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…

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 14.19.25

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 14.19.37

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.

Leeds Metropolitan University has become Leeds Beckett University!

For reasons unbeknownst to us mere mortals, Leeds Metropolitan University changed its name to Leeds Beckett University, with effect from September 2014. I spent a happy year at Leeds Met doing my M.A. in ELT and Delta, between 2012 and 2013, and for me it will always be Leeds Met.

However, nostalgia aside, usefully enough, I have now finally updated all the links in my blog that used to lead to Leeds Metropolitan’s M.A ELT/Delta page so that they now point in the brand new direction of Leeds Beckett University’s M.A. ELT/Delta page. I can assure you, it was a very dull labour of love. Worth it though, as the good news is, the only thing that’s changed is the name: the M.A. ELT department is still kept going by the same lovely team of tutors who were at the helm while I was there.

I’m not, though, going to change all mentions of Leeds Met, in various blog posts and pages, to Leeds Beckett, as it was Leeds Met when I was there, but at least now, should you be so inclined, you can follow links to more information about the course I did without reaching a dead end!

Enjoy! 🙂

Delta Notes 3: Issues in teaching lexis

This Delta Notes series came about because I was packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and found my Delta notebooks. I didn’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 was interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! The project is on-going, the notebooks didn’t get stored or binned but I am getting tired of carrying them round the world…  

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!)

[NB: The sessions during which I took these note were delivered by Dr Ivor Timmis of Leeds Metropolitan University, so all credit to him for the insightful input.]

Lexis

 

Lexis! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org via Google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification

Lexis! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org via Google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification

Why do we need to plan how we teach lexis?

  • It doesn’t happen automatically: 

Focus on lexis is needed for learners to remember and be able to use lexis effectively. When acquiring L1, exposure – massive exposure – may suffice but in a classroom context, the exposure available is not sufficient for lexis to be acquired efficiently without focus and careful planning.

  • It’s a big task!

To understand an unknown item in a text, one needs to be able to understand 95% of the co-text. Fortunately, 2000 words accounts for about 80% of what you hear or read. Unfortunately, there is a law of diminishing returns at work thereafter: 3000 words would that figure up to about 82%, and so on. Calculating vocabulary size is complex because it depends on whether we count lexemes only or each word of a family. (NB: Lexeme = a basic root word with no inflections)

  • It’s a vital task!

Without grammar, little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.” – Wilkins, 1972.

How do we choose what lexis to teach? What criteria can we use for selection?

There are several criteria we can choose to apply to selection of lexis:

  • frequency
  • coverage
  • learners’ needs and interests
  • learnability
  • opportunism

Frequency

We could teach learners the most frequently used words. We have frequency lists that would enable us to do this. However, there are limitations to this approach.

  • The top 50 most frequent words are mostly grammar words e.g. “and”.
  • Frequency can clash with “teaching convenience” e.g. days of the week have different frequencies.
  • Words may have great interactional value but little referential value. E.g. “just” is very commonly used as a softener but has little meaning on its own.
  • Written vs. spoken: “though” is in the top 300 but it is used very differently in spoken discourse from how it is used in written discourse. Compare “Though it wasn’t a very good film, it was quite funny.” and S1: “It wasn’t a very good film.” S2: “It was quite funny though.”
  • Frequency lists include single words rather than collocations whereas many collocations would feature more than individual words if lists allowed it.
  • It raises the questions of whose frequency. British English frequency? American English frequency? Frequency in language used by pilots?

Coverage

We could teach learners words with broader coverage first. E.g. Teaching “go” before “walk” or “drive”; “book” before “notebook” or “textbook”, in terms of word specificity, and teaching words that appear in a greater number of different kinds of texts before those that are very specific to a particular text type. As with frequency, there are limitations to this approach:

  • Context and learner needs may mean that more specific vocabulary is required from the outset.

