifying the roots of the problems you’re having in the classroom, and implementing changes to help ameliorate these.

It’s different from the one-size-fits-all solutions one might sometimes get on training courses or workshops, as this is fully customised to fit the particular situation you are dealing with and to work with the learners you have. Lest I sound too dismissive, I mention that we of course must use the techniques we learn on training courses or somewhere else – it’s not like you’re going to reinvent the wheel on your own – it’s just that you need to make an informed decision on which ones would best help you and your students. By doing action research, you are in fact “taking a step beyond” the certificates you have and continuing your professional development by putting into practice everything you’ve ever learnt about teaching.

Now back to Eliza, who had completed the first step towards finding a solution. She’d narrowed down the potential sources of learners not being on task to two causes: they were either bored with the activities or the topics discussed, and so found something else to talk about, or they didn’t always know what they were supposed to do or how to do it.

Step number two involved gathering data to find the cause of the problem. Now, I know this may conjure up two different kinds of images in your mind. On the one hand, you might imagine a discouragingly large pile of paper filled with graphs and numbers that you have to trudge through, which doesn’t sound like the most appealing way of spending your spare time. On the other hand, you may see the more adventurous side to this, and imagine an archaeologist using their tools to unearth a priceless ancient Egyptian scarab amulet. They’re both means of gathering data, but fortunately (or maybe not) neither of them is true to the reality of action research.

Basically, to get the data you need you have to observe the way you teach and the way your students react to it. You may do this by:

  • taking field notes (i.e. taking notes during your lesson)
  • keeping a teaching journal (over a period of time)
  • asking someone to observe your lessons and take notes
  • making audio or video recordings of your lesson
  • giving students questionnaires
  • interviewing your students

You can read more about these in Wallace (1999) or Hopkins (2008)

The list could go on, but this is the one Eliza and I settled on. Thankfully, it doesn’t look as boring as analysing charts, but neither is it as fascinating as finding artefacts under desert dunes. But while it may not be literal treasure that we come up with following our research, our findings are just as invaluable to us as teachers (as long as it means being able to finish a lesson without constant interruptions).

Due to a variety of constraints (mostly time, which never seems to be on the side of us teachers), Eliza couldn’t use all the ideas from the list, but she did decide on three: filming herself while teaching, giving her students questionnaires, and asking someone to observe her lesson. She chose three because she could triangulate the information she got i.e. she could cross-examine it and if all three approaches told her the same thing, then it would be definite proof that it reflected what was happening in the classroom.

Understandingly, Eliza was rather apprehensive about asking someone to drop in and see her lessons. When she voiced her concerns, I must admit it all started coming back to me as well: the nervousness I used to feel whenever someone observed my lessons during my first year of teaching, the fear that every little aspect of my teaching would be criticised, that word would get out about the things I did in my classroom that maybe the school didn’t know about, or, the worst of the worst, that my Director of Studies would say “I cannot believe we even hired you in the first place!”

Well, quite.

While I do not deny that this may be the reality in some schools, it was definitely not true in my case, nor was is it Eliza’s. For both of us, the observation was done with development, not evaluation, in mind. In short, the people that watched us teach were there just to help us improve, not to give us a score on a scale of one to ten just to label us (one meaning Professor Snape levels of nastiness, and ten being Dumbledore-like wisdom and calmness, both of which I find impossible to attain anyway).
So, swallowing down her fear, Eliza asked Audrey, a colleague she was particularly close to, to come and see her teach. She prepared for Audrey an observation handout, so she could focus on the aspects that Eliza was most interested in. One of them was used to take down notes on the learners’ disruptive behaviour, and the other on how instructions for tasks were given (because, remember, Eliza though that maybe her learners don’t understand what they have to do in class).
This is what they looked like and you can also see Audrey’s notes following her first two visits to the group:

Class Observation Handout 1 – Observing disruptive behaviour

Class Observation Handout 2 – Giving instructions

So, whenever you want someone to observe one of your lessons, be prepared with one or several observation handouts such as these. This way, you are clearly telling your colleague which specific aspects of your teaching you want them to take notes on, and as such, the information you can get is much more focused. More than that, designing such a handout also helps you clarify what exactly it is that you think might be the cause of the problems you are having in class.
If you want to try your hand at creating such tasks, I recommend reading Wajnryb’s “Classroom Observation Tasks”.

The students were also given a questionnaire. Eliza did this in order to see if the cause of their rowdiness was their lack of engagement with the topics or the tasks covered in class. You can see below what it looked like. Eliza basically asked her learners to rank some topics and types of activities so she could see what they’d rather do in class, instead of her deciding for them. She also wanted to see if they were having trouble understanding her instructions. If you want to create a questionnaire for your class, make sure the questions are relevant to the problem(s) you identified.

