CELTA-ology

Budapest, Hungary

When I went into the CELTA Training, I had very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I’d never had much for formal teacher training, and I knew it was hurting my teaching, regardless of how good my instincts might be. On the other hand, I remembered very clearly the education majors we’d tutored in the Writing Center, and was skeptical of just how much new information I’d get. But I’ve tried to keep an open mind, and keep my experience with Arabic classes at the front of my mind.

In the first year of graduate school, we used a very traditional textbook developed by Eckehart Schultz at the University of Leipzig, heavy on grammar and linguistics, and reading and writing. I loved it, and all my classmates hated it! The second year, we used the ubiquitous Al-Kitaab, which I found unsystematic, even chaotic, and endlessly frustrating. The rest of the class, however, was far happier with the new book’s communicative approach of natural language. Upon consideration, it seemed pretty clear that the communicative approach really does work for most students, even if it doesn’t work for me … a good reason to learn how to teach it!

Now, more than half way through the course, I’m really glad I’m here, and I’m much more convinced that, given the kind of clear frameworks CELTA provides, the communicative approach really can work, and is an effective method for engaging and challenging students, as well as giving them skills to help them learn language from their environment. The communicative approach, as we’ve seen it here, also correlates quite closely with what I learned about inter-language and natural processes of language acquisition through the workshops I organized back in Indiana. While I still believe that the communicative classroom would drive me crazy as a student, as a teacher I’m becoming a convert!

What I’m interested in seeing in next week’s sessions is how this can be applied to a beginners’ classroom. With Beginner 1 students who only know how to ask and answer six questions, how do you make the classroom more communicative? Can beginners also learn through guided discovery? (I did that yesterday with my students, and it went brilliantly!)

I’m also hoping to have time to see some things this weekend. I’ve been in Budapest for more than two weeks. Other than one dinner out with Vicky and one trip to buy Kreinik braid at the mall for my cross-stitch project, I’ve only seen the city from my apartment to the school and back again!

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