Delta Tips 9: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Overview and Starting Out

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) 

The module 3 extended specialism essay is a very special beast. If you thought Cambridge were demanding in their criteria for Module 2 LSA’s or perversely picky in how they want you to answer Module 1 exam questions – you’d be right! But, it’s nothing compared to what they demand you fit in to a measly 4500 words for Module 3…

The brief:

In 4500 words, you have to introduce and discuss your chosen specialism (including literature review, issues that are typical of it, some comparison with a different specialism…), your needs analysis, your course design, your assessment methods (both formative and summative) and your course evaluation, and then, finally, bring your assignment to its conclusion. Each section also needs to showcase your knowledge and understanding of the theory and principles, and therefore the literature, related to it. (Therefore, Concise should become your new middle name!)

The choice of specialisms is as follows:

  • Business English (BE)
  • Teaching young learners/young adults (specified age group required with 5-year range e.g. 8–13, 14–19) (YL)
  • English for Special Purposes (ESP)
  • English for Academic Purposes (EAP)
  • Teaching examination classes (EX)
  • Teaching one-to-one (1to1)
  • ESOL learners with literacy needs (ESOL)
  • CLIL/Embedded ESOL (teaching English through subject/ work-based learning) (CLIL)
  • Teaching monolingual classes (MON)
  • Teaching multilingual classes (MUL)
  • Teaching in an English-speaking environment (ESE)
  • Teaching in a non-English-speaking environment. (NESE)
  • Teaching learners online/through distance/blended learning (DL)
  • Teaching English to learners with special requirements e.g. visual/hearing impairment, dyslexia, ASD (SR)2
  • Language development for teachers (LDT)
  • Language support (e.g. on mainstream teaching programmes, specialist skills support, such as supporting writing needs) (LS)

Starting out

Ideally, you will have thought about what you would like to specialise in before you start your course. Some centres (e.g. Leeds Met) even give you a pre-course task to focus your thinking in this respect. However, don’t be hell-bent on sticking to your initial decision – it may be that what you want to do isn’t an ideal choice. Hopefully you will discuss your choice with your tutor early on, so be open to their advice. I, for example, started out wanting to do Young Learners who need EAL support in schools in the U.K. but I had no access to such learners, no experience of teaching them and it didn’t fit comfortably into the Cambridge specialisms list either. All in all, following a very helpful tutorial, I changed my specialism to Teaching in an English-speaking environment (ESE).

Tips:

  • Don’t choose a specialism that incorporates too many different Cambridge specialisms. E.g. One-to-one business English over the telephone (or Skype) is a type of teaching that absolutely exists BUT it combines Business English, Teaching one-to-one and Distance Learning which is too much to juggle effectively in 4500 words.
  • Do choose a specialism you have some experience with. It’s easy to start out with lofty ideas of using Module 3 to learn about a new specialism, and perhaps if you are doing it over an extended period of time, working at the same time, with access to the type of learners you want to focus on, it may work a treat. However, if you are doing a 10-12 week intensive course and not working, then logistically it becomes a lot more difficult.
  • Do find out what the drafting procedure is with your centre. (E.g. At Leeds Met, they have a series of mini-deadlines where they take in a draft of each section and comment liberally on it, as well as giving you a tutorial to discuss the feedback for each section. Some centres may take in a complete draft to look and feedback on, rather than doing it in stages.) Then, follow it!! Meet all the deadlines, take every opportunity to get feedback/guidance. This will help you fashion something that meets all the pernickety Cambridge criteria.
  • Do read the Delta handbook for Module 3. (I know, it’s at the back of the handbook and, if you are doing all three modules simultaneously, you probably started out with good intentions, but then got bogged down with looking at the Module 1 section and gave up. Skip module 1, save it till later, read module 2 if you are doing module 2 and read module 3. They are shorter sections than module 1 and do contain useful information…)  The module 3 section contains criteria and a series of questions for each section, that your corresponding section is supposed to answer. (At Leeds Met, you do discovery tasks that make you get friendly with these criteria and questions by making you answer questions about them in relation to an example assignment, so you see how they can be answered/embodied. Hopefully your centre will have their own way of helping you get to grips with it all, but, either way, make sure you read the handbook!)
  • Do read lots. Find out what the key texts related to your specialism are (your centre may give you guidance on this – at Leeds Met we got a lengthy reading list divided into specialisms) and get them out of a library or cheaply from Amazon marketplace.
  • Do also think about issues that relate to your specialism e.g. for English-speaking Environment, issues such as intercultural competence, English as a Lingua Franca and culture shock are all relevant.
  • Do use journals and professional magazines as well as books – these contain up-to-date articles and are much quicker to read than books. With ELT Journal, for example, you can do a database search and find articles that are relevant to your specialism and to individual section principles/theory: some will be oldies but goodies, some will be very up-to-date.  A mixture of both is recommended.
  • Do think about your writing style. Are you using the correct way of referencing? Is your writing accessible enough? (Mine was far too academic initially!) You don’t want to include long quotes because the word count is too minimal to allow for it without other things getting lost. Paraphrasing concisely and following it with the reference in brackets is one way of referring to the literature in a word count-effective way.
  • Do build your reference list as you go. Be organised about it. (You don’t want to be running around at the last minute looking for all the details of all the books and articles you referred to throughout the essay. You won’t have time…)
  • Do refer back to the handbook and see if you are in fact answering those questions that they have listed. Ask someone else to compare your assignment and the questions, to see if you are answering them – you may think you are, but another set of eyes may not agree… (Of course, your tutor will also tell you if are missing important stuff. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but that depends on how the course is organised and when they look at drafts etc.)

Coming soon: Tips for the introduction section!

If you think I am wrong in anything I’ve said or that I’ve missed anything useful from this general overview/intro, then please comment and I will add whatever is missing to this post! :) But more specific stuff will come when I deal with each section individually… 

Leeds Met Delta/M.A. ELT Induction Day (aka Delta FAQs)

A year ago last week, I attended the induction for my course at Leeds Metropolitan University, and last week I attended (some of it) again! But this time, rather than being one of the students, scribbling away frantically as things were said (which notes ended up being put in a drawer not to see the light of day until I packed up my flat a few weeks ago – oops…) I was sitting in, watching – rather nostalgically! – and waiting for my turn to speak. I had been invited to share my experience with the new cohort. I started by feeding them with cake (because, cake makes everything ok! Also, they’re at the beginning of an amazing year – or semester if only doing the Delta – so there was something to celebrate) and then just let them ask me questions. This post is a summary of that plus a few things I forgot to mention…

1. What do you know now that wish you’d known at the start? What would you do differently?

Well, I’m rather lucky – I can look back on it and not wish I’d done things differently or known things I didn’t. I genuinely have no regrets. That’s not to say I had a clue what was going on to start with, but I was able to work it out – with all the help given to me by the fantastic tutors at Leeds Met. Still, things that I think would be useful to know at the start, because I either was helped to discover them early on or was lucky enough to be doing them anyway:

  • Manage your time efficiently! For module 2, this means reading efficiently, writing your essay and sending it in for feedback in good time, moving on to your plan promptly and getting that in for feedback too – all enough in advance to then respond to feedback before it’s time for your LSA. For module 3, this also means reading efficiently, and meeting whatever deadlines your centre has in place to help you through it. At Leeds Met, there are mini-deadlines periodically, so that you hand each section of the essay in one by one and get feedback on them. This is helpful because you get nudged on to the right track early on before you stray too far away from it!
  • Do your PDA-ing from the get-go! Well, perhaps not the get-go, but as soon as you have done your diagnostic and have submitted your part 1/part 2, where you reflect on your beliefs/strengths/weakness and identify areas to work on, then make a plan of how to work on them. (See my post on doing the PDA for more information on this important element of module 2)
  • Work WITH your classmates not against them! This isn’t a competition. You are all in it together and if you pool your resources, you will make your lives easier. Make a Facebook group to share links to useful articles/websites etc. Watch each others’ lessons and share feedback when these are observed e.g. diagnostic and LSAs.
  • Don’t get behind! This relates to the first bullet point and applies to intensive courses at least (I can’t speak for less intensive courses as have no first-hand experience of those) – if you get behind, you will struggle to catch up and perhaps never really will, because the course does not have any time built in for this. Time, tide and Delta deadlines wait for no man – and there is always another deadline looming.
  • Set up a decent filing system from the get-go! Keeping order is useful. Electronically, I recommend Evernote. In terms of paper-based stuff, have a separate notebook and file for each module. (I didn’t discover Evernote until the M.A. semester of my course – using it is actually one thing I would do differently if I had my time again! :-) ) And make sure none of your notes get squirrelled away in a drawer accidentally! ;-
  • Know how *fast* it will pass by! And make every minute count! Make the most of being on the course and all the learning opportunities it offers.

2. Are there any books you’d recommend reading?

Plenty! Of course, it rather depends what module you are talking about, as well as the specific element of that module:

For module 2, it partly depends on the focus of your LSAs.

