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. 🙂

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! 

30 things to enhance your teaching?

In honour of my recent 30th birthday (18th June this year!), I thought I’d attempt to identify 30 things that I’ve incorporated into my professional practice in the past year. 30 is quite a large number, but having spent the last year at Leeds Met, learning vast amounts through tackling my Delta and my M.A. in ELT, I thought I should be able to pinpoint any number of things and that doing so would reinforce them in my mind as well as create a record for me to look back on. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, this is just the 30 things that I’ve been most taken by – including ideas, approaches, tools and techniques. Where possible, I’ve included simple, practical ideas for incorporation of what’s on the list, to make experimentation easier for anyone who should wish to do so. (And the question mark in the post title is deliberate! 🙂 )

I thought it would also be fun for people (i.e. you!) to comment and: 

a) say how many of these already figure in your own professional practice

b) say which of these you particularly like/dislike and why

c) recommend one vital thing for me (and others?) to incorporate that you think is awesome and feel is missing from this list!

So, here goes (in no particular order):

1. Reflective Practice.  This is when, instead of teaching a lesson, then forgetting about it and moving on to teach another lesson, you reflect on the lesson: You think about what went well, what went less well, and why; you think about what you could do differently next time and the effect this might have. You look for the holes in your lesson plan, but you also make a note of any particularly fine moments that you hadn’t anticipated and think about how they came about. You do this systematically, and over time you identify recurring patterns, both good and bad, and make action plans to minimise the latter.

Practical idea for trying this out: You could do what I plan to do this summer, an idea that I had as a result of participating in the #Eltchat discussion on “Learning from your Failures” – at the end of each lesson that you teach, make a note of what you think the 3 best things and 3 worst things about it were. Once a week or fortnight, depending on what suits you the best, get out your notes and reflect on them. Look for patterns, identify weaknesses to address, anything that could be done more effectively, and decide how you are going to address them. This might be a case of making tiny adjustments, doesn’t have to mean massive changes. In subsequent reflections, try to identify if these changes have made any noticeable impact on the best and worst things that you note down.

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2. Audacity. This amazing tool can be used to make listening recordings to use in class. You can record your own voice or you can import sound files – perhaps recordings you’ve made on a dictaphone or similar, or a podcast. You can adjust the speed of the recording if you feel it’s too fast, or insert pauses in it. You can choose from a selection of sound effects to add in. For detailed instructions that tell you how to do all these things, visit http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/audacity1/index.html 

Practical idea for trying Audacity out: Use Audacity to make a recording that consists entirely of sound effects and use this in class by getting your learners to create a story that incorporates all of these sound effects. You could build this into a lesson on developing speaking sub-skills. (For more on skills development, see no. 28 below.)

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3. Concordances and concordancing: Building and analysing a concordance places learners in the role of researcher.  It is often associated with use of corpora, or collections of spoken or written texts, and computers. The ability to notice patterns in language, that analysing a concordance requires, is useful for a language learner to possess, particularly a higher level learner with access to a lot of target language input outside the classroom,  but does not come automatically by dint of studying a language.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: You can help learners to develop this skill by providing scaffolding to guide them through the process. Early on, it is useful to guide learners to make very small concordances, using written texts or transcripts of spoken texts, and prompt them to notice features of it. As time passes, learners can be encouraged to make larger concordances from multiple texts and scaffolding can be gradually removed. Later on, learners could be introduced to larger corpora, such as the British National Corpus, and guided to make use of this – first with scaffolding, then increasingly unsupported. Ultimately, the goal is for the learner to be able to slip into the role of researcher, and use this process of creation and analysis of concordances, independently.

(Adapted from the teachers guide to the set of materials I produced for my Materials Development module)

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4. Awareness of ELF/EIL: English as a Lingua Franca and English as an International language have both been the subject of much debate over the last decade. (However, before I did my M.A. I was completely unaware of this!) Jenkins (2000) advocates for a shift away from imitation of native speakers in pronunciation teaching and towards a focus on intelligibility, identifying a lingua franca core of features which are of importance for this. If you are interested in this, I recommend reading Jenkins (1998), an ELTJ article in which she makes the case for questioning the appropriacy of Native Speaker models in a world where English is widely used as a means of communication between non-native speakers of English. However, ELF is no longer only discussed in academic circles, as illustrated by the recent #Eltchat discussion about it (summary here), which also makes good reading for anyone interested in this subject. For a summary of features of ELF pronunciation, you may also like to read Walker (2001) 

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: I would highly recommend sourcing Walker (2010), as this contains a wealth of ideas for adopting an ELF approach to pronunciation in the classroom, as well as an audio CD with samples of speech by ELF speakers. You will then have no shortage of practical ideas for use in the classroom! 🙂

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5. Metacognition: I discovered the idea of metacognition through reading Vandergrift and Goh (2012). The idea behind developing this in learners is that the more aware learners are of the cognitive processes they use in language learning, the more able they will be to deploy these effectively. Thus, instead of learners blindly following what the teacher tells them to do, learners are encouraged to think about and discuss *why* they are doing things and what benefits may be had in doing them. Over time, learners can be encouraged to reflect on their progress and identify areas to work on. Developing metacognitive awareness in learners goes hand in hand with developing their ability to learn independently.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: After learners complete an activity from their course book, or of your own making, ask learners to think about and discuss what they gained from doing it, what they think the purpose behind it was and whether they can think of any ways in which it could be done more effectively in future lessons. (For a fuller treatment of Metacognition and ideas of how to bring it into your classroom, please visit my post entitled Bringing Metacognition into the Classroom – or if you are especially keen on this idea, you may like to read Vandergrift and Goh, 2012 – a wealth of practical ideas can be found therein!)