Learners’ needs and interests

These may be more apparent in an ESP or EAP class than in a general English class. If you are teaching in a very specific context, then this will influence your vocabulary selection more than other criteria will.

Learnability

There are a lot of factors that influence the learnability of a piece of lexis.

  • Tangibility. Is it abstract or concrete? Concrete lexis is easier to learn and remember. e.g. apple vs. distraction
  • Grammatical behaviour. How does it behave grammatically? E.g. accuse -> accuse somebody of doing something; suggest -> suggest that; depend -> depend on; responsible -> responsible for.
  • L1 aid/interference: Is it a cognate or a false friend? False friends mean meaning is easily confused.
  • Confusability: similarity of words e.g. raise (transitive) /rise (intransitive), similarity of root word e.g. take over/take after.
  • Cultural distance: How familiar is the concept? E.g. “moor” or “sleet” in North Africa…

Opportunism

What about language that emerges in class? Do we ignore “Dogme moments” because it is a low frequency item or an item with low coverage etc.? Or do we take advantage of learners’ desire to know something?

Going beyond words

There are many collocations that we use frequently: many would feature more than individual words if they were allowed in frequency lists.

Language is grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar.” – Michael Lewis (1993)

When we produce language, we go to lexis first and then use grammar to control it.

  • Delexical verbs and their collocations: e.g. have a bath; make a cake; have a word; do a runner; get lost; get drunk. These verbs are meaning-light (light lexical content) but commonly used in combination. Some combinations are more common than others.They are a common source of error. E.g. doing a Masters (“native”) vs. studying a Masters (“learner”)
  • Verb and adjective collocations of content nouns: e.g. teach “set the table” rather than just “table”. In order to be able to use nouns, we need to know the verb and adjective collocations that we can use them with.
  • Exploit metaphorical links: e.g. money commonly collocates with spend; make; waste; save; invest; spare – and so does time!”Bet” – the metaphorical meaning is more common than the literal meaning – “I bet you’re right.”
    “See” – used more commonly to mean “understand” than for its literal meaning.

“far more general utility in the recombination of known elements than in the addition of less easily useable items” (Sinclair and Renauf, 1988)

– do we need to rethink our priorities? It could be better to teach learners to use what they already know in a wider range of uses.

e.g. instead of just “enjoy” – enjoy, enjoyable, enjoyment, enjoy a reputation (different word types and different combinations)

Processes in lexis building

Here are a range of processes we can engage learners in, as we help them to learn lexis:

  • recognise – do they know it when they see it?
  • identify – do they know it when they see it within a text?
  • match – can they put it together with its definition? with common collocates? with synonyms? with antonyms?
  • categorise – can they link it with the correct word type? topic? metaphorical v literal? etc.
  • retrieve – can they remember it without a visual or aural stimulus?
  • contextualise – can they use it in a sentence or as part of discourse?
  • activate – can they use it without prompting?
  • extend – can they use it in a variety of ways?
  • manipulate – can they convert it into a different word type? can they use it in combination with other words?
  • rank – can they compare it with other lexis?
  • deduce – can they guess what it means when in an unfamiliar combination?

Depth of processing

This refers to the number of times the brain touches the word: identify and rank = two processes. The more processes used, the greater the depth of processing becomes. The greater the depth of processing used, the greater the chances of retention. It is important for learners to use a variety of processes when learning lexis.

Teaching lexis

There are two main approaches to vocabulary teaching: “Front door” and “Back door”

“Front door” teaching means identifying a group of words and teaching them. This can be done in two ways.

  • “verbal”: by eliciting, explaining or defining, using a matching activity (NB: this must be carefully graded to be of any use!), translating, getting learners to deduce the meaning from context (NB: learners must be able to understand a lot of the co-text)
  • “non-verbal” : using pictures/images (e.g. photos, from the internet, flashcards), symbols, actions (mime, gesture, facial expression), realia, drawings, sound effects.

