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Delta conversations: Christina

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter@sandymillin.

Christina Rebuffet-Broadus is currently teaching in Grenoble, France. She blogs at iLoveTEFL and tweets @rebuffetbroadus.

Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

How did you do your DELTA?

Module 1 was distance—through a wikispaces wiki, with skype “classes” about once a month with our tutors on selected topics.

Module 2 was done through 3 separate week-long on-site sessions, with autonomous work time in between to work on the LSAs.

I haven’t done module 3 yet, but am planning to.

How did you arrange the modules?

Module 1 began in April or May 2011 (I think…) and ran until Dec. 2011

Module 2 ran from August 2011 to May 2012

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I did Module 1 as a distance program because I couldn’t take off a long time from work to do the program and because there were no DELTA centers in my area (Grenoble, France). The nearest was Strasbourg, which had just started offering DELTA. We were the first ones to go through their program. Also, I figured that I was disciplined enough to work mostly autonomously for this module, where you basically learn the material, take practice tests, and check your results with the examiner’s reports/answer key. We got feedback from our tutors through email and could discuss specific issues on the skype sessions, so it seemed do-able.

I did Module 2 as a longer program for the same reasons. I liked that we had the one-week on-site sessions because we could be with our tutors and classmates. Since they were spaced out, we went home after each session and had 4-5 months to do 2 LSAs and the ongoing PDA assignment. It was a nice combination of face-to-face time and autonomous work. Plus, it was easier to take off 3 separate, spread-out weeks than a whole chunk of time.

How was your Module 2 taught?

Like I said above, 3 separate week-long sessions, with 4-5 months of autonomous work time in between. When we were together in Strasbourg, the sessions were a mix of traditional lessons with the tutors teaching us things, quiet time for lesson planning and working individually with the tutors and other candidates, and some observation sessions.

ESOL Strasbourg organized to have us observe some EFL classes at the Strasbourg training center, taught by the center’s English teachers. They also organized to have these teachers “lend” us their classes so that we could teach them our LSA lesson plans. There were only 4 DELTA candidates in my class, so we paired off and observed each other teaching our LSA lessons and then gave peer feedback. Of course, our tutor also observed these lessons and gave us individual feedback afterwards, both written and oral.

How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the DELTA in the format you chose?

I’d say be prepared to spend 2 hours per day on weekdays and maybe a bit more on weekends. It can take over your life, so you have to be ready for this.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

I wouldn’t have overlapped Module 1 and Module 2. Module 1 ran from spring to December and Module 2 started at the end of August, so there were about 3.5 months where I was doing both modules. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It’s a lot of work and your time and energy are divided between the modules.

What do you think you gained from doing the DELTA?

As I told Jane Ryder, who runs ESOL Strasbourg, there’s a pre-DELTA me and a post-DELTA me (even though technically I still have module 3 to go). Of course, I learned so much linguistics terminology and LSA theory, as well as how to step back and reflect on what I do in the classroom and why.

But I think the real gain is in how the DELTA can open the path to further exploration. It’s like a boost in your involvement in the world of TEFL. I began blogging, began going to conferences, did my first conference presentation, began tweeting and facebooking with other teachers, and have even begun writing a book with Jennie Wright, whom I met on Module 2. All of this energy is indirectly related to the way the DELTA spurred me on to really invest in myself professionally.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

If you’re not disciplined and don’t set up a fixed study schedule (that you stick to), the distance part will kill you. Just as proof, there were 5 of us who signed up originally for the distance Module 1 and only 2 of us took the exam. The others weren’t able to manage their schedules efficiently, for various reasons. I’m not saying they couldn’t handle it of course, but you do have to cut back on time with friends and family to do the work. It’s easy to get home after a long day at work and say “I’ll do the reading tomorrow or this weekend” but you really have to discipline yourself and just go do it.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

It was a pretty long, drawn-out schedule I think, which was advantageous. It meant that I could spend maybe an hour or two a day and still feel like I was on top of things. That meant if I just got up a bit earlier in the morning and then did another hour in the evening, I could keep to my schedule.

Also, I liked the way Module 2 was organized. It was a good combination of tutor-led work and autonomous work, with enough time between sessions. I don’t understand how some programs have people do Module 2 on really tight schedules!

What tips would you give other people doing the DELTA?

