DELTA DIARY: Can I have my life back please?

Almost halfway through the Module 2 and the spring light in Seville is starting to peak through the end of the dark and dreary DELTA tunnel. Glory is blocked my three more assessed lessons, but there's a ray or two shining down. Here’s a quick low down on what’s been going on the last month.

Bloody Hard Work!
Photo by mad_wraith
How many hours a week am I doing at the moment?
I was hoping that Module 2 would be less work than Module 1, but I was wrong. My sister sent me a photo of her weekly time sheet back in London: 50.5 hours. “I’m doing more than that!” I replied. What with my usual 24 or 28 contact hours, 8 hours a week input sessions, plus the reading, writing the background assignments, detailed lesson plans, and observations, I'm doing between 50 and 60 hours a week. It’s bloody hard work and I feel like I’m constantly thinking about my next assessed lesson, but I think it’ll be worth it when I’m done.  

How was my first assessed lesson?
Nerve-racking! I don’t know why because I have great students and my tutor is chilled out and very supportive, but the build up and timing got to me. It was a grammar assignment and I chose to do 3rd and mixed conditionals, which in hindsight might have been a bit daft because I’d never taught mixed conditionals before. I did enough background reading and ran through my lesson with my tutor several times, but the problem was that I didn’t have another level to practise it with.

If I had done the lesson with another group, I would have had a better idea of the timing and wouldn’t have got so nervous when I saw that my time was running out. I thought I’d failed because I only managed about three minutes freer practise, but I passed. The feedback after was spot on and made me realise a few things, mainly that I have to use my voice more in class and work on my drilling.

My next one is on listening, which I have in about 10 days. I’m more prepared though and have already tried it with a couple of classes to see if it works. I think it does, let’s just hope the nerves don’t get to me.

Listen to the wall...cos the ears aren't listening...
Photo by ganesha_isis
Can you really teach skills? 
One aspect that has really interested me from the input sessions is whether or not it’s possible to teach skills. I’m talking about reading, listening, writing and speaking. I never realised before, but most of what I do in class is practising rather than teaching the skills. I guess every now and then I teach useful language for speaking activities, and certain writing techniques, but I rarely teach my students actual strategies on how they can develop their skills. The only problem with the DELTA is that you have to demonstrate this developmental aspect in an hour.

For my diagnostic lesson I showed how listening for sentence stress can help students. The topic was City Breaks and after a short warmer I asked them to write down a couple of questions that they would ask in a tourist office. Then I read out four of my own questions and asked them to compare. Then I dictated two again and they had to write them down. Then we focussed on which words were stressed. Then I dictated two more and they only wrote down the stressed words. The idea was that they could understand the main bulk of what they heard only from the stressed words.

Then they listened to a conversation about two people in a tourist office and I asked some gist questions. Then we analysed the transcript for stressed words. The important part was the reflective stage where I asked them to think how this technique could help them. One student said that it helped him a lot because normally he tried to listen to all the words. This is a tiny aspect of the complications of listening, but it definitely worked. My actual assignment is on active listening, back channelling and how listeners respond by showing that they are listening. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Best parts so far?
Yesterday my wife asked me if I would miss anything about the course when it finished. "No," was my first answer, then I said “Actually, I quite like the input sessions.” Both the tutors are good and we’re covering a lot of aspects of teaching that is useful for students. I very much doubt that I’ll ever spend one or two weeks planning a single lesson again once the DELTA is finished, but I’ll use a lot of techniques and ideas for teaching skills for sure. It’s more fun than Module 1 too because it’s more interactive and sociable. The guys on my course are a good laugh so it’s not all work, work, work. My classes are already getting better, it’s simple things like monitoring more, using phonetics in class, drilling, and just being more aware of student needs.

Worst parts so far?
Mixed in with exams and report writing at school I feel like I don’t really have time for anything else. Today is the first time I’ve been able to get up a bit later and sit down and write a blog. I started reading a novel (More Ketchup than Salsa) again last week on my kindle, first one since I bought it at Christmas. I’m absolutely knackered on a Thursday night and every other Friday night when I do extra PET classes. The LSA's take a lot of reading and planning, but once the lessons are over it's a massive relief.

What lies ahead?
Well, after my next assessed lesson on Listening, I’m planning to do my 3rd one on connected speech, and my final externally assessed one on writing or speaking. I figured that since I’m a writer I should do writing, but I have a couple of ideas for speaking too. I can’t wait for May though and having a summer to chill out and take everything in.

Anyone else doing a DELTA and like to share some thoughts? What do you think about teaching skills, is it possible? Thanks for reading.

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