Monthly Archives: August 2012

CELTA reflections

After having a fairly heavy teaching load for the last few months, things have calmed down this week, so I’ve taken the opportunity to read through my CELTA notes (which I hadn’t really looked through since my course finished ten months ago). During the course I was experimenting with the Evernote application, so I managed to capture screenshots of everything that was written on the board as well as some audio recordings of some of the demo classes. I’ve also been paying close attention to two blogs following a CELTA course currently running at International House in London, one by a teacher trainer Chia Suan Chong (which you can find here) and the other by one of her trainees, Guven Gagdas Gundogdu (whose blog can be found here).

Chia and Guven both discuss the foreign language lesson that is part of the CELTA course. Chia teaches this on the first day of the course, whereas my trainer Mo Killip reserved this for the second week. Mo gave us a class in Russian, where we learnt how to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. I remember that the thirty minutes seemed like an eternity and that I felt exhausted by the end of the class. This made me reflect as to the effort it takes for my elementary students to spend one hour and a half with me. I also noticed that I had forgotten everything I had learnt in the lesson within a couple of hours of leaving the classroom. This made me brutally aware of the importance of repetition and drilling; if we don’t repeat it, we lose it.


Another thing I’ve been paying attention is my use of concept checking and instruction checking questions. This seemed to me to be a very important part of the CELTA course and something that my colleagues and I were repeatedly reminded of. I have found a copy of Graham Workman’s ‘Concept Checking Questions and Timelines’, so I will definitely be flicking through it and noting down and writing some good CCQs for the key vocabulary in my business English classes.

So thank you Chia and Guven for your excellent blog posts! I look forward to continuing to follow your updates during the remainder of the course and refreshing some of the concepts and techniques that I learnt not too long ago.




Women learning to read in Northern Uganda

Following on from my earlier reflections on the importance of adult literacy,  I would like to draw your attention to a project taking place in Northern Uganda teaching women to read. While in France and New Zealand we have adult literacy rates of 99%, Uganda has only 73% with women being highly over-represented in this statistic. Owing to conflict, these women were not given the opportunity to learn to read as children. You can find out more here.

Writing in Mandarin


Mandarin is a language that I have been interested in for some time. I had the opportunity to learn it for a few months at high school, having lessons after school with a friend’s dad, but unfortunately I didn’t continue. So now I’ve decided to take it up again, drawn not only by the melody of the spoken language and the art in its writing, but also the increasing significance of Mandarin (in a similar way to English) in the international world of business.

Although I haven’t yet found myself a teacher, I’ve started with some books (accompanied by audio) to get me started with the writing. They are very useful, with a description of the parts that make up each character and the stroke-order for each. I find it very relaxing to take the time to practise the characters and very satisfying when I feel that I’ve almost mastered one. But there is always a difference between the character in the book and the one I have on paper; It has the same feel as a child writing their name for the first time. They can follow the lines approximately, but tend to give a laboured look.

In my Mandarin-writing mediation, I started to think about the time and practice that it takes to learn to write even in your first language and then about the difficulties that immigrants must face when they first arrive in a country and can’t read and write the local language. Finding toilets in public, reading a map and filling in forms would all be complicated tasks. In my teaching career so far I haven’t had the opportunity to work with any students who were not familiar with the Latin script; my students have principally been French, and the Chinese students that I taught during my teacher training were already very familiar with the alphabet.

Being a new arrival in France though, I have encountered some illiteracy during my integration process. Before the immigration medical exams held at the prefecture, we all had to fill in a form with our name and contact details. I was sitting at a table with a group of Somali women who couldn’t yet write their names. Luckily in France new immigrants have compulsory French classes as part of the new integration policy and I imagine that there is some support given to those who cannot read and write in French.

So I will continue with my Mandarin, although I don’t have the advantage of already knowing the alphabet as I did when I started learning French and Spanish. Hopefully this way I will understand a few signs when I visit China one day.