  • For LexisThe Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis is the classic chestnut BUT if you are strapped for time, Implementing the Lexical Approach condenses the theory and summarises it, offering lots of practical ideas for implementation of it (funnily enough!), which is pretty handy. Of course, How to teach Vocabulary by Scott Thornbury is a very good base (best read in advance of the course!).
  • For ListeningListening in the Language Classroom by John Field is a good starting point.
  • For Discourse (though I didn’t focus on this for an LSA, there was overlap for my listening and my speaking LSAs, as I approached these through genre plus some knowledge of discourse is handy for module 1 too) I recommend Beyond the Sentence by Scott Thornbury.
  • For SpeakingConversation, from Description to Pedagogy by Scott Thornbury and Diana Slade is great but How to Teach Speaking by Scott Thornbury (again!) is probably the best starting point (though hopefully you will have already read it in advance of the course! ;-) )
  • For Phonology, I recommend Adrian Underhill’s Sound Foundations as a starting point. Very user-friendly. For a more academic follow-up, once you’ve narrowed down your focus, Roach’s English Phonetics and Phonology is a good bet.
  • For Grammar, you would turn to your grammar reference of choice – which will in all likelihood involve an author whose name is also the name of an animal (Swan, Parrott…), for a start. Thornbury (yep!)’s Uncovering Grammar is good too.
  • For ReadingTeaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language by Christine Nuttall is a good starting point.
  • For Writing, I am not sure… But if you are taking a genre approach, then a discourse book like Thornbury’s Beyond the Sentence or Mike McCarthy’s Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers is going to be useful.

I also recommend starting with such a core text and then when you have finished with it, look through its bibliography/references. Then do a treasure hunt: Choose books or articles that look interesting (pay attention to when they were written – there are some oldies but goodies, there are also some bang up-to-date journal articles that can be useful) and search for them in your library database.

(E.g. Leeds Met has an electronic subscription to a good range of relevant journals, so you have a good chance of being in luck when you do your searches. And, if it is not subscribed to the journal but you really want the article, you can fill out a request and they will get hold of it for you for a nominal charge (£2 or so).)

  • For the PDA, something like Jim Scrivener’s Classroom Management Techniques is a useful source, as it contains plenty of bite-sized chunks of information about different techniques, which you can try out and then reflect on/evaluate how it went. If you have chosen any classroom management-y weaknesses to focus on, then you can target the techniques you choose to try. If not, then it is useful for PDA anyway, because experimenting and incorporating different techniques may help you to up your game in between LSAs…

For module 3 it depends on your specialism and on the section of the essay that you are focusing on.

  • For the introduction, it will mostly be specialism specific – either yours or the specialism you are contrasting yours with. Of course it can also relate to themes that arise in relation to your specialism. For example, if you do Teaching English in an English-Speaking Environment, with a U.K. focus, as I did, then articles relating to intercultural competence, ELF etc would be relevant.
  • For a general overview of the course design process from Needs Analysis to Evaluation, I recommend Nation and Macallister’s Language Curriculum Design or Graves’ Designing Language Courses.

For module 1About Language by Scott Thornbury and An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (yep, as well!) are both very useful. Of course, anything you read for the other modules could well help too – e.g. if you read about and learn about assessment for Module 3, you can apply it to the Module 1 question on testing. Plus, the terminology questions will be easier, the more you’ve seen the terminology in context.

Generally, you might like to have a look at my Annotated list of resources that I found useful when preparing for and doing the Delta.  You may or may not find something of interest!

3. Do you have any other advice?

  • Read what people have written about the Delta in their blogs. I have listed all my Delta-related posts in one page, as has Sandy Millin. And contribute your own take on it when you have time (which for me was not till very near the end of the Delta semester – when the input sessions had finished and I came up briefly for air…).
  • Be ready to work very hard! It won’t be handed to you on a plate – nobody can do that, with the best will in the world. Hopefully you will be somewhere where you are given all the help and support you need to understand and fulfil the requirements, as I was, but ultimately it’s down to you.
  • Listen to and respond to the feedback you are given! The tutors can advise you till they are blue in the face, they can fill your drafts with comments, but none of this will help if you don’t listen and respond. Make the changes they recommend. Question the ones you don’t understand so the tutors can explain them to you. The tutors will do their best to help you, but in order for that to work, you need to help yourself too, by taking what they say on board – treat all their comments as gold dust, they *are* that valuable in the context of your Delta! :-)
  • If you are doing the Delta at a university, get a Sconul card so that you can access more libraries – vital when the wolves/vultures have all fallen on the small handful of copies of <insert core text name here> when you are on the verge of LSA essay writing!
  • If you are doing the Delta at Leeds Met, do the M.A. semester afterwards too! It contextualises the Delta and brings everything to life – you have a lot more freedom to explore everything. And it also helps massively with the Module 1 exam when you come to do it in June! But most importantly, it’s a wonderful course to do – you learn loads through the input, discussions and the assessments you have to do (which, handily enough, are all nice and practical not just essay writing or whatever, so you can apply them beyond the course), and so many opportunities can open up to you as a result of doing it – at least that’s what I’ve found.

Good luck to everybody who is starting their Delta now! I know the Leeds Met course began today – a year ago today, that was me just starting out… <nostalgia> :-)  Enjoy the journey, make the most of it, it will be over before you know it.

NB: if you are one of the students who was at the induction and think I’ve missed something that you wanted to refer back to, or you want me to answer something else that you forgot to ask (related to my experience as a student of the course at Leeds Met), feel free to comment on this post and I’ll get back to you! :)

Delta Tips 9: Before, during and after the Delta

Doing the Delta is a massive commitment – financially (if you pay to do the course somewhere and stop work in order to do it), mentally (you can look forward to brain over-load for the duration) and emotionally (‘emotional roller-coaster’ may take on new layers of meaning!). I think what you do during both the preparation time beforehand and the readjustment time afterwards (where I am now…) is, in some ways, equally as important as what you do during the course itself. Why? Because how you prepare for the course will deeply affect how successful you are during the course and once the course finishes, you are left with a lot of new learning to marshall and come to terms with.

Here are a few general tips for all three stages, based on what I’ve learnt from my own experience and from talking to others who have completed the Delta – both at the same university as me and beyond – which will hopefully help you to get as much as possible out of doing the course. If you think I’ve missed something crucial, or even less crucial but nevertheless should still be there, post a comment on this post and I’ll add it on! :)

Before the Delta:

  • Read Sandy Millin’s blog post Preparing for the Delta: She knows what she is talking about! :) This post contains a lot of useful information and links.
  • Make sure you really want to do the Delta: It’s all-consuming and not something to take on just for the hell of it. If you are 100% sure you want to do it, make sure the timing is right: are you able to commit the time, money and non-stop effort required at this point in your life?
  • Read blog posts aimed at people who are doing the Delta, such as those which have been curated by Sandy in her blog post Useful links for Delta   : This will give you some idea of what to expect and therefore help you to decide if it’s really what you want.
  • Make sure you choose the right place and the right mode of delivery to suit you and your needs. Sandy has started a Delta Conversations series, to which a number of people have contributed accounts of their Delta experiences so far. If you are unsure of where/how to do it, have a read of this and take time to make the right decision. I can, of course, highly recommend the course I did at Leeds Met.
  • One I will re-emphasise is: Read. Read. Read, read, read…oh and readPreparing for the Delta contains some recommendations, as does my Annotated List of Resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta It really does make a difference. One I will add is: Do the activities in About Language (the above blog posts for further information about this book) – even if you’re pretty good with terminology and how language works, this will make sure everything is fresh before you embark on the course, which will save you time in the long run (through knowing things rather than having to look them up and remind yourself of them)
  • Decide on a note-taking system and investigate different ways of curating information – you will probably acquire a wealth of notes, handouts, electronic handouts, journal articles, links etc during the course and it helps if you keep things organised (less time spent rootling around either your computer or your bedroom for the crucial bit of information you know is there somewhere).
  • For storing electronic stuff, I would recommend using Evernote (and wish I had known about it before the Delta – I only started using it during my M.A. semester!) for anything electronic. Why?
  1. Because you can put anything into it (pdf’s, various document types etc) and it has a handy web-clipper and desktop clipper too. The web-clipper can save articles, pdfs, links, webpages etc and the desktop clipper works a bit like Jing, in that you can take screen casts and they save to Evernote too.
  2. Because you can also tag everything, which makes finding information a LOT easier.
  3. Because if you have a tablet and can write (legibly/not like a two-year-old!) on it with a stylus, there is an app called Penultimate, which talks to Evernote. So, the notes you write in Penultimate will be saved to Evernote as well, and you can then search them using the Evernote search function. Pretty handy!
  • Remember that you are going to be a student again and brush up on your study skills! This would be a good point to learn all about the formatting tools that exist in Word – these will be timesavers when you are producing your course work. (See Preparing for the Delta no. 3 for help with this!)

