Types of practice activity (terminology confusion!)

This is the first post in what I hope will be an occasional series, clearly up some areas of confusion with terminology. If anybody would like to correct what I’ve written, please do!

How do you classify different kinds of practice activity? Is it controlled practice? Semi-controlled-practice?Free(r) practice? What’s the difference?

Practice activities

First up, what exactly is a ‘practice activity’?

For the purposes of CELTA and Delta, a practice activity is one which gives learners the opportunity to use target language (grammar, vocabulary, pronuciation, or less commonly, discourse features) after they have been introduced in some way. They typically feature in a Present-Practice-Produce (PPP) model of teaching, though may appear in other models too.

Not every exercise is automatically a practice activity – there has to be some element of target language which is specifically being focussed on. It can also only practice something which has previously been introduced, so the initial ‘test’ activity in a lesson staged using Test-Teach-Test (TTT) is not a practice activity, because the target language hasn’t been introduced yet.

Practice activities are common features of coursebooks, and this is where Delta candidates need to know the difference: Paper 2 Task 2 asks you to analyse a set of materials, normally a coursebook spread, and you need to be able to identify what is and isn’t a practice activity, and what kind of practice activity it is.

Controlled practice

Controlled practice (a.k.a. restricted practice) only has one correct answer to each question / item. There are right and wrong answers, and these are unambiguous. There is a focus on accuracy.

Drills are examples of spoken controlled practice focussing on pronunciation, and sometimes form (in the case of a substitution drill).

Most grammar exercises which appear in the back of a coursebook, in a workbook, or in a book like Murphy’s English Grammar in Use, are written controlled practice. They might focus on form, meaning, use or a combination.

Complete the sentence with the past simple form of the verb in brackets ( ).

I ________ swimming yesterday. (go)

Written controlled practice with a focus on the form of the past simple

Underline the correct option.

1. I went / have been swimming yesterday.

2. I went / have been to the gym three times this week.

Written controlled practice with a focus on the use of the past simple and present perfect simple

Complete the sentences with the past simple or present perfect form of the verb in brackets ( ).

1. I ________ swimming yesterday. (go)

2. I ________ to the gym three times this week. (go)

Written controlled practice with a focus on the use and form of past simple and present perfect simple

Here are some other ideas for controlled practice, with pros and cons for each.

Semi-controlled practice

Semi-controlled practice has a limited range of correct answers to each question / item. There are right and wrong answers, but there might be more than one. There is a focus on accuracy.

Complete the sentences with can or can’t so they are true for you.

1. I ______ ride a horse.

2. I ______ play the piano.

3. I ______ swim 20 metres.

Written semi-controlled practice with a focus on the use of can / can’t

The same activity could also be spoken as a kind of drill, with students standing in a circle. The teacher gives the first sentence. In turn, each student says the sentence so it’s true for them. ‘Starter’ sentences could also be suggested by the students (the original sentence would be chosen freely, but the drill part of it is semi-controlled as there are only two possible responses for each student).

Student A: Say the sentence below. Choose which word to stress.

I don’t think he should get that job.

Student B: Decide what student A means:

  1. Somebody else thinks he should get the job.
  2. It’s not true that I think he should get the job.
  3. That’s not really what I mean. OR I’m not sure he’ll get that job.
  4. Somebody else should get that job.
  5. In my opinion it’s wrong that he’s going to get that job.
  6. He should have to earn (be worthy of, work hard for) that job.
  7. He should get another job.
  8. Maybe he should get something else instead.

[sentence taken from this website]

Spoken semi-controlled practice with a focus on pronunciation – stress for emphasis

Freer practice

Freer practice allows students to use whatever language they have at their disposal, though if the activity is designed well, it should encourage / enable them to use the target language. There are no correct answers. There is a focus on fluency, though the teacher may choose to do some error correction. This will most often be delayed error correction to maintain the flow of the practice activity.

Complete the sentences so they are true for you.

1. If my tooth was hurting…

2. I would visit my dentist more often…

3. If I ate less chocolate…

Written freer practice with a focus on the form of the second conditional

Write something for FIVE of the things in the list.

  • something you are planning to do in the summer
  • a country you’d like to visit in the future
  • somebody you wouldn’t like to go on holiday with
  • a job you’d love to do
  • a job you hate doing in the house
  • somebody you find very easy to talk to
  • something you’re afraid of doing
  • a sport, activity, or hobby you love doing
  • something you enjoy doing on Sunday mornings
  • something you must do or buy urgently
[Taken from English File Intermediate 4th edition, p77 Ex 3f]

Written freer practice with a focus on the use of gerunds and infinitives

Work in groups. Tell the others about what you have written and answer any questions they have.

[Taken from English File Intermediate 4th edition, p77 Ex 3g, following on from the exercise above]

Spoken freer practice with a focus on the use of gerunds and infinitives

What terminology would you like me to cover next?

Cambridge Delta grade statistics

It makes me very sad that so many people who ‘only’ get a Pass grade are disappointed with their Delta results. Please don’t be! You worked very hard for that Pass, and you should be proud of it! As far as I know, all most employers care about is whether you have the Delta or not, rather than what grade you got for it.

I got a Pass in Module Two (including failing LSA1 and LSA3 lessons), a Merit in Module Three, and a Distinction in Module One (because I had plenty of time to focus on it, and it was the only thing I was preparing for at the time). I’m proud of all of my results, and learnt a lot from all of the modules.

Cambridge Grade statistics are freely available for 2004 to 2019. Below you can find my summaries of the statistics for each of the Delta modules from 2014 to 2019.

Module One

I was really shocked to see the fail rates for Module One. I suspect this is partly because a lot of people do the exam without any preparation, or with only very minimal preparation. There’s no obligation to do a course before you sit the exam, but as you can see, it’s probably a good idea!

Module Two

This module has the lowest fail rates – I suspect this is because some people withdraw before they complete the course if they’re struggling (I don’t think withdrawals are counted in the statistics).

Module Three

Again, there’s no obligation to get tutor support during this module, though it can help you to get feedback on your writing so you know whether you’re meeting the Cambridge requirements. I definitely wasn’t in the first draft of some of my sections, and found it really useful to have that support.

A little advert

If you’d like to complete Delta Module One or Module Three with me, I run courses which last for a full academic year, meaning you can Take Your Time, and really apply what you’re learning to your own teaching / context. I don’t have any grade statistics from my own courses yet, as they’re still very new, but everybody who has completed the Module One mock exams half way through the course has passed. 🙂

Read all about the courses, what participants thought of them and how to apply.

2022 course dates and a new format now available – Take your time Delta Module One course

The first Take your time Delta Module One course has been running for three weeks now, and is going well (at least from my perspective!) I’ve got a lovely group of participants, and everybody is making good progress with what we’ve been studying. So far we’ve looked at the format of the exam, how to analyse the purpose of and assumptions behind exercises in a spread of materials, and understanding the phonemic chart and talking about phonology.

Some people have asked me about summer Delta Module One courses, so I’ve decided to create a new format. This will take place from June to August 2022, which will hopefully fit around summer holidays for those in the northern hemisphere. There will be three live 90-minute meetings per week, so the sessions listed above would be week 1, for example. After 9 weeks of more intensive work over the summer, there will be one meeting a month in September, October and November, leading up to the exam in December, and making a total of 30 sessions. Hopefully this will allow people to prepare for Module One when they don’t have the pressure of teaching their normal academic year timetable.

Here are the dates for all of the courses which are currently available:


  • Extensive, one academic year
    October 5th 2021 – May 31st 2022
    (ready for the Wednesday 1st June 2022 sitting)
    Zoom meetings on Tuesdays
    09:30-11:00 UK time
    > I’m still accepting people onto this course until 9th November – session 6
  • Extensive, one academic year
    March 11th – December 2nd 2022
    (ready for the Wednesday 7th December 2022 sitting)
    Zoom meetings probably on Fridays
    Exact time TBC depending on availability of participants
    > Early bird prices available until 18th February 2022
  • Summer course, 9 weeks + 3 monthly meetings
    June 27th-August 26th 2022 + 1 meeting each in the final week of September, October, November
    (ready for the Wednesday 7th December 2022 sitting)
    Zoom meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
    Exact time TBC depending on availability of participants
    > Early bird prices available until 6th June 2022

You can find out more about the full course on the Take your time Delta Module One page on my blog, including information about the prices. You can apply for the course here.

Delta Conversations: Martin

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.

Martin Hajek works as an English teacher in the private sector in Colombia. He moved into TEFL in 2017 when he did his CELTA at CELT Athens. He fell in love with the profession and decided to focus on his professional development. You can read about his journey on his blog teflincolombia.com and follow him on Twitter @martinhajek_ELT. [Note from Sandy: Martin has lots of useful information about Delta on his blog – I’d definitely recommend it!]

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

II took the Delta Module One exam at the British Council in Bogotá in June 2019 after individual preparation. I got a Pass with Merit and decided to do Module Three on my own as well. It proved to be a rash decision because I had to resubmit the assignment. I asked for marker feedback and rewrote the essay according to it. I passed the module after submitting it in June 2020 through NILE, whose tutor read my assignment and told me that it was good enough to pass. Finally, I took IH Mexico’s online Module Two course from January to March 2021 and received a Pass with Merit.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

The first decision was kind of an accident, really. I actually wanted to take a preparation course with one of the distance course providers, but my payment kept getting rejected for no apparent reason, so I gave up and decided to prepare for the exam by myself. I couldn’t do Module Two immediately afterwards because online courses weren’t approved at that time. There are no course providers in Colombia and I couldn’t find a local tutor in the city where I lived, so I chose to do Module Three instead. I was then ready to travel to Mexico to do Module Two in person in 2020, but we all know what happened that year. When the option to do the module fully online was approved, I decided to do so because I didn’t want to keep waiting any longer.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

A huge confidence boost! When I did my CELTA, there was a Delta course taking place concurrently at the centre. We mingled with those teachers and even observed one of the lessons, and I found it all very inspirational. I loved my CELTA experience and from that moment I knew that I would do a Delta at some point in the future. I managed to reach the goal four years later, which brought me a sense of achievement, and I hope that it will allow me to have a long-term career in TEFL. In practical terms, I feel that the Delta has helped me make principled decisions. I enjoy going beyond the coursebook and designing my own activities from scratch, and I found all three modules beneficial in that regard.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

The biggest issue was doing Module Three before Module Two. I think it makes sense to do the diploma in the conventional order because the first two modules prepare you for the extended assignment. In addition, doing Module Two online is probably more challenging than the in-person course because many things can go wrong teaching through Zoom. It’s also more difficult to build a sense of camaraderie with other candidates. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to meet amazing people from around the world and we did have fun in our Module Two group, but it wasn’t the same experience as studying together in the library and discussing lessons, essays, and books over lunch.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Since I did Module One and Three independently, it helped me discover many helpful resources. I became very organised and improved my strategies for studying autonomously. My approach also helped me save money, particularly by taking Module Two online. I didn’t need to stop working and travel to another country to take the course there. 