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6. Language Awareness approach This approach to language learning is based on the following 5 principles described by Borg, as quoted in Svalberg (1997:290-291):

  1. It involves an ONGOING INVESTIGATION of language as a dynamic phenomenon rather than awareness of a fixed body of established facts.
  2. It involves learners in TALKING ANALYTICALLY about language, often to each other.
  3. It considers essential the INVOLVEMENT of learners in exploration and discovery.
  4. It aims to develop not only the learners’ knowledge about and understanding of language but also their LEARNING SKILLS, thus promoting learner independence.
  5. The aim is to involve learners on both a COGNITIVE and AFFECTIVE level.

This encapsulates a holistic, discovery approach to language learning, which can easily be used alongside other methodological approaches such as CLT or TBLT. Rather than presenting linguistic features, create tasks that enable learners to discover these. (For a more detailed exploration of the Language Awareness Approach, take a look at this post of mine)

Practical idea for incorporating a Language Awareness approach: Draw learners’ attention to a feature of language within a text that they have already engaged with at meaning level. Get learners to think about how else the idea encapsulated in that form could be expressed. What effect would the different ways of expressing it have on the text? Why has the writer chosen this form? What might be the intended effect on the audience? What effect does it have on them as an audience?

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7. Consciousness-Raising approach: Ellis (2003: 163) describes the Consciousness-Raising Approach as ““a kind of puzzle which when solved enables learners to discover for themselves how a linguistic feature works”. Like the LA approach, discovery of and discussion about language are important, as is cognitive engagement. Within Task-Based Learning, a CR task could be used as the main task, as learners talk about a linguistic feature but are not compelled to use it. The non-linguistic outcome would be the observations generated. (For a more detailed exploration of the Consciousness-Raising Approach, take a look at this post of mine)

Practical idea for using Consciousness-Raising in the classroom: Identify a structure that you want learners to focus on. Create a set of sentences using the structure – this will be the data that learners use to extrapolate information about the feature in question. Prompt learners to notice how the structure is used and to formulate a rule for expressing this.

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8. Collocations: If words commonly occur together, it stands to reason that it would be helpful for learners to learn them together. Collocations can be divided into lexical collocations (e.g. noun-noun, verb-noun, adjective-noun) and grammatical collocations (e.g. verb and particle collocation). Some collocations are very strong: If I say what goes with “rancid”, you are likely to say “butter” but many are medium-strength and according to Hill (2000:64), “The main learning load for all language users is not at the strong or weak ends of the collocational spectrum, but in the middle – those many thousands of collocations which make up a large part of what we say and write.” The more aware learners become of the company words keep, the better able they will be to produce natural-sounding spoken and written language.

Practical idea for using collocations in the classroom: When you introduce new vocabulary, think about the company it keeps. If forms part of any common collocations, introduce these as well. Encourage learners to record common collocations rather than individual words. You could also create groups of sentences with a word common to all of them blanked out. See if the learners can identify what the word is through looking at the words around the gap.

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9. Phonology esp. the effect of connected speech on listening: “I can’t understand, they are speaking too fast” is a common complaint amongst learners in listening lessons the world over. In fact, often it is not the speed that is the issue but the effect that connected speech has on individual sounds in individual words. Whether it’s weak forms of functional words or elisions and assimilations of sounds at word boundaries, or simply the lack of the clear delineation of one word from another that is typical of written language, there is often a big gap between what is taught (dictionary pronunciation of isolated words) and what is heard in the speech stream (connected speech). Raising learners’ awareness of features of connected speech can help them understand what it is they are finding difficult about understanding the stream of speech, rather than feeling a general sense of failure. (I did my Delta LSA3 on Phonology, specifically helping learners with connected speech and found it a fascinating area of study.)

Practical idea for raising learners’ awareness of connected speech: When learners have already engaged with a text at meaning level, pick out phrases which showcase elision or assimilation or any given feature that you want to focus on, and use them as the basis for a task that helps learners discover how sounds change in connected speech.

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10. Spoken grammar: This was a particularly interesting discovery for me. There is a lot of difference between the way we speak and the way we write, yet we tend to expect learners to speak written English. Of course, it may not be relevant for learners to learn how to produce features of native speaker spoken grammar, but for others learning about this at least on a receptive level could be very helpful in making spoken language less opaque. Spoken grammar is closely linked with how language in conversation is co-constructed and context-dependent. An interesting example of  spoken grammar is the use of “though”. In written English, you may find sentences such as “Though the use of English as a Lingua Franca is increasing exponentially, many learners world-wide are compelled to approximate a Native Speaker model, whether or not this is relevant to their needs.” However, in spoken English it is often used as part of an exchange, e.g: S1: Mmm, lovely food! S2: Bit spicy though. Sometimes it is not even necessary for S1 to produce the first part of the exchange, if it is implicitly understood by both speakers. (After I learnt about how “though” is used in spoken language, from Dr. Timmis, I listened out for use of it, both mine and others’, and found it really interesting because until then I never knew I used it or heard it so often!)

Practical ideas for use in class: Re-write a course book dialogue so that it includes features of spoken grammar, so that learners can compare it with the original and identify the differences. Whether or not learners will then want to experiment with production of such features will depend on context and needs. (If you are interested in this area of language, I recommend reading Timmis (2005, 2012) and McCarthy and Carter (1995).)