A few things, I suppose:

  1. Be prepared to invest in books if you’re not always at a center that has a library. I bought a ton of books and now have a pretty impressive library! Budget accordingly. Just like the fees for the DELTA, this is part of the investment.
  2. Plan study time. Write it in your schedule as if it were a class. You wouldn’t just not go to a class because you didn’t feel like it! Treat study time the same way and be sure to tell friends and family about your commitment so they’ll understand.
  3. Read a book or two BEFORE even starting. I read Lightbrown & Spada’s How Languages Are Learned*, which helped because some of the things encountered on Module 1 then weren’t 100% new. Also, get Scott Thornbury’s About Language, which is sort of a language workbook for language teachers. It’s great because you actually “do” things with it.
  4. Spend time learning the format of the exam, especially Module 1. The examiner’s reports are indispensable for this because they show you how to lay out your answers correctly and efficiently. If you try to write out everything like an essay test, you’ll never be able to finish within the time limits.

*All book links are to Amazon, and I will get 10% if you buy after clicking these links. Thank you!

Delta conversations: Lizzie

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter@sandymillin.

Lizzie Pinard is coming to the end of her M.A. with integrated Delta at Leeds Metropolitan University and will soon be dividing her summer between writing a dissertation and teaching at a private language school in Leeds. She answered questions about her Delta here, then used the same questions to write about her M.A. over on her blog. She blogs at Reflections of an English Language Teacher, tweets @lizziepinard, and is interested in materials development as well as doing research and presenting at conferences.

Lizzie and Sandy at IATEFL Liverpool

How did you do your Delta?

I did my Delta as part of a full time M.A. at Leeds Metropolitan University. This course integrates the Delta modules into an M.A. in English Language Teaching. However, at Leeds Met you don’t have to do the M.A. in order to do the Delta (or vice versa for that matter!), and you don’t have to do it full time either. If you only want to do the Delta, you join for Semester 1 of the M.A., which starts in September. As it is fully integrated, this route would still give you a Postgraduate Certificate in English Language Teaching and Professional Practice from Leeds Met as well as your Delta. You gain the Postgraduate Certificate or M.A. credits by doing Leeds Met assessments as well as the Delta assessments. However, this isn’t as bad as it might sound!

  • Module 1: you do a series of homework tasks, which help you learn how to do Delta module 1 Exam paper questions and these provide 50% of the Leeds Met module 1 credits. Then at the end of the semester you do a Delta Module 1 exam paper. This gives you the other 50% of the credits necessary for the Leeds Met module but also acts as a mock exam for the real Delta exam.
  • Module 2: you submit a portfolio consisting of your Delta module 2 work (LSA essays, lesson plans, PDA) and observation tasks. Leeds Met provides a set of observation tasks as guidance, but you are also free to create your own, tailored to your PDA. These are graded against Leeds Met criteria.
  • Module 3: you do an oral presentation based on your Delta module 3 extended specialism essay. People generally found that this really helped them get their head around their specialism and made completing the Delta essay much easier.

If you choose to do the Delta part-time, you do Modules 1 and 3 one year and then module 2 the following September. The teaching lasts for 12 weeks, and then there are two assessment weeks, the sum of which is the duration of the university’s semester 1.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I chose to do it this way because I found a leaflet advertising the course in my conference pack at IATEFL and it looked perfect for someone like me who had faffed around a lot in my twenties before discovering teaching and the CELTA. I wanted to gain two of the most highly sought after qualifications in ELT in one go – saving time in the long run and equipping myself, hopefully, to get a stable, permanent job. (That is the plan! I am just coming out of the end of the course, only got a dissertation to go, and am optimistic about the future! Starting with a couple of conference presentations based on work I’ve done for the M.A. portion of the course. It won’t happen immediately but it is now possible and that is distinct progress!) I had thought about doing Distance Delta before but then relocated to the UK, decided I’d rather do it face-to-face style and happened on that leaflet. Fate! In hindsight, I think I would not have coped with Distance Delta, as the whole course was a very steep learning curve for me so I found all the support I had from tutors and classmates absolutely invaluable and don’t think I could have got through without it! We were very much in it together and got through it together.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

  • I think the most important thing I gained from doing the Delta is learning how to keep learning. That is, how to be a reflective teacher, how to develop my teaching through research, experimentation and reflection.
  • Also, I learnt how to approach a lesson in a principled, systematic yet flexible way. I would also say that doing the Delta helped my classroom practice to line up more closely with my teaching beliefs.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I don’t think there were any downsides, to be honest! I suppose, yes, it was incredibly intensive, intense and hard work, but those were good things too. Being completely immersed in Delta for a semester was immense. You have to be ready to put real life on hold for the duration, pretty much, and just work like a demon but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. I suppose unless you are doing it part-time, you can’t work at the same time, so there’s a financial factor there. Worth it if you can manage it though.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

