CELTA Certification: What to Expect

It’s over, guys! I’ve made it through my CELTA certification and have come out the other side (relatively) unscathed. I am now certified to teach English as a foreign language.

As I’ve mentioned before, CELTA is a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. It is run by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the folks who bring us lovely exams like the IELTS, etc.

If you’re thinking of taking a CELTA certification course, read on.

“Intensive” means just that.

The full-time CELTA certification is four intensive weeks. It includes 8 hours of teaching practice, 4 written assignments, input sessions and experienced teacher observation.

In the mornings, you participate in input sessions. This is where you are taught to teach! Tutors use the Cambridge English method to teach you how to teach the main language skills: listening, reading, speaking, writing, grammar and lexis (formerly called vocabulary).

Essentially, you’re trying to absorb all kinds of useful information which you can then put into practice in your afternoon teaching sessions.

1. Teaching Practice

You’ll be teaching from day 2 of the course. In the first week, your tutors give you plenty of guidance for designing and planning your classes. Over the course of the four weeks, though, that guidance gradually reduces until in the end you are responsible for designing your own classes (materials are often provided).

Teaching planning

The day before each teaching session, you have a planning session with your group and tutor to help plan your lesson. These sessions were my favourite part of the course. My colleagues and my tutors were always helpful, and provided valuable input and ideas.

Lesson planning

At night, you go home and write your lesson plan. A lesson plan includes a detailed language analysis of language items (grammar, vocabulary) that you will be teaching. Then you plan your lesson step by step.

The idea is to have a detailed enough plan that if, for some reason, you cannot teach, another teacher can pick up your plan and teach your lesson. The first lesson plans will take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to write. Yup. Intensive.

Though the lesson plan may seem like a bother to some, I found it extremely useful, and it gave me confidence in my teaching.

Feedback sessions

Each TP session is followed immediately by feedback. You complete a self-evaluation, your tutor provides pointed feedback on your lesson plan and your teaching, and your colleagues (who are also observing you teach) give feedback according to some observation guidelines.

If you can’t take constructive criticism, tough. Your teaching will be thoroughly scrutinised, and some feedback will be disappointing, or hard to hear. Other feedback will be uplifting and gratifying.

You are expected to take feedback to heart and to apply it to your next lessons.

2. Written Assignments

There are 4 written assignments. They are, at most, 1000 words, and it is very clear what you are expected to write. They require some research, and will take a few hours to complete.

I did not find the written assignments very challenging. What they required was very logical and straightforward. Tutors provided a checklist for each assignment, to ensure that you had responded to all the questions and provided all the details they wanted. To be honest, not a whole lot of independent thought needed to go into them. It’s not like you have to produce original research.

For me, it was simply a matter of answering the questions within the word limit.

Some trainees found the written assignments difficult, though. If you are not comfortable writing, and if you have little experience of writing research papers, you may find them harder to complete. Don’t worry, though. You’re given a chance to resubmit each assignment, and usually you only have to resubmit the sections you struggled with in your original.

3. Input Sessions

This is where you’re taught to teach. You’ll learn about lesson planning, classroom management, phonology, reading & writing skills, course book assessment, error correction, and more.

One input session was entirely conducted in Hungarian! Without speaking a word of English, the tutor helped us learn basic phrases in Hungarian, in order to demonstrate how a language can be taught to people who have absolutely no previous knowledge of it.

Some of the input sessions I found more valuable than others, but all were useful. They were especially practical: what you learned in the input sessions could be applied almost immediately to your teaching practice.

It was also valuable to see the Cambridge English teaching method applied directly by the tutors, not just in teaching observation, but also in our input sessions.

4. Teaching Observation

Finally, you have to complete a number of hours of experienced teacher observation. We watched three DVD sessions, and observed our own tutors teaching A2 and B2 level classes for a total of 180 minutes.

During teaching observation, you are given observation tasks, or things to look out for during the session.

These observation tasks (which you also have to complete while observing your fellow trainees) are important for the final written assignment. I wasn’t as detailed in my notes as I should have been, and I found myself wishing I had noted down more specific information during my observation sessions.

By the last observation session (usually a DVD), you’re able to look at an experienced teacher and think, “I would have done that differently.” It’s a great feeling.

You won’t fail CELTA.

Very few people fail the certification. You may not get the highest grade, but you will be supported and encouraged to pass.

The tutors dedicate a lot of time to helping trainees with any difficulties. They are there to ensure that you succeed.

Your fellow trainees are also a great help. Some of my classmates were experienced teachers, while others were novices. In any case, everyone had a strength, and within our groups, everyone was happy to lend a hand to anyone having trouble.

I couldn’t have succeeded without my colleagues’ help in the teaching planning sessions. It was a great bunch of people, and we each learned a lot from the course.

Last Word?

Do it. If you’re thinking about it, just do it.

Plan to have no other obligations or distractions during that time (thank GOD for Chico and our parents who were here to help with toddler-care and housework!).

It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it has given me prospects I never thought I’d have.

Wish me luck!

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Top-down Knitting in the Round: Rolling Rock

It’s time for another knitting update!

This year has been the year of Christmas 2016 knitting. My goal (likely unachievable) has been to make a knitted Christmas gift for everyone in my immediate family. Including siblings, spouses, parents and various little ones, that’s 11 people all-told.

I also decided that since my grandmother is turning 100 this year, I should knit her something special, too.

Oh, the folly! Here we are, already the end of August, and I have but 3 of 12 projects completed. I am no speed knitter, and I have gotten side-tracked.

What got me side-tracked? Thea Colman’s beautiful “Rolling Rock” jumper. That’s what.

Who Doesn’t Love Top-Down Knitting?

There’s so much to love about this sweater. Knit from the top-down, there’s no need to seam shoulders, or worry about picking up and knitting for the sleeves.