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11. Features of casual conversation e.g. storytelling: Analysis of casual conversation is another fascinating area of study (and I would thoroughly recommend reading Eggins and Slade (1997) and/or Thornbury and Slade (2006) – even if you don’t want to use their theory in your teaching, it just makes interesting reading!). Storytelling is a very common feature of casual conversation, used for building and maintaining relationships and constructing identity. Eggins and Slade (1997) divide this genre into 4 sub-genres: narrative, anecdote, exemplum and recount, each of which exhibits different mixtures of Labov’s (1972) six possible narrative stages (abstract, orientation, complication,  evaluation, resolution and coda). Of these sub-genres, anecdotes are the most commonly told. Often forgotten but very important in storytelling is the role of the listener: this involves responding to what is being recounted through use of supportive noises or language called back-channels and evaluating what is heard. We can help learners by teaching them structural features of anecdotes and the chunks of language typically used to realise this, the importance of evaluative language and non-linguistic devices (e.g. gesture, intonation, pace) as well as how to listen supportively.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Jones (2001) describes a very useful activity for helping learners with storytelling. This involves producing two versions of an anecdote, one version should be bare of all structural language, evaluative devices and listener interaction, while the other should include these. Learners can be guided to notice the differences between the two versions and discuss the effect that these features have on a story. Useful chunks can be identified and recorded, and activities devised to enable learners to try using these.

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12. Storyboards: Online storyboarding software offers interesting possibilities for project work with learners. Using software such as www.wevideo.com (which you can access via Google Drive if you have a Gmail email account or register directly on the site), learners can combine images, film, text and audio (including voice recordings) in a single video clip.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Instead of culminating a project with a presentation, get learners to use storyboarding software to present their findings using a combination of images, film, text and audio. (Don’t forget to teach them how to source creative commons images using Google Advanced search or resources such as Eltpics ) You could also take this a step further and embed learners’ creations on a class wiki. 

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13. Learner autonomy: Learner Autonomy is one of those ELT buzzwords which everyone bandies about glibly. However, when you scratch beneath the surface, it’s not as simple as you might like. A range of theoretical perspectives on learner autonomy exist, and even once you’ve chosen which one(s) you agree with, you have to decide what kind of methodological approach you are going to use with it. Different perspectives and methodological approaches will suit different contexts and learning needs, and it is important to be sensitive to these factors. Personally, I’m a fan of the social constructivist theory of learning. Within this theory, learning involves forming connections between prior experience and new information,  and is achieved through collaboration with others. The sociocultural approach to learner autonomy is well-suited to this theory. The goal of autonomy within this approach is participation in a community, and great value is placed on mediated learning. In terms of methodology, I prefer Smith’s (2003) strong methodology, where the teacher works with learners to identify the autonomous learning strategies best suited to their individual needs, rather than transmitting  a set of behaviours in the assumption that learners are deficient in this respect. (For more information about these theories and approaches, see Oxford, 2003 and Smith, 2003)

Practical Ideas for developing learner autonomy: 

(Of course, this may be better suited to learners in an English-speaking environment, unless a specific community of practice has been identified, to which the learners want access.) An idea I’m developing in my dissertation project is a module of materials that equips learners to use the English outside the classroom, by guiding them through the process of researching, designing questionnaires, piloting these and then using them as well as analysing and presenting the data that they yield. The point here is that for learners to learn successfully outside of the classroom, they need to be prepared to do this in the classroom. This might be as simple as setting aside time each week for discussion of out-of-class activities that have been done, problems that have been faced and out-of-class work plans for the following week. Using tools like wikis and blogs is also likely to be more successful if their use is integrated into the in-class programme.

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14. Task-based language teaching: This is a strong form of Communicative Language Teaching, in which the task is the main unit of syllabus organisation. Definitions of task abound, but proponents all seem to agree that the main focus of a task should be meaning (rather than form) and that the main task needs to yield a non-linguistic outcome. The task cycle generally consists of a pre-task phase, the main task and a post-task phase, with the pre-task phase and post-task phase being optional. Willis and Willis (2007) argue that focus on form should only come in the post-task phase, though focus on language (which is learner-driven) can occur at any point. Ellis (2003) suggests that a Consciousness-Raising approach goes well with TBLT, and that a CR task can form the main task of the cycle because learners are not compelled to use a particular structure in order to complete the task – they are only required to discuss it, using language and structures of their own choosing.

Practical idea for use in the classroom: Turn an activity that you are planning to use with your learners into a task by adjusting it to ensure that it meets task criteria e.g. a focus on meaning, no explicit focus on form (if there is focus on form, learners should be unaware of this), yields a non-linguistic outcome. For example, instead of getting learners to read a text, turn it into a jigsaw reading, where the text is divided up between learners, who must collaborate, without showing their portion of the text to any classmates, in order to gain the whole story.

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15. Intercultural Approach: Rather than teaching culture as a fixed body of facts, Corbett (2003) recommends developing intercultural awareness and competence through a process approach to culture. Instead of treating the target language culture as a model, learners are encouraged to explore it and use it as a point of comparison with their own and other cultures, and helped to develop skills that can help them with this.

Practical idea for use in the classroom: Whenever possible, factor in reflective activities that encourage learners to compare how English is used to make meaning, and the cultural reasons behind this, with their L1/culture. This can often easily be integrated into whatever is being learnt linguistically. Discussing their own L1/culture heightens learners’ awareness of the influence this has on them and comparison with the target language/culture, as well as that of classmates in multilingual classes, increases sensitivity to difference.