During the Delta

  • Be a stickler for deadlines and be organised: if you get behind, chances are you won’t ever quite catch up again until the course finishes! (From experience, even if you are organised and meet every deadline, you only just about keep on top of things, at least most of the time…)
  • Make sure you take breaks and have a means of making yourself switch off. (For me, yoga was a life-saver.)
  • Exercise regularly – your brain needs all the oxygen it can get! (I found swimming and running good) Even a half hour break to exercise is time well-spent. And you will probably work more effectively when you come back to it – so you can justify it!
  • Make friends with your course mates (sounds obvious but still!) – they know exactly what you are going through, so you can jolly each other along. (I imagine if you are doing a distance option, then the equivalent would be ‘make use of the message boards’ or something!) That way, you can have some fun too. And not feel isolated.
  • Tell your tutors when you are struggling or panicking and considering dropping out –  don’t be embarrassed to, they’ve seen it all before (!) and will be able to help you. And hopefully they will all be as lovely as the Leeds Met tutors. :)
  • Take every opportunity to observe other teachers teach and be observed teaching by colleagues (using tailored observation forms for both). This was built into our course, because of the way the teaching practice element worked, but I imagine if you are doing module 2 where you work, while you work, this won’t be quite as easy. It is worth making the effort to make it happen, if it’s possible, because it is very valuable and really helps with the PDA element of the module.
  • Don’t feel bad if you find it extraordinarily hard – it is. Extraordinarily hard, that is. It’s quite normal to rant, rave, cry etc – the trick is to find people you are able to do that with! (Hence: “Make friends with your course mates” ;-) ) It doesn’t make you inadequate or incapable or anything else – it just means you are human!
  • Keep in mind why you wanted to do the course in the first place: As the course wears on, maintaining motivation to keep going will become key.
  • Reward yourself when you submit assignments on time, when you get a good grade etc etc. (You can think of various such reasons, I’m sure!) E.g. treat yourself to a long hot bath and a night off or take a day off at the weekend to see some friends. This will help you not to burn out.
  • Eat healthily – try and make sure you take time to prepare and eat healthy meals as much of the time as possible. (It’s tempting to decide you haven’t got time and just munch a bowl of cereal instead of having dinner – I did it a few times: A few times is ok, but don’t let it become a habit.) You need to keep your strength up and not open yourself up to illness. Especially if your course runs over winter in a cold country…

After the Delta (Cos there is life after Delta, believe it or not! ;-) )

  • (Perhaps, depending on your personality type) be prepared for some serious confidence issues when you emerge out of the other end of the Delta tunnel: Having spent the length of your course having your teaching completely deconstructed, poked and prodded, analysed and reformulated, you will be hyper-sensitive to everything you do in the classroom. Don’t beat yourself up. Give it time for things to settle. (And I have it on good authority that it really does take time for everything to settle – which is reassuring!!) Everything will be ok…
  • Have a holiday (if you can!) – you’ve earnt it!
  • Blog about your experience of doing the Delta and what you’ve learnt – the more people do that, the more complete a picture of what doing the Delta means will be built up. This is helpful for prospective Delta candidates as well as current Delta candidates. It could also helpful for you – blogging about what you’ve learnt means you re-process it and maybe get more out of it as you do so.
  • Don’t jump straight into another course (unless you happen to be doing the Delta/M.A. ELT at Leeds Met, in which case you will jump straight into the M.A. semester of the course – via a few weeks off at Christmas!! But I’m counting it as one course, and won’t be jumping into anything else for a while!)  – give yourself plenty of time to let your teaching settle and experiment with what you’ve learnt. You learn so much on the Delta, and, particularly if you do Module 2 intensively, there isn’t time to experiment with and really get to grips with all of it. Studying is awesome, I love it, but you really do need time in between courses, I think, to integrate what you learn into your teaching, so that you can fully benefit from the courses you do.
  • Think about what you want to do with your Delta: maybe you aren’t interested in making any changes and will just continue with/return to your previous job. But otherwise, the Delta opens up lots of doors. Have a good look at what is out there, what new things you might be able to do with it, and think about what you really want to do and how to go about reaching that goal. Then go for it!
  • Don’t get complacent: keep learning – read, experiment, reflect, evaluate. Attend conferences. If you haven’t already done so, think about presenting something. Use Twitter. Blog. In a nutshell, keep up to date and keep seeking out new opportunities for development. The world won’t stop turning just because you now have your Delta!
  • Give yourself a pat on the back and a nice big glass of red wine/ <insert your tipple of choice here> – you survived! :)

Delta Notes 2: Teaching Listening

This Delta Notes series has come about because I am packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and have found my Delta notebooks. I don’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I’m interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! I will also add some reflections at the end of each set of notes. Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

Here are some of my (written up) notes from a module 2 input session on teaching listening, followed by some reflections/ramblings and a short list of recommended reading:

Listening is:

  • often under-valued
  • often back-burned in favour of speaking and writing (as they are more tangible)
  • often seen as ‘passive’ (due to widespread use of the comprehension approach)

BUT:

  •  Learners need to be able to listen and understand in order to speak.
  • Learners with good listening skills can take better advantage of the multitude of linguistic input available (especially in an English-speaking environment) and so listening better equips learners to learn autonomously.

The Comprehension Approach  

 This consists of:

Pre-listening

  • Establish context
  • Create motivation
  • Pre-teach vocabulary

Extensive/intensive listening

  • General questions on context/attitude of speakers

Post listening

Language focus:

  • Functional language
  • Infer meaning of unknown vocabulary
  • Look at transcript

It is a robust methodology, still featuring strongly since it became popular in the late 80s.

Need to bear in mind:

  • The more we tell learners before they listen, the less they need to listen.
  • Wrong answers could be a reading or writing (of the questions or answers) failure rather than a listening failure.

Listening teaching practice was probably transferred across from reading teaching practice (listening dedicated lessons came after reading-focussed lessons).

 BUT:

  •  A reader benefits from a standardised spelling system and gaps between words on the page, while a listener must cope with speech sounds which vary from one utterance to another and words which blend into one another (because of phonology/position  of articulators)
  • Reading is recursive – you can look back and forth over what you have read, while listening is transient – the information unfolds in real time and you can’t look back over it again.
  •  Both require use of meaning-building processes BUT speech is temporary: the listener must carry forward memory of what has gone before to make sense of what comes next.

Conventional listening does not develop learners’ listening skills/competence in any systematic way. Progress just means harder texts: barriers are raised but learners are not shown how to get over them. After a given point of difficulty, learners may switch off in belief of their incapability.

It is important to note that right answers do not necessary equal understanding:

  •  it could be a guess
  •  it could be use of test-wise strategies
  • it could be identification of an isolated point but no overall understanding of the speaker’s message

Furthermore, an “incorrect” answer might be supported by textual evidence that the listener has noted but the teacher and/or writer has overlooked.

The comprehension approach is very teacher-centred: The teacher intervenes too much, learners tend to be isolated and the whole process is more like a test than a learning process.  This can be helped by doing jigsaw listening or by having learners check their answers in pairs prior to eliciting answers. Especially if you play the recording, allow learners to check in pairs, play the recording again, allow learners to check again and then elicit answers.

Another thing to bear in mind is: If one learner gets the right answer, what about the rest? Have they also understood?

A listener needs to:

  •  Select a listening type that is appropriate to input and task. Goals and types of listening are closely linked.  One might listen and respond, listen and challenge, listen and negotiate, locate and retain main points, monitor for one item (e.g. a train time or news of a particular road in a traffic bulletin), listen for interesting items (e.g. in a news bulletin) etc.

Listening varies along a spectrum from expeditious to careful and from local to global.

Process Listening

 According to this approach, listening is a process not a product.

We have decoding processes:

  •  Turning the stream of speech into sounds, then syllables, then words, then sentences

And we have meaning-building processes:

  •  Using background knowledge, contextual knowledge and co-textual knowledge to help us make sense of what we hear.

These processes interact rather than working in isolation. For example, we use context to help with decoding as well as for global meaning.

Why don’t learners understand?

 It could be lack of vocabulary, but it could also be that a known word is not recognized due to reduction, elision, assimilation or any other feature of connected speech. It could also be a problem of lexical segmentation e.g. instead of hearing catalogue, a learner might hear cat a log.

How can we help?

 Using authentic materials can help learners become accustomed to the natural cadences of the target language. We can also help learners become more used to and better able to extrapolate meaning from partially understood utterances

Teaching listening strategies can also help learners to listen more effectively.

Drawing attention to the way words change, in terms of how they sound, in connected speech i.e. elisions and assimilations etc.

Reflections (or, my chance to waffle and reprocess what I’ve read and learnt ;-) ):

 I learnt a lot about listening from doing my listening LSA: Reading Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom revolutionised my understanding of what’s involved in teaching listening (as opposed to merely testing it!). However, I think I possibly learnt at least as much again as a result of the materials development module that I did as part of my M.A. in ELT. This is because I discovered and then used theories from  Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening: Metacognition in Action, by Vandergrift and Goh to inform the materials I developed for assessment.