Questionnaire for students

  1. Rank the topics below from 1 (most liked) to 7 (least liked)
    • computer games
    • sports
    • school life
    • family
    • film
    • music
    • current affairs
  2. Rank the activities below from 1 (most liked) to 7 (least liked)
    • interviews
    • buzzer games
    • running dictation
    • listening
    • writing paragraphs
    • group discussion
    • fill in the gap (grammar)
  3. Circle one option
    • I clearly understand how a task can help me with my English
      • yes
      • not really
      • not at all
    • I clearly understand the instructions
      • yes
      • not really
      • not at all
    • I have the necessary skills to finish the task
      • yes
      • not really
      • not at all

She administered this at the end of one of her lessons. It took her students less than five minutes to fill it in. They even told her it was the first time any of their teachers had taken an interest in what they’d prefer to do in the classroom, so they seemed pretty happy to be able to give input on this.

Finally, Eliza recorder four of her lessons with this FCE group (the more you manage to record, the better chance you have of gathering more useful data). Before this, however, she talked to her Director of Studies, who gave her the green light, and then told her students about her filming the lesson. They were fine with it, since she told them she’d be the only one who would watch the clips (although some of her students later wanted to see them themselves, as they were curious to see themselves “in action”).
Eliza placed her phone on a tripod at the back of the classroom so no one’s face was really visible, but she could still film what everyone was doing. You see, you don’t need any fancy equipment to do this. When I tried it out, I also used my phone, but I just put it on a pile of books and stabilised it between two pencil cases.
In addition to this, Eliza also prepared an observation handout, similar to the one she had given Audrey, so when she went back and watched the recordings, she could gather data in an organised way, again focusing on the issues she had previously identified.
She also went through the data from Audrey’s observations of her lessons and from the students’ questionnaires.
We’ll find out together what conclusions Audrey reached, how she changed her teaching, and what happened to the FCE group in the next and last part of this article. Stay tuned!

Action Research Part I – What it is and why we need it

We all have one, and everyone’s is different.
Yours may be dark blue, yours may be the lovely pale-red of a brick. Yours may be slimmer, yours may be thick. Yours may have many, yours may have few. Yours may be older, yours may be brand new.
I am of course talking about the folder we, as teachers and professionals, keep our certificates in. The apple of our eye, it has a special place in our heart exactly because it proves to the world (and to us) that we’re qualified to do our job, and that we’ve also kept on learning new things and adding certificate after certificate to our collection.
While wanting to expand our skill set is fine, I fear that, overall, we have become obsessed with amassing paper. We constantly want to add more, and this frenzy is only further fuelled by our school, institution, or boss demanding physical evidence that we haven’t been stagnating, that we’ve been up-to-scratch with our professional development. Of course, I applaud anyone’s wish to learn something new and I encourage taking classes, or attending workshops and conferences. However, it’s what happens once they’re over that interests me.
Above, I said we add certificates to our “collection”. But doesn’t that word conjure up rather a sterile image? Think, for example, of someone’s collection of coins. Sure enough, they may be pretty to behold, but more often than not you’re not allowed to touch them, flip them, or even buy something with them, which defeats the initial purpose of a coin. In the same way, I feel that certificates sometimes tend to become a false currency, insofar as we revere the paper they’re printed on and the name of the institution that issues them (the more Anglo-Saxon sounding, the better), but lose sight of what they represent. It’s not about the paper itself, but about what you, as a teacher, can now actually do in the classroom that you couldn’t before.
Now, as well-intended as we may be when we sign up for this or that conference, as diligent as we may be in taking notes during plenaries and as careful as we may be to hold on to all the handouts (or to the pictures we take of the slides) for safe-keeping, the fact of the matter is that most of the time we end up forgetting what we’ve learnt, or never put it into practice. Which begs the questions, what’s the value of the certificate we’ve received if it does not have an observable effect on the way we teach? What joy does buried treasure bring if it’s hidden away underground?
I want to make a small clarification here. Obviously, there are some who actually manage (or have the time) to apply what they learn. They might try out a new activity they picked up at a workshop or employ a novel approach to lesson planning (and for their commitment we hold them in the highest regard). They’re not afraid of leaving their comfort zone and experimenting with new techniques (which, again, is commendable). But here be dragons as well.
We are all aware that no two people are alike (and sometimes we may say this with a sigh of relief, or at least my twin brother and I do). By extension, no two groups of learners are identical. So, then, can all the shiny new ideas we bring back from a course on teaching be greeted with the same level of enthusiasm across the board? Will all our learners react positively to the new way of practicing speaking that we’re so eager to try out?
The point is this: continuous professional development is not a one-size-fits-all process. The content of your certificate folder and mine may very well be identical (although this is unlikely) but we would still find that, in our respective classrooms, we come up against totally different problems. Not only that, but in the happy event that we do find a solution, we might be surprised to see it works with the Monday group, but the one on Tuesday is wholly unresponsive to it.
So, what is there to be done?
Well, first of all, we keep on working on our professional development as before. We just need to bear in mind the fact that any training programme we finish should not mark the end of our development. That should actually herald the beginning. There’s one more thing we should do after getting any certificate.
That’s what I told one of my friends who’s working abroad. We’ll call her Eliza (because that is obviously her real name). Whenever we had time for a quick catch-up, she’d complain about one of the FCE groups she was teaching that year. She told me there were twenty students in her class (too many for my taste, but then again that was not up to her) and they wouldn’t quiet down enough for her to teach her lesson without interruptions. Well, welcome to the club, Eliza. She even told me she’d done a course on classroom management, but that it didn’t help at all and she was reaching the end of her tether. Again, welcome to the club.
I made all kinds of suggestions, hoping one of them would work. She tried all of them, also hoping that one of them would work. To our surprise, none did.
And how could they? I was just taking wild stabs in the dark, having never seen her teach that group, and Eliza was desperate enough to go with anything I’d recommend. But we were looking at things the wrong way. It was the same “one-size-fits-all” approach that often leads nowhere.
So, one day after we spent a good half-hour letting off some steam about work, I told Eliza about something I’d been trying out in my classes – action research.
In a nutshell, action research means taking a long hard look at the way you teach, reflecting on it, fining the sources of the problems you’re having in the classroom, and then doing something about it. Up until now, Eliza and I were just doing guesswork. It was high time we identified the reasons behind her learners being so rowdy.
We came up with some ideas. Were her students acting out because:

