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

Title/Focus

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

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

Reference list

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

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Feedback 

Essay

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

Strengths

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

Weaknesses:

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

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

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

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

Lesson Plan/Lesson/Reflection

I got a pass for this lesson – just!

Strengths:

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

Weaknesses:

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

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

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

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

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Delta Notes 3: Issues in teaching lexis

This Delta Notes series came about because I was packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and found my Delta notebooks. I didn’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I was interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! The project is on-going, the notebooks didn’t get stored or binned but I am getting tired of carrying them round the world…  

Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

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

Lexis

 

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

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

Why do we need to plan how we teach lexis?

  • It doesn’t happen automatically: 

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

  • It’s a big task!

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

  • It’s a vital task!

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

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

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

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

Frequency

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

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

Coverage

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

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

Learners’ needs and interests

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

Learnability

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

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

Opportunism

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

Going beyond words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Processes in lexis building

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

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

Depth of processing

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

Teaching lexis

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

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

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

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

Elicitation

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

Benefits: 

  • It can be engaging for learners.

Limitations:

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

To remember:

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

Review

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

 

Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide

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Good luck to all Delta candidates! 🙂

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

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

It is a modular exam, consisting of three modules:

  • Module 1:

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

  • Module 2:

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

  • Module 3: 

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

This post guides you through the processes of:

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

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

1. Choosing how and where to do your course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. During your Delta

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

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

Module 1

Q. How DOES the exam fit together?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone!

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

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

Module 2

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

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

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

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

You may also find it useful to look at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Again, you are not alone:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Module 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Conclusion – or, moving on to better things

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

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

Leeds Met Delta/M.A. ELT Induction Day (aka Delta FAQs)

A year ago last week, I attended the induction for my course at Leeds Metropolitan University, and last week I attended (some of it) again! But this time, rather than being one of the students, scribbling away frantically as things were said (which notes ended up being put in a drawer not to see the light of day until I packed up my flat a few weeks ago – oops…) I was sitting in, watching – rather nostalgically! – and waiting for my turn to speak. I had been invited to share my experience with the new cohort. I started by feeding them with cake (because, cake makes everything ok! Also, they’re at the beginning of an amazing year – or semester if only doing the Delta – so there was something to celebrate) and then just let them ask me questions. This post is a summary of that plus a few things I forgot to mention…

1. What do you know now that wish you’d known at the start? What would you do differently?

Well, I’m rather lucky – I can look back on it and not wish I’d done things differently or known things I didn’t. I genuinely have no regrets. That’s not to say I had a clue what was going on to start with, but I was able to work it out – with all the help given to me by the fantastic tutors at Leeds Met. Still, things that I think would be useful to know at the start, because I either was helped to discover them early on or was lucky enough to be doing them anyway:

  • Manage your time efficiently! For module 2, this means reading efficiently, writing your essay and sending it in for feedback in good time, moving on to your plan promptly and getting that in for feedback too – all enough in advance to then respond to feedback before it’s time for your LSA. For module 3, this also means reading efficiently, and meeting whatever deadlines your centre has in place to help you through it. At Leeds Met, there are mini-deadlines periodically, so that you hand each section of the essay in one by one and get feedback on them. This is helpful because you get nudged on to the right track early on before you stray too far away from it!
  • Do your PDA-ing from the get-go! Well, perhaps not the get-go, but as soon as you have done your diagnostic and have submitted your part 1/part 2, where you reflect on your beliefs/strengths/weakness and identify areas to work on, then make a plan of how to work on them. (See my post on doing the PDA for more information on this important element of module 2)
  • Work WITH your classmates not against them! This isn’t a competition. You are all in it together and if you pool your resources, you will make your lives easier. Make a Facebook group to share links to useful articles/websites etc. Watch each others’ lessons and share feedback when these are observed e.g. diagnostic and LSAs.
  • Don’t get behind! This relates to the first bullet point and applies to intensive courses at least (I can’t speak for less intensive courses as have no first-hand experience of those) – if you get behind, you will struggle to catch up and perhaps never really will, because the course does not have any time built in for this. Time, tide and Delta deadlines wait for no man – and there is always another deadline looming.
  • Set up a decent filing system from the get-go! Keeping order is useful. Electronically, I recommend Evernote. In terms of paper-based stuff, have a separate notebook and file for each module. (I didn’t discover Evernote until the M.A. semester of my course – using it is actually one thing I would do differently if I had my time again! 🙂 ) And make sure none of your notes get squirrelled away in a drawer accidentally! ;-
  • Know how *fast* it will pass by! And make every minute count! Make the most of being on the course and all the learning opportunities it offers.

2. Are there any books you’d recommend reading?

Plenty! Of course, it rather depends what module you are talking about, as well as the specific element of that module:

For module 2, it partly depends on the focus of your LSAs.

  • For LexisThe Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis is the classic chestnut BUT if you are strapped for time, Implementing the Lexical Approach condenses the theory and summarises it, offering lots of practical ideas for implementation of it (funnily enough!), which is pretty handy. Of course, How to teach Vocabulary by Scott Thornbury is a very good base (best read in advance of the course!).
  • For ListeningListening in the Language Classroom by John Field is a good starting point.
  • For Discourse (though I didn’t focus on this for an LSA, there was overlap for my listening and my speaking LSAs, as I approached these through genre plus some knowledge of discourse is handy for module 1 too) I recommend Beyond the Sentence by Scott Thornbury.
  • For SpeakingConversation, from Description to Pedagogy by Scott Thornbury and Diana Slade is great but How to Teach Speaking by Scott Thornbury (again!) is probably the best starting point (though hopefully you will have already read it in advance of the course! 😉 )
  • For Phonology, I recommend Adrian Underhill’s Sound Foundations as a starting point. Very user-friendly. For a more academic follow-up, once you’ve narrowed down your focus, Roach’s English Phonetics and Phonology is a good bet.
  • For Grammar, you would turn to your grammar reference of choice – which will in all likelihood involve an author whose name is also the name of an animal (Swan, Parrott…), for a start. Thornbury (yep!)’s Uncovering Grammar is good too.
  • For ReadingTeaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language by Christine Nuttall is a good starting point.
  • For Writing, I am not sure… But if you are taking a genre approach, then a discourse book like Thornbury’s Beyond the Sentence or Mike McCarthy’s Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers is going to be useful.