“Back door” teaching means using a text-based approach, in which you highlight/draw attention to words/chunks within a text.

Elicitation

Elicitation is a commonly used technique in the language classroom. It is when we get learners to provide information rather than simply telling them something. Like many techniques, it has benefits and limitations. This means we need to keep certain things in mind when we want to use elicitation.

Benefits: 

  • It can be engaging for learners.

Limitations:

  • You can’t elicit what learners don’t know.
  • Can be time-consuming

To remember:

  • You must be precise.
  • You must ensure that the language you use to elicit is well graded.
  • You cannot use terms that are more difficult than the concept itself when defining/explaining it.
  • Once you have explained or elicited something, you must check that a learner has understood. (Concept checking questions are a common way of doing this – for more on this see Jonny Ingham’s detailed post on it.)

Review

How often should we review vocabulary? Very frequently, otherwise vocabulary books become “word cemeteries” – long lists buried and forgotten!

  • Students are very tolerant of recycling and revisiting, more so than we tend to assume.
  • It is useful to use the concept of expanding rehearsal: increase the gap between recycling each time. E.g. review after a week, then after two weeks, then after a month etc.

There are many ways of reviewing vocabulary, but that’s for another post!

References:

Lewis, M. (1993). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and the way forward. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications.

Sinclair, J. M., & Renouf, A. (Eds.). (1988). A lexical syllabus for language learning. In R. Carter & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary and language teaching (pp. 140-158). Harlow: Longman.

Wilkins, David A. (1972) Linguistics and Language Teaching. London: Edward Arnold.

 

Want a distinction*? Useful links for Delta module 1- happy revision!

*Sorry, I can’t give you one – struggled enough to get there myself! :-p – but I can offer a few links that may be of help for exam revision purposes… 🙂

The Delta module 1 exam is coming up in a few weeks – which means it’s nearly a year since I did mine! How time flies…

For those who are less fortunate and have the exam looming large, this post is everything I have to offer on the topic of this (ahem!) well-loved exam:

This post details how Module 1 paper 1 is structured, explaining requirements, point allocations and how to lay out your answers in an examiner-friendly way. Time spent on revising the structure of the exam and how to lay out your answers is time well-spent: no good knowing all the content if you can’t package it the Cambridge way!

This post does the same as the above post, but for Module 1 paper 2.

This post collates links to resources you might find useful as you revise for the exam.

  • Revision chart: A colourful revision chart that I made for the Module 1 exam

This is a chart I made while I was revising for the exam, to help me learn the structure.

And finally, a check-list, based on what I did for my own revision, to help you make sure you haven’t missed anything!

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Good luck! 

My top ten ELT books – how many have you read?

Faced with the hundreds of ELT-related books there are out there, an oft-repeated question, when teachers want to learn more about their profession and develop themselves as educators, is “What should I read first?”. Here is a list of books that I believe you can’t go wrong with. I have made the list deliberately wide-ranging in terms of what is covered (i.e. it’s not a list of ten vocabulary-related books!), again slightly stretching the concept of “top ten” with a little bit of grouping! 

If you disagree and feel that there’s another book that definitely ought to be on this list instead of one of the ones listed, please comment and say so! 🙂 Hopefully in the end, this post will be a list of books that everyone believes are a good starting point for teachers who are also motivated learners… And do comment in relation to the title question too! 😉

NB, I am not on commission! Also, I do not condone downloading any of these for free from any online sources. Some of them are available as e-books but you still have to pay! I do recommend checking if your school has them available to borrow. If your school is a CELTA (or equivalent) or a Delta (or equivalent) centre, then it is very likely to do so, and even if it isn’t, it may have acquired a few books that it makes available for teachers to borrow. University libraries (if the university does any ELT/TESOL/Applied linguistics type degrees) are good place to try too, if you can get access. 