The benefits? Where to start…

  • One thing I really liked about this course was the way the input sessions were carefully planned so that learning from each module fed into the other two modules too.  For this reason I’d recommend doing all three modules in one go. (I don’t know how intensive courses work elsewhere but I think the Leeds Met way definitely works!)
  • A very important aspect, for me, was all the tutor support I received: LSA1 was a very steep learning curve for me, but my tutor helped me understand what was expected in terms of the essay and the lesson plan, by giving me incredibly detailed and helpful feedback on my drafts. I then managed to scrape a pass in both essay and lesson plan. Following the assessment, we had individual tutorials to get our feedback, which again were very thorough and helpful, and given very supportively. And this, together with similarly helpful feedback on future drafts, enabled me to go from scraping a pass in LSA1 to getting a distinction for my essay and a merit for my lesson in LSA2 and 3. Also, I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t standard, until Sandy sent me an LSA lesson plan of hers to look at, but Leeds Met very helpfully provide a template for the lesson plan, which is very helpful in guiding you to meet all the criteria. It sounds like a small thing but every little helps when you are starting off and don’t have a clue what you are doing!!
  • Doing the Delta intensively is a mental and emotional rollercoaster, but the tutors understand that and help you through it. For example, with Module 3, another near-vertical learning curve for me, there was a point just before we got our needs analysis tools back, having previously submitted them for feedback, where I lost all confidence in myself and emailed my tutor saying I was convinced I was going to fail this module and so on, pretty much ready to give up on it, and very quickly had the very reassuring response that I needed to be able to keep going as well as all the support I needed to get to grips with what was required. Module 3 was very well managed actually: we had mini-deadlines throughout the semester, where we submitted drafts of each section of the extended specialism essay and received feedback on those, as well as individual tutorials. I was able to go from not having a clue at the beginning to producing a completed assignment by the end, in structured, well-scaffolded little steps.
  • The camaraderie of the cohort shouldn’t be underestimated either. Having regular contact with a small but close-knit bunch of classmates going through the same thing as you is one of the great things about face-to-face Delta. We jollied each other along, whinged to each other, helped each other, gave each other kicks when necessary and so on.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Top tips from me would be:

  1. Read as much as you can before you start the course.
  2. Do the course somewhere, like Leeds Met, with lots of support built in for all the wobbly moments and a course that seems designed to maximize on the learning potential of all modules.
  3. …Or just do it at Leeds Met!
  4. Read my blog post of top tips for Delta trainees!!
  5. Don’t forget to enjoy it – it’s an amazing opportunity so get as much out of it as you can.

If you have any questions about the course, contact Heather Buchanan (course leader) on h.buchanan@leedsmet.ac.uk; if you have any specific questions you want to ask me about my experience of the course, that aren’t answered above, feel free to get in touch – lizzie.pinard@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: This blog post consists of my experience, my views and claims to be no more and no less!

Delta conversations: Mat

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Matthew Smith has done most of his teaching in the Czech Republic, but has also taught in Spain and in the UK. I taught with him at IH Brno, where he is currently teaching. He has just started a blog at: http://mattheweltpages.wordpress.com

Matthew Smith

How did you do your Delta?

First I did module 1 online with Distance Delta in December 2011.

I then did module 3 with Bell Delta as an on-demand online course from June-August 2012

Then I took module 2 last as an online course, also with Bell Delta from Sept-Dec 2012. I had a local tutor (my DoS  [Director of Studies]) who had to be accepted and trained by Bell, and an online tutor from Bell Delta.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I never intended to take the whole Delta, but I decided to take the module 1 exam after finishing the IH CAM (Advanced Methodology Certificate) in June 2011. After passing the exam I decided that I wanted to finish it and the online option just suited me much better. I took into consideration the extra cost of accommodation, lost work, time away from my family, (and the fact that I wanted to do triathlon in the summer, meaning I would need to train in the spring!) if I did one of the other options and finally chose the online courses at Bell Delta, as the module 2 course with Distance Delta required a 2-week full time induction, followed by 9 months of work, finishing in June (not good for triathlon!) but the Bell course was a 3-month course with no face-to-face induction course. The on-demand option for module 3 meant I could write my assignment during the summer when I had less work and submit it in December.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

I don’t think that it was as life-changing as Katy said [Delta conversations: Katy] but I now feel more confident in what I am doing in the classroom and am more aware of what is happening in the classroom and the positives and negatives of doing things in different ways.

I completely agree with Katy that I got ‘a renewed passion, buzz, and thrill out of teaching.’