I also recommend starting with such a core text and then when you have finished with it, look through its bibliography/references. Then do a treasure hunt: Choose books or articles that look interesting (pay attention to when they were written – there are some oldies but goodies, there are also some bang up-to-date journal articles that can be useful) and search for them in your library database.

(E.g. Leeds Met has an electronic subscription to a good range of relevant journals, so you have a good chance of being in luck when you do your searches. And, if it is not subscribed to the journal but you really want the article, you can fill out a request and they will get hold of it for you for a nominal charge (£2 or so).)

  • For the PDA, something like Jim Scrivener’s Classroom Management Techniques is a useful source, as it contains plenty of bite-sized chunks of information about different techniques, which you can try out and then reflect on/evaluate how it went. If you have chosen any classroom management-y weaknesses to focus on, then you can target the techniques you choose to try. If not, then it is useful for PDA anyway, because experimenting and incorporating different techniques may help you to up your game in between LSAs…

For module 3 it depends on your specialism and on the section of the essay that you are focusing on.

  • For the introduction, it will mostly be specialism specific – either yours or the specialism you are contrasting yours with. Of course it can also relate to themes that arise in relation to your specialism. For example, if you do Teaching English in an English-Speaking Environment, with a U.K. focus, as I did, then articles relating to intercultural competence, ELF etc would be relevant.
  • For a general overview of the course design process from Needs Analysis to Evaluation, I recommend Nation and Macallister’s Language Curriculum Design or Graves’ Designing Language Courses.

For module 1About Language by Scott Thornbury and An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (yep, as well!) are both very useful. Of course, anything you read for the other modules could well help too – e.g. if you read about and learn about assessment for Module 3, you can apply it to the Module 1 question on testing. Plus, the terminology questions will be easier, the more you’ve seen the terminology in context.

Generally, you might like to have a look at my Annotated list of resources that I found useful when preparing for and doing the Delta.  You may or may not find something of interest!

3. Do you have any other advice?

  • Read what people have written about the Delta in their blogs. I have listed all my Delta-related posts in one page, as has Sandy Millin. And contribute your own take on it when you have time (which for me was not till very near the end of the Delta semester – when the input sessions had finished and I came up briefly for air…).
  • Be ready to work very hard! It won’t be handed to you on a plate – nobody can do that, with the best will in the world. Hopefully you will be somewhere where you are given all the help and support you need to understand and fulfil the requirements, as I was, but ultimately it’s down to you.
  • Listen to and respond to the feedback you are given! The tutors can advise you till they are blue in the face, they can fill your drafts with comments, but none of this will help if you don’t listen and respond. Make the changes they recommend. Question the ones you don’t understand so the tutors can explain them to you. The tutors will do their best to help you, but in order for that to work, you need to help yourself too, by taking what they say on board – treat all their comments as gold dust, they *are* that valuable in the context of your Delta! 🙂
  • If you are doing the Delta at a university, get a Sconul card so that you can access more libraries – vital when the wolves/vultures have all fallen on the small handful of copies of <insert core text name here> when you are on the verge of LSA essay writing!
  • If you are doing the Delta at Leeds Met, do the M.A. semester afterwards too! It contextualises the Delta and brings everything to life – you have a lot more freedom to explore everything. And it also helps massively with the Module 1 exam when you come to do it in June! But most importantly, it’s a wonderful course to do – you learn loads through the input, discussions and the assessments you have to do (which, handily enough, are all nice and practical not just essay writing or whatever, so you can apply them beyond the course), and so many opportunities can open up to you as a result of doing it – at least that’s what I’ve found.

Good luck to everybody who is starting their Delta now! I know the Leeds Met course began today – a year ago today, that was me just starting out… <nostalgia> 🙂  Enjoy the journey, make the most of it, it will be over before you know it.

NB: if you are one of the students who was at the induction and think I’ve missed something that you wanted to refer back to, or you want me to answer something else that you forgot to ask (related to my experience as a student of the course at Leeds Met), feel free to comment on this post and I’ll get back to you! 🙂

Delta Notes 2: Teaching Listening

This Delta Notes series has come about because I am packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and have found my Delta notebooks. I don’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I’m interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! I will also add some reflections at the end of each set of notes. Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

Here are some of my (written up) notes from a module 2 input session on teaching listening, followed by some reflections/ramblings and a short list of recommended reading:

Listening is:

  • often under-valued
  • often back-burned in favour of speaking and writing (as they are more tangible)
  • often seen as ‘passive’ (due to widespread use of the comprehension approach)

BUT:

  •  Learners need to be able to listen and understand in order to speak.
  • Learners with good listening skills can take better advantage of the multitude of linguistic input available (especially in an English-speaking environment) and so listening better equips learners to learn autonomously.

The Comprehension Approach  

 This consists of:

Pre-listening

  • Establish context
  • Create motivation
  • Pre-teach vocabulary

Extensive/intensive listening

  • General questions on context/attitude of speakers

Post listening

Language focus:

  • Functional language
  • Infer meaning of unknown vocabulary
  • Look at transcript

It is a robust methodology, still featuring strongly since it became popular in the late 80s.

Need to bear in mind:

  • The more we tell learners before they listen, the less they need to listen.
  • Wrong answers could be a reading or writing (of the questions or answers) failure rather than a listening failure.

Listening teaching practice was probably transferred across from reading teaching practice (listening dedicated lessons came after reading-focussed lessons).

 BUT:

  •  A reader benefits from a standardised spelling system and gaps between words on the page, while a listener must cope with speech sounds which vary from one utterance to another and words which blend into one another (because of phonology/position  of articulators)
  • Reading is recursive – you can look back and forth over what you have read, while listening is transient – the information unfolds in real time and you can’t look back over it again.
  •  Both require use of meaning-building processes BUT speech is temporary: the listener must carry forward memory of what has gone before to make sense of what comes next.

Conventional listening does not develop learners’ listening skills/competence in any systematic way. Progress just means harder texts: barriers are raised but learners are not shown how to get over them. After a given point of difficulty, learners may switch off in belief of their incapability.

It is important to note that right answers do not necessary equal understanding:

  •  it could be a guess
  •  it could be use of test-wise strategies
  • it could be identification of an isolated point but no overall understanding of the speaker’s message

Furthermore, an “incorrect” answer might be supported by textual evidence that the listener has noted but the teacher and/or writer has overlooked.

The comprehension approach is very teacher-centred: The teacher intervenes too much, learners tend to be isolated and the whole process is more like a test than a learning process.  This can be helped by doing jigsaw listening or by having learners check their answers in pairs prior to eliciting answers. Especially if you play the recording, allow learners to check in pairs, play the recording again, allow learners to check again and then elicit answers.

Another thing to bear in mind is: If one learner gets the right answer, what about the rest? Have they also understood?

A listener needs to:

  •  Select a listening type that is appropriate to input and task. Goals and types of listening are closely linked.  One might listen and respond, listen and challenge, listen and negotiate, locate and retain main points, monitor for one item (e.g. a train time or news of a particular road in a traffic bulletin), listen for interesting items (e.g. in a news bulletin) etc.

Listening varies along a spectrum from expeditious to careful and from local to global.

Process Listening

 According to this approach, listening is a process not a product.

We have decoding processes:

  •  Turning the stream of speech into sounds, then syllables, then words, then sentences

And we have meaning-building processes:

  •  Using background knowledge, contextual knowledge and co-textual knowledge to help us make sense of what we hear.

These processes interact rather than working in isolation. For example, we use context to help with decoding as well as for global meaning.

Why don’t learners understand?

 It could be lack of vocabulary, but it could also be that a known word is not recognized due to reduction, elision, assimilation or any other feature of connected speech. It could also be a problem of lexical segmentation e.g. instead of hearing catalogue, a learner might hear cat a log.

How can we help?

 Using authentic materials can help learners become accustomed to the natural cadences of the target language. We can also help learners become more used to and better able to extrapolate meaning from partially understood utterances

Teaching listening strategies can also help learners to listen more effectively.

Drawing attention to the way words change, in terms of how they sound, in connected speech i.e. elisions and assimilations etc.

Reflections (or, my chance to waffle and reprocess what I’ve read and learnt 😉 ):

 I learnt a lot about listening from doing my listening LSA: Reading Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom revolutionised my understanding of what’s involved in teaching listening (as opposed to merely testing it!). However, I think I possibly learnt at least as much again as a result of the materials development module that I did as part of my M.A. in ELT. This is because I discovered and then used theories from  Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening: Metacognition in Action, by Vandergrift and Goh to inform the materials I developed for assessment.

(As far as I can make out) Vandergrift and Goh argue that learners will be able to listen more effectively if they have greater control over the processes they use. As I understand it, developing learners’ metacognitive awareness of the cognitive processes they use in listening helps them become better able to select processes according to text type and task type. So we can help learners learn to plan, monitor and evaluate their listening, rather than just leaving them to listen haphazardly:

  • As well as having learners check their answers in pairs (as mentioned in my notes above), we can encourage them to pinpoint where their difficulties were, evaluate the effectiveness of the listening processes they used (did they use their background knowledge, did they use the co-text, did they use the context, did they try and translate every word etc.) and plan for the next listen through.
  • Before playing the recording, we can engage learners in discussion about the type of recording it is and what they can expect to hear: Different genres follow different predictable macro-scripts. Learners could then discuss what type of listening and what listening purposes match the genre in question. Of course we can also give them some information about the topic and encourage them to predict what kind of vocabulary and ideas might come up too. Reading something related to the topic prior to listening could also be useful.
  • All of these activities contribute to schema activation and planning: Once schemata are activated, learners are better prepared to listen and have more chance of listening successfully, and if learners plan how to listen as well, they can subsequently monitor the processes they use as well as how effective these are, and then evaluate the effectiveness of their plans.

The transcript can be used, after listening for meaning and detail, to help learners identify the problems they had, to help them understand why they didn’t understand:

  • They could circle words they didn’t manage to understand while listening and then use a list of prompts, e.g. “I heard the words but I couldn’t remember the meaning quickly enough”, to help them analyze their difficulties.
  • Activities such as listening and marking pauses and/or stressed words can also be done using the transcript.
  • Drawing learners’ attention to features of connected speech such as elision and assimilation can also be useful as learners often find it confusing when words sound so different as part of utterances compared to how they sound in isolation.

One thing I have noticed, since changing the way I teach listening, is that there is a tangible air of relief in the classroom when you allow learners to check their ideas together after they have listened. Listening stops being threatening because learners aren’t isolated and they know they aren’t about to be picked on when perhaps they aren’t confident of what they’ve heard. As learners are then more relaxed when they listen, they are likely to be able to hear more as anxiety and tension do not prevent them from focusing. Playing the recording again after learners have conferred before eliciting any answers is also useful as they can check what they have discussed and have the opportunity resolve any disagreements and plug any gaps.

Of course, like anything, you can’t do it ALL in one lesson. Over a course of lessons, however, the recording is your oyster…

In terms of the Delta, if you are doing a listening LSA:

  • Do yourself a big favour and read Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom as a minimum. (He has several articles in the ELTJ as well – see below for examples).  I’m biased but I’d say read Vandergrift and Goh as well, if you can: the theory is extremely interesting and it has lots of adaptable, useful, practical activities for you to try out in the classroom too. What I’ve alluded to is only the tip of the iceberg – both books contain such a wealth of valuable information and advice.
  • Try new things out with your learners well in advance of your assessed lesson – you probably don’t want to be springing a whole bunch of new techniques on them all at once while being observed! Also, you yourself may need time to get the hang of using the new techniques effectively (experiment, collect evidence, reflect, fine tune…) This may seem obvious but on the other hand it also requires good time management and advance planning, which are easier said than done, especially under Delta pressure! 🙂

 Further recommended reading:

So, if you’ve read the books I mentioned above and are looking for more material to get your teeth into, or you’ve read the above-mentioned books and are now looking for extra references to beef up your bibliography, or you just incredibly interested in the ins and outs of teaching listening, you might like to have a look at these: 

Field, J. Promoting perception: lexical segmentation in L2 listening ELTJ vol. 57/4 October 2003. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2003.

Field, J. Looking outwards, not inwards. in ELTJ  vol 61/1. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2007.

Kemp, J. (2010) The Listening Log: Motivating autonomous learning in ELTJ vol. 64/4. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Nation I.S.P, Newton J. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking Routledge. 2009.

 

 

 

 

Delta Notes 1: Error Correction

This Delta Notes series has come about because I am packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and have found my Delta notebooks. I don’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I’m interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! I will also add some reflections at the end of each set of notes. Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

Here are my (written up) notes from a Module 2 input session on error correction:

Errors are evidence of learner development and are made for a variety of reasons. They are something we, as teachers, have to deal with on a regular basis. To do this effectively, it helps to have a clear understanding of why errors might be made and what can be done with them.

If a learner makes a slip, they have the requisite knowledge, e.g. that in the third person present simple, we add –s or –es, but do not produce the item correctly. In this case, they are likely to be able to self-correct quickly. Errors can also provide evidence of learners’ systems – if a learner produces the same error consistently, it is systematic. Learners may also make attempts to say something that they have not learnt how to say, and not quite manage. This provides information about what they are ready for – what they can do and what gaps there are in their knowledge.

From the teacher’s point of view, some errors are covert i.e. learners produce something correct but it wasn’t what they wanted to say and this isn’t obvious to the teacher, while some are overt, i.e. obvious.

Errors can be caused by incorrect L1 transfer. However, it is worth remembering that transfer can often also be positive. Errors can also be intra-lingual, developmental and systematic. These refer to learners’ current awareness of the language and can be a result of over-generalisation or incomplete application of rules. They could also be a result of mis-teaching, where there is lack of clarity, or over-teaching, where some language feature, e.g. –ing, gets stuck in their head!

A breakdown of different types of errors:

Pronunciation

  • Suprasegmental – word or sentence level mistakes e.g. incorrect intonation or stress.
  • Segmental – sound-level mistakes e.g. mixing up consonant sounds /p/ and /b/
  • Combinatorial – mistakes relating to how sounds are linked e.g. producing consonant clusters incorrectly.

Lexical

  • Incorrect selection of a word/phrase
  • Inventing a word/phrase
  • Transferring words/phrases from L1 incorrectly
  • Distortions of words e.g. kitchen v chicken

 Semantic

  • Words could be too specific or too general for a given purpose
  • Use of a superordinate instead of a more appropriate hyponym
  • Use of the wrong collocation
  • Production of an incorrect form
  • Wrong level of formality
  • Unintended connotation

Grammatical

  • Covert: a correct form but not the intended form
  • Morphological (but this can be a pronunciation error rather than a grammatical error e.g. not pronouncing the final ‘s’ rather than not using plural)
  • Syntax

Pragmatics

  • Confusion regarding function e.g. Is this ‘Can’ for ability or request – requires interpretation of language in context.
  • Literal meaning could be different from use e.g. “It’s cold in here” literally means the temperature in here is quite low, but it can be used as a request to close a window/put on a heater etc
  • Taboo subjects

Receptive errors

  • Learners may mis-process input and give the wrong response.

How can we deal with learner errors?

If they are overt, we can deal with them instantly or wait till a more appropriate moment.

If we decide to deal with learner errors instantly, how can we go about this?

 This very much depends on the error type and on various contextual factors (what learners are used to, the focus of the lesson phase, how much time is available etc)

One way of dealing with errors:

Ask for repetition: this signals you aren’t sure of what the learner has said and gives them the opportunity to self-correct if it is a slip. It also gives you thinking time! (I.e. time to decide how to deal with the error)

Ask for self-correction: learners may have missed your previous cue or attempted to self-correct but not corrected the error.

Ask the rest of the class to try and help: this engages all learners in what started as a one-to-one interaction and maximizes on the different developmental stages and sub-levels that are present within a single class.

If nobody can help: either give up and provide the answer or give prompts that may help learners to reach the answer. (Worth remembering that you can’t elicit what learners don’t know and considering whether the benefits of laboring over a particular error balance out the amount of time spent.)

If somebody can help: Ask them to repeat their correct form. Get everyone to say the correct form. Then ask the learner who originally made the error to repeat the correct utterance – this reinstates the class as it was, but with the correct form. (Very often, there is no need for a “teacher model”, except for pronunciation – and even with pronunciation, learners will often repeat better from a learner model.)

 It is important to show awareness of errors: If you are not correcting errors, it is important to be explicit about why you are not correcting errors. This might relate to the focus of the lesson phase (i.e. you might be focusing on fluency development and so may be less worried about accuracy at that point) or your plan (i.e. you might plan to do a delayed error correction feedback phase after an activity rather than correct during the activity). However, it is also very important to respond to what learners say, not only focus on how they are saying it.

When a learner produces language, ask yourself:

  • Is this adequate?
  • Can I get more?
  • Do I want more?


Here are some of my reflections on error correction:

Error correction is, I think, one of the minefields of ELT. Learners desperately want it, and may feel they are being short-changed if it doesn’t happen. Teachers may have good reasons for not doing it, or may be doing it in such a way that learners are not explicitly aware that they are being corrected. Teachers might also get into the habit of always using the same narrow selection of error correction techniques, which may not be effective for some of the learners in the class. Of course, what constitutes effective is another can of worms! I think there’s a lot to be said for variety and experimentation, where error correction technique is concerned: Different techniques will be better suited to certain error types, different learner preferences and so on. Experimentation – and, of course, post-lesson reflection on this experimentation – can enable a teacher to build up a range of techniques that he or she will be able to draw on when the need arises.

(For this, I recommend having a look at Classroom Management Techniques by Jim Scrivener, which contains many practical ideas, and the reasoning behind them, to try out: Though it is not specifically about error correction, there is a useful chapter on eliciting (p139 -145), which is applicable. Also have a look at his Learning Teaching book, specifically chapter 14 “Toolkit 2: focusing on language 1. Error Correction” p298 -302. (NB link and page numbers refer to second edition, which I have, but I gather there is a third one now…) Finally, there is a very good chapter in Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching, Chapter 8: “Mistakes and Feedback” p137-152, which I’d recommend reading. In terms of the Delta, as far as I understand it, you are supposed to try and demonstrate that you are able to draw on a wide range of techniques, within an assessed lesson, so all the more reason to have a read and get experimenting if you are a Delta trainee – or a prospective one!)

Errors can be a great source of further learning, but only if they are used as such. For example, if you are doing whole class feedback on a listening exercise, and a learner provides an incorrect answer, merely providing the correct answer will probably  not result in much learning. However, if you involve other learners and explore the cause of the misunderstanding, then learning opportunities increase. Some errors may, of course, not be worth spending too much class time on – this comes down to teacher judgement and may be influenced by factors such as the aim of the activity, how it fits into the sequence of activities that make up the lesson, whether you think the error is something that learners should already know/be able to produce correctly and so on.

Finally, I think it can be valuable to involve learners in negotiating how and when error correction should take place. For example, if you are going to do a speaking activity, ask them if they want to be corrected during the activity or to be given feedback once they have finished speaking. Depending on the activity goal, your preference may be the former or the latter, the learners may (think they) want the opposite. Correct those learners who request it while they speak, correct those who request delayed feedback when they have finished, then once the activity has been completed and all feedback given, briefly discuss the pros and cons of each method with them. Elicit their ideas before giving yours, and explain your choice of method isn’t arbitrary but based on what you think will benefit them the most for any given activity. When you experiment with new techniques, involve the learners by explaining what you are doing and asking for their feedback afterwards. Hopefully this kind of discussion and learner involvement will also increase learners’ trust in you, and what you are doing with them, as well as giving you extra evidence to reflect on after the lesson.

Recommended reading:

Lightbown and Spada (2006:125-128) “Corrective feedback in the classroom” in How languages are learned (third edition) Oxford University Press, Oxford.

(Usefully describes different types of error correction – explicit correction, recasts, clarification requests, metalinguistic feedback, elicitation and repetition, giving examples of each)

An annotated list of resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta

I read a colossal amount both in the run up to and during my Delta course at Leeds Met, so have decided to blog about (some of!) what I read in that time, for prospective Delta students (and any other teachers interested in ELT-related literature!) to use as a point of comparison for their own reading, and even – perhaps – find a couple of things they haven’t read as yet, which might be of interest. It’s not an exhaustive list because if I were to list everything I read and used in preparation for and during the Delta, then this post would be as overwhelming and therefore as limited in utility as the official recommended reading lists!

I’ve divided up the books/articles up by module (and in the case of Module 2 sub-divided further) in the hopes of making the list a bit less unwieldy. There’s some overlap, inevitably, especially for module 1, so will cross-reference where relevant. All books are linked to Amazon, where you can have a sneak preview of many of them, but do be selective in what you buy. (One of the good things about doing the course at Leeds Met was having access to the library, which has all the essential books and many others besides!) Try to beg/borrow/maybe not steal first!

So, here goes, in no particular order:

Module 1

For the exam, a lot of general reading is helpful. And if you start well in advance of doing a course (if you plan to do a course for this module), it gives you time to absorb what you are reading and get repeated exposure to terminology in context. This is helpful for Paper 1, questions 1 and 2, but also just in giving you a sound basis of theory to draw in throughout the Delta and beyond.

About Language

This book by Scott Thornbury is very useful for making sure you know the English Language inside out – what everything is called and, importantly, how it works. It contains information and exercises, with a handy key at the back of the book. I worked through the whole of this book in preparation for starting the Delta – doing the exercises, checking the key and then filling in any gaps in a different colour font to remind me of where my gaps were when using the document as a revision tool. (I wouldn’t have had time to do this alongside doing the Delta, so this is definitely something I recommend doing in advance of starting!)