In no particular order, then…

  • Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener

Screenshot from www.amazon.com

Screenshot from http://www.amazon.com

Initial teacher training courses tend to have a core text that trainees are required to buy and from which various portions are set as compulsory reading. For me, that was Learning Teaching (though this was pre-inclusion of free DVD). The usual alternative is The Practice of English Language Teaching by Jeremy Harmer. Either of these two general methodology books are a great starting point for a novice teacher  – or an experienced teacher looking to refresh their memory. I’ve read both from cover to cover. I also dipped into Learning Teaching extensively in my first post-qualification year of teaching. They give you a good overview of the many different elements that come together to make up language teaching. I’ve chosen Learning Teaching over The Practice of English Language Teaching to list here on a purely subjective basis: I found it more readable. I’m sure there are people who will read this post who would staunchly argue the reverse. My advice would be, take your pick – you can’t go wrong with either!

  • About Language by Scott Thornbury

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Screenshot from Amazon.com

How is your language awareness? By this I don’t just mean are you a grammar genius. What about discourse? lexis? Phonology? I didn’t use this book until I was preparing for my Delta but I firmly believe that all language teachers should make their way through it at some point. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t just describe things, it makes you do hundreds of tasks (for which the answer keys are at the back of the book) so you can test your understanding of what is being discussed. Why not do ten or fifteen minutes on a regular basis as part of your continued professional development?

  • Teaching and learning second language listening: metacognition in action by Larry Vandergrift and Christine Goh

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This gem of a book was in close competition with John Field’s Listening in the language classroom but won its place on the list by combining its extensive treatment of teaching listening with discussion of metacognition and how to integrate development of metacognitive awareness into listening pedagogy. It has a strong theoretical thread running all the way through, but manages to be very readable as well as containing plenty of very practical ideas for implementing the theories discussed. I’ve read both Vandergrift&Goh and Field from cover to cover, as well as dipping into them repeatedly since, both are well worth investing in and reading.

  • How languages are learned by Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Screenshot from Amazon.com

How languages are learned is an accessible introduction to the theories behind first and second language acquisition. As teachers of language, it is helpful for us to have an understanding of theories surrounding learning and acquisition, as these have informed the approaches, methodologies and teaching techniques that evolved over the course of time. This book is good because as well as discussing a wide range of FLA and SLA theories, it encourages reflection on the topics discussed through the reflective questions that punctuate it at the end of every chapter. There are also activities that you can do to explore topics further. I read this book in preparation for Delta but I think there’s no need to wait until you are doing such a qualification before you open it.

  • Beyond the sentence by Scott Thornbury

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Another Scott Thornbury gem – his name features rather heavily in this list, I’m afraid! – Beyond the sentence is a great introduction to discourse analysis. Each chapter has a corresponding task, for which there is an answer key, to focus you on the main points of what has been discussed and get your brain zooming out from individual grammar and lexical items to think in discourse terms. The activities are readily adaptable for use with students. A lot of of the lexical and grammatical choices we make are down to the influence of language we use not existing in a vacuum but as discourse, so it is worth learning about how discourse works. It makes more useful pre-Delta reading, and whether or not you plan on doing the qualification, is worth spending time on.

  • Implementing the lexical approach

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Screenshot from Amazon.com

Some will argue that I should put The Lexical Approach in instead of Implementing the lexical approach but what I like about the latter is that as well as presenting all the theory around the lexical approach, it also offers lots of ideas for using the approach in the classroom. The best thing to do, of course, would be to read both! And then follow that up with Teaching Collocation. All three of these were published by Thomson and Heinle, but Teaching Collocation is edited by Michael Lewis with contributions from Peter Hargreaves, Jimmie Hill and Michael Hoey. All three contain valuable information about how lexis works and why we should change our focus from grammar which we slot bits of lexis into to looking at the grammar of lexis and the company words keep. I didn’t read these until I was doing my Delta – I didn’t know about them before then. So here we go, the secret is out! 😉

  • “The How to…” series – especially How to teach vocabulary and How to teach speaking, both by Scott Thornbury

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

How to teach speaking doesn’t actually look like that anymore – now it’s a green version of How to teach vocabulary! Both are really great in terms of being very readable and combining theory with practice, in terms of giving you lots of ideas to try out, as well as the rationale behind them. I read them both cover to cover before starting Delta and found they gave me a really good grounding, which I was able to build on with more in-depth theoretical stuff when it came to essay-writing. Both highly recommended whether or not you intend to go on and do a further qualification.