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16. Constructivism and Social Constructivism in language learning: This approach to learning, which I am particularly fond of, is a humanistic model of learning. Beatty (2011:99) describes it as “a process by which learners construct new ideas or concepts by making use of their own knowledge and experiences”. Rather than being an empty page or a blob of clay to be moulded, as in Behaviourist approaches, the learner is considered rich with background knowledge and experience, which should be drawn upon in the classroom. When the learner meets new information, previous knowledge is restructured to accommodate it. The role of the teacher is to facilitate this. Social constructivism adds to this the importance of collaboration in learning, in the belief that learners can achieve more through interaction, with each other and/or with the teacher than they can individually. Vygotsky’s theories on this, including about the Zone of Proximal Development, which is “the idea that the potential for cognitive development is limited to a certain gap, which he calls the ZPD” (ibid:104), which learners cannot reach alone, have been influential.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Think about how you can facilitate learning rather than simply presenting learners with new information. Cognitively engaging collaborative activity represents a means of enabling this. So, incorporating a consciousness-raising task (see no. 7 above) or a language-awareness task (see no. 6 above) offers a means of experimenting with this. Another way is to exploit learners’ experiences and background knowledge in the activities you ask them to do. (See no. 22 below).

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17. Cognitive engagement and affective engagement: To engage learners cognitively is to challenge them mentally by increasing the depth of processing necessary to complete an activity. Some activities require greater cognitive engagement than others. Those that require greater cognitive engagement are those that stimulate use of higher order thinking skills. (See Penny Ur’s IATEFL seminar on this topic, which will be available soon on the IATEFL website members area). To engage learners affectively is to stimulate an emotional or personal response to what is being learnt. This stimulates different areas of the brain and proponents believe that this kind of stimulation is important for effective language learning.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: When planning a lesson, consider what types of engagement your sequence of activities is stimulating. See if there is a balance of cognitive and affective engagement being facilitated. If there isn’t, think about ways that you could adjust the sequence to allow for greater cognitive or affective engagement.

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18. Cuisenaire Rods: I did my Delta Experimental Practice on Cuisenaire Rods – I had met them during my CELTA course and they had intrigued me, but I had never got round to using them in the classroom. Cuisenaire Rods originated in the primary maths classroom, but were introduced into ELT by Caleb Gattegno, through a method known as “The Silent Way”. The rods come in a range of sizes, all multiples of the smallest, and each size is a different colour. They are very useful in eliciting language and ideas from learners and can represent anything from word stress to a scene in a story.

Ideas for use in the classroom: My favourite way of using Cuisenaire Rods, which I used as the basis of my Experimental Practice lesson plan, is to get learners to use them as a storytelling aid. I modelled this process first, eliciting a story from the learners, and then had the learners use the rods to tell the stories depicted in the newspaper articles that they read at the start of the lesson. One thing I learnt from doing this Experimental Practice is the importance of having a clear reason for using the rods and a clear idea of the balance between accuracy and fluency within the classroom (see no. 30 below). Underhill (2005) contains ideas for using rods to help learners with pronunciation and Neil (2006) offers a variety of activities that can be done using rods.

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19. The history of Methods in ELT and Principled Eclecticism: ELT has a rich history of methods, based on various theories of language, teaching and learning and influenced also by theories of psychology. While we often pooh-pooh old methods from our comfortably superior super-modern position, it’s worth bearing in mind that each of them offers valuable elements that can be incorporated into our teaching. So, for example, from the Grammar-Translation method, we might take on board the value of using translation as a learning tool – perhaps as a means of contrasting the target language with learners’ L1 (see no. 29 below). From Audiolingualism, we might incorporate the odd bit of drilling, to give learners a chance to get their mouths around new bits of language. And so it goes on… (For a full account of method in ELT and what the good bits of each might be considered to be, I highly recommend watching @chiasuan’s webinar on the topic) 

Practical idea for use in the classroom: Pick a method and research it. Try to identify if you use any of its techniques in your teaching already and what principles the method is using them to embody. See if there are any other techniques associated with it that you could try out. For example, you might look at the Silent Way and decide to experiment with using Cuisnenaire rods (for ideas of how to do this see no. 18 above.)

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20. The Text-driven Approach: This approach is most heavily associated with Brian Tomlinson (E.g. see Tomlinson, 2008) and draws on an experiential approach to learning. It is based on the idea that for language learning to be most effective, all areas of the brain should be stimulated during the learning process. Thus affective engagement is as important as cognitive engagement. (See no. 17 above for more on cognitive engagement and affective engagement) Materials which embody this approach ask learners to do activities which generate a multidimensional representation of the text in their brains. For example, learners may be asked to visualise, to draw, to share their visualisations/drawings, to develop these in further activities, to respond to the text creatively, and finally to consider the language used in the text. Activities are designed to help learners approach the text in the way that they might if they were reading or listening in their L1.

Practical idea for using the Text-driven Approach: Use a fictional extract or a poem in the classroom, and ask learners to read/listen to it and imagine how they would feel if they were the main character. Get them to imagine a conversation between characters. Ask them to draw up a list of interview questions for the main character and imagine the responses. Get them to imagine the sights/sounds/smells that characters in the extract/poem might be seeing/hearing/smelling. Identify a feature of language and get learners to create a concordance of the occurrences of this within the text. They can use this to look for patterns. (For more on concordancing, see no. 3 above)

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21. Principled use of Multimedia tools: With the proliferation of multimedia tools that can be used in the ELT classroom, the decisions of whether or not to use them and how best to use them if you choose to become very important. There is a need for absolute clarity regarding the pedagogical benefits of use and the requirements – is it a tool learners are familiar with from out-of-school use or is it brand new to them, in which case using it AND learning English through using it may create an overly large cognitive load. If you want learners to use it outside of the classroom, how are you going to ensure that they are able to do this effectively? If you are going to use it in class, is the time that will be spent on it worth the gains that will be had from using it? Could what you are doing with it be done more efficiently without it? If you are interested in how multimedia and theories of learning/language relate, Beatty (2010) is worth reading. (There’s certainly a lot more to consider than I was aware of before I did my Multimedia and Independent Learning module at Leeds Met!)

Practical idea for use in the classroom: Next time you decide to use a multimedia tool, ask yourself the questions in 21. and make sure you are clear on your reasons for use, the potential benefits and drawbacks, and how you will maximise the former and minimise the latter.

