We often get the question “I’ve registered for the Trinity Diploma in TESOL at Oxford TEFL. Can I do anything before the course starts?” The answer is YES, there ARE things that you can do. Here is a list of ten things that you could try as you take the next step in your professional development. Note the choice of the word could… these are optional tasks and not obligatory!
1. Start reading ahead.
You will have already received the obligatory reading list for the course and hopefully will have managed to obtain some of the books. We will be using these books as our starting point of reference during the course, so it isn’t a waste of time to browse them first at your leisure.
2. Get your grammar and phonology up.
By the end of the course you will be expected to have a thorough grounding in English grammar. It’s a good idea to begin deepening your knowledge of English grammar as quickly as possible. Start doing some of the chapters in Martin Parrott’s Grammar for English language teachers (it doesn’t matter which ones, or in which order).
It is also very important to be familiar with the basics of phonology. A good place to start is the Kelly book on the reading list. Try some of the exercises at the back too. Mastering phonemic script is essential, so it’s a good idea to start practising as soon as possible. When you are familiar with the script, a good way to practice is to transcribe words and phrases and then look them up in the dictionary (some course books have vocab lists with words transcribed too).
If you don’t have the Kelly book yet, you can start doing some of this online. An excellent site (recommended by a graduate of the course last year) is David Brett’s phonology site http:ww//davidbrett.uniss.it/index. Look at the section called English phonetics and phonology. There are lots of interactive exercises there, it’s very useful.
3. Work on web search and research skills
All of our courses now have an online component (which you will find out more about later). A lot of reading we will be assigning you will be from the Internet. When you research projects and papers you will also want to use the net. For these reasons, web search skills (using a search engine like Google for example) are very useful. We have developed a mini web search project for you to do, including links to online tutorials on how to use search engines effectively.
4. Use the web as a teaching/developing resource
If you don’t already use the web to help you teach, we recommend you begin now. Two sites that are particular favourites with us are Onestopenglish (www.onestopenglish.com) and Teaching English (www.teachingenglish.org.uk) you can see a list of other useful sites at our links page at www.oxfordtefl.com. What distinguishes this links page from others is that we have included reviews of the sites listed and why they’re useful. These reviews are all written by teachers and trainers.
5. Make a detailed lesson plan.
If you did a Certificate course (like the Trinity Cert. or the CELTA) you will remember making lesson plans. You will have to do the same for the Diploma course. Because writing lesson plans is not something teachers usually do it could take you some time to get (re)accustomed to. Why not take a lesson you are going to teach in the near future and write as detailed a plan about it as possible? Keep the plan – you might be able to use it in the course.
6. Reflect on a lesson you’ve taught.
Another skill you will have to develop is reflecting on lessons you have taught. What worked? What didn’t work? Why? What could you have done differently? You could start to keep a written log of certain lessons now (if you are teaching). If you prepared a lesson plan (see suggestion 5) writing a reflection of that lesson is a logical place to start.
7. Record yourself.
A potentially traumatic experience (most people hate what they sound like on tape; video is even worse) but almost every teacher who has done it would agree on its usefulness. Seeing or hearing yourself teach will get you critically thinking about how you do what you do.
8. Have a colleague watch you teach.
Teachers are often very reluctant to let fellow teachers into their classroom. And yet there is so much that can be learned from mutual observation of teaching. Ask a sympathetic colleague to observe one of your classes if possible. Make some time after the class has finished to discuss what happened and share ideas.
9. Watch a colleague teach.
Seeing someone else teach is one of the best ways to reflect on your own teaching. It’s also a great source of potential inspiration and new ideas. Suggestions 8 and 9 are not the easiest to set up, but are immensely valuable. And they’re good preparation for when you do the teaching practice here at the school. You will be watching and being watched by the other trainees and tutors on the course.
10. Don’t stress!
Don’t worry about what you can’t do, enjoy what you can do. These suggestions are optional and there is no assessment of them (nor do you need to “hand in” anything). There will be plenty for you to do once we start the course!