Beyond the sentence (also LSA2)

Another Scott Thornbury special, this looks at English from a discourse perspective. It’s really interesting, clearly and accessibly written, and in more mundane terms very useful for Paper 1 question 4, which carries a lot of marks. Also, of course, recommended for if you do an LSA on Discourse, of course! In fact, I used it for my LSAs on Listening and Speaking as well, language as discourse being such a central part of what language is and how it works. Another mixture of theory and tasks with key, enabling you to test what you’ve learned and then check your understanding. I made a lot of notes based on this book prior to starting, which were useful to refer back to during the course. Of course it also gives you exposure to more useful terminology in action (a lot of which was new to me, words and concepts both, hence the copious notes!).

Sound Foundations (also LSA3 and PDA)

This I read after I decided I wanted to do the Delta, quite far in advance of actually doing it. Someone had mentioned that it was important to learn about phonology before doing the Delta and of course whoever it was (I forget now but thank you very much to you!) was absolutely right.

Underhill helps you to understand phonology through a mixture of theory and practical discovery activities that guide you through the phonemic chart, the way all the sounds work, as well as word level and sentence level phonological features, and how everything fits together. He also provides plenty of suggestions for classroom use, as an added bonus. Indeed, this is another very clear, accessible read – and the latest edition features a helpful accompanying CD. You might as well get friendly with phonology before starting the Delta, it will be useful for Paper 1 question 4 and also for your LSA lesson plans, for the target language analysis part.

I found that understanding how phonology works at sound level made it a lot easier to learn the phonemes/how to write in phonemic script, which, geekily enough, I quite enjoy doing having learnt how! (Soon after completing my CELTA I tried to learn them just through memorisation and it just didn’t stick.)

How languages are learned

This is a useful overview of Language Acquisition theory, by Lightbown and Spada, exploring both first and second language acquisition theories as well as how they apply to the classroom. I read it cover to cover in advance of the course, again making copious notes because most of it was new to me, and found it useful to consequently have a bit of background knowledge to draw on in this area.

The A-Z of ELT Methodology.

Yet another Thornbury gem, this is a useful starting point whenever you come across something you aren’t sure of. I don’t recommend reading it cover to cover – too much information on too many different things. Rather keep dipping in and out, use it as a reference when you get confused about stuff, and use it as a revision tool: open it a random, pick a term, try to define it then look at how Thornbury defines it. Repeat.

The Practice of English Language Teaching

I imagine most teachers have come across this one of Harmer’s. My CELTA tutor recommended it to me when I asked for suggestions of what to read beyond the course (our general methodology text was Scrivener’s Learning Teaching). So I had it and I had dipped in and out. But once I had been accepted on the course, I dutifully ploughed through it, which was good for checking what I knew, remembered, had forgotten and didn’t yet know. It’s a useful book for giving you a bit of information about all sorts.

Thinking about Language Teaching

This book of Michael Swan’s is one I bought at the IATEFL conference in 2012 (got it signed by Michael Swan too! :-p) because it looked interesting: It’s a collection of articles he’s written over the ages and as such provides a fascinating insight into the development of ELT over the past few decades. As well as being interesting, it turned  out to be a useful one for Delta too. There are a lot of arguments for and against various approaches and having an understanding of these doesn’t go amiss. You may pick up titbits of information that come in handy for Paper 2 question 4, for example. Plus he writes really well!

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching

Richards and Rodgers’ take on the many different approaches and methods that have come in and out of fashion over the years is a very useful overview. I read this before doing the course too, and made a timeline summarising the information. I found this helped me get my head around it all, as well as creating a useful document to refer back to during the course.

And, finally, here is a list of resources I put together especially for revising for the Delta Module 1 exams.

Module 2

Obviously, what’s useful depends on what your focus is for each of the 4 LSAs. If you happen to plan on doing Lexis, Listening, Phonology and Speaking, then you’re in luck! :-p There are a couple of books that are useful generally too. 

General

Learner English: a teacher’s guide to interference and other problems

This book, by Swan and Smith, is useful regardless of the focuses you choose for your LSAs: It outlines the problems (grammatical, phonological etc) that learners from different countries have with speaking English, relating these back to the L1. I bought it before going to teach in Indonesia – happened across it in a bookshop and got it because it looked interesting and useful: I wasn’t wrong!

Classroom Management Techniques

(See PDA/Experimental Practice)

LSA1 (Lexis) 

The Lexical Approach

The classic read if you are doing a Lexis LSA. However, if you are short of time, rather than reading this cover to cover, start with Implementing the Lexical Approach, which condenses the theory and provides lots of ideas for practical application. Then use the Lexical Approach to plug any gaps. If you are planning to do a Lexis LSA and you know this before you start your course, though, the Lexical Approach would be a good one to include in your pre-course reading. I think a lot more can be got out of it, because there is so, so much in it, if you have that bit of extra time to absorb things, i.e. without an impending LSA draft deadline looming.

Teaching Collocations

This is useful, funnily enough, if you decide, as I did, to focus on collocations (of some sort – you’d need to narrow it in some way e.g. I narrowed mine down to verb-noun and adjective-noun collocations for lower level learners) for your Lexis LSA.

How to teach Vocabulary

This I read prior to doing the course, as part of my preparation and I found it gave me a lot of useful background information, a good overview of lexis, which meant that when it came the first LSA, which for us happened to be Lexis, I was in a good position to chose what I wanted to focus on and get down to work, which in turn meant I was able to make better use of the draft-feedback system at Leeds Met, meaning that by the end of LSA1 I had a handle on exactly what was required (which was no small feat, as I was miles off to start with!) for each of the components.