  • Conversation: From description to pedagogy by Scott Thornbury (!) and Diana Slade

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This book is fascinating. It analyses conversation, taking it apart and explaining how it works, why and how we do what we do when we speak, as well as looking at the implications of this for language teaching. Not a whizz-bang of activities to deploy following a five minute flick through, but well worth making the effort of sitting down and reading it, to expand your understanding of how conversation works. This is another book I didn’t discover until I was doing my Delta – the library had multiple copies so I had one out while preparing my LSA4 on speaking, but again merits not being consigned only to being read by Delta/equivalent trainees!

  • Sound foundations

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This was one of the first books I read (apart from Learning Teaching) post-CELTA. I happened upon it in the teachers’ library at my second school. It absolutely revolutionised my understanding and teaching of pronunciation. That was also when I learnt about phonemic symbols and used to practice writing with them. Then it turned out that it was very useful to have already read the book and processed it, as well as having learnt the symbols, prior to starting Delta, as I had a good knowledge base to take in with me. However, it is definitely recommended regardless of your further qualification plans, in order to extend your pronunciation teaching skills. It contains theory written in easily understandable language, as well as lots of discovery tasks to help you understand how sounds work and lots of activities you can take into the classroom with you too.

  • Teaching and learning in the language classroom by Tricia Hedge

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This is another more general book, and its strong points are that it goes into reasonable depth on a range of things, including course design and assessment, learner autonomy and so on, as well as the treatment of the more obvious elements like teaching the skills (reading/writing/speaking/listening), grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It is a good, solid all-rounder to have at your finger tips. It also sports “further reading” lists at the end of each section, which are a great place to start if you are looking to explore something further and increase your depth of knowledge and understanding with regards to that topic.

A good grammar reference

As well as this list of books, every self-respecting language teacher should have (access to) a good grammar book. This will probably have been written by someone with a surname that is also an animal. E.g. Martin Parrott (Grammar for English Language Teachers), Michael Swan (Practical English Usage)…! Which you choose will be a matter of taste. Ideally, try and have a go at using a few different ones and find one that best suits the way you think. For me, it’s Parrott, but that’s largely because it’s the one I bought and used during my CELTA, and I became rather attached to it!

Reference Lists/further reading

And don’t forget: if you have read all of the books on this list, they all have bibliographies/reference lists, in which you can find the details of a whole load more books and articles that could be worth your attention! You can never run out of things to read! And that is a Good Thing. 🙂

Happy reading! And don’t forget to suggest books that YOU think should be on this list!!

reading glasses pixabay

Image taken from pixabay.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

 

Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04

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 Tips 14: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the conclusion and wrapping things up!

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

  • For an overview of what’s required and tips for starting out, look at Delta Tips 9
  • For information about writing the first section of the essay – the introduction – look at Delta Tips 10.
  • For help with the second section of the essay – the needs analysis – try Delta Tips 11.
  • To find out more about the third section of the essay – the course design – try Delta Tips 12
  • To get to grips with the fourth section of the essay – the assessment – look at Delta Tips 13.

The focus of this post is the conclusion of the essay and “wrapping things up” – by which I mean making sure your finished product is packaged the way Cambridge want it! (No mean feat… 😉 )

Congratulations! You have made it to the final section of the Module 3 essay-beast! You are probably sick of the sight of it and really looking forward to finally getting rid of the damn thing, but persevere, for this final section: the fat lady ain’t singing jeeust yet!