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22. The importance of schema and schemata activation:  This is related to the Constructivist theory of learning (see no. 16 above). Schemata are like mental mind maps, which we continually adjust, update, add to and delete from, as we take in new experiences and information. Thus, it is a rich resource to tap. If a learner is going to listen to or read a text, it is likely that they will be much better able to do this if they have first activated any background knowledge they have on the topic. This enables them to make more effective predictions about what they will read or hear, and what vocabulary they might encounter in the process.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom:  Use visual stimuli or verbal/written prompts to encourage discussion around the topic upon which the reading or listening text that you are planning to do with your class is based. Give learners the opening of the text and get them to predict what might come next. Get learners to predict what vocabulary they might see or hear. Learners can then check their ideas and predictions against what they see or hear. New information and language can then be connected to existing knowledge. (For more about schema theory, Beatty, 2010 gives a useful summary)

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23. Effective scaffolding – within a task, within a lesson, within a course of materials: For me, the question at the root of this is “How am I going to help learners to do this better?” Whether this is reading/listening to a text, telling a story, understanding a feature of language, it will be more effective if the answer to this question is clear. Providing effective scaffolding is  a way of helping learners work in their Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky), where what they are able to do is greater than it would be without the mediation of a more experienced other. Over the length of a course, it may benefit learners to be given gradually less scaffolding, as they gain in confidence and proficiency, as the less scaffolding there is, the more independent learners need to be in carrying out whichever activity it is, which will benefit them outside of the classroom.

Practical idea for use in the classroom: It’s as simple as: When planning a lesson, think about and answer the question, “How am I helping learners to do this better?” and make sure that whatever you are planning does help learners do something better  in some way.  (I will confess to not considering this clearly until my Delta LSA2 tutor recommended that I do! Since then, it is has become an integral part of my planning.)

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24. Different methods of error correction: Who knew there were so many?! The most straightforward one is to provide the correct answer when a learner makes a mistake – be it grammatical, lexical, phonological or an answer to an activity question. However, this may not be the most effective in terms of potential learning yield. If you are told something, it is very easy to forget again. Guiding learners to the correct answer, rather than simply providing it, increases their cognitive engagement and makes the learning more memorable. Of course, which method to use depends on the type of error, the context in which its made, the focus of the lesson phase during which it is made (see no. 30 below) how much time you consider it worth spending on that error and so on.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Instead of simply providing the correct answer, give the learner a chance to self-correct (learners often can – and it also gives you time to think about how best to deal with the error if they are not able to!) and then throw it open to the rest of the class, to see if they are able to peer correct. Use elicitation questions to help nudge learners towards the correction. For example, if learners stress a word wrongly, get them to repeat the word and see if they pronounce it correctly this time. Then ask the rest of the class how they think it is pronounced. If they still can’t get it, provide another word that is stressed similarly. Ask them how many syllables it has and where the stress is, and get them to apply this to the original word.

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25. Classroom-based research: This is, or can be, related to reflective practice (see no. 1 above) and refers to systematic experimentation within the classroom. You might want to find out what is causing a particular pattern of behaviour in your classroom, why things are or aren’t happening and try out different ways of doing things that may or may not turn out to be more effective with your learners. You follow a cycle of identifying what it is you want to investigate, perhaps seeing what’s written about it in the literature, decide what you are going to try doing, then collect your data (through observation, eliciting learner feedback, getting colleagues to observe you etc) and analyse it and then reflect on your findings and what they might mean. From this you identify whether or not what you tried was successful/worth doing again and you identify other areas of interest to follow up, and from here you return to the literature to continue the cycle. (I’ve seen it represented visually as a spiralling cycle.)

Practical idea for use in the classroom:   Well I suppose this is obvious enough! – Try out the above process and see what you can find out!

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26. Teaching listening rather than testing listening: Field (2008) suggests that listening lessons are often a test of listening rather than an opportunity for listening skill development. Listening in a second language is a complex business, so it stands to reason that it would be more helpful to teach learners how to do it better rather than simply testing what they are currently able to do. The benefits for learners would include understanding their difficulties and being better able to tackle these, rather than simply finding it difficult and assuming they are incapable. (Prior to doing my LSA 2 on listening, during which process I read Field (2008) amongst other things, I confess that this was yet something else I had no idea about – I just did the usual listening lesson, which consists more of testing than teaching.)

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Rather than simply getting learners to listen to a recording and answer the questions, then providing them with the answers and moving on, try this: Use ideas from Tomlinson’s text-driven approach (see no. 20 above) to encourage learners to use their whole brain in listening to the recording, deploying all their background and contextual knowledge too. Then, after they answer the set questions, have them discuss their answers in pairs and listen again to resolve any disagreements.  Once you’ve finished with the set questions, let learners look at the transcript and check their answers. Then, you can do some work with the transcript – perhaps some awareness-raising for features of connected speech (see no. 9 above), for example. You could also get learners to analyse the problems they’ve had, which can be scaffolded by providing them with a set of problems to choose from and apply to what they weren’t able to understand of the recording. Finally, get learners to discuss this process that you have taken them through. Ask them to reflect on what they’ve learnt, how it benefitted them during this class and how it could benefit them outside of the class. For further ways of helping learners with listening, see Field (2008) and Vandergrift and Goh (2012), from which I learnt about these approaches to teaching listening.