  • they were tired?
  • they were bored? And of what, the tasks or the topic of the lesson?
  • they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing or how to go about doing it?
  • not everyone was set a clear task they had to do?

Eliza quickly eliminated two of the possibilities.
“They’re definitely not tired, out lesson is on Monday morning, so they come in refreshed after the weekend. And I’m sure it’s not about them having nothing to do. I mean, it’s an FCE group, we’re constantly doing exam practice!”
We were then left with two possibilities: they were either bored (something unheard of when it comes to teenage learners, of course) or didn’t know what or how they were supposed to be working on. Well, at least we had a starting point! But this was the easy part. In order to see which one of these problems was behind her learners’ lack of concentration, Eliza had to find the source of the issue. And that meant putting her teaching under the microscope. She wasn’t thrilled by it, and to be honest, who can say they’re completely comfortable scrutinising the way they work? In the end, aren’t we all afraid of what we might find out about our ability to teach?
Look out for the second part of this article, where we see what techniques Eliza used to assess her own teaching, what changes she implemented, and whether or not her FCE group kept being brought up when we had the chance to chat.

Error correction – when and how to do it

“To err is human… but to correct is teacherly”. This is the twist that we, as English language teachers, add to the old saying (Alexander Pope will just have to forgive us for taking artistic licence with his work).

Now we all know that our students make mistakes. No matter how clear we make our explanations, no matter how many examples we offer, and no matter how much practice we have them do, it still happens. Errors in the classroom are as natural and as unavoidable as death and taxes. But unlike these two, hearing mistakes in the classroom may actually be a good sign.

We tend to view mistakes negatively, but these may just be an indicator that learning is taking place, that our students are trying to make room for a new piece of information in their personal repository of language. This can sometimes disrupt pre-existing connections and links, meaning it may take some time until new items are fully integrated in this complex web.

Our jobs, as teachers, is to help our learners expand this web, and part of this involves dealing with the mistakes we hear or read in the classroom. But how can we ensure error correction can be efficient? How can we use it so that it helps, rather than hinders, the learning process?

Errors and Mistakes

First, let’s make a distinction between errors and slips. An error is a mistake made because of insufficient knowledge of the rules governing the target language. On the other hand, slips are… just that, minor mistakes made due to inattentiveness, tiredness etc. In this article we will mostly address correcting errors.

What to do

When we pick up on an error being made by one of our students, we need to decide how we want to act. To this end, Scrivener indicates a set of questions that can point us in the right direction:

  1. What kind of error was it?
  2. Should we deal with it?
  3. When should it be corrected?
  4. Who does the correcting?
  5. How will it be done?