The conclusion, for which you are allowed to use a piddly 400 words, is where you will:

  • evaluate what you have produced: extol the virtues (benefits for learners, ways in which learning objectives are met through what you propose) and explain how you minimised the negatives as much as you could in the given circumstances (identify the limitations, the effect on the learners and how these limitations are better than the alternatives).
  • succinctly identify and summarise application of principles to practice: making reference to previous sections, how did the principles you identified to start with (section 1) affect the design of your course (sections 2, 3 and 4)?

Top tips:

  •  Don’t hope that the examiners won’t notice the problems with your design: They will. Hopefully you have done your best to design out flaws, but in the real world nothing is perfect. The trick is to recognise the imperfections and be able to justify (succinctly, as usual!) their existence and explain how you have minimised them as much as possible. Show that the benefits outweigh the limitations.
  • Demonstrate that your essay is a beautiful, cohesive whole: summarise how part 1 fed into part 2, which fed into part 3, which fed into part 4. Show how the issues identified in part 1 have been addressed in the process of designing parts 2-4.
  • Use sub-headings: The examiners like having relevant information flagged up – this saves them from hunting through your writing trying to identify if you have or haven’t met this or that criteria. (Imagine how you’d feel with a massive list of criteria to apply to someone’s writing – you’d want all the help you could get! Now imagine you are on your nth script of the day – how hard are you going to look for the needles in the haystack? 😉 ) *p.74 contains guidance about the conclusion – use those guiding questions to help you insert your guidance for the examiner.
  • Be succinct: You have 400 words – use them wisely! Reference in a space-efficient way (as demonstrated in previous post of this series) Word-count is very important: if you are over the limit, you will be penalised (and you want ALL of those marks!!), if you are 100 words or more over the limit, your essay will be sent back unmarked and you’ll have to pay again once you’ve cut down the number of words. Better to make sure in advance of sending it the first time!

The appendices and wrapping it all up

Don’t forget that it isn’t over until it’s over: once you’ve written your amazing 4500 word Module 3 essay beast, and accumulated a load of supporting documents, you then have to collate all this in exactly the way Cambridge wants you to.

Top tips:

  • Read the handbook pages 74 -76 carefully. Follow the guidelines for packaging (p.74/75), presentation (p.75) and referencing (p.76). Then when you have finished, read it again and check that you really *have* followed them. Cambridge are picky, there’s no doubt about it, but at least they explain the ways in which they are going to be picky, so that you can tailor your essay to their pickiness! If you are lucky enough, get someone who will proofread it for you, checking that you have met all the pernickety criteria (or if you are even luckier, your tutor will give it a final once over and check everything is in the right place!).
  • Remember, this stage will take longer than you think! (I can remember finishing my essay and then spending an awfully long time getting all the various bits of appendices together, in the right order, in the correct documents etc…) So leave plenty of time to do it in, in order to minimise your stress levels – these will be high enough as it is! 😉
  • Hopefully you will have been keeping your list of references as you went along. Make sure you have got all your references on it. Only list those resources that you have actually referred to in the essay itself – what Cambridge calls “explicit evidence” is necessary to show that you have read what you list.
  • You may find that your files are larger than Cambridge’s maximum file size. Fortunately, Word has a file-shrinking tool that you can use. Also make sure that when you plonk .pdf’s into your document (completed questionnaires, sample materials and the like) that you have saved them in the smallest file size that you can first.
  • Don’t forget your contents page. Hopefully you have lots of neatly labelled sub-headings in your document – these can come together to form part of your contents page, beneath the section headings. (I’m in the process of uploading samples of my Module 3 essay, so will upload my contents page too and link to it here, in due course…)
  • Finally, remember to use the Cambridge naming conventions for each file (Handbook p.75)

When all is done and dusted, pat yourself on the back and get yourself taken out for a large glass of the beverage of your choice! 🙂 Congratulations!!