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27. Evernote: This is a brilliant tool – for teachers as well as learners! It is essentially a curation tool. For teachers, it is a handy way of saving anything you come across online – journal articles, website links, magazine/newspaper articles etc – or create offline – word documents, powerpoint presentations etc – that could come in handy later on, for use in lessons or as a reference. For learners, the same applies, which could be useful for project work, for example,  but in addition learners can use it as a repository for their work – an e-portfolio (this idea I heard mentioned at a talk at IATEFL 2013, but I can’t remember which – if it was yours, please let me know so I can attribute it!). You can divide things up by creating extra notebooks and index things through use of tags, which makes it very easy to organise what is collected or produced so that it is very easy to navigate.

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: Get learners to create their own Evernote account and use it as described above, putting in anything they feel worth holding on to. You could get them to create notebooks for different things, including one or more for their own work. Periodically you could encourage them to look over what they have done and reflect on their progress. You could also create a class account, for project work. Each group could have their own notebook and use it for collaboration. They could use the note-writing facility to communicate with each other.

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28. Skill development: How can we help learners develop skills? As mentioned above (see no. 26) Field (2008) suggests that listening lessons are often a test of listening rather than an opportunity for listening skill development. In many course books, speaking activities provide opportunity for oral production of a particular structure or opportunity for personalisation of a topic, but what about skill development? One way of incorporating skill development into a lesson is to break something down into its constituent sub-skills and devise ways of helping learners manage these better. Another way is to raise metacognitive awareness (see no. 5 above) of sub-skills. On a simpler level, classroom management can also be used to benefit skill development.

Practical idea for use in the classroom: Rather than just making learners listen/read/speak/write, provide them with tasks that scaffold the process (see no. 23 above for more about scaffolding) and raise their awareness of the sub-skills and processes that listening/reading/speaking/writing require. For example, instead of just getting learners to tell a story, using the narrative tenses you’ve been focusing on in class, help them develop the sub-skills for effective storytelling, e.g. use of evaluative language, structural language, supportive listening, paralinguistic devices and so on. Get them to compare these with how they are realised in L1. Or, instead of just getting learners to read and answer questions, teach them techniques for dealing with unknown words. 

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29. The use of L1 in the classroom: For a long time, use of L1 was frowned upon because it meant less opportunity for use of L2. However, translation is always happening in the classroom – inside learners heads – and it can be put to good use. L1 can be used as a point of comparison with the L2: comparing how different speech acts are realised in the L1 as vs. the L2, for example, can be very useful for raising learners’ awareness of both similarities and differences. This enables more positive transfer, where relevant, and minimises negative transfer.

Practical idea for use in the classroom: After working with a text, or doing a task, get learners to translate some of the language used into their L1 and then compare this with how they would really express those concepts in L1. How much difference is there? Then have them translate the product of that exercise back into English. How different is this from the original English? What effect do the differences have?

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30. Fluency/Accuracy/Complexity: At any given point in a lesson, activities may be geared towards developing learners’ accuracy, or increasing their fluency or promoting complexity of language use, or some combination of these. Factors such as how much cognitive load the activity places on learners, and how much performance stress there is, affect the level of attention learners can direct at each. All requirement development, so it is useful to consider when planning what the focus of each activity planned is, and whether overall there is a good balance of activities.Task repetition may be used to develop fluency and complexity, because these can increase as the cognitive load of the activity decreases through familiarity with content. Being aware of the focus at any given stage in the lesson will also influence error correction (see no. 24 above) – during an accuracy phase, error correction will often be explicit and immediate, whereas during a fluency phase, error correction may be delayed. (This may seem so obvious, but before I learnt about this during the Delta, my error correction was very unsystematic, as I hadn’t considered the relationship between lesson focus and treatment of errors. There may be no hard and fast rules, but I have found it useful guidance.)

Practical ideas for use in the classroom: When planning a lesson, think about the fluency/accuracy/complexity goals of each activity and how this might influence how it is carried out in class. Think about how the activities/tasks/exercises could be tweaked to make it easier for learners to achieve the desired focus. Think about the balance of activities you have planned and make sure you are happy with the amount of focus on each component (fluency/accuracy/complexity).

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References:

Beatty, (2010) Teaching and Researching Computer-Assisted Language Learning. 2nd Edition. Pearson Education Limited. Harlow.

Eggins and Slade: Analysing Casual Conversation. Continuum. London. 1997.

Ellis, R. (2003) Task Based Language Learning and Teaching Oxford University Press

Field, J. (2008) Listening in the Language Classroom Cambridge University Press.

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

Jenkins, J. (1998) Which pronunciation norms and models for English as an International Language? ELTJ vol. 52/2

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

McCarthy and Carter (1995) Spoken Grammar: What is it and how can we teach it? in ELTJ vol. 49/3 Oxford University Press.

Neil, J. (2006) Chameleons of the Classroom. English Teaching Professional • Issue 45 •

Oxford, R. (2003) Towards a more Systematic Model of L2 Learner Autonomy in Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Ed Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. Palgrave Macmillan.

Smith, R. (2003) Pedgagogy for Autonomy as (Becoming) Appropriate Methodology in Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Ed Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

Svalberg, A. (1997) Language awareness and language learning in Language Teaching vol. 40/4. (Abstract: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0261444807004491) Cambridge Journals.

Thornbury S. and Slade D. Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 2006.

Timmis, I. (2005) Towards a framework for teaching spoken grammar in ELTJ vol. 59/2 Oxford University Press.

Timmis, I. (2012) Spoken language research and ELT: Where are we now? in ELTJ vol. 66/4 Oxford University Press

Tomlinson, B.(2003) Developing Materials for English Language Teaching  Continuum.

Underhill, A. (2005) Sound Foundations. Macmillan. Oxford.

Vandergrift L. and Goh, C (2012) Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening.Routledge.

Walker, R. (2010) Teaching the Pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca Oxford University Press

Delta Tips 6: Useful Resources for Module 1 Exam Revision

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

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

Methodology:

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

Terminology:

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

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

Phonology:

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

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

Exam technique:

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

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

Official Cambridge ESOL offerings:

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

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

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

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

Delta Tips 5: Module 1, Paper 2

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

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

Paper 2 includes 4 tasks:

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

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

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

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

Here are my top tips for completing Paper 2 successfully:

Task 1

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

E.g.

Positives

1.

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

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

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

Task 2

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

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

E.g.

Ex.   Purpose

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

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

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

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

E.g.

1.

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

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

R2: This mirrors how the L1 is learnt.

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

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

Task 3

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

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

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

Task 4

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

General Tips

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

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

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 hereFor 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 – 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!) – The 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! 😉
  • 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 – 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! 😉 )

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 – it is a valuable learning experience!! 

Delta Tips 1: Writing a background essay for an LSA

This is the first 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 (and surviving to tell the tale! ) at Leeds Met.

The LSA (Language Systems/Skills Assignment) background essay is the starting point for each LSA that you do to complete Module 2 of the Delta. You do 4 LSA’s in total, 3 of which are assessed internally and 1 of which (the final one) requires an external assessor. 2 LSA’s must be systems-based (Grammar, Discourse, Phonology, Lexis) and 2 must be skills-based (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening).

An LSA background essay is the synthesis of all your research relating to the specific area of the system or skill you have chosen to teach for your assessed lesson, and you are expected to cram a lot into your 2500 words Cambridge allows you. Each essay needs:

  • a clear, detailed analysis of the specific area you have chosen, with reference to a range of relevant literature
  • an analysis of the problems that may be faced by learners when a teacher teaches them this specific area, with reference to your experience as well as the literature.
  • a set of solutions to the afore-mentioned problems, each of which must be carefully evaluated and include reference to your experience.
  • a list of all references used in the essay
  • appendices containing copies of any materials referred to in your teaching solutions

Here are my top ten tips for writing a successful LSA background essay:

  • Read widely and relevantly (obviously…)
  • If the area you have chosen is rather large, use your title and introduction to narrow it down a little, for example by focusing it on higher or lower level learners.
  • Be concise (You may well find yourself re-reading and re-reading your essay, removing all phrasal verbs and non-essential articles!)
  • Make sure your structure is clear and easy to follow (the examiners won’t be your friend if you don’t!)  – You can use headings and sub-headings and numbering systems to help you with this. You need to make sure there is a clear link between your analysis of language/skill and your teaching solutions.
  • Make sure your language analysis takes meaning, form and pronunciation into consideration, while your skills analysis should include coverage of any relevant sub-skills and meaning/form/pronunciation analysis of any associated language, for example structural language related to telling anecdotes within a speaking skills essay.
  • Make sure your analysis of problems includes reference to a range of teaching contexts (different ages, levels, locations, L1’s etc)
  • Make sure you explicitly evaluate your teaching solutions, with reference to your own experience of using them. Phrases like “In my experience..” and “I have found this valuable because..” and “I have found this effective in…” are all useful!
  • If you are lucky, as I was, and you have a wonderful tutor who is willing to liberally cover your essay in feedback on how to make it meet Cambridge requirements, then make sure you submit a draft!
  • Related to 8. above, don’t spend too long reading before you start writing. You can always reopen books to fill in any gaps. This is particularly important for intensive courses, where time is tight and you need to manage it very carefully in order to get draft feedback and prepare your lesson plan (and get draft feedback on that!) prior to the assessed lesson.
  • Related to 8. and 9. above, don’t spend too long writing your LSA essay. You need enough time to fill in a ridiculously detailed lesson plan and hopefully get feedback on that too.

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 – it is a valuable learning experience!! 

Part 1 – Delta Conversations: (Repost of my Guest Post on Sandy Millin’s Blog)

Sandy invited me to answer a set of questions about my Delta experience, for inclusion on her blog along with other Delta teachers’ answers, to create a sort of guide for teachers who are thinking about doing the Delta and are not sure about how or where to do it. Having done this, I decided to adapt the set of questions and write a post about my M.A. in ELT, which had the Delta integrated into it. If you have any further questions about my experience or about what I’ve written below, feel free to comment or email me and ask – I’ll be happy to answer.

1. How did you do your Delta?

I did my Delta as part of a full time M.A. at Leeds Metropolitan University. This course integrates the Delta modules into an M.A. in English Language Teaching. However, at Leeds Met you don’t have to do the M.A. in order to do the Delta (or vice versa for that matter!), and you don’t have to do it full time either. If you only want to do the Delta, you join for Semester 1 of the M.A., which starts in September. As it is fully integrated, this route would still give you a Postgraduate Certificate in English Language Teaching and Professional Practice from Leeds Met as well as your Delta. You gain the Postgraduate Certificate or M.A. credits by doing Leeds Met assessments as well as the Delta assessments. However, this isn’t as bad as it might sound!

  • Module 1: you do a series of homework tasks, which help you learn how to do Delta module 1 Exam paper questions and these provide 50% of the Leeds Met module 1 credits. Then at the end of the semester you do a Delta Module 1 exam paper. This gives you the other 50% of the credits necessary for the Leeds Met module but also acts as a mock exam for the real Delta exam.
  • Module 2: you submit a portfolio consisting of your Delta module 2 work (LSA essays, lesson plans, PDA) and observation tasks. Leeds Met provides a set of observation tasks as guidance, but you are also free to create your own, tailored to your PDA. These are graded against Leeds Met criteria.
  • Module 3: you do an oral presentation based on your Delta module 3 extended specialism essay. People generally found that this really helped them get their head around their specialism and made completing the Delta essay much easier.

If you choose to do the Delta part-time, you do Modules 1 and 3 one year and then module 2 the following September. The teaching lasts for 12 weeks, and then there are two assessment weeks, the sum of which is the duration of the university’s semester 1.

