An online classroom has many similarities to a face-to-face classroom, but of course there will inevitably be some differences. If you’re thinking about taking the 100% online CELTA, you might be wondering about the online classroom dynamics, how it all works, and how you will get to know and build rapport with your fellow trainees.
In this article, Yulianto Lukito and Jo Roberts, two experienced CELTA trainers from IH Sydney, talk about their experience over the past year with how they build up a positive atmosphere for all online CELTA trainees so you will have some idea of what to expect in your virtual classroom experience.
Building positive rapport for online CELTA trainees
Rapport is built in much the same way as in the classroom – smiles, name usage, ensuring all learners’ involvement in class activities, etc. Knowing learners’ names immediately in the Zoom classroom is undoubtedly easier as Zoom requires participants to write their names to join a meeting.
In order to ensure all of our trainees experience immediate comfort in a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment, we always commence our session on day one of the course by conducting an interactive yet simple Find Someone Who icebreaker activity. We have observed that carrying out this activity first, rather than later, promotes instant collaboration, establishes an intimately bonding experience with an air of causal connection and positive vibe, and generates a sense of community building with one another. Such a positive atmosphere is vital for building a bedrock of trust among trainees as they know they can relate to each other throughout the famously intensive course.
In the afternoon, on the same day, we provide a step-by-step zoom tutorial in which every member is given ample opportunity to experiment with the zoom tools and carry out instruction giving through trial and error. Unlike in the one month face-to-face Full Time CELTA courses, trainees on the online course spend two days delivering non-assessed lessons to their learners. This, we believe, is a precious opportunity for trainees to establish much needed rapport with their learners without the heightened anxiety or fear of being observed and assessed. Furthermore, they are allowed to discuss their non-assessed lessons in their designated zoom room(s) over the two-day period with minimal tutor intervention with the hope that they can bond with each other through cooperation and collaborative planning.
If deemed appropriate, trainees also have the freedom of creating their own WhatsApp group so they can operate and strengthen their team building spirit within the safety of the group from the beginning of the course.
Lastly, we try varying our ways of conducting post-teaching practice (TP) feedback to add elements of ‘surprise’ throughout the course as we know from experience that little moments of ‘Ah this is new’ appears to lessen, if not take away, their fear and frustration at the peak of such an intensive course. Below are some of the strategies we have employed while conducting feedback:
- Combining oral and written feedback
- Sending trainees to breakout rooms to discuss certain aspects of their peers’ lessons
- Diversifying group members and altering pairings/groupings
- Encouraging trainees to use the annotate tools on the whiteboard and chats while discussing strengths and areas to work on
- Playing a game such as “Gift and Theft” in which observers need to reach a consensus by prioritising a ‘gift’ (area to work on) for the teacher concerned and stealing all the strengths demonstrated by the teacher. A possible gift could be very imaginative. For example, an alarm clock/hour glass could be presented as a gift if the teacher needs to work on time management, etc.
- The tutor can write a few questions on ‘post-it notes’ either on the whiteboard or in the chatbox which need to be answered and/or discussed by the trainees involved
- Role-play: some trainees take on the role of ‘tutor’ while providing feedback to the teacher trainee(s) based on some pointers given/provided by the tutor beforehand
With thanks to Yulianto and Jo.
Yulianto Lukito has been an ELT educator (teacher/trainer/examiner) since 1997. He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics, MA TESOL, and Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DELTA). In addition to teaching all levels and a wide range of English courses over the years, he has contributed to various professional development events such as conferences, webinars, and journals both locally and internationally.
Jo Roberts holds a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages and Marketing, and a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE/ PCET) in TESOL. She has taught at private English schools, universities, Further Education colleges and community-based centres focussed on new migrants and refugees. She has been training on Teacher Training courses (CELTA, CERT IV, FE for ESOL subject specialists) since 2005. She is also a Cambridge CELTA assessor and IH World Inspector.