(As far as I can make out) Vandergrift and Goh argue that learners will be able to listen more effectively if they have greater control over the processes they use. As I understand it, developing learners’ metacognitive awareness of the cognitive processes they use in listening helps them become better able to select processes according to text type and task type. So we can help learners learn to plan, monitor and evaluate their listening, rather than just leaving them to listen haphazardly:

  • As well as having learners check their answers in pairs (as mentioned in my notes above), we can encourage them to pinpoint where their difficulties were, evaluate the effectiveness of the listening processes they used (did they use their background knowledge, did they use the co-text, did they use the context, did they try and translate every word etc.) and plan for the next listen through.
  • Before playing the recording, we can engage learners in discussion about the type of recording it is and what they can expect to hear: Different genres follow different predictable macro-scripts. Learners could then discuss what type of listening and what listening purposes match the genre in question. Of course we can also give them some information about the topic and encourage them to predict what kind of vocabulary and ideas might come up too. Reading something related to the topic prior to listening could also be useful.
  • All of these activities contribute to schema activation and planning: Once schemata are activated, learners are better prepared to listen and have more chance of listening successfully, and if learners plan how to listen as well, they can subsequently monitor the processes they use as well as how effective these are, and then evaluate the effectiveness of their plans.

The transcript can be used, after listening for meaning and detail, to help learners identify the problems they had, to help them understand why they didn’t understand:

  • They could circle words they didn’t manage to understand while listening and then use a list of prompts, e.g. “I heard the words but I couldn’t remember the meaning quickly enough”, to help them analyze their difficulties.
  • Activities such as listening and marking pauses and/or stressed words can also be done using the transcript.
  • Drawing learners’ attention to features of connected speech such as elision and assimilation can also be useful as learners often find it confusing when words sound so different as part of utterances compared to how they sound in isolation.

One thing I have noticed, since changing the way I teach listening, is that there is a tangible air of relief in the classroom when you allow learners to check their ideas together after they have listened. Listening stops being threatening because learners aren’t isolated and they know they aren’t about to be picked on when perhaps they aren’t confident of what they’ve heard. As learners are then more relaxed when they listen, they are likely to be able to hear more as anxiety and tension do not prevent them from focusing. Playing the recording again after learners have conferred before eliciting any answers is also useful as they can check what they have discussed and have the opportunity resolve any disagreements and plug any gaps.

Of course, like anything, you can’t do it ALL in one lesson. Over a course of lessons, however, the recording is your oyster…

In terms of the Delta, if you are doing a listening LSA:

  • Do yourself a big favour and read Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom as a minimum. (He has several articles in the ELTJ as well – see below for examples).  I’m biased but I’d say read Vandergrift and Goh as well, if you can: the theory is extremely interesting and it has lots of adaptable, useful, practical activities for you to try out in the classroom too. What I’ve alluded to is only the tip of the iceberg – both books contain such a wealth of valuable information and advice.
  • Try new things out with your learners well in advance of your assessed lesson – you probably don’t want to be springing a whole bunch of new techniques on them all at once while being observed! Also, you yourself may need time to get the hang of using the new techniques effectively (experiment, collect evidence, reflect, fine tune…) This may seem obvious but on the other hand it also requires good time management and advance planning, which are easier said than done, especially under Delta pressure! :-)

 Further recommended reading:

So, if you’ve read the books I mentioned above and are looking for more material to get your teeth into, or you’ve read the above-mentioned books and are now looking for extra references to beef up your bibliography, or you just incredibly interested in the ins and outs of teaching listening, you might like to have a look at these: 

Field, J. Promoting perception: lexical segmentation in L2 listening ELTJ vol. 57/4 October 2003. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2003.

Field, J. Looking outwards, not inwards. in ELTJ  vol 61/1. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2007.

Kemp, J. (2010) The Listening Log: Motivating autonomous learning in ELTJ vol. 64/4. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Nation I.S.P, Newton J. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking Routledge. 2009.

 

 

 

 

Delta Notes 1: Error Correction

This Delta Notes series has come about because I am packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and have found my Delta notebooks. I don’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I’m interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! I will also add some reflections at the end of each set of notes. Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

Here are my (written up) notes from a Module 2 input session on error correction:

Errors are evidence of learner development and are made for a variety of reasons. They are something we, as teachers, have to deal with on a regular basis. To do this effectively, it helps to have a clear understanding of why errors might be made and what can be done with them.

If a learner makes a slip, they have the requisite knowledge, e.g. that in the third person present simple, we add –s or –es, but do not produce the item correctly. In this case, they are likely to be able to self-correct quickly. Errors can also provide evidence of learners’ systems – if a learner produces the same error consistently, it is systematic. Learners may also make attempts to say something that they have not learnt how to say, and not quite manage. This provides information about what they are ready for – what they can do and what gaps there are in their knowledge.

From the teacher’s point of view, some errors are covert i.e. learners produce something correct but it wasn’t what they wanted to say and this isn’t obvious to the teacher, while some are overt, i.e. obvious.

Errors can be caused by incorrect L1 transfer. However, it is worth remembering that transfer can often also be positive. Errors can also be intra-lingual, developmental and systematic. These refer to learners’ current awareness of the language and can be a result of over-generalisation or incomplete application of rules. They could also be a result of mis-teaching, where there is lack of clarity, or over-teaching, where some language feature, e.g. –ing, gets stuck in their head!

A breakdown of different types of errors:

Pronunciation

  • Suprasegmental – word or sentence level mistakes e.g. incorrect intonation or stress.
  • Segmental – sound-level mistakes e.g. mixing up consonant sounds /p/ and /b/
  • Combinatorial – mistakes relating to how sounds are linked e.g. producing consonant clusters incorrectly.

Lexical

  • Incorrect selection of a word/phrase
  • Inventing a word/phrase
  • Transferring words/phrases from L1 incorrectly
  • Distortions of words e.g. kitchen v chicken

 Semantic

  • Words could be too specific or too general for a given purpose
  • Use of a superordinate instead of a more appropriate hyponym
  • Use of the wrong collocation
  • Production of an incorrect form
  • Wrong level of formality
  • Unintended connotation

Grammatical

  • Covert: a correct form but not the intended form
  • Morphological (but this can be a pronunciation error rather than a grammatical error e.g. not pronouncing the final ‘s’ rather than not using plural)
  • Syntax

Pragmatics

  • Confusion regarding function e.g. Is this ‘Can’ for ability or request – requires interpretation of language in context.
  • Literal meaning could be different from use e.g. “It’s cold in here” literally means the temperature in here is quite low, but it can be used as a request to close a window/put on a heater etc
  • Taboo subjects

Receptive errors

  • Learners may mis-process input and give the wrong response.

How can we deal with learner errors?

If they are overt, we can deal with them instantly or wait till a more appropriate moment.

If we decide to deal with learner errors instantly, how can we go about this?

 This very much depends on the error type and on various contextual factors (what learners are used to, the focus of the lesson phase, how much time is available etc)

One way of dealing with errors:

Ask for repetition: this signals you aren’t sure of what the learner has said and gives them the opportunity to self-correct if it is a slip. It also gives you thinking time! (I.e. time to decide how to deal with the error)

Ask for self-correction: learners may have missed your previous cue or attempted to self-correct but not corrected the error.

Ask the rest of the class to try and help: this engages all learners in what started as a one-to-one interaction and maximizes on the different developmental stages and sub-levels that are present within a single class.

If nobody can help: either give up and provide the answer or give prompts that may help learners to reach the answer. (Worth remembering that you can’t elicit what learners don’t know and considering whether the benefits of laboring over a particular error balance out the amount of time spent.)

If somebody can help: Ask them to repeat their correct form. Get everyone to say the correct form. Then ask the learner who originally made the error to repeat the correct utterance – this reinstates the class as it was, but with the correct form. (Very often, there is no need for a “teacher model”, except for pronunciation – and even with pronunciation, learners will often repeat better from a learner model.)

 It is important to show awareness of errors: If you are not correcting errors, it is important to be explicit about why you are not correcting errors. This might relate to the focus of the lesson phase (i.e. you might be focusing on fluency development and so may be less worried about accuracy at that point) or your plan (i.e. you might plan to do a delayed error correction feedback phase after an activity rather than correct during the activity). However, it is also very important to respond to what learners say, not only focus on how they are saying it.

When a learner produces language, ask yourself:

  • Is this adequate?
  • Can I get more?
  • Do I want more?


Here are some of my reflections on error correction:

Error correction is, I think, one of the minefields of ELT. Learners desperately want it, and may feel they are being short-changed if it doesn’t happen. Teachers may have good reasons for not doing it, or may be doing it in such a way that learners are not explicitly aware that they are being corrected. Teachers might also get into the habit of always using the same narrow selection of error correction techniques, which may not be effective for some of the learners in the class. Of course, what constitutes effective is another can of worms! I think there’s a lot to be said for variety and experimentation, where error correction technique is concerned: Different techniques will be better suited to certain error types, different learner preferences and so on. Experimentation – and, of course, post-lesson reflection on this experimentation – can enable a teacher to build up a range of techniques that he or she will be able to draw on when the need arises.

(For this, I recommend having a look at Classroom Management Techniques by Jim Scrivener, which contains many practical ideas, and the reasoning behind them, to try out: Though it is not specifically about error correction, there is a useful chapter on eliciting (p139 -145), which is applicable. Also have a look at his Learning Teaching book, specifically chapter 14 “Toolkit 2: focusing on language 1. Error Correction” p298 -302. (NB link and page numbers refer to second edition, which I have, but I gather there is a third one now…) Finally, there is a very good chapter in Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching, Chapter 8: “Mistakes and Feedback” p137-152, which I’d recommend reading. In terms of the Delta, as far as I understand it, you are supposed to try and demonstrate that you are able to draw on a wide range of techniques, within an assessed lesson, so all the more reason to have a read and get experimenting if you are a Delta trainee – or a prospective one!)