Let’s take them one by one:

  1. Kind of error – these can be grammatical, lexical, related to pronunciation, word stress, sentence stress, intonation etc. The reason we are interested in the type of mistake that has been made is because this tells us whether we should intervene or not. Which leads us to…
  2. Do we correct? As we’ve just mentioned, we need to know if we step in or not. A simple way of deciding is by asking ourselves whether the mistake was related to something above our students’ level. If your young learners tried to use the third conditional and it didn’t come out quite right, but it’s not something you intend on teaching them yet (or is quite simply above their understanding for the time being), then you may choose not to do anything about it. On the other hand, did your learner forget to use the auxiliary “do” when asking a question in the present simple, despite it being a revision activity? Then maybe this it is a good idea to do some correcting. The point is, you might want to deal with an error if it’s related to the target language you’ve just taught or have taught at some point during the school year. However, there are other things to consider here as well.What is the aim of the activity? Imagine you’re trying to improve your learners’ fluency. Correcting them as they’re trying to express an idea might defeat the purpose of the activity and might do more damage than help. Your student might lose confidence in themselves and feel frustrated due to not being allowed to finish their thought.Conversely, if the activity focuses on accuracy, then you’re more likely to tackle mistakes. But does that mean we just interrupt our students in the middle of their answer? And do we never correct errors made during a fluency-based activity?
  3. This begs the question, when do we correct?
    Sometimes, the answer is never (just like in the example with the third conditional mentioned above). Other times, we have several options to keep in mind.

      1. Correcting immediately – e.g. when practicing the present perfect simple and a student uses the wrong form of an irregular verb, you can do on the spot correction.
      2. Correcting later – i.e. letting the student finish their sentence / idea first
      3. At the end of the activity – also known as delayed error correction. This can work for fluency-based activities. This way, the students are not interrupted and mistakes can still be discussed. This method is further explained below.
    1. But who should do the correcting?
      As teachers, our first instinct is to correct the mistakes ourselves. After all, that’s why we’re there, isn’t it? To impart our knowledge to our students. Well, not quite. We’ll see things are not so straightforward.

      Mistakes are not the end of the world. Everyone loves a second chance. Just get the learner who made an error correct themselves. There’s nothing better than showing your students you have confidence in their abilities and giving them time to think and self-correct. Just because they got it wrong at first does not necessarily mean they do not know the rules. Maybe they’re still trying to wrap their heads around them, or they haven’t yet integrated them into their web.

      If this works, then hurrah! But what about when it doesn’t? Now, just because one of the learners made a mistake, it doesn’t mean the others would, too. So why not let them lend a helping hand to their colleague? This is beneficial from two points of view. Firstly, by getting the other students to correct, you’re helping them practice their English and confirm their knowledge of the rules. Secondly, it minimises your input and lets the learners take centre-stage. Not everything has to come from you. You’re just the director, guiding things from behind the scene. Let your actors try their hand at perfecting their craft. And, most importantly, don’t let them tell you how to correct the mistake. Get them to tell the learner who originally got it wrong, so they can say it again correctly. A little note here: make sure your students can correct each other in a sensitive way. If you think they might be a bit too blunt about it (e.g. “I can’t believe you got that wrong!”), then you may want to do the correcting yourself.

    2. How can we correct?
      This is again a perfect moment to remember that less is more i.e. the less you help, the better. Ideally, you would avoid just correcting someone as soon as a mistake has been made.

      The first step would be to simply indicate a mistake has been made. There is a number of ways to do this. You might just raise an eyebrow. You might give the class a confused look. You might repeat the sentence with a rising intonation, like a question. You might repeat the sentence and stress the incorrect word / part. You can just repeat the sentence, stopping right before the mistake. You could just repeat the incorrect word with a rising intonation, as if asking “Are you sure this is the word you want?”.

      If self-correction still hasn’t taken place, then you can try to be a bit more explicit. Indicate the type of mistake made e.g. “Word order?”, “Tense?” “There’s an extra / missing word”. You can even narrow this down e.g. “Do we need the present simple or present continuous?”, or go further “Is it ‘we are going’ or ‘we go’?”, but only if you see your students are lost.

      I may sometimes board the sentence and underline the error there, as I feel making it visual helps keep everyone on the same page. You can even use gestures. To indicate the need for the past, I point over my shoulder. If two words need to switch places within a sentence, I hold out two fingers as if I were ready to plug them in a wall socket and turn them clockwise repeatedly.

      You can also use the finger method: get your learner to repeat the sentence, and as they say a word, you show them your palm and indicate one of your fingers for each word they say. After they finish, indicate the finger where the mistake is, wiggle it, bite down on it (I’ve seen Scrivener do it, so why not?), bend it, do anything to indicate that’s where the problem is.

      These methods can work when doing on-the-spot correction, or after the student has finished speaking. When it comes to activities meant to improve fluency, i.e. when we shouldn’t interfere during the task itself, then we can go for delayed error correction. It’s quite simple. As the students are working, you monitor them and collect instances of language (either good or… not so good). Try to aim for recurring mistakes, or errors related to the target language. Board these (but while the students are still doing the task), then let them read the sentences and figure out if they are correct or not. Let them confirm their answers with a partner, then with the whole class. This way, you do not interrupt the students while they are working but do get to correct some recurring errors. Also, no one is put on the spot, as the class has no idea who said the things that are now on the board.

