The Training Session

Start off: “You’re at a Party.” Distribute a slip of paper to each trainee.


Complain about the types of                                   Encourage people to drink more
people here                                                               

Profusely apologize for bumping                            Convince people to dance more
into other partygoers 


Have trainees mingle and play out what’s on their cards – make sure they don’t see each other’s slips of paper – (for about 7 minutes, make sure they talk to everyone)

Feedback: Return to seats, have trainees talk to a partner for about two minutes just recapping what all of the others had been saying at the party

Whole Group Feedback: Choose a trainee and ask various people what he/she was saying at the party (hopefully you can elicit 3-4 exponents, i.e. “Are you thirsty? Do you want more to drink? You should have another beer! Why aren’t you drinking anything? You aren’t drinking enough.) Then, ask everyone what they thought the person’s function was, i.e. Encouraging people to drink. Do this a few more times so that the trainees can notice that there’s one function with several exponents/ways of expressing the function.

*If a trainee only used one or two exponents, try to elicit more ideas from the group

Second Task: Place two rows of photos on the whiteboard.




Tell the trainees: “Look at these two rows of pictures. One row represents grammar. One represents functions.” In pairs, discuss which you think is which, and Why?

This ‘analogy’ exercise usually helps trainees to distinguish a basic difference between grammar and functions.

The answer: The top row represents functions. They are three very different structures, but they all serve the same function (providing shelter.)

Consider the function of giving advice:

TeePee: If I were you I’d …(structure = 2nd conditional)
Igloo: You should…(structure = modal verb)
House: Why don’t you…(structure = negative question)

Same function, just very different structures to express it.

The bottom row (the strip mall) represents grammar because these three places have the same structure but provide very different functions, i.e. sandwich shop, shoe store, and a cash advance shop.
Consider: grammatical structure – modal verb “can’t”

I can’t dance. (function = expressing (in)ability)
She can’t be a grandmother. (function = speculation)
Can’t you arrive on time for a change? (function = criticism)
©Materials from Thornbury and Watkins, 2007, The CELTA Course, CUP
*consultant/contributor: Lizzy Adams, Director of Teacher Training, Teaching House



Fifth Task: Provide pairs with a function and ask them to first: create the context, and next: write a short dialogue. Afterwards, they will act it out. For feedback, the group guesses the situation and the function, as well as provides the exponents they heard.

Classroom application:

You will be given a language function and a level (e.g. Pre-Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate.) With your partner, create a short dialogue as follows:
• Think of a situation in which the function might typically occur.
• Choose an appropriate way of expressing this function for the situation.
• Write a short dialogue (8-10 lines) which contextualizes the functional exponents you have chosen.


©Materials from Thornbury and Watkins, 2007, The CELTA Course, CUP

What approach should I use? How do I teach the function?

At this point, it’s important to review the types of approaches we generally use to teach language systems lessons, i.e. Test-Teach-Test, Text-Based Presentation, Situational/P.P.P./A.R.C., etc, because this is what usually intimidates them – how to teach functions using the same approaches they use for grammar or lexis – Take them back to the first activity of the lesson. Ask them “What approach utilizes that type of activity “At a Party” at the beginning of the lesson?” (Test-Teach-Test)

Use any functions from the initial activity that you’d prefer. Here, I’ll use: “Convincing people to dance more” Elicit as many authentic convincing statements and responses as possible, (aim for 6-8.) Write them on the board as trainees provide ideas (this is what we want them to do in their lessons when they teach, too.) *Don’t forget to put them in pairs first, to brainstorm these ideas before you do a whole group feedback and elicit. ** Monitor their pair work to assess their level of understanding. For example:

Convincing -A-                                              Response -B-

Why aren’t you dancing?! Let’s dance!     Nah, I don’t feel like it.

Come on, dance with me!                              No, thanks. I’m good.

Please…just one song!                                    I’d really rather not.

Everyone’s having so much fun!                  Yeah…I’m not much of a dancer.

Don’t be shy, no one will care!                     Maybe later.

You can’t be worse than him.                       OK, why not?

*On the CELTA course we know all about M (meaning) F (form) and P (pronunciation,) don’t we? 🙂

To clarify Meaning, show the trainees how to check the concept of ‘convincing’: (*NB to cause someone to agree to do something; to persuade)

Is B dancing now? (no)
Does B want to dance? (no)
Does A want B to dance? (yes)
Does A care a little or a lot that B isn’t dancing? (a lot)
Is A trying to get B to agree to dance? (yes)
Do you think B will dance? (probably not)
Why not? (B says “No, thanks, I’d rather not, I don’t feel like it, I’m not much of a dancer.”)
“Ok, why not?” If B says this, does it mean A convinced him/her? (yes)
(and then clarify responses as necessary. Example below):
“Not much of a dancer.” Do you think B thinks of himself as a good or bad dancer? (bad)
Do you think B dances often? (no)

To clarify Form, this is where the real fun begins, in my opinion, and makes functions more appealing to teach than grammar. Clarify the form by presenting the exponents in chunks. For example:

Why aren’t you + ___________? Let’s + _________ !
                                    (verb-ing)                        (inf. verb)
Come on, + __________ + with + _________!
                         (inf. verb)                    (pronoun/name)
Please… + __________

*and so on…this helps learners build their lexicons by seeing that they can add other verbs to the exponents, depending on context, e.g. going, swimming – go, swim
**Come on, swim with him.
***Come on, go with Sam.
(these are just examples that you can expound upon)

Everyone’s + ____________

Don’t be + __________

You can’t be + _________ + than

And do the same with the responses where appropriate. For example:

No, thanks. I’m + ________.

I’m not much of a + _________.

So, remember, first elicit the parts of speech (verb, noun, adjective) so that the learners can see the formulaic patterns and then elicit actual words from them so that they can build their vocabulary and options with language use.

To clarify Pronunciation, just drill the exponents. Clarify connected speech/weakened vowel sounds where appropriate and practice intonation. Really prepare them to speak the language authentically, as we native speakers generally use it and hear it. As this post is more for clarifying the whole process for CELTA trainees, I will deal more specifically with drilling ideas in future blog posts when I introduce some possible ideas for functions lessons to be taught in the classroom.

In the input session, elicit from the trainees what come after m-f-p clarification (controlled and then freer practice)

(Helpful Hint: In regards to formality, the general rule is the more grammar, the more formal. For example: “Would you mind if I opened the window?” is more formal than “Can I open the window?”)
You can ask them to brainstorm some ideas for each type of practice and get some feedback, as a way to end the session.

From teaching other language systems lessons, trainees will know how to do the practice parts. This post is more about showing them how to do the clarification part. Hopefully, they will see that it’s not so scary and they will volunteer to teach more functions lessons.

Good luck and Enjoy the process!

Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer