DELTA Diary: Benefits of doing the DELTA already!

After two months of doing the DELTA Module One, I can’t wait to get my teeth into the exam. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the course, far from it, but I don’t think my brain can take any more terminology or exam technique practice. With just three weeks to go until D-Day, as my colleagues are calling it, I’m eager to get it over with before I reach overload. In this diary I’m going to tell you about the benefits in my classes already, the mock exam, and a slight confusion (cock up) I had.

Benefits of the DELTA already
Monkey Noises
I’m teaching the whole phonetic chart to three different classes: one adult lower intermediate class and two classes of young teenagers (11-13). The kids liked it from the start. I gave each student a copy of the phonetic chart with space under each symbol to write a word, plus they keep a pronunciation section at the back of their notebook. I’m doing about two symbols per class, mainly through minimal pair activities. Check out my BEST ESL pronunciation websites for ideas. We’re at the stage now where they can spell out words to each other by pointing to the symbols. Photo by Paul Stevenson

The other day I asked how they felt about doing phonetics, here are some answers.

“Is good because is difficult.”
“I no like it, is too hard.”
“My teacher say me I have best pronunciation in class, and everyone ask me how to say words.”
“Is funny, I like making noises like monkeys.”
The adults didn’t seem to like it at first. When I asked them to watch my mouth as I mimed the /iː/ and /uː/ sounds they looked at me as if I was mental. Getting them to repeat the words was a challenge too. They spoke softly and seemed embarrassed. Then when I got them to play a little game with each other where they had to practice saying similar phonemes I caught one woman whispering “Que tonto no?” “This is silly, isn’t it?”

So the next lesson I had it out with them. Did they like learning the chart? Did they think it was useful? Most of them said they could see the benefits, but that it was difficult and they felt a bit self conscious. I told them it was the first time I’d done it with an adult class and it was new to me too. We’ve agreed to preserver with it. Let's see how they get on with the monkey sounds next week.

My biggest fear of teaching is finally fading away. I’ve taken to the inductive approach of teaching grammar – providing a meaningful context to teaching and then getting the students to do the hard work and determine the rules. It’s hard work, but I think they like it. Also I’ve found I can answer a lot more spontaneous grammar questions that come up in class, but with valid reasons, not just the normal blag, blag, blag, that’s the way it is sunshine.

My FCE students’ writing has improved. This year I’ve gone down the ‘process writing’ route. This involves analyzing some written texts in class, getting them to do a detailed plan and first draft at home, then when I’ve added my constructive criticisms they write it up neat. I’m planning to get a ‘Writers Wall’ started next week to display their writings on the wall to inspire other students. I think the main problem with writing is they don’t see the point half the time; they just leave their writings crumpled up in their bags. By having them on the wall, I’m hoping to create some more pride in their work.

Mock Exam
How was it?
Better than I thought. We had a week to do both papers and self correct them. I did mine in the same layout as the main exam: Paper 1 in 90 minutes, a thirty minute break, and then Paper 2 in 90 minutes. My neck was crooked for about three hours afterwards, but I came away feeling as if the previous six weeks had been worth it. The day after, I self corrected it, trying to be as stingy as possible, and passed both papers.

Easy parts?
For me it was questions 3 and 5 in Paper 1, and, surprisingly, questions 2 and 4 in Paper 2. If you haven’t done the DELTA yet then it means the questions on analyzing features of typical texts, analyzing students’ written work, describing the purposes of activities in course books, and commenting on different methodologies. The methodologies is the worst part to prepare for because there are so many, but I got lucky with the question - deductive and inductive ways of teaching grammar - so I did all right.

Hard parts?

Paper 1
I actually did worse in questions 1 and 2 in Paper 1 than I’d thought. I was pretty gutted, especially considering how much time I’ve spent doing terminology cards and studying them. Part 4 - about form and meaning - was hard too.

Paper 2
The question about testing was probably the worst. I’m still struggling in this area because it’s not something us teachers do every day. Be warned!

Was it useful?
Definitely, especially the self marking because you can see where to improve. Since then I’ve gone back over my grammar notes and read up more on phonology (gimp). 

That should be me in the middle...
A slight confusion
I guess I shouldn’t admit this, but here goes. Hot tip: double check the reading lists for module one, AND module two. I was happily (well, arduously) working my way through a list, which I thought was labelled ‘DELTA Module one reading list,’ and have read about sixteen books since I started studying back in April (seven months ago). I had about four books left on the ‘essential list’ and figured I wouldn’t have time to finish all, so I emailed my tutor and asked whether I could leave any out. She replied saying that most of them were for Module 2. It took a while to sink in, but then I checked the list again, ‘DELTA course reading list.’ I had a look at a couple of other websites to see if what I feared was true: it was, I’ve been reading, and have almost read, the entire essential reading list for both modules. No wonder I’d been feeling the pressure. I suppose my life will be easier when it comes to Module 2 next year. What a muppet! Photo by shinythings.

So there’s my DELTA Diary update. I’m not sure whether I’ll have a chance to write another one before the exam, but I’ll try. Just to let you know, I tried to read a bit of a novel, ‘Winter in Madrid’ that I got halfway through back in September, but I still couldn’t get into it. I kept looking out for terminology and lesson plan ideas…roll on December 5th.

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