Teaching Vocabulary: CELTA Demo Lesson #1

I went totally crazy when I was offered to teach a set of two demo lessons for a group of 8 Upper-Intermediate students at the upcoming CELTA course in August in St Petersburg. Like really, just a year ago I was a trainee myself observing experienced teachers giving demo lessons and being determined to stand in their place as soon as possible. And now, a year after, I did it. Last Friday, I was there, teaching lessons I had spent a week planning and preparing for and holding a Q&A session afterwards.

The requirements for the demo lessons were easy: 2 lessons 1 hour each, one on systems and one on skills of your choice. It didn’t take long to decide that I wanted to teach lessons on vocabulary and reading, my ultimate favourites.

I love teaching vocabulary. The reason behind this is simple: without words, how can you communicate? When deciding on what words to teach, I always start with the topic.

What are some topics we often talk about? What are some topics my learners will most likely discuss outside the classroom? These are two important questions to ask yourself when you decide on vocabulary topic. Emotions seemed a perfect choice since we evaluate everything happening in our lives emotionally. We constantly feel something: anger, stress, frustration, or joy, happiness, and satisfaction. So I’ve chosen 10 adjectives, 5 negative and 5 positive (some of them were taken from English Vocabulary in Use):

  • apprehensive                                                     ecstatic
  • anxious                                                               thrilled
  • frustrated                                                           stirred
  • miserable                                                            content
  • fed-up                                                                  relieved

My favourite structure for teaching vocabulary is:

1) match & test yourself -> 2) analyze & learn -> 3) memorize & recall -> 4) use & be happy 🙂

Let’s see how it works…

1) Match & Learn

I often use TTT (matching words with definitions) in order to: 1) quickly introduce students to the meanings; 2) to create the context for further elicitation and concept checking. In this case, I also linked this stage to the topic of the lesson asking students how they felt right after doing the test (puzzled, a little bit sad/upset, unconfident) and at the very end of our lesson after practicing (relieved, happy, confident).

2) Analyze & Learn

After the test, I told students a story (the real one, btw) of me traveling from Tokyo to St Petersburg and experiencing the whole range of diametrically opposite emotions. Students had to help me on the way filling in the blanks verbally with the 10 target adjectives (they were allowed to peep into their matching sheets if they wanted). Then I asked them to name the words they’d just helped me with. I put them into 3 columns and asked students to figure out the reason for doing that (negative, neutral, positive). I asked some CCQs referring to the meaning and drilled those words that seemed to cause difficulties (content, stirred).

3) Memorize & Recall

The previous stages exposed students to the target vocabulary well enough (audially and visually) to help them put it into their short memory. So I erased the boardwork and asked them to tell the words once again very quickly and using correct pronunciation.

4) Use & Be Happy

Aka practice stage. I used both controlled (gap-fill) and semi-controlled (write the sentences), plus freer practice (pick up an ’emotional’ card and share a story of when you felt this emotion).


This how-to will be followed by the ready-to-use lesson plan. Stay tuned!


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