Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Danny was a tutor on my Distance Delta course, and his presentation at IATEFL Glasgow was one of the most useful I went to all week. I’m hoping to be trained as a CELTA tutor in the near future, so this was an ideal talk to go to.

There are three main strands to Danny’s talk:

  1. Encouraging trainees on pre-service courses to work with emerging language during observed lessons.
  2. Exploring how trainees feel before going into a lesson like this…
  3. …and after (both after the lesson, and after the course).

Some issues (from trainees)

  • They don’t believe they can do it.
  • They worry about being put on the spot.
  • They worry about losing control.
  • They like the security of pre-planned input (however much they might moan about planning!)
  • They don’t notice emerging language or “can’t hear it”.
  • They can’t decide what’s important.
  • They worry about putting students on the spot.

Danny believes from this that trainees think emerging language means ‘error’. He says that it’s also about questions students might have, like “What’s the word for ____?”

How do we encourage trainees to work with emerging language

On day 2 of Danny’s courses, they look at the meaning of language from a text he uses. They look at the questions students have in relation to that text. It helps the trainees to notice that they know more than the people they’re teaching – it’s not just about meta-language,

On day 4, they explore the kind of questions learners might have when setting up activities and giving feedback.

On day 6, they look at a coursebook double-page and how five different teachers interpret them. One of those interpretations is task-based learning, another is using emergent language,

On day 9, they have a session on TBL and working with emerging language. They think about what is likely to emerge from the interaction.

Day 9 then has the correction and reformulation slot, after emerging language has been dealt with.

Other parts of course design include:

  • observation tasks which include a focus on emerging language. It’s better as an observation task than as input.
  • no language analysis form in the lesson plan.
  • retrospective language analysis forms, after the lesson.

The data is mostly drawn from students who have done this once from eight teaching practice sessions.

Danny also doesn’t mind if trainees ask for help during their teaching practice, if they get stuck.

Lesson planning

When trainees come to him with these questions:

  • When should I deal with language?
  • What language should I focus on?
  • What problems will the students have?

… he used to help a lot with this, but now he asks ‘Why don’t you see what happens?’

This helps to build up the trainees’ confidence with dealing with language.

Feelings beforehand

“I felt quite nervous about it, not having specifically practised how to do it.” (Elizabeth)
“I’m not sure I’ve planned enough.” (Stefano)
“I was worried about only going into the lesson with a piece of an A4 and an anecdote and every other lesson took a lot longer to prepare, so I was more nervous.” (Neil)

Praise what your trainees are putting in front of you.

How did new language emerge?

From six or seven candidates’ lessons, they came up in questions about texts, Q&As…

How was the experience different?

  • It felt like it went better than when I planned it.
  • I felt like I was really present in the lesson.
  • I felt like I was teaching the students, not the plan.
  • I didn’t concentrate on one particular point, so I felt less constricted.
  • I felt for the first time like I’d actually been teaching, rather than presenting. [this can often be a problem on Celta courses]
  • I felt like a real teacher. (she felt like stuff would happen in the class – students would ask questions, she would answer them)

New techniques and skills

  • “I learnt to listen and help them say what they want to say, rather than make them use a grammar point.” (Ros)
  • “I realised I could take my time, which allowed me to use some techniques I’d learnt on the course.” (Joanna)
  • “I realised I can answer questions about meaning if I know what they want.” (anon)
  • “I realised it was just like monitoring, but to everyone.” (anon)

Planning for future lessons

  • “It was nice not to have to guess what all the problems were going to be.” (Ros)
  • I didn’t have to plan for 24 hours.
  • I don’t need to overplan – if I leave spaces, things will emerge.

Some significant impacts

  • It didn’t really impact the course, but now I do it all the time. (Elizabeth)
  • It gave me more confidence in addressing students and braking down barriers. (Neil)
  • It taight me I quite enjoyed teaching, which came as quite a shock. (Neil)

Suggestions

  • You have to encourage trainees. They don’t trust themselves.
  • They need to be reminded that they do have time.
  • They will notice what emerges if they have to. They won’t if they’re teaching their plan.
  • Feed it in early, demystify it.
  • Make sure they know it’s not all about errors and jargon.
  • Encourage them to look at teachers working with emerging language in observations.

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Comments on: "Leaping before you look – Danny Norrington-Davies (IATEFL Harrogate 2014)" (3)

  1. Wow! This sounds great. I remember the last 3 minutes of my first teaching session during my CELTA course like it was yesterday.
    Time was up but students where meaningfully engaged in asking me some language questions that had emerged from the previous speaking task. I didn’t want to cut them off and was actually feeling like I was giving the right answers. My heart dropped when my tutor left the room because time was up. She never go to see what happened… a good rounding up of a lesson by both, the students and myself, having a short chat on some language chunks.
    I like many of Danny’s ideas and I absolutely agree on that specific part of encouraging trainees and show them that they know much more than they believe.

    Would have loved to be there in person.

    Thank you Sandy for posting this summary.

    Like

  2. Hi Laila,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Your comment is really common by the way. A lot of candidates on CELTA courses have said to me that they wish I’d seen the unassessed slots as they felt that they had dealt with language in a far more natural way. This I think is because their plans are more fluid, so there is more time for genuine interaction and Q&A (or chats about language, which is a lovely way of viewing emerging language). The main thing is you remember what happended between you and the students. That’s why I also now make sure on the course that trainees who do deal with emerging language discuss the experience and how it helped, as it did you in your teaching. The experienec seems to be a very positive thing.

    What I should now do more is get more details when trainees tell me what they did in unassessed slots or make it part of input. Hmm – an idea is forming.

    Thanks for the post Sandy. I hope your talk went well. Sorry I couldn’t come but I was back at work on Friday. One day…

    Danny

    Like

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