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 Lexis, The 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 Listening, Listening 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 Speaking, Conversation, 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 Reading, Teaching 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 1, About 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! 🙂