I think that it teaches you to look at things from a whole new perspective. When I started the course, particularly module 2, I looked at gaining Delta as the end of the road but after few weeks on the course I could see that it was not the end of my development as a teacher, but the beginning.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

  • It was expensive (although possibly cheaper than the other options, after factoring in travel, accommodation, etc.)
  • The course(s) were intense. 10 weeks to do module 3 in the summer was ok, but 10 weeks to do module 2, on top of a full-time teaching schedule was VERY hectic! I am lucky that my wife was supportive, and took care of everything while I was doing the course!
  • We had too much material to read for module 2, far too much, and some of it was conflicting with things I had read in other documents provided to me by Bell. This was confusing, and was definitely the biggest downside of doing the course alone.
  • As above, all the input for module 2 is limited to PDF files, so although the course costs the same I don’t think you get the same support for your money.
  • No (or limited) peer support. Obviously doing the course online means that you feel much more isolated than doing the course with other people who can share the highs and lows with you.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

  • A massive benefit for me was already knowing my local module 2 tutor. It meant that we could talk honestly to each other and I didn’t need to worry if I sounded stupid. It also meant that he knew my teaching style and had a good idea of my strengths and weaknesses from the start.
  • All of the tutors, both at Bell Delta and Distance Delta were very professional and always sent my work back well before the established deadlines. This meant that you always felt your tutor was there by your side.
  • The stress was separated because each module could be submitted individually and you were not waiting on all of your results at once or trying to get all of your work done for the same time.
  • Because I had already written module 3 I was not worried about how to lay out my LSA assignments for module 2.
  • Another benefit, although I didn’t realize it at the time, was that I had saved the most stressful part until last!

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Do plenty of reading before the course starts and get to know the course (what happens in what module and how it will happen) to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
  • Be prepared for your life to stop, especially if you are doing the course intensively or if you are doing a 3-month course. I can’t speak for a 9-month course, but most of the people I know who did it this way were also stressed most of the time!
  • Make sure that you choose the most convenient method for you, and don’t be afraid to go to the provider who offers the course which best fits for you. I think this is much more important than the cost.
  • And the most important tip for me, which was not immediately clear on the course:
    Don’t try to follow your plan too closely, but be willing to react to your learners as you would in any lesson. In my first observed lessons I was too nervous to deviate from my plan, but my grades improved when I realized that I was not being marked for following my plan to the letter, but also being marked on decisions I made in the lessons.

Note: If you’re interested, Mat has shared his Delta assignments. They should give you a better idea of what you need to produce during the course.

Delta conversations: Mike

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Mike Harrison is currently teaching in London. He tweets @harrisonmike and blogs http://www.mikejharrison.com

20130515-205905.jpg

How did you do your Delta?

I did my DELTA part time at UCL. I chose to opt for this mode rather than the Distance DELTA option as I knew I wanted the face-to-face time with both the tutors and fellow trainees. I learnt as much, if not more from the interactions with my peers as I did from the tutors and the reading I did. The course that I took part on included all three DELTA modules in the period from January to June. There were two evening sessions every week (apart from holidays) and 7 (I think) Saturday full day sessions. Course work and assignments were done and uploaded onto the course moodle website, which was also where information was communicated from tutors, articles and resources were shared, and where online discussion outside the sessions could take place.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

The DELTA was an immense fillip. I felt like I was investigating everything in so much detail, much more than I had ever thought of before, and in ways I hadn’t considered. I did find some of the reading a little bit impenetrable, but I think I gained so much from all the different sources of information that I was exposed to. Overall it made me consider how best to develop in my teaching, gave me the opportunity to explore different paths in teaching (e.g. course design, experimental practice, etc.).

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Although part time, the modeI followed was intense! It was 2 evenings and some Saturdays, but in reality it required at least that much work again in the week, if you wanted to make real progress. It was certainly heavier in terms of workload around certain times (e.g. fast turn around of research, essays and lesson plans for the LSAs). I *had to* work part time at college while I was doing it. I don’t know how other people managed a full time teaching load while studying for it at the same time.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Studying part time, having face to face and online components I think gives the best of both worlds. The time frame of 5-6 months does give you the opportunity to explore a fair bit (much more than you would have in 8 week DELTA course I imagine).

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

My tips for potential DELTA candidates, don’t stress too much, but do put in the work as you will benefit in the end. Try to start reading around ELT (areas you are weaker on especially) before you even apply for a course. Above all, recognise it as the fantastic opportunity for development that it is but also that you are in charge of how much you get out of it.

Delta conversations: Katy

This is the first in a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Katy Simpson-Davies is currently teaching in Dubai. She tweets @katysdavies and blogs http://lessonsfrommystudents.wordpress.com. She used to teach with me at IH Newcastle, and we saw each other again at IATEFL Liverpool:

20130515-202846.jpg

How did you do your Delta?