Errors can be a great source of further learning, but only if they are used as such. For example, if you are doing whole class feedback on a listening exercise, and a learner provides an incorrect answer, merely providing the correct answer will probably  not result in much learning. However, if you involve other learners and explore the cause of the misunderstanding, then learning opportunities increase. Some errors may, of course, not be worth spending too much class time on – this comes down to teacher judgement and may be influenced by factors such as the aim of the activity, how it fits into the sequence of activities that make up the lesson, whether you think the error is something that learners should already know/be able to produce correctly and so on.

Finally, I think it can be valuable to involve learners in negotiating how and when error correction should take place. For example, if you are going to do a speaking activity, ask them if they want to be corrected during the activity or to be given feedback once they have finished speaking. Depending on the activity goal, your preference may be the former or the latter, the learners may (think they) want the opposite. Correct those learners who request it while they speak, correct those who request delayed feedback when they have finished, then once the activity has been completed and all feedback given, briefly discuss the pros and cons of each method with them. Elicit their ideas before giving yours, and explain your choice of method isn’t arbitrary but based on what you think will benefit them the most for any given activity. When you experiment with new techniques, involve the learners by explaining what you are doing and asking for their feedback afterwards. Hopefully this kind of discussion and learner involvement will also increase learners’ trust in you, and what you are doing with them, as well as giving you extra evidence to reflect on after the lesson.

Recommended reading:

Lightbown and Spada (2006:125-128) “Corrective feedback in the classroom” in How languages are learned (third edition) Oxford University Press, Oxford.

(Usefully describes different types of error correction – explicit correction, recasts, clarification requests, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation and repetition, giving examples of each)

An annotated list of resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta

I read a colossal amount both in the run up to and during my Delta course at Leeds Met, so have decided to blog about (some of!) what I read in that time, for prospective Delta students (and any other teachers interested in ELT-related literature!) to use as a point of comparison for their own reading, and even – perhaps – find a couple of things they haven’t read as yet, which might be of interest. It’s not an exhaustive list because if I were to list everything I read and used in preparation for and during the Delta, then this post would be as overwhelming and therefore as limited in utility as the official recommended reading lists!

I’ve divided up the books/articles up by module (and in the case of Module 2 sub-divided further) in the hopes of making the list a bit less unwieldy. There’s some overlap, inevitably, especially for module 1, so will cross-reference where relevant. All books are linked to Amazon, where you can have a sneak preview of many of them, but do be selective in what you buy. (One of the good things about doing the course at Leeds Met was having access to the library, which has all the essential books and many others besides!) Try to beg/borrow/maybe not steal first!

So, here goes, in no particular order:

Module 1

For the exam, a lot of general reading is helpful. And if you start well in advance of doing a course (if you plan to do a course for this module), it gives you time to absorb what you are reading and get repeated exposure to terminology in context. This is helpful for Paper 1, questions 1 and 2, but also just in giving you a sound basis of theory to draw in throughout the Delta and beyond.

About Language

This book by Scott Thornbury is very useful for making sure you know the English Language inside out – what everything is called and, importantly, how it works. It contains information and exercises, with a handy key at the back of the book. I worked through the whole of this book in preparation for starting the Delta – doing the exercises, checking the key and then filling in any gaps in a different colour font to remind me of where my gaps were when using the document as a revision tool. (I wouldn’t have had time to do this alongside doing the Delta, so this is definitely something I recommend doing in advance of starting!)

Beyond the sentence (also LSA2)

Another Scott Thornbury special, this looks at English from a discourse perspective. It’s really interesting, clearly and accessibly written, and in more mundane terms very useful for Paper 1 question 4, which carries a lot of marks. Also, of course, recommended for if you do an LSA on Discourse, of course! In fact, I used it for my LSAs on Listening and Speaking as well, language as discourse being such a central part of what language is and how it works. Another mixture of theory and tasks with key, enabling you to test what you’ve learned and then check your understanding. I made a lot of notes based on this book prior to starting, which were useful to refer back to during the course. Of course it also gives you exposure to more useful terminology in action (a lot of which was new to me, words and concepts both, hence the copious notes!).

Sound Foundations (also LSA3 and PDA)

This I read after I decided I wanted to do the Delta, quite far in advance of actually doing it. Someone had mentioned that it was important to learn about phonology before doing the Delta and of course whoever it was (I forget now but thank you very much to you!) was absolutely right.

Underhill helps you to understand phonology through a mixture of theory and practical discovery activities that guide you through the phonemic chart, the way all the sounds work, as well as word level and sentence level phonological features, and how everything fits together. He also provides plenty of suggestions for classroom use, as an added bonus. Indeed, this is another very clear, accessible read – and the latest edition features a helpful accompanying CD. You might as well get friendly with phonology before starting the Delta, it will be useful for Paper 1 question 4 and also for your LSA lesson plans, for the target language analysis part.

I found that understanding how phonology works at sound level made it a lot easier to learn the phonemes/how to write in phonemic script, which, geekily enough, I quite enjoy doing having learnt how! (Soon after completing my CELTA I tried to learn them just through memorisation and it just didn’t stick.)

How languages are learned

This is a useful overview of Language Acquisition theory, by Lightbown and Spada, exploring both first and second language acquisition theories as well as how they apply to the classroom. I read it cover to cover in advance of the course, again making copious notes because most of it was new to me, and found it useful to consequently have a bit of background knowledge to draw on in this area.

The A-Z of ELT Methodology.

Yet another Thornbury gem, this is a useful starting point whenever you come across something you aren’t sure of. I don’t recommend reading it cover to cover – too much information on too many different things. Rather keep dipping in and out, use it as a reference when you get confused about stuff, and use it as a revision tool: open it a random, pick a term, try to define it then look at how Thornbury defines it. Repeat.

The Practice of English Language Teaching

I imagine most teachers have come across this one of Harmer’s. My CELTA tutor recommended it to me when I asked for suggestions of what to read beyond the course (our general methodology text was Scrivener’s Learning Teaching). So I had it and I had dipped in and out. But once I had been accepted on the course, I dutifully ploughed through it, which was good for checking what I knew, remembered, had forgotten and didn’t yet know. It’s a useful book for giving you a bit of information about all sorts.

Thinking about Language Teaching

This book of Michael Swan’s is one I bought at the IATEFL conference in 2012 (got it signed by Michael Swan too! :-p) because it looked interesting: It’s a collection of articles he’s written over the ages and as such provides a fascinating insight into the development of ELT over the past few decades. As well as being interesting, it turned  out to be a useful one for Delta too. There are a lot of arguments for and against various approaches and having an understanding of these doesn’t go amiss. You may pick up titbits of information that come in handy for Paper 2 question 4, for example. Plus he writes really well!

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching

Richards and Rodgers’ take on the many different approaches and methods that have come in and out of fashion over the years is a very useful overview. I read this before doing the course too, and made a timeline summarising the information. I found this helped me get my head around it all, as well as creating a useful document to refer back to during the course.

And, finally, here is a list of resources I put together especially for revising for the Delta Module 1 exams.

Module 2

Obviously, what’s useful depends on what your focus is for each of the 4 LSAs. If you happen to plan on doing Lexis, Listening, Phonology and Speaking, then you’re in luck! :-p There are a couple of books that are useful generally too. 

General

Learner English: a teacher’s guide to interference and other problems

This book, by Swan and Smith, is useful regardless of the focuses you choose for your LSAs: It outlines the problems (grammatical, phonological etc) that learners from different countries have with speaking English, relating these back to the L1. I bought it before going to teach in Indonesia – happened across it in a bookshop and got it because it looked interesting and useful: I wasn’t wrong!

Classroom Management Techniques

(See PDA/Experimental Practice)

LSA1 (Lexis) 

The Lexical Approach

The classic read if you are doing a Lexis LSA. However, if you are short of time, rather than reading this cover to cover, start with Implementing the Lexical Approach, which condenses the theory and provides lots of ideas for practical application. Then use the Lexical Approach to plug any gaps. If you are planning to do a Lexis LSA and you know this before you start your course, though, the Lexical Approach would be a good one to include in your pre-course reading. I think a lot more can be got out of it, because there is so, so much in it, if you have that bit of extra time to absorb things, i.e. without an impending LSA draft deadline looming.

Teaching Collocations

This is useful, funnily enough, if you decide, as I did, to focus on collocations (of some sort – you’d need to narrow it in some way e.g. I narrowed mine down to verb-noun and adjective-noun collocations for lower level learners) for your Lexis LSA.

How to teach Vocabulary

This I read prior to doing the course, as part of my preparation and I found it gave me a lot of useful background information, a good overview of lexis, which meant that when it came the first LSA, which for us happened to be Lexis, I was in a good position to chose what I wanted to focus on and get down to work, which in turn meant I was able to make better use of the draft-feedback system at Leeds Met, meaning that by the end of LSA1 I had a handle on exactly what was required (which was no small feat, as I was miles off to start with!) for each of the components.