The “seam” on a seamless top-down knitted shoulder

By starting at the neckline rather than the hemline, you work your way down in one piece, building your shoulder “seams” and sleeve caps in what’s called the contiguous shaping method.

The neckline is a nice Henley, giving the front of the sweater an attractive styling detail.

Henley neckline

All this is worked on circular needles with a medium-length cable. After finishing the shoulders and sleeve openings, the sleeve stitches are put on hold and the piece is joined to work in the round just below the Henley opening.

After that, it’s smooth sailing through the waist shaping and lace panel, down to the hemline ribbing.

An Easy Lace Pattern


Lace work is intimidating to many, and I admit to being one of those. It would do a beginner well to learn how to read charted instructions, as Thea offers hers only in charted format (other patterns will provide both charted and written instructions).


That being said, this is a super simple 6-row repeat. The instructions are clear, and you quickly get into the groove of the repeat.


I learned to read the lace quite quickly, and stopped having to refer to the chart after two or three repeats. It helps that the lace pattern is actually an image of a bottle, so you can easily see where you are in the “drawing.”

I Love Not Having to Pick up Stitches for Sleeves

Knitting from the top down, you shape your shoulders and sleeves, and then leave two sections of stitches on hold while doing the rest of the body.


Once your body is done, you go back and put the stitches on hold back on your needles and off you go! It’s so wonderfully comfortable, and it’s great not to have to pick up stitches to knit the sleeves.

I always have trouble picking up stitches for sleeves. There is always a gap between the main body and the picked up stitches, which I try to close up with a whip stitch once my sleeves are done.

Some Tricky Parts and Pattern Notes

The trickiest part of this pattern was picking up and knitting the Henley neckline ribbing. Thea recommends picking up 6 stitches per one inch, depending on your gauge. I found that that wasn’t enough (my gauge was tighter than recommended), and did my usual pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows.

Also, she has you start knitting the picked up stitches on the opposite end from the pick up. That basically means that you have to do a long-tail pick up, coming back to where you started to use your working yarn.

That might not make much sense, but if you have questions, I’d be happy to try and explain better.

The pattern is quite clear, though chatty. Thea’s style is wordy, which can be confusing at first. She gives clear instructions, and gives a lot of advice about making modifications for body type, etc. It’s great to have those suggestions, but it can be a little confusing.

Finally, when she instructs you to join in the round, she says to remove the stitch markers that indicate where to do the waist shaping. However, if you remove them, you have no indication of where your row begins. I left in the left-side stitch marker and used that as my reference for beginning and end of row.

I’ll Post Photos Later

Right now it’s too warm to actually wear my Rolling Rock, and I haven’t found buttons for it yet. My mom’s coming to visit soon, and she’ll bring her magic box of buttons for me to choose from.

We’ll get some nice atmospheric shots soon, and I’ll add them to this article.

Happy knitting, all!

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My First Try at Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle knitting is a technique that involves knitting with two different-colored strands of yarn.

Called Fair Isle because it originated in Scotland on (you guessed it!) Fair Isle, it is also known as stranded knitting, stranded colorwork, or simply colorwork.

Wikipedia tells me that it first became popular when that irrepressible fashion plate the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII of England, famous for abdicating so he could marry his American divorcée girlfriend) started wearing Fair Isle sweaters on a regular basis. What a fashion rogue.

Anyway, I thought it was HIGH time I gave this famous (and fun!) technique a try. So I picked out an adorable pattern: Anders, by Sorren Kerr (link to pattern page on Ravelry.com).

Learning to hold two strands at once

The first trick to Fair Isle knitting is to learn to hold two strands of yarn at once. I knit English style, which means that I hold my yarn and tension in my right hand, and throw my yarn around my needle to build my stitches.

Continental-style knitting is when you hold your yarn and tension in your left hand, and “pick” your yarn with your needle to build your stitches.

So to knit Fair Isle, it’s useful to know how to do both, and at the same time! Here’s a helpful YouTube video for doing just that:

Once you’ve got the technique down, you’re ready to go!

Knitting up the Anders jumper

I have loved this pattern since a lady at the Montreal Stitch n’ Bitch discovered it. But I had a few problems for getting started.

First, since I was using stash yarn, I only had my main color in Drops Baby Merino, and my contrasting color in cotton Kapok DK by Sublime yarns (now discontinued).

Knitting with two different fibers can be a problem. Cotton is not as elastic as wool, and will eventually stretch out. Whereas wool retains its shape thanks to its elasticity. For this reason, I decided to do the bottom edge ribbing in my main color, to make sure that the bottom wouldn’t stretch out.

My second problem was that I did not have quite enough of my main color. So I decided to make it a short-sleeved, mid-season jumper.

Finally, though I *love* my Addi Clicks Turbo circular needles, my shortest cable was not quite short enough for the 6-12 month size I was knitting. My stitches were stretched over my cable, which changed my tension somewhat.

Please pardon the terrible lighting!

Despite these little setbacks, I soldiered on, and I am quite pleased with the result. I apologize for the terrible photo, but I have a tendency to finish things at night.

Not especially visible in the photo is the vickle stitch braid that lines the ribbing edges on the collar, sleeves and hemline. It’s a sweet little detail that I really enjoyed.

The buttons were pilfered from a spare button box my mother inherited from her mother. Due to lack of time, I did not do a full wet-block, but gave it a good go with the steam iron. We’ll see how it holds up in washing…

Final thoughts on Fair Isle knitting

I love it. It’s a little slow, and you have to be careful about carrying your yarn when you have large stretches of one color. But despite that, it’s a lot of fun to see an image emerge as you work.

I will definitely be doing more Fair Isle knitting, including at least one more Anders for one lucky kid!

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