DELTA DIARY: Can you feel the pressure?

Actually, I feel pretty relaxed. The light at the end of the dark and dreary DELTA tunnel is getting brighter and it won’t be long until normality prevails. Having passed the first 3 LSA’s, one with a pass and two with a merit, and just done my Experimental Practice lesson on CLL (more below), the work load feels dramatically less and I can breathe again. It’s not over though, the final LSA carries most weighting and passing module 2 could still go tits up.

Can you feel the pressure? Nah!
Photo by francois lafontaine
How much work is involved in an LSA?
It was bloody hard work doing the last couple of LSA’s. It took about a month for each one. First you have to do the background reading. To give you an example, my second LSA was on Listening and I have about 6 reference books in the bibliography along with 3 course books. Luckily was able to skim read a lot of books on the metro and pick out what I needed. That takes about a week in total. Then you have to plan the lesson. First point of call is finding problem areas with your students. Once you have decided how you can help them in some way you can start planning the lesson. To sit down and really think about the lesson, come up with the materials, do necessary recordings, run it by the tutors, practice it with another class, make necessary changes, not to mention the class profile and detailed description of the lesson, analysis of the language, and commentary, you’re looking between two and three weeks work. Then it’s all over in 60 minutes. Complete madness really, but the whole process really gives you a good insight into the way lessons should be, in an ideal world. So, like I said above, about a month per LSA.

What have my students gained since I started the DELTA?
I would say that most of my students have better pronunciation now. At least they are all aware of the phonemic script and recognize the differences between spoken English and citation form. A lot of them are now aware of aspects of connected speech, which has ultimately improved their speaking and listening skills.
I think my grammar lessons are better too. Before I would teach a grammar point, get them to write a few examples, do a few sentences completions, and then practice for homework. Now I try to include a lot more concept checking questions, timelines, specific drilling on pronunciation problems, as well as a controlled and freer practice. Before I wasn’t doing much freer practice but now I spend a bit of time thinking up a natural way for them to use the language. It’s tricky though.

Thanks to the decent input sessions, and the mountains of reading I’ve done, my FCE students have been getting specific skills lessons to improve (and not just practice) their reading, listening, and speaking skills. There is still a load of activities and ideas that I have to try out, but there just aren’t enough hours in the week. Plenty of materials for lessons and blogs to come.

How have I improved?
These are the areas that I’ve improved in since starting the DELTA.
·         I use my voice more: clearer instructions, better drilling, I mumble less.
·         I speak more with my students: natural authentic listening is important in class.
·         I monitor a lot more: before I assumed who was getting it right, now I know.
·         I have more confidence when explaining grammar and vocabulary.
·         I can concept check a lot better.
·         I use my own materials more and only use the course books as a base.

If you’re thinking of doing the DELTA then, like me, you’re probably not aware where you need to improve, but that’s the joy of doing the course. If you’ve been teaching for a while and need an extra goal in life, then I’d definitely recommend doing it.

Don't break the circle...
Photo by Robert Couse Baker
Experimental Practice
As part of the DELTA you have to try out a methodology that you’ve never done before. I chose Community Language Learning (CLL). When I first read about CLL I thought it was madness. Why would you put your students in a circle, give them so much control, and spend half the lesson recording one conversation?

Here are the basic stages:

1- Students come in the room and sit in a circle.
2- You explain they are going to have a conversation about what they like and you are going to help them translate and make a recording.
3- They decide on a topic.
4- One student gets the ball rolling. They tell you what they want to say, in their L1, you translate it into English, practise pronunciation, and then record it.
5- Someone responds. They tell you what they want to say, you translate etc etc.
6- When you have about 10 lines of conversation you ask if they can remember all of it before you play it back.
7- Then you type / write it up on the board, with the L1 underneath.
8- Students ask any questions about vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.
9- You act as a human computer as students ask you to repeat any words or phrases.
10- They practise the conversation and use the language to make new sentences or a dialogue.

I did my lesson last week with my FCE class and we had a ball. Here’s a quick list of pros and cons:

·         The students control what they speak about.
·         You don’t have to prepare much.
·         Some interesting vocabulary came out of the lesson, mainly new phrasal verbs that they didn’t know.
·         They enjoyed the different lesson.
·         They produced some really clear and natural English.

·         It was hard work translating.
·         At times there were awkward silences.
·         They didn’t speak as much as in a normal lesson.
·         It took ages to write up the Spanish.
·         Only a few new words came out of the session.

I think I’ll try it again, maybe with a lower level class, but it’s not something I would do every week.

What lies ahead?
Well, in 3 weeks it’s time for the biggy: LSA4; observed and marked externally. I’m not sure if I’m going to be more or less sweaty because I don’t know the person, or just be shitting my pants more because how important it is. Basically if you fail the LSA4 then you can kiss the whole course goodbye. A bit harsh I think, but I’m trying to not think about failing.

After that I think I’m going to try to do module 3 as soon as possible. Not only because all the terminology will be fresh, but because I want to get on with my normal life again and spend some time trying out all the new ideas. Plus I’m going to be a Daddy next term and I guess I won’t have that much time left for a DELTA.

Are you thinking of doing a DELTA? Have you got an LSA4 coming up? Leave a comment and let me know. 

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