    3. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of all the ways of doing error correction. But it’s a good place to start, and it’s well worth trying out some of these techniques.


      1. Harmer, J. (2007) – The Practice of English Language Teaching, 4th edn. Pearson Longman
      2. Scrivener, J. (2011) – Learning Teaching, 3rd edn, MacMillan

CELTA and me: a journey – Alexandru Anusca

I knew I wanted to teach, the same way birds know they have to fly south for the winter and apples fall downwards from their branches and not upwards. It was an instinctual urge, it was a gravitational pull. It was, in short, a natural law, the way things ought to be for me.

But it’s easy to figure out what you want to do. You just feel it. So I wanted to be a teacher, but the tricky part was figuring out how to go about doing it. Where do you start and who do you need to get in touch with? I had had some limited experience with teaching, but that of course was not enough to help me get my foot in the door in any respectable school. What I needed was something that could help me get a more comprehensive understanding of what teaching meant and also provide me with some solid proof that I was ready to work as a professional.

Of course the answer turned out to be the CELTA course. It checked all the items on my list. Did it offer me theoretical background on teaching methodology? Yes. Did it have a practical component, i.e. would I actually have to teach students on the course? Yes. Would I get an internationally recognized certificate issued by the University of Cambridge? Yes. After so many “yes”-es, of course I myself also said “yes”, yes to taking the course and starting my official journey in the realm of English Language Teaching (or ELT).

I suppose once the wheels are in motion, things seem to just work out and information starts pouring in. I looked up CELTA centres on the internet. After being just slightly taken aback by the fact that there is a centre in almost every country on the planet (and after disappointingly waving away the thought of doing the CELTA somewhere in a tropical country – which was way too far and way over my budget), I was glad to see that there were some closer to home.
After some research, Shakespeare School stood out among these. Not only was it also in Romania, which meant travelling and spending would be kept to a minimum, but I had also heard of them before. I browsed their website and read testimonials from previous candidates. The centre received raving reviews. But then again, most do. So I dug a little deeper and ended up on the centre’s school website (because apart from CELTA, they offer English classes for young learners and teens), and read about their projects, their commitment to teaching, and the lovely words their students had about their time at the school. Now here was the proof I needed. They didn’t just train teachers, they kept the same high standards in their classrooms. That level of respect towards this profession made my final decision easy. I got into contact with them and enrolled on the course.

I opted for the full-time one, which takes a month. I had not been aware, before this experience, of how fully you can exploit the twenty-four hours in a day. On the CELTA, you quickly learn how to meaningfully use every minute of your time.

The amount of information I learnt, the time and the effort I put into preparing and teaching my lessons made this experience an intense one. But my amount of work was mirrored by that of our trainers. When you find yourself having to keep on top of so many things at once, trying to practice new teaching techniques, devising lesson plans, designing engaging materials, you cannot but be thankful for all the guidance and help you receive. And that’s where Georgiana and Nicoleta, our two trainers, shined. It soon became obvious to all twelve of us doing the course that they knew what they were talking about. Not only did they have a comprehensive knowledge of anything related to ELT, but they showed us they were able to put all of it into practice when they taught two demo lessons each so we could observe.

But the difference between a good trainer and an excellent one does not lie in how much they can tell you, but in how well they know when to hold back from giving you all the answers. Little by little, Georgiana and Nicoleta started taking a few steps back so we could take some forward and become more independent as teachers. This way, by the end of the course, we had benefitted from their wealth of knowledge, but also had the opportunity to work things out on our own and make decisions by reflecting on our teaching practice, without having to over-rely on our trainers.

When the course finished, I felt like I had been on a roller-coaster ride. There were highs and lows, but all along the way it was, without a doubt, one of the most thrilling things I’d done. I changed in the course of that month. I felt my teaching instincts were more refined, and was more confident in planning lessons, because I knew the “how to” but also the “why” i.e. I could judiciously choose one activity over a different one, one approach instead of another.
After the course I started working for Shakespeare School. I had made my dream of becoming a qualified teacher come true and found a place where I knew I could grow even more. I later went on to get a full DELTA, and am now a CELTA trainer myself.

It’s been a long journey. It’s actually not over yet, as you soon discover when you start working in the ELT field. There’s always something new and exciting waiting for you around the corner. In any case, it all started with a simple thing: a genuine wish to teach, and a course that helped that dream take off.

CELTA by Adriana Ciobotu

For me CELTA was indeed a great opportunity because it funnelled my creativity, it helped me grow tremendously, both personally and professionally and it made me more aware of my teaching which has become much more meaningful and successful as a result of the CELTA experience. In my view this is CELTA explained:

Challenges Overcome
Enthusiasm Shared
Life-long learning chance
Teaching Tips & Tricks
Achieving Goals

Challenges overcome with the aid of hard work, determination and the unconditional guidance and support of the two wonderful tutors, Georgiana Bose and Nicoleta Dinescu to whom I will forever be grateful;

Enthusiasm shared with my fellow teachers who offered me emotional support and were extremely open to sharing their teaching experiences with me. They also suggested the best ways to improve my teaching during the feedback sessions.