 2. Why did you choose to do it that way?

I chose to do it this way because I found a leaflet advertising the course in my conference pack at IATEFL and it looked perfect for someone like me who had faffed around a lot in my twenties before discovering teaching and the CELTA. I wanted to gain two of the most highly sought after qualifications in ELT in one go – saving time in the long run and equipping myself, hopefully, to get a stable, permanent job. (That is the plan! I am just coming out of the end of the course, only got a dissertation to go, and am optimistic about the future! Starting with a couple of conference presentations based on work I’ve done for the M.A. portion of the course. It won’t happen immediately but it is now possible and that is distinct progress!) I had thought about doing Distance Delta before but then relocated to the UK, decided I’d rather do it face-to-face style and happened on that leaflet. Fate! In hindsight, I think I would not have coped with Distance Delta, as the whole course was a very steep learning curve for me so I found all the support I had from tutors and classmates absolutely invaluable and don’t think I could have got through without it! We were very much in it together and got through it together.

3. What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

  • I think the most important thing I gained from doing the Delta is learning how to keep learning. That is, how to be a reflective teacher, how to develop my teaching through research, experimentation and reflection.
  • Also, I learnt how to approach a lesson in a principled, systematic yet flexible way. I would also say that doing the Delta helped my classroom practice to line up more closely with my teaching beliefs.

4. What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I don’t think there were any downsides, to be honest! I suppose, yes, it was incredibly intensive, intense and hard work, but those were good things too. Being completely immersed in Delta for a semester was immense. You have to be ready to put real life on hold for the duration, pretty much, and just work like a demon but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. I suppose unless you are doing it part-time, you can’t work at the same time, so there’s a financial factor there. Worth it if you can manage it though.

5. What were the benefits of the method you chose?

The benefits? Where to start…

  • One thing I really liked about this course was the way the input sessions were carefully planned so that learning from each module fed into the other two modules too.  For this reason I’d recommend doing all three modules in one go. (I don’t know how intensive courses work elsewhere but I think the Leeds Met way definitely works!)
  • A very important aspect, for me, was all the tutor support I received: LSA1 was a very steep learning curve for me, but my tutor helped me understand what was expected in terms of the essay and the lesson plan, by giving me incredibly detailed and helpful feedback on my drafts. I then managed to scrape a pass in both essay and lesson plan. Following the assessment, we had individual tutorials to get our feedback, which again were very thorough and helpful, and given very supportively. And this, together with similarly helpful feedback on future drafts, enabled me to go from scraping a pass in LSA1 to getting a distinction for my essay and a merit for my lesson in LSA2 and 3. Also, I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t standard, until Sandy sent me an LSA lesson plan of hers to look at, but Leeds Met very helpfully provide a template for the lesson plan, which is very helpful in guiding you to meet all the criteria. It sounds like a small thing but every little helps when you are starting off and don’t have a clue what you are doing!!
  • Doing the Delta intensively is a mental and emotional rollercoaster, but the tutors understand that and help you through it. For example, with Module 3, another near-vertical learning curve for me, there was a point just before we got our needs analysis tools back, having previously submitted them for feedback, where I lost all confidence in myself and emailed my tutor saying I was convinced I was going to fail this module and so on, pretty much ready to give up on it, and very quickly had the very reassuring response that I needed to be able to keep going as well as all the support I needed to get to grips with what was required. Module 3 was very well managed actually: we had mini-deadlines throughout the semester, where we submitted drafts of each section of the extended specialism essay and received feedback on those, as well as individual tutorials. I was able to go from not having a clue at the beginning to producing a completed assignment by the end, in structured, well-scaffolded little steps.
  • The camaraderie of the cohort shouldn’t be underestimated either. Having regular contact with a small but close-knit bunch of classmates going through the same thing as you is one of the great things about face-to-face Delta. We jollied each other along, whinged to each other, helped each other, gave each other kicks when necessary and so on.

6. What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Top tips from me would be:

  1. Read as much as you can before you start the course.
  2. Do the course somewhere, like Leeds Met, with lots of support built in for all the wobbly moments and a course that seems designed to maximize on the learning potential of all modules.
  3. …Or just do it at Leeds Met!
  4. Read my blog post of top tips for Delta trainees!!
  5. Don’t forget to enjoy it – it’s an amazing opportunity so get as much out of it as you can.

If you have any questions about the course, contact Heather Buchanan (course leader) on h.buchanan@leedsbeckett.ac.uk; if you have any specific questions you want to ask me about my experience of the course, that aren’t answered above, feel free to get in touch – lizzie.pinard@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: This blog post consists of my experience, my views and claims to be no more and no less!

 

Delta Module 1 Wall Chart for Revision

In just over a month’s time, I will be amongst those lucky teachers who will be spending 3hrs frantically writing, full speed, trying to package all the information just exactly how the examiners want it. Yep, the Delta Module 1 exam is getting nearer.

So far, my revision has consisted of creating this handy tool:

photo

Delta Module 1 Wall Chart

I can’t take credit for the phonemic chart, that of course belongs to Adrian Underhill. The map of the Delta exam, however, is miiiine. I have done absurd amounts of reading for my M.A. modules, so between that and the Delta Module 1 input I had last semester, which was nicely reinforced by the Delta Module 2 and 3 input in the same time period, so I am hoping that the key to this exam will be packaging the information the way the examiners want it. And so the wall chart was born. It is a synthesis of all the exam technique tips we discovered in the input sessions and through doing practice tasks, as well as the multiple examiners reports we received.

If nothing else, it was a good excuse to get the coloured pens out! Hopefully, though, having it stare at me for the next month will help on exam day. Time will tell!