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Language-related tasks - help with CELTA Assignment Two

Language-related tasks CELTA assignment

Language-related tasks is often assigned early in a CELTA course and, like all other assignments on the course, it needs to be completed in between 750 and 1000 words. Some people fear it, as it's the closest thing you'll get to a 'grammar test' on your CELTA course, but it's not really a test because you are encouraged to use dictionaries, grammar books and grammar resource websites while writing the assignment. In fact, you are expected to look things up and reference this in your assignment. No one assumes you're already a grammar expert before a CELTA course begins!

This assignment will be structured in different ways depending on who your CELTA tutors are, but essentially, you'll always be asked to do the same things. These will include analysing the meaning, form and phonology of a number of language items (usually between 4 and 6 items) and these will include both grammar and vocabulary. You will be asked to do this in bullet points and not in continuous prose, so it can be a good idea to approach this as a series of exercises and not like an essay you might do for a university course.

When you're analysing meaning, it's important that you're aware of whether you're being asked to use the context that is being presented to you in the assignment or if you're being asked to create your own context. Context is seen as key to clarifying meaning, so you'll either be expected to teach meaning in a context presented to you or you'll be asked to provide a context - the assignment may ask you to provide a formal definition, but when analysing meaning for teaching purposes, it is essential this is done using a context. As a fellow teacher trainer of mine is fond of saying, a teacher shouldn't be a dictionary.

In the meaning section, you'll probably be asked how you would check students' understanding of meaning. This may be by using concept checking questions (CCQs) or by using something else like a timeline. This is often the trickiest part of the language-related tasks assignment. Remember that concept checking should be related to the context, it shouldn't be overly vague or complex and it shouldn't use the target language to check understanding of the target language. You'll find lots of help on YouTube and Google if you look up 'CCQs' or concept checking questions. Take care over this part of the assignment, as in my experience, this is often where trainees trip up.

In the section on form, you'll need to break down the grammar items and describe their structures to students. Your tutor should have given you plenty examples of how to do this in advance of you starting the assignment. You'll find lots of helpful examples of how to break down form in any of the grammar books we recommend.

Finally, you'll be asked to analyse pronunciation. Remember to sound the words out and think about how they sound in a sentence, not just how they sound in isolation. The word 'to' sounds different when you say it by itself and when you say it in a sentence like 'I've got to leave now.' Your tutor will expect you to notice this. Remember to use a good learners' dictionary to find phonemic transcriptions and other valuable information about word stress.

No tutor will expect a perfect assignment, and you can make mistakes and still pass, but you will need to show that you can deal with (1) meaning, (2) form and (3) phonology in order to pass the assignment, so make sure you pay attention to all three elements. In my experience as a tutor, you're more likely to be asked to resubmit an assignment with consistently excellent sections on meaning and form if you make lots of errors when analysing pronunciation than you are if you are partially correct when analysing all three aspects of language. If you are asked to resubmit, you shouldn't worry about this. It simply means that the tutor believes you can learn from re-attempting some parts of the assignment. A resubmission isn't a fail, and it's likely you'll only be asked to change very specific parts of the assignment in your resubmission.

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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