Thornbury again, and again that handy combination of theory and tasks with key. Lots of useful terminology in use. Lots of useful activities for teaching vocabulary to learners effectively. I really enjoyed reading this and doing the tasks. Again, a lot of it was new to me.

Vocabulary: Acquisition, Description and Pedagogy

This is an edited book, so though it’s big and fairly dense, once you know what your focus is, you can dip in to the relevant chapters and extract useful information. It’s an interesting read, (one I plan to return to once I’m finished studying and can choose what to read then do so in my own sweet time…) but I would recommend waiting till you know what your focus is before hitting it as opposed to reading it before you decide on your focus, as general reading. Potentially too time-consuming otherwise! Unless you happen to fancy reading it prior to the course and have bags of time to do so… (Of course this is just personal opinion! I think something like How to Teach Vocabulary is more useful as a general starting point..)

Articles

A couple of articles on collocations that I found both useful and interesting (and I think would make good reading for any teacher, Delta trainee or otherwise) were:

Woollard, G. (2005) Noticing and Learning Collocation in  English Teaching Professional Issue 40 pp 48-50 Pavillion

Hill, J. (April 1999) Collocational Competence in English Teaching Professional Issue 11, pp.3-7. Pavillion

LSA2 (Listening)

Listening in the Language Classroom

This was recommended by my tutor to all of us who chose to do listening rather than reading for our first skills LSA. Had never heard of it before but found it absolutely brilliant. I read it cover to cover, used it heavily for my LSA and have incorporated the approach into my teaching ever since.  John Field breaks listening down into Decoding and Meaning building processes, going into great depth about what sub-processes make these up, why they are important, how they all interact and, of course, how you can help learners develop them. It also gives a useful overview of previous approaches to teaching listening to contextualise it all. I would highly recommend this book to any ELT professional.

Second Language Listening: Theory and Practice

Another useful text, by Flowerdew and Miller, this provides a historical background to the teaching of listening, puts forward a pedagogical model together with ideas for its application, and considers key issues in teaching and testing listening.

A lot of my reading for this LSA was related to the particular genre I was focussing on, which was radio news broadcast.

LSA3 Phonology

Sound Foundations (see Module 1)

Pronunciation 

This is a very accessible overview of features of pronunciation, by Dalton and Seidlhofer, with theory strongly rooted in practical application.

English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course

Recommended by my tutor when I decided to do phonology for my third LSA, this book by Roach is quite academic. Like Sound Foundations, it comes with an accompanying CD. I found it was very useful for the analysis section of a Phonology LSA. And of course, if you come to it having already decided on your focus, you can zone in on the relevant sections.

Teaching English Pronunciation

This, much like Dalton and Seidlhofer, gives an accessible overview of features of pronunciation, again combining theory and practical application. It also contains useful lists of difficulties (at sound, word and sentence level) that learners from different countries may experience with English pronunciation.

Listening in the Language Classroom

See LSA2. Additionally: parts of this book are relevant to phonology essays, though of course the focus is on the receptive aspect of pronunciation i.e. how we decode a stream of speech.

LSA4 Speaking

Conversation: from description to pedagogy

This book by Thornbury (again!) and Slade is brilliant and I highly recommend reading it – I read it cover to cover before deciding what to zone in on for my speaking LSA. (Helping higher level learners with anecdotes was the final decision). It does what it says on the tin, and it does so clearly and accessibly. It goes into plenty of depth but it’s not arduous reading at all. It looks at things like the grammar of conversation, the vocabulary of conversation, the discourse features of conversation and different genres within conversation, as well as issues of acquisition, how to teach conversation and how it has been taught in the past.

Analysing casual conversation

This is by Eggins and Slade, and a really fascinating read. I borrowed it from the library initially, once I had decided on my focus and read the relevant sections. Have since bought it and plan to read it cover to cover once I’ve finished studying because it just all looks so interesting. But I didn’t have the time to read what wasn’t related to my LSA and haven’t had time since either! Despite the amount of reading I did prior to the course, it was always the case of so much to read, so little time… the pattern continued for my M.A. semester too! Very useful for the analysis section of the essay – unsurprisingly! Of course, it will only be of use to you if your LSA-focus is one of the elements of casual conversation dealt with… that’s what the contents pages and index are for!

How to teach Speaking

You can guess who this one is by…yup, that’s right, it is Thornbury once more! Like the other books in this How to.. series, this is another handy combination of theory and practical application, as well as tasks and a key for you to check your understanding with. This is a useful one to read before deciding on your focus as the content is relevant generally. I read it prior to starting the course and found it a useful base on which to build, so can recommend this route, if you are able to access it.

Articles:

Jones, R. A consciousness-raising approach to the teaching of conversational storytelling in ELTJ volume 55/2. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2001.

The above article I recommend for anybody, Delta trainee or not – it’s clearly written, practical, provides an activity for use in the classroom that is readily adaptable and exemplifies an interesting approach.

Mumford, S. Analysis of Spoken Language: A Case for Production. in ELT Journal Vol. 63/2. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2009.

PDA

Classroom Management Techniques

In a nutshell, this one is useful because it contains information about a range of techniques you can use in the classroom. That’s useful for the PDA because you can probably find something related to what you are working on, if you are working on anything to do with classroom management. Then you can try out Scrivener’s suggestions, see if they work for you, collect evidence for your appendices, reflect on it etc. Even if you aren’t focusing on classroom management for your PDA, trying out different techniques is a good thing to do and may also help you improve between LSAs if any of your minor weaknesses (not major enough to merit being selected for PDA but still earning you “partially met” instead of “met” and therefore bringing your LSA achievement down) are classroom management related.

Experimental Practice

Obviously what you find useful for this will depend on what you want to experiment with. I would recommend using a range of resources – books, but also magazine and journal articles and internet-based resources. English Teaching Professional and Modern English Teacher both contain lots of articles that very usefully combine bite-size theory and practical ideas.

Module 3

For Module 3, my specialism was Teaching English in an English-Speaking Environment. I really enjoyed doing the project and learnt a lot. I also read a huge amount in the process… For the introduction, what I read was specialism specific, but for the other sections, there was a lot of reading that applies whatever the specialism, in terms of the principles involved. I will focus on the widely applicable reading here. Of course application of the principles is then specialism-dependent. I will put what sections I found each book helpful for in brackets. If you want a copy of my complete bibliography, leave a comment at the end of this post with your email address and I’ll send it to you. It’s farrrr too long to put everything down here and annotate!

Language Curriculum Design (For: sections 2,3,4)

Nation and Macalister’s book was the one I found most helpful for module 3, in terms of bringing everything together in one succinct, slim volume. It’s a very useful overview, and goes systematically through principles of Needs Analysis, Course Design and Assessment/Evaluation. It really helped me get my head around the process. It would be my top recommendation for Module 3. Insufficient on its own, of course, but incredibly useful in helping one to make sense of everything. I read it after I had read lots of bits and bobs of other stuff and had multiple input sessions and found it brought order to the chaos of information jostling around in my head.

Teaching and Learning in the Second Language Classroom (For: sections 2,3,4)

Tricia Hedge’s book is useful generally, containing sections on systems, skills, learner autonomy, the classroom etc, and could/should come into play for all of the modules, but for me it really came into its own for Module 3, where I was very grateful for Part 4 – Planning and Assessing Learning. 

Testing for Language Teachers (For: sections 2 and 4)

This is a very clearly written book in which Hughes covers all the ins and outs of testing. Well worth getting hold of. Also useful for module 1 paper 2 question 1 (where you have to analyse a language test). I read it cover to cover in preparation for a homework task based on that question, and it definitely helped. In terms of module 3, the relevant principles are covered. I think it’s even useful if you are not doing/planning to do the Delta – assessment is something we are all involved in as teachers, so it’s good to know a bit about it.

Curriculum Development in Language Teaching (For: sections 2,3,4)

This book, by Richards, is another key one for module 3. It provides in-depth coverage of the whole process of developing a course, including evaluation.

Designing Language Courses (For sections 2,3,4)

Another key text for module 3, again covering the whole process of developing a course, including needs analysis. It also has case studies detailing teachers’ experiences of course design.

