Giving Instructions: The Golden Rules for CELTA Trainees

We’ve just started a new CELTA course in Munich so instruction-giving is very much on my mind! This is something trainees should try to get sorted out asap but do sometimes struggle with, especially when teaching lower levels. So here are my “golden rules”.

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©The Ultimate Guide to CELTA

  1. Make sure instructions are clear and concise.
  2. Speak instructions clearly, loudly & slowly.
  3. Script instructions on your lesson plan, it’s unlikely (and unnecessary) that you’ll stick to them word by word in the lesson but the process of writing them down helps you with point 1. By doing this, you also show to your tutor that you have thought your instructions through.
  4. Practise instructions by finding a guinea pig to try them out on!
  5. Use gesture, facial expressions and have eye contact with students when giving instructions.
  6. Grade the level of your language according to the students’ level. For lower levels especially, use the imperative form. So instead of saying “If I could ask you to look at page 23…” say “Look at page 23 please.”
  7. Give instructions before giving the students the handout. This way you’ll have their attention when telling them what to do.
  8. Show the students the handout/ coursebook page as you give instructions by holding it up in front of you so they can see where on the page they should be looking. This is known as “chesting”.
  9. Give instructions on a need-to-know basis. Students don’t need to know what they’ll be doing afterwards, they just need to know what they should do now.
  10. Do an example or a demonstration in plenary to support your instructions.
  11. Make sure you have the attention of all your students before you start giving the instruction.
  12. Avoid repetition.
  13. Avoid interrupting students with extra instructions once they have started an activity.
  14. Give instructions in plenary to all the students together rather than repeating them several times to smaller groups.
  15. Use ICQs (Instruction Checking Questions) to check students’ understanding of more complex instructions.
  16. Avoid asking students “Do you understand?” Their answer will inevitably be yes, even if they don’t!
  17. Avoid saying “This is easy/ this is difficult.” How does a weaker student feel if they’re told something is easy and they find it really hard?
  18. Think carefully about whether you need to tell students how long they have for a particular activity. Sometimes it’s useful to know, other times it just adds unnecessary pressure on the students.

What other “golden rules” do you have? For more useful tips on teaching & passing CELTA, see The Ultimate Guide to CELTA.

Author: Amanda Momeni

A CELTA tutor, English language tutor and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to CELTA

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