– I did module 2 first, and I did this face-to-face at IH Dubai, intensively, full-time over six weeks.
– I did module 1 six months later, after going back to work. I followed an online prep course over three months through IH Wroclaw, before sitting the exam at my local centre.
– I’m still working on my module 3, and will pay a consultant for guidance (when I’ve made a bit more headway!)

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I was advised to do module 2 first by my tutor, on the basis that it’s easier to understand the theory once you’ve already tried putting it into practice, and I think it was great advice. Module 1 felt so much easier than I think it would have done otherwise.

Having done a Masters online, I knew that I wanted to do module 2 face-to-face, and I was in a very fortunate position to be able to give up work for six weeks. I appreciate that not everyone can do this, but if there’s any way you can, I would really recommend it. I feel I got so much more out of it by being able to completely immerse myself in it compared to people I know who didn’t do it this way. I didn’t learn much more on the module 1 online prep course than I’d already learnt on module 2, as it was more about exam technique, which was what I expected (and was why I didn’t mind doing it online).

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Where to start?! SO much. For me, it’s not an exaggeration to say that it was life-changing. I gained a greater understanding of:

– how to teach skills. I was a very grammar-orientated teacher before, and only ever really helped students to practice things like listening, not really develop it.
– the importance of helping students to reflect on their learning, and how to encourage them to do this.
– how to hand over more control to the students, and to take myself out of the equation more.
– how to help students to see patterns and make connections.
– how to use the same activity in different ways for students of different abilities.
– how to deal with emerging needs in the classroom, and adapting my plan depending on how the students are coping.
– how to conduct action research (particularly through the exploratory practice).
– the importance of the different teacher roles, and how to switch roles at different points to maximize the learning opportunities for our students.

The most important thing, overall, was a renewed passion, buzz, and thrill out of teaching. I gained confidence to experiment, and to see the classroom as a laboratory where you’re constantly trying to improve your work. Since doing the Delta, I can’t imagine ever doing a job where there wasn’t scope for constantly improving and learning new things. My husband is a pilot, and there’s a wrong and right way of doing it, and they learn it and they do it. I would hate that! Delta taught me that we’re incredibly lucky to have a job where we can experiment and take control of our own development, every single day, not just on the Delta.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

– Obviously the money! Doing module 2 full-time means not earning, before you even consider the fees.
– It was VERY intense. If you don’t cope well with intense pressure, you could really crack up under the stress of it. I personally work better under pressure with tighter deadlines, but by LSA4 I think I was basically suffering from exhaustion. I didn’t get to bed before my LSA4 because I was still writing my lesson plan at 5am. I literally ran out of time because I was the first one to do it out of the group, and there physically weren’t enough hours. I still wouldn’t change the way I did it (even though this did end up messing up my grade), but if you can find an intensive course that’s over seven weeks instead of six, that might be better.
– We didn’t have as long to ‘digest’ everything, and perhaps if you did module 2 over a long period, you could implement things you’d learnt before moving on to the next new thing.
– Spreading the modules out, and separating them in this way means that it’s now a while since I did module 2, and I kind of feel like I’ve ‘done’ Delta, even though I’m actually missing a third of it! It means that I need to get all the books out, all over again, and study harder than someone else might need to who had done them all together, as it’s all feeling a bit rusty now. I’d recommend doing them in quicker succession.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

– I learnt so much from my tutors during the input sessions of my Delta module 2. They brought the hefty books to life. The input sessions alone were worth every penny of the course fees.
– The intensity of it meant that you could visibly see your progress, and made it easier to make connections between everything.
– We were a very small group (five of us), and became very close with it being so intense, and really supported each other, and could trust each other to give honest feedback. I know I’ve got friends for life from that experience.
– The tutors really got to know you, which I think helped them better understand why you might be teaching something in a certain way, which meant they could better help you to improve.
– Because you had so much time together, you didn’t feel that the course was just about exam technique, or complying with the Cambridge criteria. I felt that the tutors’ aim was really to improve my teaching, and that’s what the course did.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

– Do Module 2 first.
– Choose your centre very carefully, and preferably go on a recommendation. I LOVED every single minute of my Delta module 2. I was in tears on my last day because I couldn’t imagine going back to real life after such an amazing experience! That’s down to the fantastic tutors I had, and I can imagine it would be a totally different story if you didn’t have such good tutors.
– Study the criteria very carefully, and when your tutors give you advice, make sure you follow it to the word!
– Remember you’re there to develop, not to just get a certificate, and try not to let the grades get to you. It’s about so much more than grades.
– But if you are someone who can’t let go of the grades (I admit that I struggle with this!), then be careful about pacing yourself. I messed up LSA4 and all the other grades I got counted for nothing. If you’re interested in getting a good grade, then make sure you think ahead to LSA4 carefully (e.g work backwards in your choice of LSAs, so you don’t scupper yourself by having to do a skill, for example, when you’d rather do a system).
– If you’re doing an intensive course, then try to do as much reading as possible beforehand, because it’s a whirlwind once it starts.
– Think carefully about the geographical location you do the course in. I really appreciated coming home every day to a supportive husband who put a meal on the desk in front of me as I carried on writing! Your whole life is literally put on hold. One of the other trainees came from abroad and was staying in a hotel, and I think that was emotionally very tough. If you can’t do it in your city, can you do it in a close friend / sister / parent / grandparent’s city?!

Ana Inés Salvi on her IATEFL research

Like Sandy, I was very lucky to be awarded with the IATEFL – International House John Haycraft Classroom Exploration Scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to disseminate a successful story, and meet and share experiences and ideas with other practitioners.

My research was on learner autonomy and exploratory practice which is a kind of practitioner/ teacher research which involves learners in researching their own learning. This research was motivated by an interest in engaging learners in the classroom. I realised that by giving them more control over their learning process they became more involved and interested in learning. Also, suggesting working with their own interests and issues led to a deeper engagement with their learning experience.

I conducted this research in two different contexts: a summer school with teenagers and a pre-sessional course with postgraduate students at university.

If anyone is interested in watching my presentation, it is now available in the Teacher-Research section of the IATEFL Research SIG website at http://resig.weebly.com/teacher-research.html

Ana Inés Salvi

Note: Ana sent me this a few months ago, but unfortunately I managed to save it as a draft, rather than publishing it. Sorry! If you want to read about my IATEFL experience, click here.

Setting up a self-hosted blog

This guest post was written by Chris Wilson, who has his own self-hosted blog at ELT Squared. On his blog one post is about choosing a blog provider to use with students. He has also written a step-by-step guide to for setting up a Posterous blog. Over to Chris:

If you reading this I’m guessing you’ve been convinced. It’s time to set up a blog.

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

Just to help you along the way I thought I’d pass on a few tips I’ve learnt during my many years of blogging, and by the end of this post, you’ll have set up your own self-hosted blog. But first let’s answer some important questions.

Why do you want a blog?

This can really affect every subsequent step you take. If this is something for yourself and you don’t really want anyone else to see then you’ll choose something completely different from someone who wants a blog to make money.

Why should you choose a self-hosted blog?

There are many great free blogs but they do lack some features of pricey ones (such as audio/video hosting or advertising). The free ones are great to start out on but from experience of changing between blogs three times it’s best to stick with just one.

How can you choose a name/style?

Go through these questions quickly and answer them honestly. They can help you pick a good name to use for your blog/persona.

  • Think of three adjectives to describe yourself
  • Imagine your ideal reader then try to write to them
  • Write down some books/blogs etc that you enjoy reading. What do you like about them/the way they write?
  • What other influences do you have? What is it that you like about them?

Setting up a self-hosted blog

Self-hosted blogs are very different from hosted blogs in that they require YOU to buy your own webhosting, basically a place where you can upload information, or in this case a website, to the internet and then other people can access it. Self hosting is obviously a lot more technical and requires a great deal of computer competency. It also costs money, thought the exact amounts vary.

However, the advantage is it is completely customisable! You can do whatever you want with it, install any add-ons you like, change the theme to any theme you like, have your own unique domain name etc.

I recently changed over to a self-hosted wordpress blog (wordpress are generally considered the best blog option) and I have not regretted it.

Here is the more detailed instruction process I followed

  1. Sign up to a hosting company.
    There are various webhosting companies which have different features and different pricing schemes. I use Zyma.com which is a British company that offers great support. Despite my issues in setting up, they quickly responded and helped me through every step. Their service costs only £4.95 a year, but there is a hidden charge. You also have to pay for domain hosting. Despite owning my own domain before I went over to Zyma, I still had to pay for it for 2 years at £18.98 in total.
    For a list of different companies check out this comparison list.
    Once you have your webhosting you will need to choose your domain name and you can even have one that ends in .com .co.uk or any other country domain!
  2. Installing wordpress
    Once you have signed up you need to log in to your cPanel (control panel) and then install wordpress. Many hosting services have a quick install option which is usually under a category like software and services. One of the great things about Zyma is the presence of this quick install option and video guides on their website for how to install a blog.
    For more detailed instructions on how to install wordpress with or without a quick install option click this link.
    Consider where to install your blog. If you install it in a subdirectory (like /blog) then you can have a website with several sections including a blog! When you are installing, it will ask you for an account name and a password. This is very important as they are your administrator account details.
  3. Getting the details
    Enter the email address where you want your blog details to be sent to (you may have got a free email address along with your domain and webhosting)
  4. Done!
    Once you have installed your wordpress blog, you’re basically good to go! Except you have to wait 24-48 hrs for the domain name to be registered for your blog and for your use. However, you can get your first post ready, find a cool theme, write your about page and much more! You should be able to log in to your admin page via your server address (a series of numbers) and /wp-admin/ or once your domain is up using this formula: http://www.domain name/wp-admin/

If you are considering a self-hosted installation, then there is no harm in setting up a blog on wordpress.com first so you can get used to the style of using wordpress ready for when you have your own site. [The blog you’re reading right now is hosted on wordpress.com.]

I hope this is a useful guide for how to set up a blog. If you have any more questions then leave a comment, visit me at eltsquared.co.uk or find me on twitter @MrChrisJWilson.

Watching movies

While at IATEFL Glasgow 2012, I was lucky enough to see Khulood Al-balushi’s presentation, in which she shared various ideas for using movies with your students, as well as offering advice on how to choose suitable movies, especially important in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where she works as a Curriculum Specialist at the Ministry of Education. I asked her to share her ideas via my blog, and she agreed. Over to Khulood:

How can you make your students benefit from watching movies they like ?

Since movies are a rich source for language learning and they are considered to be fun and enjoyable, here are some practical ideas that you can implement to make use of movies in the English Classroom:

Introductory activity

  • Make students watch a movie trailer of the movie you intend to use and present the following activity:
Trailer activity

This will help you motivate your students to watch and respond to the movie and can tell you if the movie is favored by the students. Otherwise you can look for a different movie.

Watching movie clips

You can make your students watch movie clips if the length of your lesson is short or if you intend to present a specific language skill such as reading, speaking, grammar or writing. The following are a few examples:

  • Students can watch a scene of the movie “The Cat in the Hat” and write down the process the cat uses to make cupcakes.
    Cat in the hat
  • Students watch a scene from the movie “Volcano” and answer the following question: “What would you do if you were in this situation?” to promote critical thinking and present a lesson about natural disasters.
    Volcano
  • Ask students to watch a scene from the movie” Cast Away” and ask them to think about the following question “What would you do if you were trapped on a remote island?” (critical thinking and second conditional)
    Cast Away
  • Students watch a scene from the movie “Titanic” and answer an activity that involves reading and vocabulary and promotes critical thinking by comparing the actual story and the selected scene. Click to download the activity: Titanic movie task
    Titanic
  • Students watch the movie trailer of the movie “Inkheart” and answer the following question: ” What if you had the power to bring a book to life by simply reading it aloud?” to promote speaking and critical thinking.
    Inkheart
  • For creative writing and speaking, you can show your students a clip from “Spy Kids 2” movie and ask them to imagine being in a virtual reality game and ask them to describe their game in writing and present it to their classmates.
    Spy Kids 2

Watching full-length movies

  • Students watch ” Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” and answer an activity that aims at discussing characters:
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Students watch the movie “Oliver” and read the book and then compare between the movie and the actual story by answering a given activity. Click to download the activity: The Movie versus the Book
    Oliver
  • Students watch the movie “Finding Nemo” and asked to produce a creative project such as drawing, creating bookmarks, designing a puppet show, performing a play…etc.
    Finding Nemo puppetsFinding Nemo bookmarks

Of course, all of these activities can be modified based on your needs and your students.

By: Khulood Al-balushi

Party games for vocabulary revision

This post has been contributed by Roya Caviglia as part of the simple games series. If you would like to contribute a game, let me know via a comment on the blog or through Twitter.

Roya is currently teaching in Hamburg, Germany and has recently completed her Delta. She is about to start as a Celta trainer-in-training. You can find her on Twitter or at http://languagelego.wordpress.com/ She’s new to the world of blogging, and this is her first guest post. I think you’ll agree: it’s a great start!

Teaching aim: Vocabulary revision

How to play:

1. Ask each student to write down 3 or 4 words, each word on a separate small piece of paper. Make sure the learners choose vocabulary that they understand the meaning of and that they are sure the others in the class will know too (vocab that has come up recently in class is ideal). They fold up the pieces of paper and pop them into a hat/bowl.

2. Split the class into 2 teams. Ask them to choose team names. Then proceed with the following 3 rounds:

Round One – Taboo
Team A start. One of the team takes the bowl of words. They have to take out a word and describe it to their team, without ever saying the word (just like taboo). When their team guesses a word correctly they get to keep it. The same player then takes another word and continues for 2 minutes (teacher is the timer, time can be adjusted if necessary).

