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By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

red penOne of the reasons my friends weren’t surprised that I got into EFL is the fact that I would very often correct their spelling or grammar. I would also try and outdo them by using the largest number of long words in a conversation. In 6th form, my favourite one was ‘superfluous’. I thought it ironic… Don’t judge my juvenile sense of humour, we live and learn. I have no problem at all (none at all, trust me) in correcting my friends and family when it comes to incorrect use of the English language, no matter how annoying they find it. However, when it comes to students, I’m still unsure how often is enough, too much or too little.

When doing the CELTA, we learnt that there are tasks designed for fluency and others for accuracy, and it is for the latter that we should correct the most because correcting all the time can diminish confidence. This seems like a pretty watertight system. There are times, though, when I’ve felt that I could have corrected a student and didn’t because I knew what they meant and their English wasn’t wildly inaccurate. But does merely understanding suffice when most students want to be as accurate as possible?  Is that lazy teaching?

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The Best Resource

By Donna Hutchinson,
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

One of the things I really like about being an EFL teacher is the fact that for the most part, there is not much routine or monotony. Each class is different meaning that adhering to a ‘curriculum’ isn’t always possible. If a class is struggling with a certain grammar topic, more focus must be given to that, or to speaking, or listening, etc. There is a large element of independence available. However, being a newly-qualified teacher, I’ve not yet managed to compile ring-binders full of ready-made lessons. Although, I must mention that I did inherit one from my older brother (thank you, Dan!). This means that I spend a great deal of my time planning. I want to make my lessons the best they can be for my students. Of course, the classes that I have taught all have a set textbook and they do much of the work for you, but I’ve found that they generally provide a basis that I can then supplement. This is especially true at the moment as I am teaching an advanced class. They zoom through their textbook!

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By Donna Hutchinson,
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

class sohoI spent 7 years at school learning French. By the time I’d finished my A-Levels, my French was pretty decent, I’d stretch to say advanced even. However, I left school 6 years ago and in those 6 years I have barely used my French. Recently though, I took a trip to the South of France, Aix-en-Provence, to be more precise and I was pretty confident that my advanced level French would come back to me within a couple of days. I was wrong.

Although I could understand much of what was going on, for the life of me I could not form a response. Sometimes, I understood not only the gist of a conversation, but exactly what was happening, and still my response would be in English. It was incredibly frustrating. To try and help myself, I even bought a book for the plane home written in French (Les Aventures de Tintin) and am happily reading it, but I still don’t feel as though it has got me any closer to being able to speak.

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By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

teacherThe CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), a quick re-cap: a full-time course over 4 weeks wherein, as part of a teaching group of 4-5 people, you learn to teach English as a foreign language. You start teaching on your second day and you also have to hand in assignments. Both lessons and assignments are graded determining whether you pass or fail. That is the gist of it.

The CELTA is an intense course and not for everybody, so at a cost of around £1200 (approx figure, 2011), it is not a choice to be taken lightly. However, if it is for you, it is very rewarding and although at times challenging, also very enjoyable.

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By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

As promised, I’m giving you my book tips for surviving your CELTA course. Last week I mentioned that as well as all that lovely teaching, there are also assignments that need to be done. Throughout those four weeks, the help I received from my tutors and my peers was invaluable, but so were the following books:

Good All-rounder
This is your TEFL bible. An all-rounder. It will help you in all aspects:

  • Teach EFL by David Riddell (Hodder)

Grammar
There are plenty of grammar books out there. You will need to use them for your assignments, but they are also infinitely helpful when preparing for lessons.  These two are my favourites:

  • English Grammar In Use by Raymond Murphy (Cambridge)
  • How English Works by Michael Swan and Catherine Walter (Oxford)

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CELTA: The Basics

By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

studyingFour weeks isn’t very long. Whichever way you look at it, it is a short space of time. This is what was most blindsiding to me when I began my CELTA. I had friends who spent years at university becoming teachers and they were doing very well for themselves because of it, and I was supposed to be a teacher after four short weeks? I was disinclined to believe such a notion, but it seemed to indeed be a tried and tested formula so I dove right in.

The first day was much like any other that I’d experienced in various learning institutions: an amalgamation of meet and greets combined with a whirlwind of paper denoting timetables and deadlines. But. for the rest of the course the basic structure was this: input in the morning, teaching practice in the afternoon.

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