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.

#Eltchat 29.05.13 Summary: How to use a great resource like eltpics for your teaching

For anyone who is not yet aware of it: #Eltchat is a Twitter hashtag which offers Twitter-based discussions that take place every Wednesday at 12.00 and 21.00 BST/GMT (when the clocks change). The topics, all related to the ELT industry, are listed on the  #Eltchat website, together with some background reading, a few days in advance of the discussions. The tag #eltchat can also be seen throughout the week as an identifier of all things that might interest those who work in the EFL industry.

On 29.05.2013, the 12.00 BST discussion was on the topic “How to use a great resource like Eltpics for your teaching”. Here is a long-overdue summary of all the fantastic ideas that were generated during this #Eltchat:

First of all, what is Eltpics? 

  • Eltpics began in 2010 as an image resource bank created by and for teachers in the ELT sphere  (tweeting an intro from FB page) (@Marisa_C)
  • Great idea by them, and helps to avoid copyright issues etc. Also, nice and easy to access. (@jo_sayers)
  • RT @Marisa_C: huge congratulations for making the shortlist at the #Eltons awards in 2013 #eltchat > yay, seconded!! (@cerirhiannon)
  • Here is the link to the #eltpics on facebook  (@Marisa_C)
  • Here also you can find the #eltpics photostream on Flickr (@Marisa_C)
  • So, it looks like a great collection of free images for teachers by teachers (@Marisa_C)
  • best to follow the #ELTpics FB page. Every 2 weeks new set announced (@JulieRaikou)
  • And here’s an article in Spanish to introduce #eltpics to non ELT Spanish teachers (@pacogascon)
  • And great to not have to worry about copyright (@jo_sayers)

Ok, great, sounds good, but how do I use these #Eltpics images correctly and legally?

  • What’s the proper way to attribute #eltpics if using them on the web? #eltchat – in class I would assume there is no issue right? (@Marisa_C)
  • [This is] for [correct] image attribution  (@JulieRaikou)
  • If using pics on the web, author name, license details (for example, CC BY-NC 2.0) and link back is good practise (@esolcourses)
  • Using them in class is not an issue, although if you are printing out/sharing then you should include author credits (@esolcourses)
  • And if you embed in blog, the photo itself will link back to the flickr page (@jo_sayers)

What about some practical ideas for what I can do with these images in the classroom?

  • The “take a photo and…” #eltpics blog is a great place to start  (@cerirhiannon)
  • I like using the sets with  mosaic maker    –  set the no. of squares  for mosaic , paste in the URL & voila! (@cerirhiannon)
  • Another thing I like to do is ask students to spot pics that have been/could have been taken in their part of the world (@cerirhiannon)
  • Making collages can be useful. was introduced to @PicMonkeyApp the other day too, via @ij64 (@teacherphili)
  • Great for personalising vocab sets (@cerirhiannon)
  • Picmonkey is one of my favourite sites for editing images, with great tools for adding text and effects (@esolcourses)
  • Picture Karaoke is a fave – slideshow images with or without words/phrases to use obligatorily (@Marisa_C)
  • –> Slideshow of images – with timer – and you can add a word or phrase at bottom or not. Ss keep talking storytelling (@Marisa_C)
  • Students can choose photo and write crazy captions a la Spike Milligan – see old post here  (@Marisa_C)
  • For anyone who’s interested there are a few ideas and a web tutorial on PicMonkey here  (@ij64)
  • Did a 10min talk on mobile photos recently, ideas would work just as well with #eltpics (@Shaunwilden)
  • Do check out the blog (address here) lots of guest posts on how to use #eltpics in different ways (@Marisa_C)
  • Here’s a link to a write up of @fionamau ‘s presentation on using #eltpics at TESOL Spain this year (@cerirhiannon)
  • Ask ss to find the pic that best represents them (either from topic or all) (@jo_sayers)
  • Good use for critical thinking skills is getting students to find/make connections between pics (@jo_sayers)
  • Students makes a connection (the less obvious the better), and others decide if they agree/it’s true and discuss. (@jo_sayers)
  • Like @fionamau ‘s idea – choose faces from feelings set to set up role cards and talk about different opinions on the same topic (@cerirhiannon)
  • Learners take pictures of places that are important for them and then describe them here or upload ELTPics (@Whippler)
  • Here is one of the reasons I love #ELTpics
  • Start the class with 4 pictures based on the same topic/subject and ask students to work out what the connection is between them (@nroberts88)
  • Describing pictures in only 6 words (@nroberts88)
  • Loved this close-ups post by @cerirhiannon on #eltpics back in the days (@Marisa_C)
  • Describing pictures in only 6 words #eltpics; nice one.. then make a poem 🙂 (@Marisa_C)
  • ask students to look for images to replace the ones in a CB  from one of the #eltpics sets & explain their choice (@cerirhiannon)
  • Term-long proj: redesign CB! (@BobK99)
  • Here’s a link to the post (replacing images in CBs) (@cerirhiannon)
  • You could get students to take a pic to add to #eltpics themselves! (@jo_sayers)
  • How about getting students to choose an eltpic and then try to recreate it for homework, then show result next lesson and tell about how they did it (@LizziePinard)
  • Then play spot the difference between students’ pictures and originals (@LizziePinard)
  • A follow-up to idea of a pic for HW: Ss pick one write detailed description – exchange with sb else who must draw pic (@Marisa_C)
  • More ideas for using images: here (@LizziePinard)
  • Give students a few key words/ask them to think of words related to topic, then give random pic and challenge to make relevant sentence (@pjgallantary)
  • If you make mosaics mixing students ‘like/hate/love’ or ‘wish I had,could,were/wish I hadn’t/wish people wouldn’t pics, partners speculate (@fionamau)
  • Give ss a pic each – they describe and partner draws pic OR they arrange items in room/other students into a tableau (@pjgallantary)
  • You can use images from the Sequences set for “blind” ‘spot the difference’ pairwork i.e. don’t show partner, describe & find differences (@fionamau)
  • Choose four/five pics – ‘which one is the odd one out and why?’ (@pjgallantary)

And if I want more images than #eltpics has to offer?

  • You can use this page to just search Flickr for creative commons images (@esolcourses)
  • Or this has all kinds of search options (@jo_sayers)


I know – hard to believe so many ideas could be generated in a single hour! But so it was. I hope you enjoy experimenting with them – why not comment below and let us how it went? And if you have any ideas for using images, please also share them with us by commenting below. 🙂

30 things to enhance your teaching?

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

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

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

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

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

So, here goes (in no particular order):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Ideas for developing learner autonomy: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Useful EAP-related resources

This annotated collection of resources is for anyone with an interest in EAP, including people like me who want to learn more about it. There’s lots of stuff out there, some of which I have found, so I thought I would gather it all into one place for convenience. If you know of any other resources, which are not included here (and I am sure there will be plenty!), please do comment on this post with a link to the resource and a short description of what it contains, so I can add it to this list – such contributions would be much appreciated!

Blogs

This blog goes with the #eapchat hashtag on Twitter, which was founded by Tyson Seburn (@seburnt). Discussions are had on the first and third Mondays of every month, at 9 a.m. and 3p.m. EST. In between these times, plenty of interesting links appear in the hash stream.

This blog’s tagline is “Polemical. Questioning, debating and exploring issues in EAP” – says it all really! A lot of interesting stuff related to EAP there to get your teeth into.

This blog describes itself as “The diary of an EAP practitioner on a journey to self-educate”  – and the author has been in EAP since 2009. An interesting mixture of things EAP-related to read.

This blog carries some useful posts for people who are trying to get work in EAP – and of course the website itself is where a lot of universities advertise their jobs. The blog describes itself thus: “This blog covers a wide range of topics within English for Academic Purposes (EAP) including English language learning and teaching (ELT) and English for specific purposes (ESP).

Ana Christina’s blog has a page devoted to EAP-related links, including links aimed at students, and lots of other interesting stuff to look at besides.

A blog with reflections on EAP, kept by Steve Kirk – some really interesting stuff, well worth a visit.

Individual Blog Posts

This blog post contains some useful tips for academic listening preparation.

Adam Simpson’s blog post investigates what we should be asking ourselves when we teach EAP.

This blog post looks at the role of humour in university learning. Can students be trained to laugh? Read on and find out…

Websites

“A global forum for EAP Professionals” , BALEAP offers institutional and individual memberships which entitles you to a bunch of interesting stuff (I’m about to join, actually!). They also run various conferences and events.

This is a collection of links to various EAP resources, curated by @PatrickAndrews, including blogs, websites, articles and newspaper articles. Lots to explore!

This is a bibliography related to learner corpora and forms part of a website belonging to the Centre for English Corpus Linguistics. The list and the site itself look to be very useful.

This Scoopit page, curated by Steve Kirk, contains a variety of informative resources for EAP Practitioners. Lots of interesting stuff to go at here!