A Life-long learning opportunity because of the new approaches to teaching we were exposed to while re-visiting the old ones with more knowledgeable eyes and acquiring new skills that would improve my practical teaching skills.

Teaching Tips and Tricks because CELTA is practice at its best; the teaching moments were indeed my favourites because not only do you teach in front of the students but also in front of your peers and assessors which makes the experience even more enriching due to the constructive feedback sessions organised after your teaching lesson. The experience is priceless; to be able to have your teaching shaped and enriched by true professionals makes all the effort worthwhile.

Achieving Goals – I think that the way this programme is particularly organised contributes to its overall success; the teaching sessions occur in the morning (two weeks teaching intermediate students and two weeks teaching upper-intermediate students) and are closely followed by the feedback sessions; after lunch, the afternoons are dedicated to the “theoretical” lessons delivered by the mentors which leaves the evenings and weekends for written assignments. Through their own teaching, the mentors reveal not only essential information in a very flexible, pragmatic and entertaining way but they also provide extremely useful and rich teaching tips which you can emulate and bring in class for your next lesson. I think this is the best part of the programme; the fact that each and every moment represents a learning opportunity and it is up to you to recognize it and make the best of it! It was because of this that I achieved my goals of becoming a better-informed, more knowledgeable, more mature and more playful teacher. My students thank CELTA every day!

The CELTA Experience: Why, Who, What, Where

Why take the CELTA course?

Think back to your first day as a new, doe-eyed teacher, to that first morning or afternoon, when you timidly made your way to the classroom, nervous yet eager to impart knowledge and wisdom. Now envision this: before you’ve had the chance to take that final deep breath and walk in, the classroom door flings open, and a student runs by without so much as acknowledging you. Another soon follows, also intent on ignoring you. Wait, it gets worse. Once inside, you don’t know where your materials are or what to do with them, you lose your train of thought every five minutes, distracted by your students who are glued to their phones and eventually start counting the minutes until the end of class. You take comfort in the fact that it was only your first day and tell yourself that things can only get better. Only that they don’t, and, before you know it, some ten years have passed and you feel trapped in an endless cycle of mediocre lessons.


Who and what is the CELTA course for?

So one day, you take to the Internet in search of a quick fix. And, I can tell you right now, considering my own experience, there isn’t one. There is, however, a face to face course, the Cambridge CELTA, which can reignite your passion for education or, alternatively, provide you with a first year teaching survival kit, depending on your needs and experience. During the CELTA course you can expect to learn the basics of different teaching approaches, classroom management, effective lesson planning and materials development, as well as to become aware of your strengths and celebrate them while, at the same time, addressing weaknesses in your practice, supported by your peers and tutors. Following your CELTA experience, ie, the mental and emotional rollercoaster ride you will be on for the next four to twenty weeks, depending on whether you enroll in the part-time or full-time module, you will be able to walk confidently into any classroom, either in your country of origin or abroad, and teach effective and engaging lessons.

I have taken the CELTA early on in my career and can honestly say, it has made all the difference. This course has provided me with the core principles needed to successfully teach a wide range of levels and ages, from children to adults and from CEF A1 to C1, as well as with wonderful opportunities to continue my education in the UK and teach abroad.


Where should I take the CELTA course?

The Cambridge CELTA is therefore, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a must for anyone interested in pursuing a rewarding, long-term teaching career. So, at this point, the only question remaining should be which CELTA course provider to contact. There are numerous options across the globe, some from schools with long-standing tradition and others from up-and-coming centres, all equally qualitative, as only establishments accredited by Cambridge English are permitted to deliver the CELTA course. Bearing this in mind, you’re in good hands, no matter where you decide to go. Of course location, price and personal preferences will tip the scale one way or another in the end, but, what matters most, I feel, are the course tutors and educational facilities, as they can make or break your lessons during the course and strongly impact your overall result, making the difference between a PASS, PASS with MERIT, PASS with DISTINCTION and even FAIL grade.

In terms of the above aspects, I can vouch for Shakespeare School, the place where I have started teaching, and where, six years later, I continue learning and growing, alongside a group of dedicated professionals. Should you decide to join us for the CELTA course, you will have the chance to learn from highly skilled mentors who, having extensive expertise in teaching and teacher training, will offer you the principled guidance and emotional support necessary on this strenuous, yet enriching experience. A wealth of resources, such as access to numerous reading materials, high-speed internet, an interactive white board and a projector, is also offered by the school and complements the tutors’ forthcoming and empathic manner.
See you there!