Thornbury again, and again that handy combination of theory and tasks with key. Lots of useful terminology in use. Lots of useful activities for teaching vocabulary to learners effectively. I really enjoyed reading this and doing the tasks. Again, a lot of it was new to me.

Vocabulary: Acquisition, Description and Pedagogy

This is an edited book, so though it’s big and fairly dense, once you know what your focus is, you can dip in to the relevant chapters and extract useful information. It’s an interesting read, (one I plan to return to once I’m finished studying and can choose what to read then do so in my own sweet time…) but I would recommend waiting till you know what your focus is before hitting it as opposed to reading it before you decide on your focus, as general reading. Potentially too time-consuming otherwise! Unless you happen to fancy reading it prior to the course and have bags of time to do so… (Of course this is just personal opinion! I think something like How to Teach Vocabulary is more useful as a general starting point..)

Articles

A couple of articles on collocations that I found both useful and interesting (and I think would make good reading for any teacher, Delta trainee or otherwise) were:

Woollard, G. (2005) Noticing and Learning Collocation in  English Teaching Professional Issue 40 pp 48-50 Pavillion

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

LSA2 (Listening)

Listening in the Language Classroom

This was recommended by my tutor to all of us who chose to do listening rather than reading for our first skills LSA. Had never heard of it before but found it absolutely brilliant. I read it cover to cover, used it heavily for my LSA and have incorporated the approach into my teaching ever since.  John Field breaks listening down into Decoding and Meaning building processes, going into great depth about what sub-processes make these up, why they are important, how they all interact and, of course, how you can help learners develop them. It also gives a useful overview of previous approaches to teaching listening to contextualise it all. I would highly recommend this book to any ELT professional.

Second Language Listening: Theory and Practice

Another useful text, by Flowerdew and Miller, this provides a historical background to the teaching of listening, puts forward a pedagogical model together with ideas for its application, and considers key issues in teaching and testing listening.

A lot of my reading for this LSA was related to the particular genre I was focussing on, which was radio news broadcast.

LSA3 Phonology

Sound Foundations (see Module 1)

Pronunciation 

This is a very accessible overview of features of pronunciation, by Dalton and Seidlhofer, with theory strongly rooted in practical application.

English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course

Recommended by my tutor when I decided to do phonology for my third LSA, this book by Roach is quite academic. Like Sound Foundations, it comes with an accompanying CD. I found it was very useful for the analysis section of a Phonology LSA. And of course, if you come to it having already decided on your focus, you can zone in on the relevant sections.

Teaching English Pronunciation

This, much like Dalton and Seidlhofer, gives an accessible overview of features of pronunciation, again combining theory and practical application. It also contains useful lists of difficulties (at sound, word and sentence level) that learners from different countries may experience with English pronunciation.

Listening in the Language Classroom

See LSA2. Additionally: parts of this book are relevant to phonology essays, though of course the focus is on the receptive aspect of pronunciation i.e. how we decode a stream of speech.

LSA4 Speaking

Conversation: from description to pedagogy

This book by Thornbury (again!) and Slade is brilliant and I highly recommend reading it – I read it cover to cover before deciding what to zone in on for my speaking LSA. (Helping higher level learners with anecdotes was the final decision). It does what it says on the tin, and it does so clearly and accessibly. It goes into plenty of depth but it’s not arduous reading at all. It looks at things like the grammar of conversation, the vocabulary of conversation, the discourse features of conversation and different genres within conversation, as well as issues of acquisition, how to teach conversation and how it has been taught in the past.

Analysing casual conversation

This is by Eggins and Slade, and a really fascinating read. I borrowed it from the library initially, once I had decided on my focus and read the relevant sections. Have since bought it and plan to read it cover to cover once I’ve finished studying because it just all looks so interesting. But I didn’t have the time to read what wasn’t related to my LSA and haven’t had time since either! Despite the amount of reading I did prior to the course, it was always the case of so much to read, so little time… the pattern continued for my M.A. semester too! Very useful for the analysis section of the essay – unsurprisingly! Of course, it will only be of use to you if your LSA-focus is one of the elements of casual conversation dealt with… that’s what the contents pages and index are for!

How to teach Speaking

You can guess who this one is by…yup, that’s right, it is Thornbury once more! Like the other books in this How to.. series, this is another handy combination of theory and practical application, as well as tasks and a key for you to check your understanding with. This is a useful one to read before deciding on your focus as the content is relevant generally. I read it prior to starting the course and found it a useful base on which to build, so can recommend this route, if you are able to access it.

Articles:

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

The above article I recommend for anybody, Delta trainee or not – it’s clearly written, practical, provides an activity for use in the classroom that is readily adaptable and exemplifies an interesting approach.

Mumford, S. Analysis of Spoken Language: A Case for Production. in ELT Journal Vol. 63/2. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2009.

PDA

Classroom Management Techniques

In a nutshell, this one is useful because it contains information about a range of techniques you can use in the classroom. That’s useful for the PDA because you can probably find something related to what you are working on, if you are working on anything to do with classroom management. Then you can try out Scrivener’s suggestions, see if they work for you, collect evidence for your appendices, reflect on it etc. Even if you aren’t focusing on classroom management for your PDA, trying out different techniques is a good thing to do and may also help you improve between LSAs if any of your minor weaknesses (not major enough to merit being selected for PDA but still earning you “partially met” instead of “met” and therefore bringing your LSA achievement down) are classroom management related.

Experimental Practice

Obviously what you find useful for this will depend on what you want to experiment with. I would recommend using a range of resources – books, but also magazine and journal articles and internet-based resources. English Teaching Professional and Modern English Teacher both contain lots of articles that very usefully combine bite-size theory and practical ideas.