Articles:

Black, P(2009)  Formative Assessment Issues Across the Curriculum: The Theory and the Practice. TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 43, Issue 3, 519-523. (For section 4)

Cotterall, Sara.(2000) Promoting learner autonomy through the curriculum: principles for designing language courses. In ELTJ vol 54/2. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (For section 2)

Davies, A. (2006) What do learners really want from their EFL course? in ELTJ Vol 60/1. (For Section 2)

Graves, K (2008) The Language Curriculum: A social contextual perspective in Language Teaching vol. 41/2. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. (For section 3)

Perrin, G (2009) Diagnostic Procedures in Language Learning MET vol 18 no 4. Pavillion. Accessed: 14 October 2012. (For section 2)

Seedhouse, P (1995) Needs Analysis and the General English Classroom in ELT Journal Volume 49, 11 January; Oxford University Press. (For Section 2)

Stoynoff, S (2012) Looking backward and forward at classroom-based language assessment in ELT Journal Volume 66/4 Special issue. (For Section 4) 

Reading tips:

  • Read as much as you can before you start the course – it really, really helps!
  • Have a look at English Teaching Professional, ELT Journal and Modern English Teacher. Short, up-to-date articles can really complement the books you read a treat. If you’re doing your DELTA with a university-based centre, make use of the library journal subscriptions: Look at the bibliographies in the books you read and articles from the above-mentioned magazines and journal, and search in the library database for journals that are mentioned, to see if your institution has a subscription. There’s loads of interesting stuff out there, as I’ve discovered.
  • An extra journal/article type mention, if you can access it: The State-of-the-art article series in Language Teaching Journal are really good, providing overviews of the literature associated with various aspects of ELT. There is one such article per journal edition. Very useful if the aspect happens to coincide with something you are focussing on.
  • When you make notes, note also page numbers and what book you’re making notes from (having “Thornbury” in brackets won’t narrow it down much, see…)  – this will help when it comes to writing essays, saving precious time that will no longer need to be spent paging through books looking for where that useful yet mysterious quote you want to use originated.
  • When you read, take more time to think about how what you are reading connects with what you already know and what you have read elsewhere. (I think doing that really helps strengthen your understanding of things.)
  • Once the Delta is over, enjoy the bliss of having *time* to read, *freedom* to choose what to read and *space* to try out what you are reading with your learners. Aaaah! :-)
  • Edited books are very useful: some, like Vocabulary: Acquisition, Description and Pedagogy, contain thematically linked chapters, others like Teaching English to Speakers of Different Languages, contain chapters related to a range of topics – skills, systems, assessment/course design/needs analysis etc. You can zone in on chapters of interest and get a nice, succinct take on any given focus.  When you are pressed for time with LSA deadlines looming, this can be very helpful!
  • If an author, e.g. Michael Lewis, has written a book, chances are they also have articles in ELT Journal and/or other magazines/journals. If you have online access to these, do an author search – you may find something more up-to-date written by them or something that preceded the book. Of course, articles are shorter so if you are struggling for time with getting through a book, so in looking for articles by the same author on the same topic, you may find a much briefer take on what you are looking at.

Finally, please feel free to add books you’ve read and found useful – for the Delta or otherwise – by commenting using the box below. Ideally, a reference, a brief description of the book, and how it could be helpful for the Delta (which module[s] etc) or otherwise would be good.

My DELTA-related posts *aren’t* a load of rubbish after all… :-)

I got my Delta results on Friday and they turned out to be a triple distinction. I still can’t quite believe it, it seems rather flukey! Nevertheless, here I am now fully Delta-qualified. And, since I did well, I don’t have to surreptitiously and sheepishly remove all of my Delta-related posts from my blog, which is nice! I might even get round to writing up my Delta tips for Module 3 (the only module currently without any posts)…

For me, my triple distinction doesn’t suddenly mean I’m some kind of amazing teacher. But it does prove a few things in my mind:

  • one, that I can work damn hard. (None of it came easy, was just non-stop work work work during Delta semester. I had no life at all! If I can work hard enough to get through the Delta with good grades, I should definitely be able to work hard enough to give any future jobs the effort and commitment they deserve.)
  • two, that I know how to learn more. (What I have learnt is only the tip of the iceberg, I feel, but at least I have learnt about different ways of developing: e.g. reflective practice, using a range of resources – books, journals, magazines, internet-based stuff – to expand my knowledge, action research etc. This means now that I [will]have the pieces of papers saying I’m qualified, I can get down to the serious business of learning how to be a better teacher and how to help my learners as best I can.)
  • three, related to two, that having done the course and got the maximum learning I could out of it, I am now more aware of how little I know in the great scheme of things, as well as of how much there is out there to learn and experiment with. I look forward to that!
  • fourth, and last but certainly not least, that the  Delta course at Leeds Met really *is* brilliant, as are the Leeds Met tutors, from whom I’ve learnt so much. (I knew very little when I began the course, so it was a steep learning curve, but they got me through it by being tirelessly supportive and helpful, giving extensive feedback on all my work so that I could know how to improve it and meet the Cambridge requirements and providing lots of engaging, useful input sessions. Could not have done it without them! Which, fair enough, is the point of doing a course, but they really did go above and beyond. I’m really glad I found the leaflet for this course in my conference pack last year!)

So, all the hard work (both mine and my tutors’!) has paid off. But hard work also continues – my M.A. ELT dissertation is as yet incomplete and there are 1001 other things to juggle too, including maintaining this blog! (Hopefully now that I am back from holiday – which was an amazing seven day complete break from work,  my first since starting the Delta last September! – new posts will start appearing again! Maybe more regularly once the dissertation is in, mind!)

I hope everyone else whose results were determined in this June to August 2013 grading session is happy with what they achieved and are feeling as positive about their onward learning as I am! :-)

Delta Tips 8: Experimental Practice

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale!) at Leeds Met.

Module 2 is divided into two parts: Firstly, the set of 4 LSAs (consisting of Background EssayLesson Plan/Observed Lesson and Post-Lesson Reflection/Self-evaluation) that you do during the course of your training and secondly, the PDA. The PDA is also divided into two parts: Part A is a reflection and action cycle and Part B is your Experimental Practice. Both parts aim to help you develop into a reflective, self-aware practitioner. Done effectively, there is a lot to be learnt from both parts, that you can use beyond the end of the course to keep furthering your development as a teacher. This post will focus on Part B. (Part A can be found here.)

The experimental practice is your opportunity to: select a specific approach, procedure, technique or tool that you haven’t tried before, research it, try it out in the classroom and evaluate the effectiveness of it. This process is something you will hopefully continue to do beyond the end of the course, though you may not wish to write an essay every time! ;-)

You produce:

  1. a background essay: 750-1000 words, in which you synthesise your research on your chosen object of experimentation and give a rationale for your choice.
  2. a lesson commentary and objectives for teachers/learners: 750- 1000 words, the commentary is similar to the rationale in the LSA lesson plan i.e. you are justifying your planning decisions in relation to a specific group of learners and in addition, you state your objectives, the lesson objectives for the learners and the ways in which you will evaluate these.
  3. a lesson plan: this does not contribute to the word count. It is basically an LSA lesson plan minus the rationale/commentary (as this is included in the background essay document)
  4. a post lesson evaluation: 400-500 words (depending what remains when the above sections have been completed): you evaluate these exactly as you said you were going to. You need to mention the strengths and weaknesses of your lesson and how you will apply what you’ve learnt in future.

Tips for doing it effectively and getting the most out of it:

  • Don’t put it on the back burner: start work on it as soon as your centre tells you to. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can benefit from the positive impact it should have on your teaching and on future LSAs.
  • Choose something you are genuinely interested in learning more about and experimenting with: If it ties in with your PDA goals, so much the better. (E.g. one of my PDA goals related to making lessons more student-centred and for my experimental practice I did Cuisenaire rods, which can be one way of doing this)
  • Use a variety of different sources for your background reading: E.g. books, journal articles, magazine articles etc. I found English Teaching Professional was quite a handy magazine source, as it contains lots of practical ideas as well as theory.
  • Use sub-headings: These really help to make it clear that you have covered each of the criteria.
  • Be specific in your objectives and your intended methods of evaluation: How are you going to collect evidence? You might like to consider asking a colleague to observe your lesson and complete a tailor-made observation form, and/or film your lesson to analyse later, and/or elicit feedback from you students either orally or via forms or both, and/or jot down notes as your lesson progresses. The more evidence you have, the easier it is to identify if your objectives have been met or not.
  • Apply what you learn from doing the experimental practice to your PDA: I didn’t really “get” the PDA until I’d done the EP and realised that the process of investigation, experimentation, evidence collection and evaluation is exactly what works well for the PDA albeit on a smaller scale.
  • View it as a learning process rather than a test: If whatever you do doesn’t work, it’s equally as valuable a learning experience as if it does – provided you are clear about why.
  • Be systematic: do your investigation/research, decide what to do in your lesson and what the objectives are for you/your learners, decide how you are going to collect your evidence, get exactly that evidence and use it to evaluate your lesson.
  • Consider all of your evidence: Compare the results that each of your evidence collection methods yields. This will give a more complete picture of your lesson and so enable a clearer, better balanced evaluation.
  • Write the essay before you make the lesson plan and do the lesson: Ideally. It’s the logical path through. If time is tight, at least have clear notes, based on your reading, that you can later write up into an essay, from which to work.
  • Make sure your lesson plan is as detailed as your LSA lesson plans: And remember how long it takes to complete that bad boy when you are organising your time!
  • Enjoy it! It’s a great learning opportunity and complements PDA part A. Make the most of it and take the lessons learnt, both in terms of what you experimented and in terms of the process itself, forward.

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on your Experimental Practice, good luck – it is a valuable experience!! :)

Delta Tips 6: Useful Resources for Module 1 Exam Revision

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) 

Delta Module 1 exam revision is a painful process, there’s no denying it. The good news is, the pain can be alleviated somewhat by having a good set of revision materials at your finger tips. Here is an annotated list of resources, divided up by category, that I have found useful:

Methodology:

A trip down ELT Methodology Memory Lane: A webinar by @chiasuan, based on a TESOL France plenary she did – this is a pleasant way to brush up on everything that’s been and gone in ELT and that you might be expected to demonstrate knowledge of in the Delta exam.

