Annaliese Griffiss took our Trinity CertTESOL course in Barcelona in January 2017. Originally from Oxford, UK, after studying a number of languages including Latin, she decided to obtain her internationally-recognized qualification at Oxford TEFL to teach English as a foreign language.
Barcelona is a fantastic city to study in and I had a great time discovering the winding streets of the Gótico and taking time out at the beach. As long as you also plan your time well during your TEFL course and don’t procrastinate, you will have one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of your life! Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the course and finding time to discover Barcelona at the same time.
You know those pre-course tasks? The ones that recommend you memorise the phonemic chart and get to grips with unfamiliar grammar? Do that. The chart is (I promise) actually very easy to learn. Try translating a few sentences from a book into phonemic script to help you to memorise the letter forms. It’s a really useful tool to use in class, you’ll need it for your Learner Profile, and it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about when you’re doing the course. Grammar is another big one. If you can name all the parts of speech in a sentence and correctly identify all the tenses, you’ll save a huge amount of time in lesson planning. You will have a short exam on both grammar and phonetics, so the more you know at the start, the less time you’ll need to spend revising.
2. First week fun
The first week is relatively stress-free. If you’ve followed tip 1, you can use the time you have in week 1 to do a bit of exploring, go out with your course mates, and generally do what you thought you’d be doing when you signed up. This will change in week 2. Take advantage before things get really hectic.
3. Keep up with your paperwork
You’re going to have a lot of little bits of paper which need to be filled out at different stages of the course. Half your lesson plan needs to be done before the lesson, reflections after; observations of teachers and other trainees need to be completed; checkboxes need to be ticked. The temptation to do it later might be overwhelming. Don’t succumb. Really. Your reflections on your lessons will take 5-10 minutes after the class; observations can be written straight onto the relevant sheet during the class; checkbox ticking takes 30 seconds if done immediately. Leave these things for a week or two (or worse, until the end of the course!) and you could end up spending hours trying to remember what happened and when, trawling back through your notes for reminders. Reflections and observations are not just for your own use – these are going to be assessed as part of your log, so do them whilst the memory is fresh to make sure you get the best grade you can.
4. Don’t spend too long planning lessons
This was my biggest downfall. My first few lessons took me 5-6 hours each to prepare. An hour at the start could be spent choosing a topic, another hour towards the end second-guessing my choice of topic. Yes, it’s going to take you a while to figure out how to plan a lesson, but allow me to break things down for you a bit. You have 45 minutes. 5 of this will be creating interest in the topic. 15 minutes will be having your students engage in conversation with each other. 10 minutes will be making corrections. That’s 30 minutes right there. You have just 15 minutes to play with. This is sufficient time to introduce some new vocab or a small grammar point, and to do some kind of exercise with your students. It’s important to choose a topic that your students are going to find interesting, but remember that, provided you personalise it, anything can be interesting. I spent a whole lesson on the topic of passport photos -it’s a very particular audience who would find talking about Michael Winner’s photo interesting (as the course book seemed to!), but bringing in my own photo id and then getting the students to share theirs (provided they were comfortable doing so), got the conversation going. Spend no more than 10 minutes choosing a topic and stick with it.
5. Set aside a day each week for no work
This is really important. You’re going to be doing this course for 4 weeks. You’ll need a break. If you’ve followed some the tips above, you should be able to fit in a full day off during the weekend. Go out. Get some exercise. Enjoy the sunshine. See some of the sights. Chances are your brain is going to continue humming away in the background, pondering your lesson plans, and will likely come up with a hundred solutions to problems that had been bugging you. Getting away from the work gives your brain a chance to let loose and get creative. The course is hard work, but making sure you have a bit of balance will actually improve your work and – crucially – make your experience in Barcelona thoroughly enjoyable.
So there you have it! I feel I have developed in so many ways during the course, personally and professionally. I hope you have found these tips useful and that you too can come to Barcelona to take the Trinity CertTESOL course, like I did.
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