Module 3

For Module 3, my specialism was Teaching English in an English-Speaking Environment. I really enjoyed doing the project and learnt a lot. I also read a huge amount in the process… For the introduction, what I read was specialism specific, but for the other sections, there was a lot of reading that applies whatever the specialism, in terms of the principles involved. I will focus on the widely applicable reading here. Of course application of the principles is then specialism-dependent. I will put what sections I found each book helpful for in brackets. If you want a copy of my complete bibliography, leave a comment at the end of this post with your email address and I’ll send it to you. It’s farrrr too long to put everything down here and annotate!

Language Curriculum Design (For: sections 2,3,4)

Nation and Macalister’s book was the one I found most helpful for module 3, in terms of bringing everything together in one succinct, slim volume. It’s a very useful overview, and goes systematically through principles of Needs Analysis, Course Design and Assessment/Evaluation. It really helped me get my head around the process. It would be my top recommendation for Module 3. Insufficient on its own, of course, but incredibly useful in helping one to make sense of everything. I read it after I had read lots of bits and bobs of other stuff and had multiple input sessions and found it brought order to the chaos of information jostling around in my head.

Teaching and Learning in the Second Language Classroom (For: sections 2,3,4)

Tricia Hedge’s book is useful generally, containing sections on systems, skills, learner autonomy, the classroom etc, and could/should come into play for all of the modules, but for me it really came into its own for Module 3, where I was very grateful for Part 4 – Planning and Assessing Learning. 

Testing for Language Teachers (For: sections 2 and 4)

This is a very clearly written book in which Hughes covers all the ins and outs of testing. Well worth getting hold of. Also useful for module 1 paper 2 question 1 (where you have to analyse a language test). I read it cover to cover in preparation for a homework task based on that question, and it definitely helped. In terms of module 3, the relevant principles are covered. I think it’s even useful if you are not doing/planning to do the Delta – assessment is something we are all involved in as teachers, so it’s good to know a bit about it.

Curriculum Development in Language Teaching (For: sections 2,3,4)

This book, by Richards, is another key one for module 3. It provides in-depth coverage of the whole process of developing a course, including evaluation.

Designing Language Courses (For sections 2,3,4)

Another key text for module 3, again covering the whole process of developing a course, including needs analysis. It also has case studies detailing teachers’ experiences of course design.

Articles:

Black, P(2009)  Formative Assessment Issues Across the Curriculum: The Theory and the Practice. TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 43, Issue 3, 519-523. (For section 4)

Cotterall, Sara.(2000) Promoting learner autonomy through the curriculum: principles for designing language courses. In ELTJ vol 54/2. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (For section 2)

Davies, A. (2006) What do learners really want from their EFL course? in ELTJ Vol 60/1. (For Section 2)

Graves, K (2008) The Language Curriculum: A social contextual perspective in Language Teaching vol. 41/2. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. (For section 3)

Perrin, G (2009) Diagnostic Procedures in Language Learning MET vol 18 no 4. Pavillion. Accessed: 14 October 2012. (For section 2)

Seedhouse, P (1995) Needs Analysis and the General English Classroom in ELT Journal Volume 49, 11 January; Oxford University Press. (For Section 2)

Stoynoff, S (2012) Looking backward and forward at classroom-based language assessment in ELT Journal Volume 66/4 Special issue. (For Section 4) 

Reading tips:

  • Read as much as you can before you start the course – it really, really helps!
  • Have a look at English Teaching Professional, ELT Journal and Modern English Teacher. Short, up-to-date articles can really complement the books you read a treat. If you’re doing your DELTA with a university-based centre, make use of the library journal subscriptions: Look at the bibliographies in the books you read and articles from the above-mentioned magazines and journal, and search in the library database for journals that are mentioned, to see if your institution has a subscription. There’s loads of interesting stuff out there, as I’ve discovered.
  • An extra journal/article type mention, if you can access it: The State-of-the-art article series in Language Teaching Journal are really good, providing overviews of the literature associated with various aspects of ELT. There is one such article per journal edition. Very useful if the aspect happens to coincide with something you are focussing on.
  • When you make notes, note also page numbers and what book you’re making notes from (having “Thornbury” in brackets won’t narrow it down much, see…)  – this will help when it comes to writing essays, saving precious time that will no longer need to be spent paging through books looking for where that useful yet mysterious quote you want to use originated.
  • When you read, take more time to think about how what you are reading connects with what you already know and what you have read elsewhere. (I think doing that really helps strengthen your understanding of things.)
  • Once the Delta is over, enjoy the bliss of having *time* to read, *freedom* to choose what to read and *space* to try out what you are reading with your learners. Aaaah! 🙂
  • Edited books are very useful: some, like Vocabulary: Acquisition, Description and Pedagogy, contain thematically linked chapters, others like Teaching English to Speakers of Different Languages, contain chapters related to a range of topics – skills, systems, assessment/course design/needs analysis etc. You can zone in on chapters of interest and get a nice, succinct take on any given focus.  When you are pressed for time with LSA deadlines looming, this can be very helpful!
  • If an author, e.g. Michael Lewis, has written a book, chances are they also have articles in ELT Journal and/or other magazines/journals. If you have online access to these, do an author search – you may find something more up-to-date written by them or something that preceded the book. Of course, articles are shorter so if you are struggling for time with getting through a book, so in looking for articles by the same author on the same topic, you may find a much briefer take on what you are looking at.

Finally, please feel free to add books you’ve read and found useful – for the Delta or otherwise – by commenting using the box below. Ideally, a reference, a brief description of the book, and how it could be helpful for the Delta (which module[s] etc) or otherwise would be good.