So you've decided to take the plunge and do the CELTA? Congratulations! You've started on a path that will quite literally take you anywhere that you want to go. It's open doors and job offers from here on out.
Now that you've decided, you may be looking around for stories from graduates, hunting for clues about what you have let yourself in for.
If this is the case, then look no further. Here are our ultimate tips for passing the CELTA, and getting those top grades.
1. Hit the Books
It may be that you're doing your CELTA course straight after university or college, in which case you'll be familiar with reading up on assignments and studying for course material. On the other hand, perhaps you're coming into this without having touched a textbook in years, and the thought of picking one up now fills you with memories of school and the dread of studying for final exams.
Either way, being prepared for your course means diving into some reading material before you start. But don't worry, this doesn't have to be a chore. Most of what you'll be looking into is practical, and will help you bucket loads right from the first day!
Although the course is full on, remember that it's only four weeks of you are taking it full time. Having a good idea of the various methodologies and materials beforehand will be vital for your success, and your grades. It also means that you won't have to dedicate so much time to studying while you could be doing written assignments or lesson plans.
Here are some recommendations for pre-course reading:
Learning Teaching, byJim Scrivener
How to Teach English, by Jeremy Harmer
The CELTA course is constantly updated, adapting to the changing market, but a lot of its teaching methods and its general ethos are built around the works of these two authors. Their work will feature heavily in both your course classes and your written assignments. The books are designed to be accessible to people with little to no teaching experience at all, introducing the field of EFL with constant examples, teaching ideas, and even the psychology of the classroom.
Cobuild English Grammar – Collins
Essential Grammar In Use, by Raymond Murphy
To pass the CELTA, and certainly to get the top grades, you'll need top notch language awareness. If you're doing the course and you're not a native English speaker, you might find that your own English learning journey will help you out. If, on the other hand, you are a native speaker, you'll need to find some help with your knowledge of how English works. No need to be an expert, or read them cover to cover. But for anything you pick up from the books, think also about how you
might teach it, what examples and explanations you might give learners.
Ship or Sheep, by Ann Baker
Sound Foundations, by Adrian Underhill
A big part of your course will focus on your ability to break down the sounds of English, and help students with their pronunciation. This is actually really good fun! To be ready for it, have a look at either or both of these publications to help you. Have a stab at learning the phonetic alphabet, which will make a huge difference to your language analysis and lesson plans.
2. Do the pre-course task
Once you have been accepted onto the course, the centre will send you a pre-course task, which is a series of exercises and tasks designed to introduce the course material. Although it's not graded, completing at least some of it will have you better prepared for all aspects of the course, and might mean that you don't have to spend so much time learning new vocabulary and teaching methods during the four weeks. You’ll already be familiar with a large chunk of it!
I'm sure that you've heard horror stories about how full on the CELTA is, and the stories are true - it's not something to take on lightly. However, what the articles sometimes fail to mention is that with proper planning and organisation, it really is possible to complete everything to a high standard without having to survive on 3 hours of sleep.
Invest in a good day planner and map out all of your responsibilities as they come up. Teaching practice days, written assignment deadlines, everything. Estimate how long it will take you to produce something that you can be proud of, and make sure to leave time for eating and sleeping.
Organisation and planning meaningfully like this means that you won't have to rush to finish all of it, and you'll never leave something important until the last minute.
4. Put yourself in the position of the learners
Have you ever learned a foreign language? Those who have, whether it was English or not, have a big advantage when it comes to teaching. They are the people who can walk a few steps in the learners’ shoes, know what questions learners might be asking, and are also better at modifying their language when talking to students.
So before your course, try learning a little of a foreign language. It could be anything you like, as it's just for you to know what it's like to struggle to understand.
You'll likely be teaching at least a few lessons with beginners on your CELTA, and being able to see your class from their perspective will bump up your grade!
5. Work with your team
Try not to isolate yourself from your team mates: they are all in the same boat as you. Even if you are doing the course online and you are not in the same classroom, you'll still a team and you will still help each other.
Of course, all the work that you produce must be your own, and they can't help you there. But there are so many ways that you can be there for one another over duration of the course.
In feedback sessions, always be honest about what they did well and what they could improve. When doing written assignments, brainstorm ideas together. If you notice anything about a class that might be useful for future lessons, let the others know.
6. Put everything else on pause
If you decide to take the course full time, it is true is that you might not have time to be a social butterfly. Try not to make too many plans for the weekend and especially not during the week. You're going to be busy planning lessons, writing assignments and other important things. If you're not doing those things, chances are that you'll want to sleep.
7. Take time for yourself
While you may not have time to maintain that busy social calendar, you definitely have time to get out of the house for a bit. Go for a walk every once in a while, have a coffee with a friend, or just sit down and read a book in the fresh air.
Taking time for yourself every so often will have a positive effect on the quality of your work, and will mean enjoying the course more.
All the best of luck with it!