Delta Notes 3: Module 2 – My LSA1 Reading and Feedback

Title/Focus

There are 4 systems (Grammar, Pronunciation, Discourse, Lexis) and 4 skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking Writing), of which you must choose two systems and two skills to focus on over the course of your 4 LSAs (Language Systems/Skills Assignments).

My LSA 1 focused on raising awareness of medium-strength verb-noun and adjective-noun collocations for lower level learners. This falls squarely into systems: lexis.

Reference list

Here is the reference list from my final submission. As you can see, at this point I hadn’t learnt how to correctly format a reference list, something that was picked up on in the feedback…

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Feedback 

Essay

I got a pass for this essay. (Yay!)

Strengths

  • using sub-headings and sign-posts to make the structure clear
  • narrowing the scope (by collocation type, strength and student level)
  • consulted key texts for my focus and used them well
  • my analysis, issues and solutions followed on well from each other.
  • including both learning and teaching problems and referring to a range of learners was another plus, as was using terminology accurately and defining key terminology. My teaching suggestions included activities for raising awareness and activation, and were based on a range of resources, so there was good variety.

Weaknesses:

  • as already mentioned, my reference list formatting was a little odd and also missing places of publication.
  • in my writing, I used too many quotations, where paraphrasing would have been better. Paraphrase/summary is a much more efficient use of words than direct quotation, generally, something which is key when word limits are tight, and also allows much more ‘writer voice’/criticality to come through.

(This was an issue in my Module 3 essay too, initially, as it happens. It’s something I carried over from my B.A. days of yore so had to modify/work on it to succeed in the written components of the Delta. Having done so was a great help when it came to doing the M.A. modules the following semester.)

  • Not enough reference to my own experience and interest in the area, make my analysis more in-depth by including examples, and try to target one issue per solution rather than having solutions that target various issues, as it became a bit too generic.
  • Lack of my own voice/criticality (linking of course to the over-reliance on quotations and not drawing enough on my own experience…)

(It’s funny, these issues – voice, criticality, in-text citation/quotation/paraphrasing and referencing etc – that I had to work on are things that I am now helping my own students to develop and work on in their pre-M.A. studies! I must remember to mention to them that it was something that I initially struggled with too, as I am sure they think I was born knowing how to do it all!)

Lesson Plan/Lesson/Reflection

I got a pass for this lesson – just!

Strengths:

  • The pronunciation analysis and use of phonemes in the language analysis section of the plan  (though conversely my attention to meaning and form were identified as being in need of more work in terms of clarity!)
  • I gave detailed information about the learners in my group (but it would have been better if I had included more information about their ability in the target language point)
  • Good level of detail about how my lesson integrated with other lessons (timetable fit)
  • Comprehensive and varied assumptions
  • A nice clear main aim, which I managed to meet! (Having clear, appropriate aims and meeting them is a Good Thing.)
  • My classroom management was generally effective and I listened/responded well to the students.
  • I gave students some opportunity to correct themselves when they made errors, through use of techniques like gesture use (and was encouraged to do more of this!)
  • My reflection generally identified strengths and weaknesses well

Weaknesses:

  • My subsidiary aim was too vague, with the evidence I gave for meeting it being rather sketchy, and my stage aims also needed more work.
  • The lesson suffered from there being a long teacher-fronted presentation stage, which ended up taking up the first half of the lesson, so the students didn’t have any opportunity for pair-work or group-work until then.
  • I underestimated how long the presentation stage would take (links to above point but is a planning issue, while the above is a lack of student interaction issue that arose as a result of the underestimation)
  • Explaining rather than using students as a resource to check form/meaning/pronunciation.
  • Using unnatural intonation when speaking to the learners – apparently at times it seemed as though I was addressing a group of children. Oops.
  • I also missed opportunities to use questions to check students’ understanding of language items.
  • In my reflection, I underestimated one of the weaknesses I identified – the interaction issue that arose as a result of the overlong presentation stage
  • my suggestions for how I would build on this lesson in future classes were a bit lacking in substance.

I suppose the question is, for a pass, are you doing enough right to balance out all the issues?! I wonder if anyone ever gets a distinction in LSA1 (if you did, hats off to you!!)? I suspect it is almost impossible… Happy to be proved wrong though!

At LSA1 stage, I think the key thing is to really get to grips with all the feedback you are given in all its forms. At Leeds (was Met) Beckett, we had draft feedback on LSA essay and lesson plans, and then we received the Delta 5a report after the LSA observation within an individual tutorial which gave us the opportunity to discuss the lesson and the feedback with the tutor who had observed us. That’s a lot of feedback/opportunities for learning. What all this feedback presents you with the main thing that sticks in my mind when I think of LSA 1: an almost vertical learning curve. It’s where you are tasked with getting your head around understanding exactly what an LSA is, involves and requires from start to finish. The challenge is then to take everything you learn from LSA1 and feed it directly into making the LSA2 process more successful and hopefully less painful. In other words, to develop the various skills  – researching (including reading very selectively and efficiently, which is probably a skill in itself!), planning, teaching, reflecting – being checked on each time you do an LSA. So, rather than spending time thinking that the feedback isn’t fair, or that you should have got a pass/merit/distinction (delete as appropriate), focus on using it to be better next time. It’s hard having your teaching process pulled to pieces and dissected, but you can learn a lot from it too.

I hope this post is helpful to my readers who are doing their Delta Module 2 now or anybody who is planning to do Module 2 at some point.

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Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide

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Good luck to all Delta candidates! 🙂

To quote from the official Cambridge assessment website, The Delta (Diploma of English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages) is:

“one of the best-known and most popular advanced TEFL/TESOL qualifications in the world. It is a flexible way for experienced English language teachers to progress further in their careers. Delta can be taken at any stage in a teacher’s career and is ideal for those wanting to update their teaching knowledge and improve their practice.”

It is a modular exam, consisting of three modules:

  • Module 1:

    Understanding language, methodology and resources for teaching. (Assessment: An exam consisting of two 1.5hr papers done in sequence with a break in between)

  • Module 2:

    Developing Professional Practice (Assessment: Three pieces of internal course work comprising a background essay, a lesson plan, an assessed lesson based on that plan and a reflection, followed by another piece of coursework with the same components but all assessed by a Delta Examiner)

  • Module 3: 

    Extending Practice and English Language Teaching specialism  (Assessment: An extended written assignment of 4500 words based on your specialism) There is also an English Language Management option.

This post guides you through the processes of:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.041. choosing how and where to do your course
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.042. preparing for your course
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.043. completing each of the modules
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.044. moving on to greater things ( 🙂 )

Based on my experience of the Delta, and incorporating the experience of others, it is structured as a Q and A, dealing with questions you might have with regards to each of the above categories as you progress through them and contains links to many handy resources (all easily identifiable with this symbol Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04) – some of which are mine, some of which are not. I hope it proves a useful resource to refer back to as the questions arise!

1. Choosing how and where to do your course

If you are thinking about doing the Delta, it is important to be aware of the options available to you. There are many options for how to complete these modules:

  •  intensively (all three modules in one go)
  • part-time (one module at a time, or two modules at a time, in sequence or spaced out)
  • distance learning or face-to-face.

Q. How can I find out which way would best suit me?

A. The best thing to do is find out as much as you can about the various options before you make your decision:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Sandy Millin has created  “Delta Conversations”, a series of guest posts in which people have answered questions about the Delta they did. This would be a good starting point to help you understand the pros and cons of each option. (And when you’ve finished your Delta, contact her to participate!)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04(I took part in the above-mentioned series, and you can find out more about my experience of doing the Delta intensively at Leeds Metropolitan University here.)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04TEFL.net have a nice, short FAQ page about the Delta, which also has a link to another page with FAQs about higher qualifications in general.

Once you have decided which route to take, you can really help yourself by doing some preparation before you start your course: both in terms of the course content and your own well-being.

I would say in my case that all the preparation I did in the run up to the course was one of the major factors in my success with it (the other major factor being my tutors and course mates at Leeds Met! 🙂 )

2. Preparing for your Delta: possible pre-course questions and where to find the answers:

Q. What should I do before I start my Delta?

A. There are a few things you can do, before embarking on this extraordinary journey, to help yourself begin on firm footing.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04You could also think about investing in the latest book to hit The Round’s virtual bookshelves: How to Pass Delta : by the extremely experienced Damian Willians, it is available for a small fee and, I imagine, well worth that investment!

If you are still slightly bemused, or just thirsty to read more, here are several blogposts you could look at next, each of which contains guidance related to this question…

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Before, during and after the Delta: I wrote this post, based on my experience of doing the Delta. It contains tips to help you stay sane pre-, during- and post-Delta experience.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta FAQ: In this post, I answered students’ questions about the Delta on their induction day at Leeds Met. It contains lots of tips for preparing yourself for the Delta and making the most of it while you are doing it, including a list of things that are useful to know before you start and as you set off on mission Delta. It also contains a couple of reading recommendations for each of the systems (grammar, phonology, discourse, lexis) and skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening)

Q. That list of books from Cambridge is massive, I don’t know where to start – what should I read first?

A. It *is* a massive list: there’s a lot of amazing ELT-related literature out there! However, if you want something a bit smaller and more manageable to start off with, I have created an annotated list of potentially useful resources:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Annotated List of Resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta: Does what it says on the tin – getting to grips with some of this will help lighten the load during the course. (It will still be ridiculously heavy but your sanity may stay closer to intact!) Getting ahead with reading will mean that you have more time (and processing space in your brain!) to devote to grappling with pernickety Cambridge requirements. This post is broken down by module, and then in module 2 by LSA and then PDA.)

3. During your Delta

When you start doing your Delta, there will be huge amounts of information coming your way. You will probably also discover just how tricky it is to jump through hoops whose size and whereabouts you aren’t entirely sure of. (The good news is, you can learn a lot too, and really enrich your practice!)

As you work your way through your Delta modules, questions about what to do and how to do it may crop up. Here are some potential questions that may arise and some resources to help you answer them:

Module 1

Q. How DOES the exam fit together?  

A. Here is a flow-chart that shows the structure of the exam, complete with suggested timings for each question:

Q. I’ve looked at the Delta handbook and tried to understand just what it is the examiners want, and I listen really carefully in my preparation classes, but I still don’t really get it. How do I answer the questions the way they want me to? 

A. Here are some blog posts related to the structure of the two exam papers, with tips for how to answer each question successfully and package your answers the Cambridge way…

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 4:  Delta exam paper 1 –  tips related to the structure of this part of the exam in terms of what each question requires and the points available, as well as how to approach answering the questions, in terms of laying out the information in an examiner-friendly way.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 5: Delta exam paper 2 – as above but for paper 2.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04 Paper One Dale Coulter’s guide to part 1 of the exam, also dealing with structure and answering the questions.

Q. The exam date is getting nearer, and I really don’t feel ready! How can I help myself revise more effectively?

A. There are many ways of going about module one revision – reading, doing past papers (have you done all of these, on the Cambridge website?), boning up on terminology, language analysis, or how to write in phonemic script… Here are some links to help your revision along:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 6: Useful resources for Module 1 revision – a collection of links that will be useful as the exam approaches.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Revision chart: A colourful revision chart that I made for the Module 1 exam, this provides a visual aid to help with remembering the structure of the exam and how to lay out your answers.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 15: A checklist for anybody preparing for the Module 1 exam

Q. You said I should use Quizlet to revise terminology, but I don’t know how?!

A. You can find out how to use it, through the following step-by-step guide:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04 Quizlet!. (NB this was created for language learners, but the principle is the same – only the content of your cards will differ! 🙂 )

Once you understand it better, you could do worse than check out Sandy Millin’s Delta Group on it…

Q. I have no life! I haven’t since I started this damn course. Is this normal?

A. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone!

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Barry O’Leary shares his journey here.

But do try and take some time for yourself, however hard it is to make:

Module 2

Q. I have to write an LSA essay. Hmm. How do I do that? 

A. First you need to decide which system (grammar, lexis, phonology, discourse) or skill (receptive: listening or reading; productive: speaking or writing) to focus on, which at least initially will probably be influenced by your centre and the running order of their module 2 course.

When you embark on the essay, your tutors will be best placed to guide you in the “how”, but for some additional tips, have a look at:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 1 : Writing a background essay for an LSA, which provides some suggestions for getting to grips with this beast.

You may also find it useful to look at

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04my Delta Notes series (based on notes I made during my Delta, so far including error correction and teaching listening, with more forthcoming)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Sandy Millin’s carefully-tagged Delta-related bookmarks may be useful!

Q. Right, I’ve finished my essay, how about the lesson plan? There seem to be endless criteria to fulfil…

A. Yes, there are lots of criteria – hopefully you’ve left plenty of time to get to grips with this component. In addition to listening very carefully to your tutors’ suggestions, you could have a look at my blog post with some tips for how to help yourself meet these:

Q. I’ve survived the lesson (thank God!) but now I need to do the post-lesson evaluation. Where do I start? What should I include?

A. As well as reading the Delta Handbook on this topic, and following your tutors’ advice, for some extra tips you could look at my post on the topic:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 3: (My tips for) Writing an LSA post-lesson reflection/evaluation

Q. This module is driving me crazy!! I think I’m going to cry…

A. Again, you are not alone:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04My post The Delta/M.A. Treadmill echoes the “arrrrghhh” (mixed in with exhilaration!) and offers some tips for sanity maintenance! (Not a serious post… 😉 )

Q. I still have to do my PDA part A and Experimental Practice. Can’t I just leave them until I’ve sorted out the LSAs?

A. It would be much better to get started as soon as possible! The PDA part A is supposed to be done alongside your module 2 work, as it is your opportunity to develop into a reflective practitioner. What you learn while doing your PDA could/should feed directly into your development in your LSA lesson planning and teaching practices. Equally, any weaknesses highlighted in your LSAs could/should feed into your PDA. I found this component of Module 2 very valuable developmentally and would really recommend not putting it on the back burner.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 7: Doing PDA Part A offers some tips for getting the most out of your PDA.

The Experimental Practice is another valuable learning opportunity: it actually helped me figure out what to do with my PDA (I was slow to catch on!), and, long term, how to embark on a cycle of reflection, experimentation, evaluation and more reflection.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 8: Doing the Experimental Practice offers some tips for getting the most out of your EP.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Experimental Practice in ELT by Jennie Wright and Christina Rebuffet-Broadus is available from The Round for a small fee, containing ideas and sample lesson plans suited to the EP as well as to teachers who want to Experiment outside of Delta training.

Module 3

Q. Cambridge wants me to do WHAT? I’m confused… Where should I start? What do they want? What should I read? 

A. I would start by reading the Module 3 section of the handbook!  If you are still no clearer, you could have a look at:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 9: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Overview and Starting Out 

Hopefully the input sessions on your course will also help you understand what you are supposed to produce, how and when.

Q. I’m writing a draft of my introduction now, but I’m not entirely sure if I’m doing it right. How do I fit in everything that Cambridge seem to want?

A. Well, you’re off to a good start if you know what Cambridge want! 🙂

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 10: in Writing a Module 3 Essay – the Introduction I offer some tips for how to meet Cambridge’s criteria for the introduction. It might also help if you are still a little hazy about exactly what to include in your introduction.

Q. How do I do a Needs Analysis with my students and what should I write in the corresponding essay section?

A. The Needs Analysis is an important element of the extended assignment. This is where you take the issues that you pinpointed in your introduction, consider how to assess your learners in order to identify where they stand in relation to these, and identify the areas that your course design will need to focus on. If you put a lot of reading, effort and thought into this section and create your tools very carefully, you will make your life a lot easier in the subsequent sections.

Here are some tips and recommended reading (books, articles etc) that I put together for working your way through this section of the essay:

Q. Well, I’m not sure if my Needs Analysis is quite right, but nevertheless it’s time to design and write about my course. How do I get from the priorities that my NA highlighted to my completed course plan and course design section? (Ideally without going insane in the process…)

A. This is arguably the most time-consuming portion of the extended assignment: You need to produce a 20hr course plan that addresses the priorities you’ve identified, and write about it in such a way that covers everything that Cambridge want to know about it. You may also want to showcase some sample materials that your course uses in your appendices.

Here are some tips and recommended reading that I put together to help you get through this section of the essay:

Q. I’m losing the will to live now – but it’s not over yet <sob>: Apparently I have to do the assessment section next! Help!

A. Don’t worry, you’re getting closer to point completion now! And hopefully all the reading up on the literature related to assessment that you did while doing the Needs Analysis section will also have given you a leg up with this section. Besides, by now you will be getting the hang of the writing style (or, at least, it took me this long! 🙂 ) and of Cambridge module 3 hoop-jumping.

Here are some tips and recommended reading that I put together to make your life easier for the assessment section:

Q. Hurrah! I can see daylight at the end of this module 3 tunnel from hell! How do I finish this bad boy off?!

A. Ok, first of all, the fat lady is not singing quite yet so hold on for a bit longer! The conclusion is short but still important. Don’t dash it off at the last minute… Fortunately, it is a lot less involved than the previous sections and mainly requires good evaluative skills. You are on the home-stretch now!

Here are some of my last tips to help you bring your assignment to a close and sort out the packaging (do not underestimate this final packaging phase!! It is a time-muncher!):

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 14: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the conclusion and wrapping things up

Enjoy the wonderful feeling of submitting the beast *at long last*! 🙂

4. Conclusion – or, moving on to better things

This brings me to the end of my rough guide to the Cambridge Delta. I hope the Delta journey is rewarding for you. Don’t forget to share your own experiences/example assignments/tips (if you don’t keep a blog, I would be happy to host a guest post about your experiences on mine – just get in touch!) – and, of course, do have a holiday before you do anything else! Now that you have completed a highly sought-after qualification, it is time to think about what to do with it and where you want to go! So, finally, bear in mind the tips in the final section of this post, as you set off on your post-qualification journey:

After the Delta is an important time and the world is your oyster – all my best wishes for a bright, rewarding future! Make the most of it and enjoy! 🙂

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)