Diana Graur
Teacher of English
Shakespeare School

My CELTA Journey – Ana Maria Voichita

One important lesson that I learnt at the dawn of my career and that I would like to share with any aspiring educators out there is that knowing how to teach is a completely different kettle of fish from knowing what to teach. There are many people out there who feel like English is right up their alley, yet who break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of being in front of a classroom. At the same time, there is a considerable number of individuals who already activate in the teaching department, but who have difficulty in maintaining good control over their classroom or who feel like what they have to say stirs little interest among young learners. 

This is because passing forward what you have learnt requires a completely different set of skills compared to the abilities that have helped you gain the knowledge in the first place. Think of it as a separate branch of science or as two distinct school subjects. Now, the good news is that learning how to teach takes less time than the intricacies you have been sweating over for the past decade. Of course, it is something that you will need to master and perfect over the course of your whole career, but the foundations can be gained in about one month – also known as the duration of a CELTA course.

Although one month may sound like a manageable amount of time, one thing you should know before signing up for this course is that during this interval your top priority will be learning how to teach – and learning how to teach only. The harsh truth is that you’ll have to temporarily part with your social life and focus only on becoming better at what is expected of you. The good part, however, is that at the end of these four weeks you will feel so satisfied and proud of yourself, so endowed with knowledge and packed experience that you will perceive CELTA as the only thing you could have helped you get where you are now.

My experience with this course is overwhelmingly positive – and has been so from the very beginning. When I decided to sign up for the course, I remember having been asked to tackle some English language challenges and talk about why I wanted to become a teacher. If you pass this stage, you will be asked to attend a short interview with an experienced CELTA tutor. In my case, I took the interview with Georgiana, a very light-hearted and easy-going person with a very logical and methodical way of thinking. I felt very secure and comfortable in her presence as nowadays this kind of professionalism and confidence in one’s abilities is a very rare sight. As people like her are the masterminds of the course, the entire experience is equally imbued with the same blend of discipline and expertise reflected by her personality.

If you are one of the lucky twelve to be accepted on the course, what ensues will be four weeks of difficult – yet very rewarding work. You will be divided into two groups – each group teaching a handful of intermediate-level adult students. They are usually cooperative and well-intentioned individuals and are the last thing you should worry about. Each group will benefit from the guidance of a tutor for two weeks – and then you’ll switch both students and tutors. Day one and day fifteen are perhaps the most valuable of all because during the first part of the day you will get the chance to watch your tutor deliver a typical English lesson. My first reaction seeing my tutors in front of the classroom was something akin to having my mind blown and thinking that never in my life would I be able to deliver a lesson with so much logic and self-discipline. The key here is to take as many notes as possible because they will help you mirror the same skills when it is your turn to teach. During the second part of the day, the two groups attend input sessions – where the ins and outs of teaching are broken down into pieces and every component of a lesson is carefully dissected and examined.

Starting day two, you and your group members will take turns delivering a 45-minute lesson on various topics and based on different types of methodology. At some point, you might even have to prepare a joint-lesson with one of your colleagues, which is why it is very important to maintain a good relationship with your group and support one another. They are the closest friends you will have on the duration of the course. During one week, you will typically deliver two lessons but bear in mind that for each lesson you will have to write an LP (Lesson Plan), an LA (Language Analysis), devise, create and prepare your own materials, time yourself, rehearse at home and then possibly scratch everything and start again. It is a very time-consuming process and if you want to do it right, you’ll have to be extremely organized and be prepared to sleep as little as a few hours per night. 

When it is your turn to teach, your tutors will minutely interpret your lesson and write down everything – I mean everything – that you have done right or wrong. They will break down your lesson and – depending on the quality of your performance – will provide feedback on what there is to improve and congratulate you where you showed good understanding of their advice. After that, you will receive your new task and the cycle repeats itself. As the course progresses, your tutors’ expectations and the standards by which you are evaluated will also increase, so your work will also need to be tenfold.

I personally loved the “criticism” behind my lessons because it was the only thing that helped me become a better version of who I was during my previous lesson. Your tutors will make sure to deliver this feedback in an objective and supportive way, but it is also your duty not to take it personally and maintain an open-mind. Everything that takes place during the CELTA course – the teaching sessions in the morning, the feedback that you get afterwards and the input sessions in the evenings is done to your benefit. It is a joint effort directed at you. Everybody will try their best to help you improve your technique and you will feel extremely supported and encouraged. If you put in as much work as the people who created this course, I promise you will have a valuable experience.

The CELTA experience is something you can benefit from regardless of your age or where you find yourself in life and I highly recommend it to anybody willing to learn about teaching or improve their technique. I personally felt rewarded and much more confident in my own abilities after taking this course. Moreover, I was prepared to enter a classroom and look my students in the eye without feeling nervous or insecure. For this reason, I am forever grateful to everybody who contributed to this state of mind and I cannot recommend this course enough.

