DELTA Diary: A few things I’ve learnt already

With my DELTA course just round the corner, I thought I’d write a brief summary of a few things that I’ve learnt already while studying. If you’re thinking of doing the DELTA then this list might give you an idea of what to expect from the pre-reading material. My tutor gave me a target of about eight books, which I’ve done, but it’s been tough going. I’m enjoying it though, and learning, so that’s the main thing.

Try teaching that as a tongue twister
On the plus side

How improving pronunciation will help listening
After reading Teaching English Pronunciation and English Phonetics and Pronunciation I’ve realized just how important pronunciation is. I’m not only talking about helping students to communicate better, but also to understand native speakers.

‘Speak too quickly.’
‘No open mouth.’
‘I no understand.’

And that’s just their comments about me. Most of my students hate listening activities and exams. They struggle big time. They panic. Some even cry. So what can we do? By spending more time on pronunciation activities and analyzing more the tape scripts from texts books and exams we can improve our students listening skills. Photo by cdrummbks
The importance of the phonetic chart
I’ve always muddled along with the phonetic chart. When I teach in the summer there’s a decent section in the students text book which takes them through the phonetic alphabet. I always plan to use the chart while back in Spain, but never get round to it. Last year I had the chart on my wall and used it a few times, but nothing really came of it.

This year I’m planning on using the phonetic chart more. I think it’s important to work on students pronunciation and make them aware how native speakers really talk. I’m aiming to teach the whole chart to a couple of classes by gradually introducing it into lessons. My biggest fear is transcribing words on demand from high level students, so I’m going to start on the lower levels first and work my way up.

Have a look at this article on the phonemic chart and there’s an excellent chart with sounds on the British Council website here.

The Parts of Speech
Yeah I know; how can you be a teacher for almost nine years and not know the parts of speech? Well, I did, of course, but not as well as I do now. The eight parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, determiners, and conjunctions (yes I did have a text book handy). My aim is to make my students more aware of the different parts of speech and use games to create interest.

How important it is to increase student’s vocabulary
Do you know how many words First Certificate are expected to have in their vocabulary? 5,000. Not a lot considering the longman online dictionary has about 50,000. After reading ‘How to teach Vocabulary by Scott Thornbury’ my eyes have opened. It’s not just about presenting a few words now and then but actually getting the students to learn them. Supposedly you have to come in contact with a word about seven times before it converts to your long term memory. Increasing students vocabulary is vital if they are going to improve. Photo by Dr Noah Lott

How to engage students into texts and listening more
I’ve always been a fan of engaging students into texts and listening rather than just letting them get on with it, but after reading Beyond the Sentence and ‘How to teach English by Jeremy Harmer’ I’ve realized something else. It’s not just about comprehension questions and activities. Questions like ‘What is the text about?’ ‘Who was this text written for?’ ‘What are they talking about?’ ‘Which speaker can you relate to more?’ encourage learners to absorb the texts and scripts more rather than just listening for specifics, which is something we do more in real life.

The different methodologies of teaching English
I’m not sure how useful it is to know when Audio-lingualism was more popular (1960’s -1970’s), that Grammar Translation started in Germany, or there exists a teaching methodology called the Silent Way, but it’s a relief that the world of teaching is much more dynamic now. What I’ve found interesting is the Engage, Study, and Activate method, which I guess I already do, but it’s good to have a more defined outlook in the classroom.

How important it is to encourage extensive learning
This is also something I try to incorporate during the term; getting the students to be more autonomous in their learning. After all, 3 hours from a possible 168 a week isn’t a massive amount to dedicate to learning English. This term I’m going to encourage more reading for pleasure, listening to songs and watching movies than ever before. I’ve got a few ideas about how, but I’ll leave that for another blog. 

On the down side

I’m losing more hair
It’s true. I’m not sure if it’s my age, 33, or whether the heat in Seville is making me molt more, but my hair line is definitely receding. I guess what I’m trying to say is that fitting in the study for the DELTA has been hard work. While in London I was doing a 9 hour day and then studying for a couple of hours in the evenings, during August I’ve had more time so it’s been relaxed, but I’m expecting to be pretty busy when it all kicks in again in September.

I can’t concentrate on novels anymore
Whenever I pick up a novel my mind is buzzing too much about what I’ve studied during the day to be able to concentrate. It’s not that I’ve chosen crap books either; New York by Edward Rutherfurd, and the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are supposed to be excellent, but I haven’t been able to switch off. I’m due a week’s holiday in Portugal next week so hopefully I can chill out there for a bit.

So there you go. This is my first DELTA Diary entry. Hopefully I’ll have time to keep up with my writing while doing the course. Don’t forget my book ‘Teaching English in a Foreign Land’ will be out soon on Kindle and also on

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