It helps if Team B listen carefully to the words that come up because this will help them in later rounds.

When the time is up Team A keep the words they won and pass the bowl to Team B which then have 2 minutes to collect as many words as possible in the same way.

Then back to Team A who continue with another player describing the words. This goes on until the bowl is empty. Count the scores, each word = one point. Scores go on the board.

Round Two – Pictionary
Team B start. Round two is just like round one, except that the players draw the words instead of describing them. This can be done on the board so everyone can see. Just like pictionary, no talking, letters or numbers are allowed.

Round Three – One word 
In this round, the players can only use one word to describe the word on the paper (obviously not the one on the paper! But usually a descriptive word gets connected to the piece of vocabulary at an earlier point in the game).

There could also be a charades round, where players act out the word, good for young learners or for energising tired adults!

These games are learner-centred and the words are chosen by the students not the teacher, making for a really meaningful and memorable review.

Party games for teachers by @CliveSir

Party games for teachers by @CliveSir at http://flickr.com/eltpics

Jazz Chants

Last week I was chatting to my colleague, Katy Simpson-Davies, about experiments she’s doing in her class. She told me she was about to try out jazz chants for the first time, and wanted to film them. Since she’s just joined Twitter and been introduced to the world of blogs, I invited her to write a guest post for me about how she did it. Here’s the result. I think you’ll agree it’s a great start!

I first heard about Jazz Chants from a colleague who is particularly enthusiastic about using them with Young Learners. I don’t have any YLs, but I have an elementary class who really need practice just getting their tongue around some English sounds, so I decided to try out my first ever Jazz Chant with them.

We have a copy of the fantastic ‘Jazz Chants’ book by Carolyn Graham. I looked for one that helped the student practice a grammar point we’d been studying that week – ‘whose is this?’ There’s an index at the front of the book saying which chant is relevant to which grammar point. There are also notes before each chant with tips on how to present it.

Before doing the chant, I read through the useful advice at the beginning of the book about the different steps to follow in presenting a chant, and basically did it the way that was suggested. My students are from Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Check out the video below to see snippets of the various stages, from me reading it out for the first time, to their final full production of their own version. Here are the steps I went through:

  • I wrote the title of the chant (‘Taking Credit’) on the board first, and we went over the meaning of this.
  • I read the whole chant to them while they followed it on the handout. I drummed the beat lightly on the table (for their benefit and mine!)
  • We read the whole chant together, all the way through. I read it with them, to help them keep to the rhythm.
  • Next, I read one line and they repeated each line.
  • I divided them into two groups, and I said one line; the first group repeated it; then I said the response line; the second group repeated it, etc.
  • I drilled some of the phrases they had more difficulty with (for example, ‘it’s certainly not mine’.)
  • Then the two groups read it without me. I just drummed the beat on the table and listened. The first group read the first line, e.g ‘Whose book is this?’, and the second group responded, e.g ‘It’s mine.’.
  • I encouraged them to do it as a competition to see who could be the loudest, as some of my students speak very quietly. This wasn’t hugely successful, as I really was trying to get them to shout it, and you can hear it’s not that loud on the video!

The next day we did it again (and I recorded it this time with Sandy’s camera, which is much better quality!). I wrote the jazz chant on the board before the beginning of the class so they wouldn’t need their papers, as I wanted them to do it with gestures. We used props, i.e a book and some work, to illustrate what they were saying, and they pointed at people to give meaning to saying ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘hers’ etc (although we also talked about the fact that it’s not always polite to point!) Next, they went up to the board and changed some of the words. So instead of ‘book’ we had ‘glasses’, which was a good choice because it meant making everything plural, and we had ‘delicious water’ instead of ‘beautiful work’, and ‘professional camera’, instead of ‘awful work’.

I moved them further apart in a bid to make them talk louder, as they were supposed to be talking to each other. Unfortunately this isn’t great for the video, as I couldn’t fit all the students in the shot with them being on two different sides of the classroom! When we did the new version for the second time, I encouraged them to do it with more actions, and I sort of conducted by doing them myself as well. I really felt that doing the actions allowed them to have more fun, and ‘lose themselves’ in it more.

All in all, I thought it was a great way to get their mouths moving, and to make the grammar point really memorable. Some of the students have since been using ‘Whose is this?’ to enquire about folders, papers, pens etc, around the classroom, which seems to me to be a sign of success! I’ve already earmarked some more jazz chants I want to do next week, and I can definitely see why people rave about them.

If you want to know more about jazz chants, check out Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa’s TEYL blog (the colleague who first mentioned jazz chants to me.

Jazz Chants by Caroyln Graham is published by OUP, and the link for it on Amazon is here.

Happy chanting!

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