Terminology:

Quizlet Delta Class: @Sandymillin has brought together all sets of Delta-related flashcards on Quizlet into one handy collection. You can use this Quizlet class to study and to test yourself on the kind of language you will need to be familiar with to get through the exam.

British Council’s TeachingEnglish website has a useful Knowledge Database  with succinct definitions for all manner of terms, conveniently indexed alphabetically. A good point of reference if there’s anything terminological you aren’t confident about.

Phonology:

Helping students with connected speech on Rachael Roberts’ ELTResourceful site gives a succinct overview of features of connected speech which might help refresh your memory on the subject.

For learning all those symbols for the different phonemes, I recommend Adrian Underhill’s chart – and on this Onestopenglish page  you can also find a link to the Sounds app, if you prefer a more interactive approach and are blessed with an ipad/tablet/thing.

Exam technique:

Delta Paper 1 and  Delta Paper 2 both go into great detail, explaining exactly what it is Cambridge are looking for, as well as all the many, many things Cambridge won’t love you for. So for an in-depth analysis of each paper, including example questions and answers, this should be your next stop.

Sue Swift’s “An ELT Notebook blog” is another very good source of exam technique advice, equally detailed and helpful for filling you in on what’s hot and what’s not as far as Cambridge is concerned. Part 1 is the first of her posts about the exam and logically enough begins with the first tasks of paper 1, and you can follow this series as far as Part 7, a journey which will take you right through to the end of Paper 2! If you register (it’s free!), you can also do a quiz on each paper.

Official Cambridge ESOL offerings:

Here is the official Examination Report for June 2012. It’s long, it’s tedious but it’s full of what you need to know if you want to give Cambridge what they are after! And hey, you were looking for bedside reading, right?!

Want some exam practice? Try Paper 1, June 2010 and Paper 2, June 2010 for size.

When you’ve done, why not check your answers using the June 2010 Examination

If you have written a post/created a useful resource or you have come across a post/useful resource that isn’t listed above and that you think would fit into this collection, please comment below with the link and a brief description. If you are revising for Delta module 1, good luck – and may the Cambridge cards fall in your favour!! 

Delta Tips 5: Module 1, Paper 2

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) 

The assessment for Module 1, as every Delta trainee is all too aware, is a 3hr exam. This consists of two papers, each one of which you are given 1.5hrs to complete, making 3hrs of hell in total. This post will focus on Paper 2. (For Paper 1, click here. For a collection of links to resources that might help you with your revision, click here.)

Paper 2 includes 4 tasks:

Task 1 requires you to critique a test, by identifying 6 points, which should be a mixture of positives and negatives, and their applicability to the learner referred to in the rubric.

Task 2 is based on an extract of course book material. In part a, the rubric directs you to focus on certain of the activities in the extract, for which you must identify 8 purposes in relation to the extract as a whole. For part b, you must identify six key assumptions about language learning that can be identified in the same activities that you looked at for part 1 and give two reasons per assumption.

Task 3 maintains the focus on the same piece of course book material as Task 2, but brings extra activities into the mix. You have to identify 10 ways in which these extra activities combine with the activities you looked at in Task 2.

Task 4 is the pot-luck question. It may involve a procedure, a technique or a method, for which you have to list advantages and disadvantages and/or consider the principles behind them. Whatever it is, 20 separate, correct points are required to gain full marks on this question.

Here are my top tips for completing Paper 2 successfully:

Task 1

  • Read the entry on Testing in Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT – it gives a nice overview of different test types and testing issues.
  • Read the rubric very carefully: It provides a brief description of the situation that the given text is being used for and this will, or at least should (if you want the marks…), influence your answers. You’ll be told about the learner’s needs, their level, the purpose of the course and purpose of the test. You are critiquing the test for use in this particular situation.
  • Use a page for “positives” and a page for “negatives” and label them as such (don’t use “advantages”/”disadvantages” or “strengths”/”weaknesses” or any other variation). Using a separate page allows you to come back and add/change things without the page getting too cramped.
  • You must make at least six points. To gain the marks, these six points must be in the guideline answers. If you have time, you may want to include an extra one or two for luck.
  • For each point, you need to indicate the applicability for the learner described in the rubric.

E.g.

Positives

1.

Point: Discrete point testing task type. This allows candidates plenty of fresh starts, increasing the reliability of the test.

Applicability to learner: If X is unable to answer one question, she can still demonstrate her knowledge/ability on the others.

  • You need a mixture of positive and negative points, but this time, unlike with the “strengths and weaknesses” question in paper 1, there is no requirement for the balance to be 3-3 – as long as you include something of each, the balance is up to you.
  • There are a couple of extra marks to be had for using testing terminology – your face validity, content validity, reliability, practicality etc
  • Don’t write too much per point – if you feel the urge to, at least wait until you’ve gone through the rest of the test, have had a stab at answering all the questions and are on the “going back and filling in the gaps” phase.
  • Practice using past papers and checking your answers against examiners reports/guideline answers.

Task 2

For Part a (identifying the purpose of the activities in relation to the extract as a whole):

  • Make sure you indicate which exercise you are referring to and ONLY refer to the exercises that the rubric instructs you to refer to. (It might be worth highlighting/asterisking said exercises, so you don’t get sucked in to writing about others.
  • Use infinitives of purpose, to avoid falling into the trap of describing what the learners do with the exercise.

E.g.

Ex.   Purpose

x       To expose learners to the target language in context prior to focussing them on form

  • Look at some guideline answers and build up a bank of useful infinitives of purpose that you can use.
  • Make sure your purposes are related to the extract as a whole.
  • There are 16 marks to be had, and you get 2 marks per correct purpose. “Correct”, of course, means “appears in the guidelines answers” – so if you can, throw in some extra purposes for good luck.
  • Practice on any course book material at your disposal.
  • Practice using past papers and checking your answers against the guideline answers/examiner’s report.

For Part b (identifying the rationales inherent in the activities focussed on in part a):

  • Make sure you clearly indicate which exercise your assumption is referring to – if you don’t, you won’t get any marks.
  • There are three marks available per assumption/rationale – so you need your assumption and two reasons in order to score full marks for each. (An extra reason per assumption if you can quickly/easily think of one to put may not go amiss – you give yourself more chance of hitting what’s on the mark scheme then)
  • Don’t forget you are only referring to the activities specified in the rubric – this is where having highlighted/asterisked them to start with is helpful: your mind remains focussed!
  • Lay your answer out clearly so that it is easy for the examiner to identify an assumption and two reasons.

E.g.

1.

Assumption: Learners need to see the language in context (Ex. x)

R1: So that they can see how it is used.

R2: This mirrors how the L1 is learnt.

(I actually prefer to make a table for this – one column for assumptions, one for exercise, one for rationale, but don’t know how on WordPress! However you approach it, just make sure you have a framework that focuses your mind on what is required)

  • Use past papers and guideline answers to practice answering and check your answers.

Task 3

  • Don’t forget to do it. (I nearly did in my mock in December, and I wasn’t alone in that!)
  • Highlight the additional exercises that the rubric requires you to focus on (maybe even in a different colour, if your brain works that way!)
  • You need ten correct points for ten marks – as ever, a few extra increases your chances of hitting the guideline answers.
  • Use bullet points so that your points are clearly separated
  • Make sure you mention what exercises from Task 2 the additional exercises combine with. Underline them for good measure.

(I use a table for this one too: One column for exercise, i.e. additional exercise, one column for how exercises combine with the exercises in task 2. Why? Those column headings remind me to mention the exercises from task two!)

  • Think about interaction patterns, skill development, language development, skill balance, degree of scaffolding provided etc

Task 4

  • Don’t panic
  • Use bullet points – make sure each bullet point is only making one point. Keep them as short as possible. You get 2 marks per point, so you need to make 20 correct points in order to gain full marks in this question. The more bullet points you make, the better the odds are that 20 of them will be in the guideline answers!
  • Don’t say the same thing in 3 different ways – you’ll only score for it once! (Ahem…!)
  • Don’t go off on a tangent – keep checking that you are actually answering the given question rather than fabricating your own questions to answer!
  • Write down anything that might be remotely possibly correct, however simple it may seem – you don’t lose points for incorrect answers.
  • Think about different learner levels, contexts, backgrounds, types etc to give you extra ideas for what to write about.

General Tips

  • Don’t forget, Task 4 has the biggest number of points and time allocation, in terms of your time management: It may come last in the paper but it packs a pretty big punch!
  • Use bullet points where possible.
  • Don’t forget to give examples where required.
  • Don’t get bogged down by any of the questions at the expense of others.
  • Task 3 is only worth 10 points – handy to grab if you can, not worth stressing over at the expense of other tasks if you are struggling.
  • Read the rubrics super carefully.
  • Stay calm – move onto another task if you start getting flustered. You can always come back to the one you were struggling on and you may find it easier when you’ve done something else and had a break from stressing over it!

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on Delta module 1, good luck – it is an interesting experience!!