Gina Podaru – My Celta Journey

Hello, there! You may be wondering how taking a course can become a journey, right? Well, in the following lines I will describe my experience with the part-time CELTA course, so please bear with me☺.

It’s somewhere in November. I am scheduled to have the interview with Georgiana, one of the CELTA trainers, after I had previously submitted my application form. Nervousness level: really high. The Skype window pops up and it starts ringing. I’m trying not to lose my composure, I cast a glance at what was surrounding my computer (application form, notes, sticky notes, blank papers), a deep breath and I answer. Georgiana greeted me warmly, with a big smile on her face, telling me from the start there is nothing to worry about. Guess what? I was sure there was something to worry about. But, silly me, I was wrong. She explained every single step of the course and had an answer to questions I had not even thought of yet. By the end of the interview, I felt more relieved seeing how this person on the screen already inspires me to succeed before the course had even started. The interview came to an end after one hour or so, with me being enthusiastic about starting the course.

It’s January now. The 12th. The first day of the course. Heavy snow outside, complete dark at 5 in the morning, heart beating out of my chest. Great. Here’s a picture of my face before the course, a few steps away from the school.

Told you it was snowing. So, I take a few more steps, I enter the building, and there I find Georgiana and Nicoleta, the tutors. I had a very warm welcome, unlike the weather outside (sorry, it was really cold). I got my name tag and I was asked to go to a room, where I met my colleagues (such nice people <3). A few moments later, the tutors joined us to give us the official welcome to the part-time CELTA course. They were very detail-oriented, and explained everything in such a way that it didn’t seem scary anymore. We got our portfolios, where we would put all the materials to be used in the lessons, and then we got split into two groups: Upper and Pre-Intermediate. I started with the Upper-Intermediate level first. We were invited to the classroom, we met the students, and the tutors delivered their demo lessons. Before the lesson started, we were given the tutor’s LP and LA for the lesson (LP – lesson plan; LA – language analysis) and encouraged to take notes. Nicoleta started teaching and we were all amazed by her performance. Every single step was according to the plan, the instructions were so short, yet concise and effective, the time management was great, the students were giving all the answers, the TTT was really low, and the mood was great. OMG! So many great things she could do at the same time! After the jaw-dropping lesson, we had a feedback session and we discussed things that had happened during the class. In general, this feedback thingy is tricky because people take it personal. At the CELTA course, besides learning teaching related things, we also learnt how to give and how to take feedback. What I loved was that we didn’t feel criticized at all. Everything the tutors told us was meant to help us to improve our future lessons, and it was directed at the way the lesson was delivered. So, if there’s one thing to keep in mind about the feedback: it’s not you, it’s the lesson that is being discussed 😀.  We were also given the TP points for our first lesson and the tutors patiently explained what we had to do. We got plenty of help with everything we needed, we just had to ask.


The first lesson came. I had prepared every single day for it and I still had some doubts about it. Then, it happened. And I loved it. I guess that one of the most important elements in a lesson is the teacher’s mood because it sets the mood for the whole group of students. So, try to be enthusiastic about your lessons and things will turn out just fine. I know it did for me. After the lesson, we had the feedback session and I was repeating “It’s not about me, it’s about the lesson” over and over again in my head. But it’s really hard to detach yourself from your lesson, because, after all, it’s your creation, isn’t it? Well, it’s something you need to get used to because you’re doing yourself a favour by being open to others’ suggestions.

Lesson by lesson, I listened and I tried to apply the things I was told the things I liked in other people’s lessons. And, so, I started growing, and things became more natural. I acknowledged the importance of the paperwork behind the lessons and how much it helps. One particular aspect that changed my teaching experience was the anticipation of the difficulties the students might encounter. As a teacher, you are no longer taken by surprise because you have already anticipated things that may not go smoothly and you adapt your LP better.

In march, we changed the group of students and I met the Pre-Intermediates and Georgiana as a tutor. Again, we started with an amazing demo from the tutor, and, thus, we were able to understand this new level easier. Although they are still adults, there are many aspects that change, so you have to adapt.

Weeks flew by, and I woke up on 8th June, before my last lesson. And I was also the last in my group to teach. I just cannot find the right words to describe all the feelings that were inside me. I generally find it difficult to write or to talk about things I am really attached to, maybe that’s why this article took me a while to write. When the whole ride is amazing, I can’t just fit it into some words. And this is what CELTA meant to me: an amazing ride, the coolest rollercoaster I’ve been on in TeacherLand. So, whether you are a junior teacher, or you are carrying 20 years of experience behind you, give the course a chance. It is going to change your life!

Also, this is my face at the end of the course: