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! ūüôā

Before the Delta:

  • Read Sandy Millin’s blog post Preparing for the Delta:¬†She knows what she is talking about! ūüôā 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 read.¬†Preparing 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. ūüôā
  • 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” ūüėČ ) 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! ūüėČ )

  • (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! ūüôā

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 Рand 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! ūüôā
  • 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! ūüôā

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 Essay, Lesson 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! ūüėČ

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 ‚Äď it is a valuable experience!! ūüôā

Delta Tips 7: PDA Part A

This is the seventh 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! )

Module 2 is divided into two parts: Firstly, the set of 4 LSAs (consisting of Background Essay, Lesson 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 A. (Part B can be found here)

Part A is a 4-step process that you complete alongside your other Delta module course work:

Stage 1: Your diagnostic lesson plan and lesson. Following this, your tutor should give you some feedback. From the feedback, you will be able to extrapolate some goals to work on.

Stage 2: Following your diagnostic, you get 800-1000 words in which to reflect on your beliefs and practices as a teacher, your strengths and weaknesses, the reasons behind these, the positive and negative effects of these on your learners, and finally create an action plan to work on these as well.

Stage 3: This is essentially an update on what you set out to achieve in Stage 2. Following LSA 2, you are required to evaluate your progress, including identification of current weaknesses, and the effectiveness of the approaches/methods/techniques/materials you selected, as well as to produce an action plan, including methods etc that you will use to collect evidence of your development, for the next phase of the course.

Stage 4: Following LSA3, you discuss any changes to your beliefs and practices (as laid out in Stage 2), you evaluate the reflection and observation procedures that you have used and you outline a plan for your future professional development.

The PDA is “only” a pass/fail document. However, it is essential not to back-burn it or ignore it on account of this: the more you put into your PDA, the more you are likely to get out of module 2, the more you are likely to progress between LSAs. Also, in terms of professional development, the PDA helps you to learn how to be a reflective practitioner, which is key in long term development. Pages 54, 55 and 56 of the handbook contain some helpful advice on carrying it out, it is worth reading these at the beginning of module 2 and again before you produce any of the written work for the PDA.

Tips for getting the most out of the PDA:

  1. Listen carefully to what your tutor says after the diagnostic lesson. Make notes. Reflect on them. Compare them with feedback you’ve received from your previous work place/colleagues/learners etc.
  2. When you make your first action plan, don’t put everything you ever want to work on for the rest of your life in it. You only have till after LSA2 to action it, so be realistic and selective.
  3. Choose things to work on that will have the most beneficial effect on you and your learners when improved on. (There are a wide range of possibilities: see p54 of the handbook for ideas)
  4. Work on your PDA consistently, don’t leave it to one side until a few days before the next part is due. It will only benefit you if you give it regular attention.
  5. Be clear about how you are going to collect evidence of your progress/development: This could include filming your lessons and analysing them, getting feedback from your learners, getting colleagues to observe you for specific things you are working on and observing colleagues to see how they do the things you are working on. This evidence will be useful in evaluating your progress in stages 3 and 4.
  6. Be very specific in your initial action plan – how are you going to work on each thing you have identified (reading up on it, trying it, collecting evidence on your efforts) and when are you going to do it by? This specificity will help you keep on track, know what you need to do, and not leave everything til the last minute, thus ensuring you have time to do things effectively.
  7. You don’t need to wait until the next stage of the PDA is due to reflect on your progress: Keep your evidence (observation forms etc) in a folder together and look over it periodically. See if you can identify any patterns.
  8. Write outside of the written work requirements. By this I mean write down your thoughts after a lesson regarding how it went, regarding what you were working on, any changes you notice in your practice. You could use self-evaluation forms (I found one in EtP which was very useful) to stimulate and direct your thoughts.
  9. For stage 3, use your feedback from LSA1 and 2 – what weaknesses were identified by your tutor? Working on these through your PDA will hopefully yield signs of improvement in LSA3 and 4.
  10. Remember, this is a process you can continue using beyond the end of the Delta, which will help you continue to grow as a teacher, so make the most of the opportunity of learning how to do it effectively.

I really enjoyed this element of the Delta and got a lot out of it. I hope you do too! Good luck. ūüôā

If you can think of any suggestions/hints/tips that are missing, please do let me know by commenting on this post and I will add them to the list! 

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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď it is an interesting experience!!¬†

Delta Tips 4: Module 1, Paper 1

This is the fourth 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. 

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 1. (For Paper 2, click here. For a collection of links to resources that might help you with your revision, click here)

Paper 1 includes 5 tasks:

Tasks 1 and 2 deal with terminology. In Task 1, you are given six definitions, for each of which you must supply the correct term. In Task 2, you are given six terms and must give definitions and appropriate example for four of them.

Task 3 is an activity, for which you have to identify five features (type specified by the rubric) that learners at a particular level would need in order to complete the activity successfully. For each feature, you must give an example.

Task 4 is based on a piece of authentic material. You must firstly identify five features that are typical of the genre and include an example for each. Then, you will have 3 further questions focusing on a mixture of form, meaning and pronunciation of selected language from the text.

Task 5 requires you to analyse a piece of learner-produced text. This is usually written but can also be a transcript of spoken language. First, you have to identify 3 key strengths and 3 key weaknesses of the text, providing an example for each. Then, you have to select a weakness to prioritise, giving 3 reasons for your choice.

Here are my top tips for completing Paper 1 successfully:

Task 1

  • Study your A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (if you haven’t got one – either buy it or beg/borrow/steal it from somebody!)
  • Only give one term per definition – if you aren’t sure and put two down, you will not gain the mark if one is correct. (Stands to reason – it’s not the examiner’s job to choose the correct term!)
  • Read a lot – of ELT-related stuff that is, cheap thrillers won’t help you here! – over an extended time period. Repeated exposure to terminology in action will probably help at least some of it sink in. This tip is no good the day before the exam, really!

Task 2

  • Structure your answer clearly. Use bullet points and make it obvious where your definition, further point and example are.

E.g. c. pragmatic competence

Def.: ability to interpret/use appropriately the illocutional meaning/function of an utterance

f.p.: Differs from culture to culture, so learners need to learn how to do this using the target language.

e.g.: “It’s cold in here” could be a request to shut the window.

  • Don’t forget your example or your further point, they are each worth a mark. Your definition will only score one mark.
  • In terms of revision, revise as for Task 1

Task 3

  • Read the rubric carefully: What level learners is the activity aimed at? What type of features are you asked to provide? E.g. “speaking subkills/features of discourse”
  • Lay out your answer clearly

E.g.

Feat.:¬†Questioning others’ opinions

E.g.:¬†“That’s interesting, but what about…”

  • Make sure the features and examples you give are suitable to the level of learner specified i.e. not too easy or too hard.
  • Mentally picture running the activity in class and think about how you’d prepare your learners and what things they might struggle without.

Task 4

For the identification of generic features:

  • Before you look at the text, look at the rubric and how the material is defined, e.g. “a human interest story from a popular newspaper”. Predict what features you might expect to see in such a text. Then look at the text and see how much of what you predicted is there.
  • Practice on any authentic material you can get your hands on – from leaflets to cereal packets.
  • Use ¬†CLOGS to help you get a good spread of features. CLOGS stands for Content, Layout, Organisation, Grammar/Lexis, Style.
  • Check what the rubric specifies you include or do not include e.g. “You must include features of organisation and of language” or “Do not include more than one feature of layout” Make sure you follow these instructions! (Easy to forget in the heat of the moment…)
  • Give an example from the given text for each feature you identify.
  • If your mind goes blank, move on to the next question – this is only worth one mark per feature/example.

For the focus on form/meaning/pronunciation:

  • Use bullet points and break down your answer into as many bullet points as you can without being ridiculous. This will enable the marker to identify your points more easily.
  • Put down¬†anything¬†remotely relevant, no matter how simplistic. (Yes, you can get a mark for saying “you” is second person singular or “the” is a definite article.)
  • You can get the 35 marks allocated to this part of the task from any of the sub-questions (usually b, c and d), so play to your strengths.
  • Put down as many points as you can in time that you have. (Some may not be accepted according to those pesky guidelines answers, so having a few in reserve is never a bad plan!)
  • Use phonemic script for the pronunciation focus questions and think about features of connected speech. Also remember stress. (The sentence sort rather than the Arrrrrrrgh sort ;-))

Task 5

  • Use one piece of paper for strengths and one for weaknesses. That way, you can come back and add things if your mind goes blank and you feel the need to look at another question meanwhile. Label your pieces of paper “Strengths” and “Weaknesses” (not “Positives” and “Negatives” or any other variation)
  • Lay your answers out clearly:

E.g.

Weaknesses

Category: Accuracy of grammar

Explanation: Persistent misuse of present simple

E.g.: “only child never have to”

Effect on reader: may lower the reader’s opinion of the language/cognitive ability of the learner.

  • The “effect on reader” slot is to try and trap the few bonus marks that it is possible to gain in this question. You may or may not feel it worth it in terms of time management.
  • Read the rubric carefully. What level is the learner who produced the text? What areas are you asked to focus on? Highlight them and refer back to them; make sure your answer matches them.
  • When selecting your weakness to prioritise, consider the level of the learner, how pervasive the weakness is and how easy or otherwise it might be to fix it as well as the effect this would have on the learner’s production and on their reader/listener.
  • You must give reasons for your choice – the questions I just recommended you consider in selecting the weakness can become reasons.
  • Lay out your answer clearly:

E.g.

Weakness to Prioritise: Misuse of present simple

Reason 1:¬†At this level, the learner shouldn’t be making this mistake and there is danger of fossilization if it is not attended to.

Reason 2: Prioritising this will enable positive transfer across other genres.

Reason 3:¬†It will greatly increase the learner’s chances of success in exams or in finding a job.

  • There are bonus marks to be had if you include more detail in your reasons: a bare list of reasons gains 3 marks, adding more information can get an extra mark per reason. Whether or not you want to learn the tricks for the extra 3 marks is up to you!
  • Related to the above bullet point: study an Examiner’s report/guideline answers for this question – it is pretty formulaic (something that I gather is going to change when the exam is given an overhaul!) so learn the formula!

General tips for Paper 1:

  • Manage your time carefully: Don’t get bogged down by any of the questions. If you struggle with something, leave it and come back to it – you may find you can answer it when you’ve answered something else and, in doing so, calmed down. If you reach the recommended time limit (in brackets next to the task number), move on to the next task. You can always come back and fill in any gaps if you have time.
  • Do a past paper under exam conditions: This way you can make sure you know how fast you need to write and learn to manage your time. You can work out what order you prefer to do questions in. (If terminology panics you, don’t start with Task 1. Paper is unlimited so as long as you are using a sheet per answer and you hand in all your sheets, you are free in your choice of what order to work in. Doing a mock also gives your hand a chance to get used to extensive, high speed writing! (This is one of the good things about doing the Delta integrated with M.A. in ELT at Leeds Met – you do individual tasks and a complete mock paper to get M.A. accreditation, and that, together with the extra revision classes they chuck in prior to both the mock and the real exam, all becomes a valuable learning process for the real Delta exam! – Let’s just say, in that mock I learnt all about the importance of time management and remaining calm…!)
  • Look at examiners reports and guidelines answers: Cambridge are rather particular about what they want and how they want it – examiners reports and guidelines answers can shed some light on this!
  • Learn how to package your answers. My suggestions above for laying out the answers may seem like a faffy waste of time, but there is a good reason behind them: If you have learnt a framework for answering the question, then once you write down that framework, it focuses your mind on what is needed, meaning you are less likely to include superfluous information or omit essential information. Even if you don’t want to waste time writing down frameworks in the exam, having them in mind will still help you package the answers how Cambridge want them. Making a chart can help with getting your head around answer frameworks, mark allocation and so on.
  • Read the rubrics carefully and highlight essential information like learner levels, features to focus on etc.
  • Don’t write too much – use bullet points and keep them short.
  • Don’t forget to give examples where required

Delta module 1 is about what you know, but it’s also about exam technique and packaging what you know in a Delta marker-friendly way. So it’s definitely worth spending time on that as well as on revising terminology etc.

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 ‚Äď it is an interesting experience!!¬†

Delta Tips 3: Writing an LSA post-lesson reflection/evaluation

This is the third 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.

Having done your LSA assessed lesson (phew!), there is one more thing to do before you can call the LSA done and start afresh on the next one (or, when you reach that joyous moment after LSA4, celebrate not beginning all over again!) РThe post-lesson reflection/evaluation. A mere 500 word limit is all you have to:

  • reflect on your planning and teaching as well as the learners’ progress
  • outline the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson (from the point of view of the learners)
  • identify how you might consolidate this lesson.

This is your opportunity to justify all deviations from the game plan (a.k.a. the spectacularly detailed LSA Lesson Plan) and demonstrate how aware you are as a teacher. 

Here are my top tips for writing  a post-lesson reflection/evaluation:

  • Before you start writing your reflection/evaluation, think about the aims/objectives stated on your lesson plan and whether you met them. If you did, what evidence is there of this? If you didn’t, why didn’t you? This might be useful information to include in your reflection/evaluation…
  • Think about how effective each stage of your lesson was, in terms of contributing to the learners’ progress.
  • Don’t do as I did in LSA1 and refer to a lesson stage using incorrect terminology! ūüėČ
  • When you write about the key strengths and weaknesses of the lesson, remember these are from the point of view of the learner.¬†For each one, think about what the effect on the learner was. If it’s difficult to pin down, then perhaps that is not a¬†key¬†strength/weakness.
  • Make sure you justify all deviations from your lesson plan. You are expected to teach the learners as well as the plan, so deviation is acceptable – however, it should be¬†principled¬†deviation. You should be able to rationalise your decisions.
  • When you consider how you might consolidate the lesson, don’t only think about completion of optional activities that you cut: think also about how you would develop the topic, the target language/skills and what other related, relevant target language/skills might connect nicely with what you’ve done.
  • Don’t be overly negative¬†or¬†overly positive. It’s easy to come out of the lesson with rather extreme feelings so be aware of that and don’t allow it to influence your writing too much. Your tutor/the examiner is unlikely to think it was either the best thing or the worst thing ever to happen. It probably wasn’t, though it might feel that way at the time. Remember that!
  • If you’re able to, talk the lesson through with someone you trust, before you write your reflection/evaluation. The act of talking it through may help you process what’s happened more effectively. Also, the thing you thought signified the end of the world as we know it may actually be quite minor – somebody less biased may help you realise this!
  • Ideally, write the reflection/evaluation on the same day as you did the lesson and then sleep on it. Check it over in the morning before you submit it and see if you still agree with what you’ve written. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to put things in perspective!
  • Remember, this is your opportunity to demonstrate what a self-aware, learner-aware, reflective practitioner you are – make the most of 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 2, good luck ‚Äď it is a valuable learning experience!!¬†

Delta Tips 2: Writing an LSA lesson plan

This is the second in a new 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¬†at Leeds Met (and surviving to tell the tale! )¬†

So, now you’ve written your background essay for your LSA (well done!) and sent a draft off for feedback (you know it makes sense!) – what next? Hopefully you still have plenty of time before your LSA assessed lesson, because this lesson plan is something else. Think of the longest, most detailed lesson plan you’ve¬†ever¬†written and then multiply that by 100 and you might just about start to get the slightest idea of what we are talking about here. Delta lesson plans are notorious – you will at some point fight the temptation to pull out clumps of hair (if you have any!) and you will need to allow yourself plenty of time to meet all the many, many requirements.

I was lucky – I did my Delta at Leeds Metropolitan and there, the tutors are nice enough to offer you a template to use as a framework for your lesson plan. If your centre doesn’t provide such luxuries, then I highly recommend making one. You can do this by using the criteria you have to meet for planning and preparation. (And no, I’m not going to upload the Leeds Met template – if you want it that badly, do your Delta at Leeds Met! ūüėČ )

In a Delta lesson plan, you need to demonstrate that you’ve thought of¬†everything¬†in great detail. For example (not an exhaustive list – like I said, look at the criteria…):

  • who’s in your class and the nature of the group
  • your aims and outcomes
  • what might go wrong
  • how you would fix what might go wrong
  • how this lesson relates to other lessons you’ve taught the class
  • a thorough analysis of your target language.
  • a rationale for what you are doing
  • the procedure you are going to use to teach whatever it is you are teaching.

Here are my top tips for writing a Delta lesson plan:

  • Make sure that whatever it is you decide to do in your lesson bears some relation to what you wrote about in your background essay. (You could think about using one of your teaching solutions.) Essay and lesson plan should cohere.
  • In your rationale, do NOT just repeat what you’ve written in your essay. The focus in your essay was broader – you were considering different types of learners and learning contexts, even if you had narrowed it by higher or lower levels of learners, whereas your lesson plan, and therefore your rationale, is for a specific group of learners.
  • For your target language/skills analysis, consider form, meaning and pronunciation. For skills, consider sub-skills and relate them specifically to your lesson – you don’t want it to be too general. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of what it is you are teaching.
  • When writing your procedure, think about¬†how¬†whatever activity it is you are planning is going to help your learners do something better.
  • Make sure your lesson aims and outcomes are clear and concise. Make sure they are suitable for whatever level it is you are teaching. Make sure they are achievable. Make sure they are measurable. Make sure they are not too vague.
  • Attach copies of all materials you intend to use and make sure you attribute them appropriately.
  • As with the essay, if you have a lovely tutor who is willing to give you feedback on your lesson plan (be it detailed, super useful written feedback as I had at Leeds Met, or a tutorial, which I have read in an EtP article also happens in some places), then submit a draft in good time. There will inevitably be something you haven’t thought of – your tutor will pick up on it and guide you to notice it.
  • Make sure your timings are realistic and remember things often take longer than you anticipate. Build in a contingency for if things¬†do¬†take longer – or indeed you get through everything too quickly. Make sure whatever activity it is that enables your learners to meet your aims and outcomes, so your main activity, is planned for early enough in the lesson that things taking longer than anticipated isn’t going to mean your learners are unable to finish that main activity.
  • Mentally rehearse the lesson – picture doing everything you’ve written down in your procedure, imagine how your learners might respond and how you could deal with those responses. (I did this while going out for a walk or a run; do whatever helps you think most fluidly.)
  • You will likely be nervous at the beginning of your assessed lesson – it can be handy to make that first activity something that the students can get on with rather than something teacher-fronted, so that the focus isn’t on you. That will give you time to get into your groove and relax, ready for whatever teacher-fronted activities you do have.

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 2, good luck ‚Äď it is a valuable learning experience!!¬†