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Take advantage of free online resources. There is a lot of useful information on blogs and various websites. The Delta handbook is very helpful, but reading practical advice from those who have completed the diploma is even better.
  • Take notes when you do your background reading so that you know where to find key information. You also need to bear in mind that it’s necessary to have access to a lot of books and articles to pass the Delta. This is particularly important when you take a distance course, so you need to make sure that you’ll be able to do your reading.
  • Learn how to use relevant features of Microsoft Word or another similar program. Knowing how to create a table of contents, cross-references, or footers will help you save time. It will also make your documents easier to mark for the tutors and assessors.
  • When your tutors tell you that you should improve in a specific area, take their advice seriously. They want to make you a better teacher and it’s their job to give you negative feedback when you make mistakes. Nobody enjoys being criticised, but reflecting on your teaching practice is an important element of professional development, so it’s necessary to take the feedback on board.
  • Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to experiment. There isn’t just one way to teach, so it’s a good idea to explore other methods and approaches. For example, you need to pass only one of the internal LSAs in Module Two, so I think it makes sense to try something new in one of the observed lessons instead of relying on tried and tested methods and materials. Delta shouldn’t be only about confirming what you already know; it’s also an opportunity to teach challenging lessons that you haven’t done before.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

In hindsight, I should have asked someone to read my first Module Three essay and give me feedback. I wasn’t ready to submit it on my own without having done Module Two. There are a lot of criteria to pay attention to, and I underestimated how strict the marking is.

Delta Conversations: Claire

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.

Claire Parsons started out in EFL in 2012 as a British Council Language Assistant in Chile. After a year, she decided she liked teaching, and took her CELTA in Strasbourg in 2014. She has since worked in Vietnam, Poland, the UK, Israel and Spain. She is currently based at IH San Sebastián in Spain, where she passed the IHCYLT in 2018, and the Delta in January 2021. She’s interested in teacher training and materials writing. When she’s not teaching, she can be found cooking, reading, hiking or knitting. 

Claire Parsons

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I did my Delta part-time, through the Distance Delta for all 3 modules. I worked in the same school for the duration of my Delta. I started in 2018, and decided to do Module 1 first, to “ease” myself into the swing of things – I took a prep course starting in September, and took the exam in December. I started Module 3 in the following March, and completed it by June. I started Module 2 in September 2019, and the plan was to have everything done and dusted by April 2020… but you can guess what got in the way! I ended up deferring Module 2 until a later session because of COVID, and eventually completed Module 2 in October 2020, before the country went into partial lockdown (again). 

Why did you choose to do it that way?

In practical terms, it would have been difficult for me to get time off from my current job to do an intensive course. I had several friends and co-workers who had taken the Delta through the Distance Delta and they were really happy with the support they received. I also liked the idea that I could study and work at the same time, and not have to commit to an intensive course somewhere else (as full-time courses aren’t on offer where I am currently based). I also spoke to friends who DID take the intensive format, and I honestly think if I’d done it that way, I wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale! 

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Loads! I remember my DoS in San Sebastián saying that her Delta comes in useful every day, and I have to agree. I feel like I got much better at evaluating what makes a lesson effective, and I think it opened my eyes to how many different ways there are to teach something. The Professional Development Assignment I completed over the course of Module 2 was probably the most enjoyable part for me, because I liked taking the time to really think about what I needed to work on to become a better teacher. I think it helped me think more critically about what my strengths are and exploit them, and what my weaknesses are to try and address them. It’s also come in useful as my school put me in charge of putting together assessment materials for some of our Young Learner levels, which meant that I could put my Module 3 knowledge (which focused on YLs) to good use. Not a day goes by where I don’t use something I learnt from the Delta. 

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It took over my life for the best part of 2 years, and at times it felt like there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t reading, meeting a deadline, tweaking a lesson plan, and so on. It was quite a lonely experience at times because there wasn’t anyone else at my school taking Module 2 at the same time as me. Although plenty of senior staff and other teachers in my school have taken the Delta, it’s very different when there’s no-one going through the same things as you at the same time! I think I was disciplined enough to stick to the deadlines set, and to do enough reading and research without being prodded and reminded, but this is definitely something you should be brutally honest with yourself about: if you’re not so good at organising your own time, maybe this method isn’t the best way forward for you. 

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Financially, it worked out well because I was earning my normal salary while I studied. It meant I also spared myself the stress of finding short-term accommodation in a new city! I also felt comfortable with the profile of students I was teaching, so I didn’t feel under pressure to get to know a new learning culture in a short space of time. Spreading the Delta over a year or two meant that I could experiment a lot more, and take my time to try out things I was reading about! I was really grateful for the Module 2 orientation course in London. There were only 4 of us, and our tutor was amazing, so I feel like we all received an incredible amount of support over the 2 weeks we were there. I got MUCH better at managing my planning time: because I was working a busy timetable throughout the courses, I had to really learn to prioritise and plan effectively. This has been a really important takeaway since finishing the Delta, as now I realise that I can plan effectively without agonising for far too long on a lesson plan!   

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Do the Delta because you WANT to be a better teacher. I think that people sometimes believe the Delta is the next logical step in an EFL career, but I think that’s only really true if you’re willing to put your teaching under a microscope and actively decide you want to make it better. Check if there’s an academic library in your school or city. Although the Distance Delta provides access to a lot of articles and reading materials, it’s helpful to have access to other books that are recommended on the reading lists. Make sure you have a decent break before you start Module 2. I had just done a 6-week summer school and went straight into the orientation course in London, then straight back to my normal job! I was exhausted before I’d really even started. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel in your LSAs. Tutors aren’t interested in how fancy your lesson is if you haven’t met your aims! Although there’s SO MUCH literature available, try to resist the temptation to read every single chapter/book that you hear mentioned during the course. Be selective with what you read, and ask your tutors for advice if you’re stuck.  

Delta Conversations: Harriet

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.

Harriet Lowe discovered her passion for teaching English in Italy, returning to London to complete her CELTA in 2016 and continued teaching English and EAP (English for Academic Purposes) at various institutions in London. She has attempted to bridge the gap between theory and practice, continuing teaching alongside her PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Greenwich. Since completing the Delta, she has become a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and the Academic Manager for English Language Courses at the University of Greenwich, and a Dissertation Supervisor in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at UCL. She continues to use her research, which uses eye-tracking methodology to gain insights into the cognitive processes behind second language acquisition, and knowledge gained from the Delta to influence her teaching, teacher training and curriculum development. More information can be found on her website https://harrietllowe.wordpress.com

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I ended up doing my Delta in a rather jumbled way but I still found the modules really complemented each other regardless of the arrangement of them. I started with Module 2, attending a part-time course at Oxford House College in London, with Tuesday and Thursday evening classes and four full Saturdays spread over a few months. I followed with Module 3, which I did independently, with a private tutor just looking over the final draft. In general, the advice on the Cambridge website gave me sufficient support and direction to complete this module alone. Most colleagues who I spoke to told me that the paid courses were just access to links and books, but I was lucky enough to have full access to my university library and journals, which I was able to use as research and sources throughout the module. I ironically finished with Module 1, with the help of a private tutor, who provided me with materials, feedback on mock exams and a lot of intense studying!

Why did you choose to do it that way?

With working part-time and doing a PhD, I only had time to do one module at a time. I had heard how intense each module was and despite being encouraged to wait to complete module 1 first (to ensure my terminology knowledge was adequate) I happened to think about the Delta when a Module 2 course was starting, so it seemed most convenient to do it this way. I also knew how bad I was at exams so I wanted to make sure I had the time to be able to revise for this module (and I am pleased I waited to do this – because it requires hours of studying!)

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

I gained a lot from the Delta. Although I found some problems with the Module 2 course which led to me completing the final two modules independently, each module encouraged continuous reflection and consideration of my own teaching, my theoretical knowledge, and the future of my teaching. Reflecting on the individual modules…

Module 2 – I learnt so much from colleagues and conversations about my lessons, especially my background essays and plans. Completing these was not necessarily the bit I learnt from but discussing the ins and outs with colleagues and my mentor helped me consider the impact of my lesson materials, staging and approach on my learners. This was not just the CELTA ‘Can you teach a lesson?’; but this was ‘How does your lesson effectively encourage learning?’ and I really enjoyed and developed from these considerations. This module completely changed the way I envisage and plan lessons, focusing on my learners and the acquisition of the target language, and I have seen a real change in my learners since.

Module 3 – I struggled with this module, having to adapt the academic writing I am used to, but again learnt to adjust my perspective, bridging that gap between theory and practice. Being encouraged to look at course design from a student-centred perspective helped both my own English teaching and curriculum development.

Module 1 – Having taught theories of SLA at university, I had a head start on this section of the exam; however, I was thrilled to be able to fully focus on phonology and phonetics. I’ve never really been a grammar nerd, but I had a chance to really sit down and study this in more detail. 

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It took a long time. Of course, the impact of COVID was completely out of my control and I had to delay Module 1 by 9 months which delayed job development opportunities. I felt like I was dragging by the end!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I had time to continue working alongside the Delta and put the knowledge into practice throughout the entire process. By the end (Module 1), I had spent nearly a year self-studying and continuing to develop my knowledge and understanding of the concepts from Modules 2 and 3. Spreading the modules out like this meant I could see the influence of the modules on my teaching as I completed the Diploma.

The modules are hard-core and require your time. Doing the modules separately was really beneficial as I spent around 2-3 hours a day every day studying for Module 1. Module 2 completely absorbed my life for the month of the part-time course, and I spent at least 6 full weekends of research and writing for Module 3. I’m not sure how much I could’ve processed and learnt if I tried to do all these concurrently.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

I found spreading the modules over time greatly beneficial to really see myself develop as a teacher. I would also encourage anyone completing the DELTA to not just consider it as the final step in your teaching CPD, but as a stepping stone to open the world of ELT research, L2 research, and the connection between these two for you.

Delta conversations: Jenni

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.

Jenni started teaching in Poland in 2014 following a CELTA from British Council Krakow. She moved back to the UK two years later as she found love during her Christmas holiday back home. She then spent time teaching in language schools and summer schools in the UK. In 2018, she completed her Delta and currently works as an online tutor and course developer. She enjoys an #eltwhiteboard and tweets @jennifoggteach.

Jenni Fogg

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I did an ‘intensive’ Delta, where the course runs over 15 weeks and the modules are completed concurrently. At Leeds Beckett (formerly Leeds Metropolitan) University, you work towards completing an internal qualification – a Postgraduate Certificate in English Language Teaching and Professional Practice, which prepares you for your Delta and counts towards it (the internal LSAs are part of both qualifications).

You prepare for the Module 1 exam through a series of workshops and homework tasks as well as taking a full Delta-style exam in exam conditions. This counts towards your PG Cert. and acts as a Delta mock.

The module 2 preparation included weekly sessions with advice on writing LSAs and background essays. The work you submit becomes part of your portfolio for both Leeds Beckett and Cambridge.

In module 3, there were deadlines throughout the semester for each section, with the view that the whole piece of work is completed within 15 weeks. We then gave a 15-minute presentation on our specialism. This was interesting as we got to learn about other specialisms and could see how people approached them in different ways.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I really wanted to do a course quickly as I found that teaching positions in the UK were generally low-paid and there was little chance of promotion without a Delta. I was already living in Leeds, within walking distance of the university, and was teaching part-time in a local language school, which meant I could teach my own class for the LSAs. It made sense to take this route. I also found the PG Cert. attractive, as it meant I could put this on my CV while I was still waiting for the results of the Delta.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

I really enjoyed reading more about SLA [Second Language Acquisition] and feel I benefited from the further reading in general; this is something I couldn’t find time to do before the course. It also made me a more reflective teacher and I now take time to consider why I have planned and structured a lesson in a certain way. I also really enjoyed all the opportunities to observe my peers and teachers online. This was a great way to discover effective new ways to teach.

The intensive nature of the course meant that we bonded quickly as a class and I made several close friends. It also gave me confidence to become more present in the ELT community on Twitter.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It was absolutely exhausting. Doing the course in 15 weeks whilst teaching at the same time was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It meant very early starts and late nights with every waking minute focused on reading, writing or lesson planning. The deadlines across different modules often fell on the same day too. It required insane organisation!

Also, because I wasn’t working full-time, I didn’t earn a lot of money throughout the course. I had to manage my money carefully (but really didn’t have much opportunity to spend it!).

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

From starting the course to achieving all three module certificates took 11 months. The course took place from the end of September to the start of January. We sat the exam and submitted Module 3 in June and then had to wait for the results. As we received our PG Cert. soon after the start of the year, we could put this on our CV in the meantime, which meant I managed to get a Director of Studies job in time for the summer, despite not having my Delta results yet.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

If you choose to do the Delta this way, you will need to become an organisation master. I used Evernote for general to-do lists, storing my notes, saving useful websites and making sure each notepad was correctly-titled and saved in the right place. I also printed an A3 calendar where I wrote all my deadlines down and what work I needed to do each day. Deadlines tended to creep up on me so I needed an easy reference to see where I was up to.

I tried to use my weekends effectively, spending most of one day in the library, and spending the other day relaxing, cleaning, seeing family and doing some bulk cooking for the week. Thankfully, my lovely boyfriend cooked a lot during the course, which stopped me from getting scurvy.

I would also recommend doing as much work as possible before the course starts, both doing some preliminary reading from a Delta reading list (there are lots online) as well as reading about how other people approached it – this is a good place to start!

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

In this intensive course, it was a lot. I turned on my laptop to start working between 6-7am and finished around 10-11pm. We had lessons at the university from 12-5pm on Mondays and Fridays and I taught in the afternoons on the other three days of the week. I don’t want to work the number of hours out!

Delta conversations: Jo

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.

Jo Gillespie

Jo got her BA way back in 1994 in Christchurch, NZ, with a double major in Linguistics and Education, knowing that she wanted to teach English. After gaining the Trinity CertTESOL, she began teaching in Christchurch at various English schools. Although she changed careers a couple of times, she always knew that teaching ESL was what she wanted to do, so finally in 1999, she took courage and left for a year’s teaching in the Czech Republic. While travelling, she met her husband, who is Italian, so moved to Italy, where she has been living and teaching ever since. She began the Delta in 2010, and finally completed Module 3 in 2016. After six years as a primary school teacher in a small international school, she has just moved to a DoS role at a local English school (and has started a blog about it), while maintaining a part time role as primary coordinator at the primary school. She’s about to begin an MA in TESOL, Leadership and Management.

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? 

I did the Delta part time, and all three modules were done through International House Accademia Britannica in Rome. I did them in order and think that was very helpful, as it moved from the theory to the practical, and then putting it all together in Module 3.

Module 1 was blended online. There was also an online-only option, but I wanted to meet the people with whom I was studying. We were divided into study groups in a WikiSpaces classroom and met face-to-face on a Friday for input sessions about theory. We studied mock exam questions and prepared for the exam itself.

Module 2 was again part time and blended, with the face-to-face sessions on Fridays. We had input sessions in the morning, and then teaching in the afternoons. We worked in TP groups both online and at the centre.

A face-to-face course was also arranged for Module 3, which I attended, always part-time and always on a Friday. We looked at each part of the extended assignment, and began to draft our Extended Assignment (EA). However, after the course finished, it took me another 3 or 4 years to get my EA completed and submitted (oops).

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I had just completed the IH Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teens (IHCYLT) at the same school, and I really liked my colleagues and the tutors. As I knew that a couple of people from the YL course would be going on to do the Delta, I decided to join them. Rome is not very far from where I live (it took about an hour and a half each way), and my employer was flexible and happy to give me Fridays off to study, so it was a good fit all round. Doing it part-time also meant that it wasn’t such a financial burden, and I had enough time to dedicate to it, even though I was working almost full-time, and I had two small children. I probably put in about 2-3 hours of study each day during the week, then intensive study face-to-face. The M3 EA took a lot longer than it should have because I changed jobs between Modules 2 and 3.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Oh, so much! A much better grounding in the theory and practice of ELT. An understanding of the research that goes into the theories – and a desire to keep learning. The confidence to experiment in the classroom. The desire to conduct action research with, about, and for my students. My M3 EA was about CLIL [Content and Language Integrated Learning] with young learners – which has led to a key role in an Erasmus+ project about that very subject. The Delta has also opened doors and has led to a move into a Director of Studies position, and teacher training.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I really don’t think there were any. It was a great balance of tasks online, and face-to-face workshops. It was intense, but doable.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I was able to combine it with work. I met people who were doing it at the same time and developed lasting relationships with them. The extended timeframe meant that I could get all the reading done (mostly).

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Get your hands on a reading list as soon as you start thinking about enrolling and start working your way through it! Make notes and mind maps about everything. Use tools like Quizlet (where there are already many Delta M1 quizzes) to help you memorise the definitions of all the terminology. Start watching teaching videos online with a critical eye, in preparation for M2. And start thinking about your EA very early.

In retrospect…

I don’t think there is much I would do differently except: study a tiny bit harder for M1; choose anything BUT a listening lesson for my final TP (the one where Cambridge is watching) – or else, use commercial materials instead of trying to make my own (ugh – lucky I passed!) I was going to say “spend less time fretting over M3” – but I chose something relatively unexplored and with hindsight, I am glad it took me as long as it did, because the end result is something of which I am very proud. I am even thinking of squeezing in another M3 EA, this time with the ELTM specialism! That’s doable, right?

Delta conversations: Jim

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.

Jim Fuller began his TEFL career after taking his CertTESOL in London in 2014. From there he moved to Italy and taught for three years, in which time his interest in developing further in ELT was piqued and so he began his Delta. He now lives in Almeria, Spain and works at McGinty School of English as the Head Teacher Trainer. Always looking to develop further, Jim is also currently taking his Masters in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. Jim blogs at https://spongeelt.wordpress.com/.

Jim Fuller

How did you do your Delta?

My Delta began in 2016. I was working in Bologna, Italy, and had decided that I wanted to make a career out of ELT and Delta was, in my mind, the next logical step. I took Module 1 first, followed by Module 3 and then finishing with Module 2. For Module 1, I completed a preparation course as I really had no idea what to expect – thankfully I did! And Modules 3 and 2 were both done via distance.

How did you arrange the modules? Why did you choose to do it that way?

I completed Delta this way mainly due to course timings. The Module 1 course started about four months before the exam. Then, I wasn’t able to go straight onto Module 2 because I had planned to move to Spain, so I did Module 3. Once I arrived in Spain, I took Module 2, starting in September and finishing in June of the following year.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Whoa! Big question. I believe there are two ‘main’ gains from Delta (among many). Firstly, a much more refined awareness of my teaching and how it affects learning in the classroom. Prior to Delta, I can say that I was a good teacher, but I had no idea about why I was doing something and what the possible advantages and/or disadvantages might have been. Secondly, the philosophy of reflection. Delta, especially Module 2, requires that you be reflective, and, in my opinion, it is this reflection that brings about the most change! So, it’s not enough to just be reflective whilst doing Delta… you need to continue post-Delta (Delta gets you into a good rhythm of reflective practice).

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Well, I think that even though the modules can be taken in any order, there is a clear advantage to doing them in order. When I finished Module 2 and looked back at my extended assignment for Module 3, I noticed a lot of things that I would have changed had I done Module 2 previously. That being said, a lot of the research I did for Module 3 came in handy for Module 2!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Doing Delta via distance is somewhat daunting for some candidates because it is a long commitment. However, this time that you have enables you to trial techniques, methods, activities, etc. in class, and then reflect on them and how they could be used in either Delta or normal lessons. I would not have liked to do the intensive Delta simply because I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to experiment, research and then draw my own conclusions over an extended period of time. Each to their own, though!

What would you change if you did the Delta again?

Overall, I don’t think I would change any major points, but the one thing I would change is my knowledge of Word. You will be using Word a lot, so it’s best to make sure you know how to use it. You would be surprised by how much time you can save by learning how to have a table of contents created automatically, or how hyperlinks can make your document easier to read and navigate. Most of these I discovered at the end of my Delta – thinking about the amount of time I would have saved eats at my soul sometimes! [Sandy’s note: my preparing for the Delta page includes pages which help you to use Word more efficiently.]

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

My main tips are:
  • Start reading early, but be selective with what you read. There is so much information and interesting stuff in the books you are likely to read, and it is very easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole. Just be cognizant of the time you are spending reading certain parts of certain books. I usually preferred to read the ‘conclusions’ or ‘final comments’ sections first as these usually contained summaries of the chapters, articles, etc.
  • Clear your schedule while you are studying. You will be studying for anywhere between 10 – 25 hours a week over the course of your Delta, so the fewer distractions or unnecessary commitments you have the better.
  • Listen to your tutors. These guys have mentored and tutored candidates time and time again and they are a wealth of knowledge.
  • Speak to other candidates, both past and present. Delta automatically creates a community of practice with lots of people looking for and/or willing to give advice. There are many places you can find (or give) help – Facebook, online forums, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. There is no one way to do Delta – this includes doing the LSAs [Module 2 assignments], etc. There is a phenomenal amount of choice allowed (sometimes the hardest thing is deciding what to do), so don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Have fun. Delta can be arduous and tiresome at times, but you need to make time for little celebrations to ensure that you stay (relatively) sane. So, finished that background assignment? Have a glass of wine! Finished reading that chapter about cleft sentences and you’ve finally understood what the author was talking about? Sit back and relax for a bit!

Delta conversations: Iza

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.

Iza has been an EFL teacher for 9 years. She has an MA in English Philology and did her CELTA in 2011 at IH Katowice where she worked as a senior teacher for 5 years. She has also been teaching EAP at the University of Birmingham. She completed her Delta between 2015 and 2017. Recently she has been juggling the jobs of a freelance teacher in Poland and a teacher trainer on Cert TESOL courses in Spain and Italy.

Iza Mania

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? (i.e. in what order and did you do them in different places?)

I did Module 1 first, then Module 3 the year after and then finally Module 2. I chose this order mainly because my friend motivated me to do Module 1 as she found it quite enjoyable. I guess I was also trying to put off the most difficult one as long as possible (don’t ask me if that’s the right way to do it). I did Module 1 and 3 on my own, i.e. with no course and no tutors. For Module 3, I had two supportive colleagues – one who is an expert on EAP, which I chose as my specialism and the other one who proofread my assignment checking for what Delta examiners expect. I was very lucky to work at IH Katowice at that time as they had quite a wide selection of methodology books. I did Module 2 online, which means all the assignments were discussed and submitted via Moodle, but I had a local tutor who observed my lessons.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I think starting with Module 1 is the best way to do it as you gain a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge that comes in useful when you complete the other two modules. Working on my own saved me both time (there was a weekend Module 1 course but it was a 3-hour drive from my home) and money. It was mainly due to my two friends (thanks Zuza and Kate) who said that with the right amount of determination and self-discipline, I could do it myself. And I did! Doing module 2 online was not my first choice but a necessity (lack of places on the course in Warsaw). However, it worked out all right in the end.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

The Delta has made me much more analytical and reflective when it comes to my own teaching practice. I choose and plan the stages of my lessons more carefully now and look at the learning process more from the learners’ than the teacher’s point of view. Obviously, you have to read a lot but that means that you get to know many different approaches to language learning. Having done that, I feel more confident as a teacher trainer and pay more attention to CPD. Finally, it also gave me an opportunity to work on such aspects of TEFL as testing, course design or materials writing (which you might not always have the chance to do if you work as a teacher but which might be necessary if you want to move on to a more senior position). I personally think it is quite a door opener – I really enjoy being a teacher trainer – a job I wouldn’t be able to do if I hadn’t done my Delta.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Doing Module 1 and 3 on my own required a lot of determination and good time management (well, I guess Delta always requires that, doesn’t it?) I had doubts and sometimes I thought it would have been nice to have someone who could help me deal with them. I also didn’t get to take a mock for Module 1 which I believe would have been very useful, especially in terms of time management in the actual exam. As to Module 2, I was worried that not having a face-to-face contact with my tutor, getting delayed responses to my questions and having very little support from peers would be frustrating. Luckily, the online mode turned out to be a really convenient way of studying (see below).

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I saved money and commuting time, that’s for sure. Being able to do things at my own pace from the comfort of my home made the experience a bit less stressful. For Module 3 I also started working in the summer for my December submission; that gave me extra time for reading, needs analysis, etc. My Module 2 tutors were very efficient when it came to online communication. Also I got to teach groups I already knew which made writing learner profiles and anticipating problems easier. In addition, this module was quite intensive as it was a 3-month course. Even though it might sound like a downside (especially if you work full-time), it actually means that you give up your life for 3 months only, get it done with and then forget about it!

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

For Module 1, do a lot of past papers. Clearly, you need to do your reading too but you also need to know exactly what the Delta examiners expect. Also pay attention to the new format – it’s not ‘write as much as you can’ anymore. There’s a certain degree of repetition in the answers you can give. Obviously, don’t copy them mindlessly but take advantage of that (e.g. you could make a list of all features of parts of speech you need to include in the language analysis task).

For Module 2, make your life easy and choose these areas of language you feel most confident about. I chose the easiest area for my first LSA, as passing this one took a lot of pressure off me. There’s not much point reading intensively before the course; focus on the specific areas you are going to cover in your LSAs. Also set yourself a realistic work plan and stick to it!

For Module 3, choose a specialism that you have already worked in and you know something about. In addition, make sure your tutor is actually an expert in this specialism. And stick to word limits (this applies to Module 2 as well) – it’s not worth losing points here.

For all of the modules, I would say be prepared for hard yet very rewarding work. Read the handbook carefully and get support from others (blogs, colleagues who have done it already, tutors, peers). Very soon, you’ll be done with it and you will be able to reflect on the whole experience and notice the benefits. And finally, do go out sometimes, assuming that you want to stay sane!

Delta conversations: Kirsten

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.

Kirsten Colquhoun qualified with a TEFL certificate in 2003. Since then she has taught in Thailand, China, Spain, England, Qatar and South Africa. She did her Delta while teaching in Cambridge in 2009. Now she is back at home in Cape Town, working as a TEFL trainer, writer, materials developer and blogger. She blogs on teaching at www.jellybeanqueen.wordpress.com and on parenting at www.birdandthebeard.com .

 Kirsten Colquhoun

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? (i.e. in what order and did you do them in different places?)

To be honest, I didn’t really know much about the Delta before I started it. When I finished my Master’s degree in English and Applied Linguistics I knew that I wanted to continue studying but something more directly related to my teaching. My Master’s was amazing and gave me a great background to language learning and languages in general, but I wanted to learn more about the practical side of teaching, which led me to the Delta.

So I did Module 2 first. I was living in the UK at the time and I realized that I could do Module 2 in Europe for cheaper than in the UK – and I’d be living in Europe! I’m South African, so that’s a big plus for me! I applied to International House Barcelona and was accepted after a horrendous interview (tip: be prepared. This is not for fun and games). That was 8 weeks full-time. I did Modules 1 and 3 independently afterwards but at the same time.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I was lucky enough to be able to afford Module 2 full-time and because the course was in Spain and my job was in Cambridge it was never really a question of doing both at the same time.

When I went back to Cambridge I had to go back to work which is why I decided to do the other 2 modules independently. I didn’t realise you could do online courses to get help but I managed ok without. If I remember correctly, I started both modules in August and they were both due in December, so I reckoned I had enough time to work and do both. I basically just wanted to get them over and done with.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

So much. It’s difficult to put it into words but my whole attitude to teaching changed. Something in my teaching shifted and suddenly things started to make sense to me. It was probably a combination of all the theory I had become aware of and the recognition and acknowledgement of my teaching ability – my knowledge had increased but so had my confidence.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Doing Modules 1 and 3 independently was probably harder than it needed to be. I passed both (Module 1 even with Merit) but I feel I could’ve done better if I had had more guidance. I really had no idea what I was doing!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Doing Module 2 full-time was the best decision I could’ve made. I had the best time living in Barcelona – I mean, who wouldn’t?! – but I had the freedom of time to really sink into the reading we needed to do, think about my lessons and connect with the other students on my course. Doing it full-time also meant that the whole experience was condensed which really helped me focus.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Do as much of the reading beforehand as you can so that you are as prepared as possible before you begin. Do one module at a time so you can focus on it without worrying about the others at the same time. Find a mentor to give you guidance. This can be someone you know who has done the Delta before or someone from a course provider – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel and it’s useful to know exactly what’s expected of you.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

Taken more time. I felt I needed to do all three modules as quickly as possible. Working full-time became a nightmare, so there were a few weeks when I cut my hours so I could put more time into my Delta.

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

For Modules 1 and 3 I think I was doing maybe 3 to 5 hours a day, so say about 15 – 20 hours a week. It was really difficult with work because some days I would have more time than others so my weeks were never the same.

Delta conversations: James E.

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.

James studied French and Spanish at university before teaching in Spain for four years, during which time he completed the Delta. In 2016 he moved to Riga, Latvia to work at International House, where he is currently an ADOS. He blogs at  https://jamesegerton.wordpress.com/.

James Egerton

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? 

I hopped around a bit: 1-3-2.

I first heard about Delta when attending an informal meeting of teachers from several different academies in May 2014 in Albacete, Spain, with the aim of training each other for the Module 1 exam in Madrid that December. We dished out several books each to look at over summer and did a couple of seminars together that September, but once the full whirlwind of term came through again it was clear our regular meetings and study sessions just weren’t going to happen, and the group somewhat evaporated.

So down to just a colleague and me, we studied with a range of resources:

  • Delta Module 1 Quizlet deck for the terminology
  • Several excellent blogs – Sandy’s [thanks!] and Lizzie Pinard’s in particular.
  • Past papers and combing through the corresponding Examination Reports for improvements.

We took the Module 1 exam in December 2014. Following the exam, we sat down with the head of teacher training at IH Madrid to get more information on how to go about taking the remaining two Modules, and I completed the Module 3 essay between January and March 2015 as a distance learner with IH Madrid. This involved regular e-mail contact, including draft edits, and only one train trip up to the capital to borrow some books I needed and speak to my supervisor face-to-face. Finally, I did Module 2 at an intensive course at IH London in July and August 2015. It was a sustained attack on the brain for 6 weeks, but that’s how it had to be (see next question)!

Why did you choose to do it that way?

In a word, practicalities.

Albacete is a small city, with the nearest Delta centre a couple of hours away in Madrid, so physically attending a course regularly just wasn’t compatible with the work schedule I had. Nor did I want to stop working full time to take the qualification, although I had to extend my summer break a little to squeeze in 6 weeks for the intensive Module 2. It was also important for me to get it done as soon as possible, as once I’ve started something I prefer to ride the wave of momentum until finishing, and 1-3-2 was the quickest route available.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Without overstating it, it was truly a fork in the road for me. Overall, the Delta marked the point that I stopped looking at being in ELT as a short-time teaching job (year to year then see how I feel each summer) and started considering it more as a career with the possibility to develop.

There was a short talk at the end of the Module 2 course in London on how we continue our professional development with a Delta certificate tucked under one arm, and I went about several of the mentioned possibilities (not all necessarily require Delta, though!):

  1. Academic management – I went back to Albacete to work as a Director of Studies for our small two-centre academy in 2015-16, then started applying for jobs in the new year with the Delta sitting on my CV, which opens a lot more doors. I got a job as Senior Teacher at International House Riga, and am just starting my second year here, this time as Assistant Director of Studies. Working at IH has in turn opened many more doors, but that’s a story for another day.
  2. Reflecting on and starting my own blog on ELT (Sandy’s blog was actually the example given)
    Post-Delta M2 advice
  3. Teacher training – This started in-house, and thanks to the Delta I got fast-tracked and have recently qualified as a IHCYLT [IH Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers] course tutor. I’d eventually like to become a CELTA trainer when the opportunity arises.
  4. Joining IATEFL and connecting with colleagues from around the world.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

It was hectic at times! Studying Module 1 alongside work was a relatively gentle introduction; doing Module 3 alongside work meant plenty of early mornings, late evenings and studying at weekends; Module 2 was the knockout punch just at a time of year when I needed a break.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

It was over in a total of 10 months. This meant that I didn’t have time to forget much, and the definitions and technicalities from Module 1 came in very handy for Modules 3 and 2. I was also able to earn and learn simultaneously (except for Module 2), so although my head took a pummelling, my bank account stayed in the black.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Research all the options. There are so many ways to do it, find the one that best fits you. [Delta conversations can help you by describing lots of different ways.]

Don’t expect it to be fun. It’s useful, challenging, interesting at times, but ‘fun’ isn’t an adjective I’d ever use.

Do it with others if possible. My colleague and I really helped each other out preparing for Module 1 – good to have someone to check things over with, do study sessions and provide a bit of healthy competition (she got a Merit, I just passed!)

Climb the mountain in sections. Plan ahead, sure, but focus on your next tasks. I saw many people get overwhelmed at the enormity of the task, which either resulted in meltdowns or worse, dropping out. ‘By the end of the day I will have…’ is more than enough, especially during any intensive courses.

Be organised. The previous point just won’t work if not.

Be resilient. The Module 1 exam might not go so well first time, your teaching techniques might be pulled apart in Module 2, your essay draft might need a complete reconstruction in Module 3. There are plenty of speed humps; the key is to keep going!

If you have any further questions, feel free to get in touch at james.egerton@tiscali.co.uk.

All the best!

Delta conversations: Yuliya

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.

Yuliya Speroff is originally from Russia and has lived in several countries including the UK, New Zealand and, most recently, Turkey, where she spent three years teaching English and coordinating the work of the Curriculum Design and Materials Development office at an Intensive English Program at a private university in Kayseri. Yuliya has been teaching English for over 10 years, including two years as Director of Studies at a language school. Yuliya attained her CELTA in New Zealand in 2012 and her DELTA in 2017. Currently, Yuliya is working as a freelance ESL and Russian teacher and lives in Franklin, Tennessee.  Yuliya’s research interests include developing effective materials and using technology in the classroom. She has a blog with ELT ideas, resources and tips (including for the Delta) at https://yuliyasperoffblog.wordpress.com/

Yuliya Speroff

How did you do your Delta?

I did Module 1 and Module 3 (in that order) online with ITI Istanbul and Module 2 was a blended course with AVO Bell in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I was working full-time teaching English at an intensive English program at a university and there were no Module 2 courses (or indeed, any DELTA courses other than online ones) where I was living at the time so I went with the online option for Module 1 and 3. In addition, I needed a course that I could fit around my schedule.

As far as the next step Module 2, the course that AVO Bell offered was a bit shorter than other courses out there. Due to the fact some coursework was done long-distance prior to the beginning of the face-to-face portion of the course (namely, EPA and LSA1), the course itself was only 5 weeks long. Since I was limited in how much time off work I could take, that decided it for me.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?


The biggest thing for me is probably both the bigger picture and the detailed understanding of SLA (second language acquisition) I gained – that is, what it takes to learn a language and how we, as teachers, can help our students do that. I definitely feel I am better equipped to help my students choose the best strategies for learning and understand why things happen in a certain way. For example, when students ask me why it’s so hard to understand native speakers, rather than give a vague answer, I can now tell them about connected speech and how it affects pronunciation and what some strategies are for coping with that. Writing longer assignments and lesson plans for Module 2 and 3 definitely helped me improve my research and academic writing skills and, as a result, get better at writing conference proposals and presentations. Teaching all those observed lessons and writing post-lesson evaluations taught me about the value of reflection and self-evaluation and that regardless of how long you`ve been teaching there’s always room for improvement.

Is there a word limit for this? Because I have more!

DELTA gave me the confidence to teach Russian (my native language) as a foreign language. As native speakers of English can attest, teaching your own native language isn’t always easy, but I realized that everything I learned about methodology, designing courses and planning lessons in ELT can be readily applied to teaching another foreign language, namely Russian. In addition, most importantly, doing DELTA helped me get into teacher training and that is something I have been interested in for a long time.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

There weren’t really any downsides as such but doing Module 1 online was my first such experience and it took me a few weeks to get used to the layout and the features of the LMS (ITI uses Moodle). Even though there were lots of ‘what to do first’ sort of guidelines, in the beginning I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and that took some getting used to.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

After reading about DELTA I thought Module 1 would be the most logical place to start since preparing for the exam requires you to read up on so many areas in ELT and it did work out that way. I feel that all that background reading and answering exam questions, especially the ones about the purpose for textbook tasks and the assumptions underlying the design of the tasks set me up really well for designing my own course in Module 3 and writing detailed lesson plans in Module 2. Doing an online course helped me do things in my own time, although having deadlines also kept me on task. One great thing about the course that ITI Istanbul offers is that when the time comes to register for the exam, should you decide that you are not quite ready yet, you can enroll in the next online course free of charge – and that is exactly what I did when I realized I needed more time to prepare.

As for Module 2, I feel like doing some of the course work and background reading before the intensive part of the course really helped me feel like I was slightly ahead of the deadlines and removed some of the time pressure.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

I actually wrote a blog post on DELTA tips and on Module 1 specifically but here are a few tips:

  • Do your background reading BEFORE the course, regardless of whether you are doing Module 1, 2 or 3. There is a lot of recommended reading and I feel like it takes a few times of reading the same information in different sources before everything truly sinks in and the overall picture forms in your head. Also, the more you read, the easier it will be for you in the following modules to go back to the books you read to look for specific information.
  • Similarly, for Modules 2 and 3, start thinking of your specialty/LSA and EPA (experimental practice assignment) topics early on so that you can start gathering materials and ideas even before the course starts and start taking notes and making bookmarks!

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

I actually did get a do-over when I enrolled for the spring Module 1 course, realized I should have started reading about the exam and doing the background reading much much earlier so I started reading and re-enrolled in the course the following autumn.

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

Online Module 1 and 3: Probably 5-6 hours. I did the majority of the more ‘productive’ work over the weekend – e.g. actually sitting down to write assignments or lesson plans or doing practice exams, and during the week I did some reading in the evenings or studied with index cards.

Blended Module 2: The online part was similar to the above, and the face-to-face part was non-stop studying. I did take some walks in the evenings and had a few outings with fellow DELTA-ers, but I didn’t get to see that much of Sofia, which I regret. A funny detail – during one of the nights out we found a Delta Blues Bar! DELTA blues! Naturally, we proceeded to take dozens of photos and tell everyone what a coincidence it was but, nobody but us was very impressed.

Delta Blues Bar

Delta conversations: Sarah

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.

Sarah May currently works in international education. She started her career when she trained as a secondary school teacher of Modern Foreign Languages in 2011. She moved into the field of English language teaching when she decided to teach English in Spain. Sarah has also taught Spanish in an international school, and since completing the Delta she is starting a new role teaching English (Middle Years and IB) in an international school near Barcelona.

Sarah May


How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? (i.e. in what order and did you do them in different places?)

I did my Delta in order (Modules 1-2-3) and I did the whole diploma part-time from 2015 to 2017. I did Module 1 with Distance Delta, so online. The following September, I started Module 2 on a face-to-face course at Cambridge School in Granollers, Barcelona. Every Friday from September to May we attended sessions, did our LSAs and observed each other. After Module 2 I took a six-month break as I was starting a new role, and then did Module 3 with Distance Delta again.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I felt studying part-time would let me take in more information and assimilate everything better. This proved true – I was also able to try out different techniques as I was studying ‘on the job’. It was certainly a very busy time, as I had to fit the studying around my work schedule. However, I was still able to enjoy the course and earned merits in both Modules 1 and 2. It was also a really practical and economical option – I didn’t have to stop working and I didn’t have to travel around much as Modules 1 and 3 were completely online.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Too many things to count! Meeting other teachers on the face-to-face Module 2 course was a fantastic experience. Even though we all lived in the same province, we probably would not have met otherwise. We were a mix of native and non-native English speakers and we all had diverse experiences. Everyone was really talented and we learned loads from each other. The Delta is definitely a great way to network!

Although the Delta is a very academic, Masters level qualification, all the theory is geared towards your teaching practice. I really liked how all course content is directly relevant to lesson planning and teaching.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I had to study a lot on weekends, although I knew it was only temporary. However, managing this depends on the intensity of your job. By the time I got to Module 3, I had a new role helping set up a new MFL department. The added responsibility meant I could not spend as much time on Module 3 as I would have liked! I could not have foreseen this when I started the Delta, but if you study part-time it’s important to choose your timings wisely.

Also, studying certain modules online requires a lot of willpower. With the Distance Delta, the content wasn’t delivered in any type of lesson, you simply had to read, read, read! They have forums and other resources too, but it’s a lot of studying on your own. It suited me, but it isn’t for everyone!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Doing the modules in order really helped. Completing Module 1 puts you at an advantage when starting Module 2 – it teaches you the jargon and techniques you are expected to use in your LSA’s. There is also a particular style of writing expected at Delta (clear, report-like), which you can perfect on Module 2 before you start Module 3 (the extended assignment).

Studying Module 2 face-to-face was ideal. We were able to observe all the other course participants do their lessons (LSAs), and we all gave feedback. Everyone agreed that the post-LSA sessions were where the ‘real’ learning took place, as we compared our own views with the course tutors and with each other. We gained valuable insight as to how Delta lessons are graded (e.g. what a ‘merit’ lesson looks like compared to a ‘pass’) and this was really helpful for going forward.

Our tutors at Cambridge School were also a great mix of people, very encouraging and really experienced assessing Module 2. You hear stories about some centres who want to ‘de-construct’ and ‘put back together’ their Delta trainees, but here the course didn’t have that feel; it felt more like a learning journey which built on your experience.

As I said above, studying part-time allows you to process all the information at your own rate, in a way that is productive for your current teaching.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Don’t be afraid to consult your course tutor before you plan your LSAs. Course tutors are also there to advise you on your planning, as well as to give you feedback on the end result!
  • Get someone to proof-read your assignments – not necessarily a teacher. If they can’t find it easy to follow, then it probably isn’t clear enough. Ask them to highlight the bits they don’t understand. It’s easy to assume everyone knows where your essay is going, but even Delta assessors aren’t mind-readers!
  • Don’t compare yourself. Some people might seem to do everything perfectly, but just focus on your own goals. Just think – the more progress you make, the more you’ll get for your money! Everyone comes at the Delta from a different angle, and thank goodness – otherwise the course would be really boring!
If you have any further questions about how and where I trained, feel free to get in touch at sarita.ja.may@gmail.com.
Best of luck and enjoy the course!

Choosing where to do your Delta Module Two?

Sue Swift has just posted this very useful list of questions for anybody thinking about where to study for Delta Module Two. I’d recommend working your way through them, not only to check with your course provider what their answers are, but also to give yourself an idea of things that might go wrong during the course and think about what you can do about them. This will help you to feel more prepared going into the course.

Good luck!


Teaching exams reading list (Delta)

I’ve been asked many times for my reading list on teaching exams, which was my Delta Module 3 speciality, so I’ve decided to create a post for ease of reference! For that part of the Delta, you have to create a 20-hour course based on research into course principles, your speciality and what your students need. These are the books I used for my assignment on IELTS reading and writing, but there are caveats. I used these books, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily endorse or recommend them – they just happened to be what was available to me at the time! I am sure that there are many others which could be added. Some of the books were recommended by the Distance Delta tutors.

I’m afraid I can’t send you copies of my assignment, but I hope that this reading list will help you if that’s your speciality. Good luck!

Teaching Reading Skills by Christine Nuttall

[All links are affiliate links, so if you buy the book through the link I’ll make a few pennies.]

Alderson, J. C. 2005 ‘The testing of reading’; in Nuttall, C. 2005 Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language (3rd Edition) (2nd edition) Macmillan: Oxford [link to 3rd edition]

Brown, H. D. 2003 Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices Longman: New York

Burgess, S. and Head, K. 2005 How to Teach for Exams Pearson Longman: Harlow

Graves, K. (ed.) 1996 Teachers as Course Developers Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Graves, K. 2000 Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers Heinle & Heinle: Boston

Gronlund, N. E. 1998 Assessment of Student Achievement, 6th edition Allyn & Bacon: Boston [link to 8th edition]

Harmer, J. 2007 The Practice of English Language Teaching Pearson Longman: Harlow [link to 5th edition]

Harris, M. and McCann, P. 1994 Assessment Macmillan: Oxford

Hedge, T. 2000 Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom Oxford University Press: Oxford

Hughes, A. 2003 Testing for Language Teachers, 2nd edition Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

IELTS.org, undated ‘IELTS | Researchers – Band descriptors, reporting and interpretation’http://www.ielts.org/researchers/score_processing_and_reporting.aspx, accessed 20 January 2013

May, P. 1996 Exam Classes Oxford University Press: Oxford

Murphy, D. April 2000 ‘Key concepts in ELT: Evaluation’; in ELT Journal, Volume 54/2 April 2000, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Nuttall, C. 2005 Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language (3rd Edition) (2nd edition) Macmillan: Oxford [link to 3rd edition]

Prodromou, L. 1995 ‘The backwash effect: from testing to teaching’; in ELT Journal, Volume 49/1 January 1995, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Puchta, H. November 2005 ‘Making the most of multiple intelligences’; in English Teaching Professional, Issue 41 November 2005

Richards, J. 2001 Curriculum Development in Language Teaching Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Thornbury, S. 2006 A – Z of ELT: English Language Teaching Macmillan: Oxford

UCLES (University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate) 2002 Cambridge IELTS 3 Student’s Book with Answers: Examination Papers from the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (IELTS Practice Tests) (IELTS Practice Tests) Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Woodward, T. 2001 Planning Lessons and Courses Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Delta conversations: Emma

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.

Emma Gore-Lloyd started teaching four years ago after doing her CELTA at IH Wroclaw in June 2011. She worked at IH Huelva in Spain, where she enjoyed presenting at the IH Andalucia and ACEIA conferences, and started the DELTA in 2014 before moving to work at the British Council in Madrid. She blogs at https://hiveofactivities.wordpress.com/

Emma Gore-Lloyd

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules? (i.e. in what order and did you do them in different places?)

I did an intensive Delta 3-2-1 course at IH Seville (CLIC). This intensive course starts with an introductory course for Module 3 [the extended assignment], which served to prepare us well for the other two modules and also, as it was the least demanding week, gave us a chance to settle in and get to know one another a bit.  Module 2 [the observed teaching] came next, and that lasted for 6 weeks. Last came Module 1, the exam preparation course. Because we had covered most of the input we were able to focus on exam practice in this time. Then in the new year when I started work in a new job, I got going on Module 3. IH Seville set us deadlines for each part and offered feedback on each part and a final draft before we submitted the final thing.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I chose to do as much as possible of the Delta face-to-face because I’m not a fan of online learning or of studying at the same time as working. My choice of intensive course was limited by the fact that I wanted to keep the summer free and start in September (most intensive courses seem to be in the summer), but luckily for me, IH Seville was close to where I’d been living, and I later heard that it has one of the best pass rates for the Delta.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

It was a great opportunity to fine tune my teaching skills and to read more of the literature – I feel much more knowledgeable about English language teaching now. This can also make you more critical and/or cynical, which could either be an advantage or a disadvantage! I really enjoyed doing the experimental practice as it was an opportunity to learn about something new and try it out in the classroom without the pressure of being observed. I’m definitely more confident about how to tailor a course to my students’ needs now. I made some good pals on the course too.

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

Ha ha! All of it during Module 2! I would get up around 8 and try to do some yoga and then some reading over brekkie, before heading to school for the first input session at 10. The best part of the day was the breakfast break at 11.30. Then there was teaching practice, lunch, and often another input session. There may have been more input than that on some days or less – I can’t quite remember now! I’d get home around five and then work until about 11pm. Weekends were a bit more intense. It sounds awful, and perhaps it was a bit too much because I was ready for it to be over by the end of the fourth week – not great when the teaching practice that counts is in the sixth week! Module 1 was less full-on, which was great because we all had Delta fatigue by then. Module 3 was a bit different – I chose not to do much during the week when I was working and then spend the weekend focusing on it, but you could do it in other ways. I didn’t have much of a social life anyway, so it suited me to do it that way. If you’re organised and make a good headstart, it shouldn’t be too much of a headache.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Well, obviously I had to give up working while I did the intensive course (and I had to pay for it myself), but I was prepared for this and saved up. By the end of Module 2 I think we were all quite tired and it was hard to stay motivated during the module 1 prep course. At this point I was also concerned with finding work starting in January. If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t panic – job vacancies appear at the beginning of January too.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I got most of it over and done with quickly!  I was reminded that my choice was the right one when I was doing Module 3 at the same time as working. It dragged on forever! (It is possible to hand in Module 3 on the same day as the Module 1 exam in December, but that’s a bit full on and our tutors didn’t really recommend it). Doing Module 2 before Module 1 definitely made sense for me because we had already applied the knowledge we needed for the exam meaningfully and it was therefore more memorable. I imagine learning a list of terminology without having applied it would be a lot harder.

The face-to-face factor was definitely a benefit for me: studying with actual, physical tutors and peers (rather than virtual ones) can mean the difference between something seeming a bit dull and something being totally inspiring – for me, anyway. It can also be eye-opening to meet teachers who have worked in totally different environments, and it’s nice to be able to support each other as you go through the course.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Read Sandy’s and Lizzie’s posts on doing the Delta for excellent tips.
  • Start reading before the course and make notes on things that you think are interesting or that you disagree with.
  • Be organised! I found Evernote really helped me keep everything sorted.
  • Don’t expect to feel great when Module 2 finishes. It’s more of a weird anti-climax.
  • Take Sandy’s advice and have a holiday before and after Module 2 – you’ll need it.
  • Take the advice you give your students and plan your essays really well because there’s no room for waffle in those word counts.
  • Do as many past papers as you can for Module 1.
  • Keep to the deadlines your tutors give you for Module 3 so you can benefit from reading their comments.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

It’s hard to say, but because we had so much useful input in Modules 3 and 2, I might have been able to study by myself for the exam. However, the school gave us access to lots of past papers and examiners’ reports, and they are the best resource for learning what Cambridge want (providing an excellent test example to analyse for reliability) – and it was good to be with my study buddies.

Delta conversations: Joanna

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.

Joanna Malefaki has been teaching English for approximately 18 years. In the mornings, she is an online Business English tutor and in the afternoons, she teaches mostly exam classes as a freelance teacher. She has been teaching pre-sessional EAP for five summers now, and will be working at Sheffield University this summer. She holds a M.Ed in TESOL and the Cambridge Delta. She blogs regularly at www.myeltrambles.wordpress.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @joannacre

Joanna Malefaki

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

Well, I did the Delta slow and steady. I took lots of breaks. I did module one on my own. I didn’t do a course. I already had an M. Ed in TESOL, so when I looked at the reading list, I saw that a lot of the material overlapped. Also, some of my friends who had already done the Delta suggested I try to prepare for it by myself. That’s what I did. I read whatever I could get my hands on. I did lots of Module One past papers and read examiner reports very carefully. I then found a center willing to take me on as an external candidate (CELT Athens). I took the exam and passed. After that I took a little break. I then did a blended course at CELT Athens with Marisa Constantinides and George Vassilakis. I had weekend sessions (online) and I had to go to Athens for my observed lessons (I live on a Greek island, so I needed to travel quite a bit for Module 2). I passed Module 2 and then took another break. I then did Module 3 online with Bell. My tutor there was Chris Scriberras. I passed Module 3 last December.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I work full time. I did not take any time off in order to do the Delta. I was working about 40 hours a week and then there was also the extra-curricular teaching related stuff. That means I was really busy. I couldn’t commit to an intensive Delta nor go somewhere and do the course. This was the only option. The breaks were a way to help me avoid burnout. I don’t think that I would have finished if I had done the Delta full time and have a full-time job at the same time. I probably would have dropped out.

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

I studied whenever I had time. I studied late at night and on Sundays. I cannot put it in numbers though. I feel I studied a lot, but not enough. I should have cut down on my working hours.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Where do I begin? On a personal level, I learnt that if you set your mind to something, you can probably do it! I learnt that I complain a lot when I feel overwhelmed and that I really like comfort food! ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ was my motto those days!

I also met lots of lovely people who were doing the course with me. I met people from around the world and I now consider them my friends, my study buddies. I learnt that I love writing and particularly, blogging. I actually started blogging because of the Delta. My tutor, Marisa, said it will help me reflect. I wrote a post about what the Delta means to me for her Delta blog. After that, I started my own blog. Getting more connected and growing my PLN was another result of the Delta, and another recommendation of Marisa’s. I learnt so much while I was doing the course, and I am still learning as a result of the course.

On a professional level, I became more aware of some of my teaching ‘weaknesses’, moved away from bad habits and experimented a lot. I started paying more attention to the links between lessons and tasks. I looked more carefully at my students’ needs. I moved a bit further away from course books. I became better at lesson planning and learnt more about aims and objectives. I also tried out new tasks, approaches and techniques I had never tried before. I learnt a lot from the feedback I got regarding my teaching. I think I liked feedback sessions the most. They are really helpful and informative.

Finally, during the Delta I became once more, a learner. The assignment writing was an eye opener for me. You see, I had been teaching EAP, for a few months. I had been going on about academic writing, integrating sources, paraphrasing and plagiarism. I spoke to my learners a lot about supporting their arguments and so on. Only when I did the Delta, did I realise that all I had been preaching was actually very hard!! I walked in my learners’ shoes. Now, I know better. I also have more study tips to share with my students!

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Doing the Delta slowly is like a knife with two blades. You have time to breathe but you may lose the momentum. Getting in and out of Delta mode is quite hard.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I did not have to take time off work and I did the Delta at my own pace. Doing the Delta online allows you to be at home and save money and time.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

I would say that it’s a good idea to do the Delta when you have extra time. Don’t do it if you are too busy. The workload is very heavy and demanding, and if you really want to enjoy it, you need to have time. Take some time off. It is very hard to do the Delta if you are teaching 24/7.

I also think it is necessary to stay focused and be selective. When you are doing the Delta, you want to know/ learn everything. You have a plethora of information coming your way. This can be overwhelming, so you need to be able to identify what you need and what needs to go (information-wise). Trust me. If you do not ‘filter’ the information, you will end with loads of photocopies scattered around your study space.

Finally, allow yourself some time for everything to sink in, again because there is a lot of information. You teaching changes gradually and what you learn takes time to become part of your teaching.

Delta conversations: Anthony

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.

Anthony Ash

Anthony Ash has been working in ELT for 4 years now. He did his CELTA at IH Wroclaw in August 2011 and has been working for International House ever since. He has taught in Poznan and Torun in Poland as well as in Newcastle and Oxford in the UK. After completing his MA in English Language and Linguistics in Poland he went on to do the Delta at IH Newcastle. Anthony works each summer at Newcastle University as an EAP tutor and he is currently the ADoS at IH Buenos Aires.

Anthony can be contacted on anthony.ash.teaching@gmail.com He tweets at @ashowski and regularly blogs at http://eltblog.net.

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I did the “intensive Delta” i.e. I did all three modules in one go. This happened from September to December 2014 at IH Newcastle. The input and the teaching practice part of the course constituted an 8-week block, with an additional 4 weeks being dedicated to preparing for the exam and writing the extended assignment for Module 3.

However, I also did a Module 1 preparation course and the Certificate in Advanced Methodology with IH World online from September to June 2014. So, in a way I was already quite prepared for Module 1 before starting the intensive course and I had an idea of how Module 2 would look.

The intensive course started around 10am Monday to Friday. Mornings were dedicated to input sessions; afternoons to preparation and teaching practice; evenings and weekends to reading and writing assignments. We taught several times a week, regardless of whether it was an assessed teaching practice or not. This was good because it meant we got loads of practice and lots of feedback from tutors and fellow Deltees.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

Before going to IH Newcastle I was Senior Teacher at IH Torun in Poland. I had planned to do Module 2 over several months by travelling into Warsaw every other weekend. However, circumstances changed and I ended up back in the UK. I chose to do the Delta intensively purely because it meant I could focus 100% on that and have it over and done with in a shorter space of time – compared to a year-long distance course for example. Just about all of the positions I wanted to apply for required Delta anyway, so the quicker I got it, the sooner I could apply for those positions.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

People often cite “linguistic knowledge” as the big thing they got from doing the Delta; however, in my case I gained most of my knowledge of linguistics during my MA. What I think I walked away from the Delta with is a greater understanding of what makes good teaching and learning excellent – I now have a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of what happens to the learners while learning, so I can plan lessons around that. Furthermore, now I also know “why” I do what I do in lessons – there is sound pedagogy behind every stage and decision.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

The intensive Delta doesn’t leave much room for Module 3. In my case, I finished the first two modules during the 8-week block and then theoretically I had 4 weeks to write and finish the extended assignment. However, I had a conference to present at in Rome (TESOL Italy National Convention 2014) and I had to make a trip back to Poland as well. So, in the end I only had 2 weeks to read, research and write the assignment. Even if I had had the full four weeks, it seems to me this is still quite a short period of time, so I think I might have done Module 3 through an online distance programme instead.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I think the intensity of it all meant it became my full-time job for 3 months. This meant the Delta was the only thing I was focused on for three months straight. I feel this helped to remove any distractions and let me concentrate on my professional development.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

The three modules are supposed to be quite independent of one another. However, it is to my experience that you might struggle to be successful in Module 2 without the theoretical knowledge from Module 1, and you might not be able to really design a course well for Module 3 if you lack both the theoretical and practical knowledge from Modules 1 and 2. So, I would strongly recommend doing the modules in order as they come: 1, 2 and 3. However, if you decide not to do this, I recommend in any case preparing for Module 1 before Module 2, as the second module is very demanding and takes up a lot of time on its own.

Delta conversations: Angelos

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.

Angelos Bollos

Angelos Bollas is a Cambridge CELTA and Delta qualified TEFLer based in Greece and the UK. He is currently working towards an MA in ELT at Leeds Beckett University. He is an Academic Manager at an international educational organisation and is interested in online education, CPD, as well as teacher training and development. In his free time, he blogs (www.angelosbollastefl.com), participates in #ELTchat weekly discussions on twitter, and connects with language educators around the world. He is @angelos_bollas on Twitter.

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I did my Delta at CELT Athens – same place I had done my CELTA – with Marisa Constantinides and George Vassilakis. I could either follow an online/blended course or an 8-week intensive one. I opted for the second, not because I have anything against online courses (quite the contrary), but because I wanted to be completely devoted to it.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

As I said, the course was an integrated one, which means that I did all three modules at the same time. Undoubtedly, this was the hardest period of my life, but the most fruitful one. Doing all three modules together helped me stay focused and interested throughout. From one perspective, it is much easier: I was reading an article for Module 1 and realized that I can use it for my Module 3 essay, for example. What I am trying to say is that there is a lot of overlapping and I benefitted from the fact that I was studying for all modules at once.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

First and foremost, I got the chance to reach my limits both emotionally and physically: spending three nights and days writing an assignment and, then, being told that I had to rewrite it all over again was something that I had always thought I couldn’t handle. Well, I did!

It also helped me hone my professional skills: organizing time, tasks, and people were closely linked to the course. Finally, it made me accept my role as agent of change, which may add to the responsibilities I have as teacher but, at the same time, it makes me want to constantly become better.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

That’s an easy one: lack of sleep (as a result of lack of time, of course). A typical day was as follows: 8am – 9am Travel to CELT Athens, 9am – 4pm Input Sessions/Teaching Practices, 4pm – 5pm Travel back home, 5pm – 6pm One-hour sleep, 6pm – 8pm Work for Module 1, 8pm – 12am Work for Module 2, 12am – 3am Work for Module 3. Also, note that I am not the most organized person on earth so, following this schedule was a constant battle for me!

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Two months and I was done and dusted! This may not seem as an important benefit but I can assure you, it was a great motive. Other than that, there was no room for anything not related to Delta. As I mentioned before, this helped me a lot.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Since I have written on my blog some tips for people who are about to follow a Delta course, I shouldn’t repeat myself. People interested in reading my tips, can click here.

However, I would like to stress the importance of the following two:

a. When choosing a centre make sure that you have enough and varied support (other than trusting the tutors, that is). For example, at CELT Athens, we had physical access to a library that had as many titles as you can think of, full of rare and very well known books; we, also, had access to the Delta wiki – an online space where one can find anything related to ELT and linguistics; lastly, we were part of network of many alumni who were willing to help and support us.

b. It is of utmost importance that people on intensive courses are team players – if they don’t support each other, they make their lives much harder.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

There are times I wish I had done my training way before the time I did it (I had been teaching full time for 8 years when I did my Delta), but then…I wouldn’t know if things would have been better or not. So, to answer your question, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

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

As many as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t have a better answer to that one. I spent 9 hours/day for researching, reading, brainstorming, organizing, drafting, planning, etc. As I said, though, I don’t regret any of these.

#epinterviews: Sandy Millin

Mike Harrison has started a new blog focussing on Experimental Practice, where teachers try out new ideas in their classrooms in the spirit of research. As part of it, he plans to interview teachers who have carried out Experimental Practice as part of their Delta. Interviewee number one is yours truly, and you can find the full post by following the link below.

Experimental Practice Academy

#epinterviewsThis is part of a series of interviews with fellow English language teaching professions to be published on this blog.

The interviewees are drawn from a variety of teaching contexts, in different countries and working with different kinds of learners. What they have in common is having experimented in some way with their teaching practice.

The reason why I asked these people to answer my questions (apart from being nosy!) is that I am a firm believer in the potential of experimental practice in helping you develop as a teacher, but I don’t know whether other people think the same. I’d like to get an anecdotal picture of my peers, to find out what they’ve done, why and what they’ve learnt from the experience.

I also believe that there is so much that we can learn from sharing our stories and these experiences. I invite you to read these brief…

View original post 864 more words

Delta conversations: Sheona

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.

Sheona Smith is a teacher and teacher trainer based in Majorca, Spain. She loves her job and discovering ways to continue her Professional Development.  Her special interests at the moment are using ICT in language teaching and CLIL. Her next project is to do an MA in ICT and EFL at some time in the not too distant future. She tweets from @eltsheona.

She was on the same Distance Delta orientation course as me, with James doing the same online course, if you’d like to compare notes.



How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I’d been reading a lot of methodology books for ages and decided that I should try to put what I was studying to some use and have clearer objectives, so I opted to do the Distance Delta Module 1 [the exam] first in March 2011. I finished the module in June 2011 with a merit. As I am based in Majorca I knew it would be difficult to find a local tutor so I did Module 3 (merit) [extended assignment] next and then Module 2 [observed teaching practice] in October 2012 when I finally found a Local Tutor [someone to observe the lessons]. I got a Distinction for this module which was a big surprise even thought I put a lot of work in, and I was lucky to have a very understanding local tutor who gave me excellent feedback and advice!

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I’m a working mum, with 3 kids and it really was the only option I could do. I was unsure for a while if I’d ever be able to actually do Module 2 with the two-week orientation course, but after doing the other two modules I was determined to finish.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Well, there’s so much to say really. I really feel I gained a lot.

  • Confidence in myself as a teacher.
  • The confirmation that teaching is learning all the time.
  • Discovering a ‘Sense of Agency’, something that I learned about in an excellent book that I’d recommend all teachers read: Psychology for Language Teachers by Williams and Burden [affiliate link]. This refers to giving students a sense of empowerment in their learning, showing them or facilitating an atmosphere of taking control of their own learning. For me that wasn’t just about helping students but a life lesson.
  • An inkling of what doing an MA might be like in terms of amount of work and commitment (that’s my next challenge when I find the money)

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

The way the Distance Delta is set up you can do any module first and individually. This means that the course materials for each module overlap, so if you’ve done Module 1 you’ll get most of same material for the other modules.  I feel this could be improved in some way.

As some people have mentioned, the course organisers could make better use of technologies available to update some aspects of the course. Much as I loved the orientation course and my stay in London, it was very expensive and logistically complicated for my family for me to be in London for 2 weeks. I felt despite being primarily an online course there was a human element which could be better enhanced through more use of digital tools like Skype, webinars etc.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

The best thing for me about doing the Delta course at a distance was that I could carry on with ‘normal life’: that is, be at home for my kids and, of course, continue working. There is no way I could have done the intensive course.  I also learned a lot about online learning and the benefits of Blended Learning, something that I’ve become really interested in.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Tips I’d give are:

  1. Only do the Delta if you feel it’s the right time for you to do it. This might seem a bit obvious, but it is a very difficult course in terms of workload and emotional highs and lows and if you’re not determined to finish and give it everything you’ve got, I would have a rethink and wait till the time is right.
  2. Read the Delta Teacher Handbook, (you can download this free). That is the best place to see what examiners are really looking for in candidates. Mine was tattered and torn by the end of the 3 modules.
  3. Don’t over-read. Some of the background reading books are amazing and I found myself getting lost in them, which I didn’t really have time to do. Don’t feel bad if you just read the chapter you need for your assignment. If it’s a worthwhile book you’ll come back to it after the course when you can really absorb and enjoy reading it.
  4. Resign yourself to the fact that for the duration of the modules/course you will be totally absorbed by the coursework. You might as well just make the most of it. I took my course books to the beach with me and read in the car between classes. But I did block off time specifically for my family and gave myself extra free time if I managed to get an assignment ready before the deadline. I always set my deadline a day before assignments were due so that I could leave my work alone for 24 hours, relax and then come back to it with a fresh perspective before handing it in. You’d be amazed at the things you find  when reading with a fresh pair of eyes.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

I would probably have done the modules in the correct order: that is, 1,2, and then the third. They quite clearly follow on from each other which can only be beneficial when doing the third. I also  left a bit of a gap (10 months) between M3 and M2 and I had this niggling doubt about how much I’d remember. I felt I’d kind of lost the momentum.

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

As regards the amount of time I spent, it was definitely well above what the website suggested. But then I’ve been told I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Definitely over 10 hours a week for Module 2. What can I say, writing up the background essay and the lesson plan felt endless at times. When I look back now I don’t actually know how I managed to do it!

Delta conversations: James

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.

James Pengelley is a teacher at the British Council in Hong Kong. He tweets @hairychef, swims in the pool and bakes at home in his kitchen. He was on the same Distance Delta course as me, if you’d like to compare notes.

James Pengelley

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I completed the Distance Delta programme (Integrated).  This basically entails attending a 2-week face-to-face orientation at your nearest centre (usually a British Council), and then completing modules 1, 2 and 3 at the same time over about 9 months.  The first two LSA’s [observed lessons – Module 2] are very close together, and then the last two are a bit more spaced out, with the written exam [Module 1] coming at the end before submission of your module 3 thesis [the extended assignment in which you put together a course proposal].

Why did you choose to do it that way?

Where I was working, the only choice I had was the Distance programme.  I had been thinking about doing the Delta for a few years, and realised I was at the low-end of teaching experience I thought would be needed to succeed (5 years ± was my estimate after speaking to lots of people and trainers, even though Cambridge recommend 2 years minimum), but given I was working as a Senior Teacher and thought it would both a) be good timing and b) improve my chances of getting a job that would provide financial support to fly me back home to Australia 🙂 I decided to go for it.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

Aside from a nagging sense of paranoia whenever I walk into an observation…?  No, I’m only joking… Actually I have just completed a TYLEC [Trinity Young Learners Extension course, currently being piloted by British Council] and to be honest, I am almost certain no observation, assessed or otherwise will EVER phase me again since the Delta.

Above all, I feel significantly more confident in the decisions I make as a teacher.  I feel I am also better able to guide and support colleagues who have questions and I have really been able to pursue my own interests in classroom research.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

There were many:

  • The Distance Integrated Programme does not offer any standardised face-to-face instruction throughout the course.  All input is either self-directed (independent reading) or via disappointingly sub-par PDF documents that are made available for each section of the course.  These are often insufficient on their own, contain errors, or are poorly formatted.
  • The tutors were, on the whole, extremely helpful.  I did feel, however, there was a significant need to standardise the way tutors were giving feedback. The way the DD programme is structured, it is normal for candidates to submit a draft of an LSA, for example, and then receive feedback from one tutor. When candidates receive feedback, they continue working (or in some cases, totally re-working) what they have done, and then submit the final draft, which is marked by a different online tutor. I found, from discussing experiences with several DD candidates who were in the same city and course as I was, that the second round of feedback (and the final mark) was often in stark contrast to what was suggested by the first tutor in the first draft. In one case, this actually involved a candidate having to totally rework their final LSA (which, if you don’t know, is the LSA that candidates are required to work on independently, with minimal tutor input and determines a huge part of your overall mark for module 2) with only 5 days notice, having worked on a draft for 4 weeks.
  • There was a lack on resources allocated to the course.  Candidates were not given access to journals (there were a limited number of articles made available on the website, but these were not enough to complete the course to any appropriate standard), and I felt quite strongly about this. A large theme that runs through the Delta is “tailoring your classes to the needs and contexts you teach in”. However, there was no attempt made to provide instruction via contemporary digital technologies (think of the possibilities: virtual classrooms, chatrooms, etc) other than a limited selection of videoed lessons and the chat forum for each group. The issue of lack of journal access was raised with the Course Co-Ordinator and as of the end of the course, the DD response was that they had financial approval to grant journal access to future candidates. However, there is a copyright issue in granting access to so many people online. This issue may take some time to resolve, though its resolution is currently in the works
  • I feel, above all, the main let-down of the course is the lack of face-to-face training.  From speaking to other colleagues who did their Deltas in a face-to-face setting, they often use words like “inspirational” or “extremely motivating” to describe their experiences.  I think with some fine-tuning, and provision of more appropriately interactive online learning platforms, or at the very least significant provision of quality model lessons (with discussion/focus questions to follow up), the course would be greatly improved.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the DD programme has huge potential, but in its present conception, it is an outdated and wilted product. It has, no doubt, facilitated the up-skilling of thousands of teachers in areas where face-to-face training is not an option, like me.

For those candidates who were motivated, the extended time frame of the DD programme allows you to fully explore and investigate areas of interest in your own teaching and assimilate concepts effectively. To be honest, I have no idea how people survive the 2-month intensive courses!

We were also able to work full time and study, and did not have to sacrifice our income stream in order to study, which was a bonus.

How much time did you spend per week on the course?

I was lucky in that my working hours were quite flexible during the course.  I estimate that on average I spent about 20 hours a week minimum. At peak times it was possibly in the region of 5-6 hours a day (in the lead up to LSA deadlines and pre-exam).  However, I know many many people who passed the course doing less than this.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

My top tips would be:

  • Think very carefully about your preferred method of delivery.  Do you need constant pressure and face-to-face guidance to stay on task?  Do you have the time to complete the course over a longer period of time?  Do you have access to resources to do sufficient reading and investigation? Do you have access to peers and colleagues who are interested in and able to support you and act as sounding boards for your ideas? [If you need help deciding, you can read more of the Delta conversations to find out what options are available.]
  • If there are only 3 books you buy…
    Methodology in Language Teaching (Richards & Renandya)
    Beyond the Sentence (Thornbury)
    The Language Teaching Matrix (Richards)
    [affiliate links – Sandy will get a little bit of money if you buy after clicking here]
  • However you do the course, think long-term: try to think about how you will use your knowledge and ALL the work you’ve done once the course is finished.  For example, I turned one of my LSA assignments into an article for the IH Journal, part of my module 2 classroom research into a successful scholarship application for IATEFL 2014, and I have delivered a number of INSETT and training sessions based on my Delta assignments. I found some of the most rewarding results from doing the course happened after I got my certificates!

In retrospect…

I’m not sure I would do anything differently. I dearly wish I had had the freedom to attend a face-to-face course, though these are not offered widely outside Europe.  In a perfect world, I’d have take some time off and gone to the UK, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen. I am especially glad I did my Delta and didn’t opt to pursue an MA, because of the huge emphasis on practical classroom application of theory in the Delta. I wouldn’t, however, recommend the Distance programme (if that isn’t painfully obvious from what I have said above) until the major issues in delivery of content have been addressed.

Delta conversations: Matthew

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 Ellman is a teacher and materials writer working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He passed the Delta with double distinction in 2013, and is currently doing an MA in Applied Linguistics to fill the gaping void it left in his life. He blogs at teachertolearner.com and tweets from @mattellman.

Matt Ellman

How did you do your Delta?

I did my Delta on a face-to-face course over 8 months at International House Madrid.  I had already done quite a bit of reading when I started though  ̶  I used the course as a pretext for staying at home and sponging off my parents all summer, so it was unavoidable!  All told, then, I suppose you could say I did it over about a year.

How did you arrange the modules?

I didn’t really arrange the modules so much as blindly submit to the schedule that was given to me by my tutors. It’s a good thing I did though, because in hindsight I can’t see any better way of organising things.  We did modules 2 and 3 side-by-side, and the classes we had in preparation for our module 2 assignments doubled up as exam preparation classes, particularly as the exam drew near.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I was working for IH at the time, so it made sense to do it there. They were able to fit it around my teaching timetable and helped ensure I had suitable classes for observations. I didn’t get a staff discount though, which still keeps me awake at night…

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

In the classroom, it made me more aware of the rationale behind things: things I had learnt from the CELTA without truly understanding, and things that I was using in published materials. That, in turn, made me more confident about the decisions I was making during planning and in class.

As I’ve moved into materials writing, I’ve come to appreciate the benefit of module 3, the extended assignment.  It gave me an understanding of things like assessment and course design that I hadn’t touched on before, so it was probably the module that has opened the most doors for me since I finished the course.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I’m not sure there was a downside, apart from having to pay for it myself! Had I been in a situation to do the Delta as part of an MA course, I might have chosen to do that, but it wasn’t an option.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Face-to-face instruction has enormous benefits that tend to be overlooked when it’s compared to distance or blended learning. Informal discussions in class between tasks, or in breaks, and tutors’ offhand comments about this theory or that book – all of that feeds into your understanding of the material, but you don’t get that from an online course.

Timing was another benefit.  Nine months proved to be a good balance between getting the course done on the one hand, and having the time to absorb the new information and apply it to my teaching on the other.  I marvel at how anyone can get through a full-time Delta in 8 weeks.

I was fortunate to have the help of two excellent tutors – Kate Leigh and Steven McGuire – and their advice and encouragement were crucial factors in my success. I don’t think that anything improves your teaching more than being observed by experienced tutors who can see in detail what your strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve since spoken to other Delta trainees, particularly doing the Distance Delta, that haven’t had the same level of support or insight from their tutors, and that’s a great shame. The purpose of the course is to improve your teaching, and unfortunately it seems that there are some tutors who see the whole thing as one horribly rigorous extended assessment in which their role is simply to pass judgement.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Be organised – the course is perfectly manageable if you set aside time for studying and keep on top of all the work.

Do your reading – Tricia Hedge’s Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom is an excellent place to start for just about any topic the Delta covers.

Practise your assessed lessons – if you can, try out your lesson plan on a class of guinea pigs beforehand.* Doing so reveals weaknesses that you just can’t spot by looking at it on paper.

Use your tutors – for better or worse there is an element of box-ticking when it comes to CELTA and Delta, and knowing what Cambridge expect is part of the difficulty with each assignment. Don’t be afraid to ask your tutors about anything that’s unclear; it’s their job to clarify that type of thing.


*Not real guinea pigs, obviously – they are terrible language learners. I mean “a class of normal students that don’t mind being test subjects”, but that’s not as catchy.

How I got a distinction in the Delta Module 1 exam*

[Everything below is for the old version of the exam, though a lot of it is still relevant. Emma Johnston has tips for the post-2015 version of the exam.]

*I generally try to avoid bragging, but hopefully that title will get a few more hits from search engines, and will help future Delta Module 1 candidates to find this post!

There is no one way to prepare for the Delta Module 1 exam, and everybody will do it differently. This is how I did it.

I studied with Distance Delta for all three modules, although I ended up taking Module 1 six months after the end of the course, meaning that I had time to prepare for it again. The feedback I got from my tutors during the preparation was very valuable, and although it is possible to prepare for the exam yourself, I think having support from a tutor makes it easier.

I also strongly believe that you should not do Module 3 (the extended assignment) at the same time as Module 1 (the exam), as they are normally both due at the same time, and you will end up dividing your attention instead of focussing on them each as much as they deserve. They’re both pretty full-time in terms of headspace, even if you don’t have to spend as much time doing written work for Module 1.

I have a list of useful links for Delta, which includes all of the sources I used to help me prepare for the exam, so I won’t repeat them here.

During my Distance Delta, I created three sets of index cards.

  • Paper 1 reminder cards, summarising the mark scheme, the main things to remember when doing that paper, and any useful language I could steal from sample answers;

Exam paper 1 index cards

  • The same for Paper 2;
  • Exam paper 2 index cardsKey terms cards, with the term on one side and a definition (D), example (E) and further information (F) on the back. [Some people recommend DFE, but I liked alphabetical order!]

Key terms index cards Exam paper 1 index cards

I had a break between the end of Distance Delta in June, and the start of my Module 1 prep in October. Two months before the exam I started looking at my key terms cards again. I used Quizlet to fill in some gaps in areas like phonology and teaching methods which I’d missed the first time round. I started taking sets of cards on the bus with me, about ten at a time, to test myself on during my commute. I  spent time playing the games on Quizlet for general revision. I also took my paper 1 and 2 index cards on the bus to remind myself of the format of the exam and to start memorising some of the useful phrases.

About a month before the exam I started doing past papers. There aren’t many and I’d already done two during Distance Delta, so I needed to eke them out! I did one past exam each weekend for the three weekends before exam day. The first two times I did paper 1 on Saturday and paper 2 on Sunday, always with the 90-minute time limit, to get used to the time restrictions, and check whether I could meet them. The final time I did a full back-to-back mock with only a 30-minute break in the middle, as I would have to do on the real exam day. After I’d finished each time, I went through the guideline answers (in the exam report for each year), available on the Cambridge website, and marked the papers. I also wrote in big red letters anything which I’d missed out, particularly if it was connected to the structure of the exam or silly mistakes. Before doing the next paper, I looked at the red pen from the previous one again, and I didn’t normally repeat those mistakes!

During this process, I got a very useful tip from Lizzie Pinard:

Start every answer on a new page.

This may seem simple, but it made a huge difference to how clearly my answers were laid out. This resulted in me coming up with a system for each question based on the task requirements and guideline answers. This meant I didn’t have to keep reminding myself how many points I needed to make, or to check backwards and forwards to make sure I’d included all of the required information.

Below are examples of what I did for each question. I haven’t explained the structure of the exam at all, as you can find that out in many other places. Don’t forget to write the task number/part clearly at the top of each page in your answer booklet. Do anything you can to make the examiner’s life easier!

Paper 1 Task 1

The simplest task. Just do it quickly and don’t spend ages on a term you don’t know!

Paper 1 Task 1

Paper 1 Task 2

Do this as you go along, and remember, define NO MORE THAN 4 terms! Use D, E, F (or D, F, E) to make each section of your answer clear. Make it clear what ‘D’ and ‘F’ mean at the top.

Paper 1 Task 2

Paper 1 Task 3

Write the numbers 1-5 and the ‘eg’s as soon as you start task 3, before you even read the question! I always wrote ‘style/discourse’ at the top, because I originally forgot to include those features in my analysis, having focussed just on grammar and lexis. I also wrote the level of the student at the top of my paper so I remembered to refer my answers clearly to this level.

Paper 1 Task 3

Paper 1 Task 4a

Again, write the numbers before you look at the question to remind you of how many points to include. Leave a bit of space at the bottom so you can add an extra point if you have time at the end.

Paper 1 Task 4a

Paper 1 Tasks 4b, c, d

The exact layout of these questions depends on exactly what language and areas (e.g. form, meaning, usage, features of connected speech) you are asked to analyse.

Start a new page for each task (b, c, d) and use clear headings for each piece of language and each area. I found it easiest to divide my answers according to the piece of language, then to subdivide it by the areas I had to analyse. Put the headings in as you go along, but leave yourself a lot of space to add extra points if you think of them later. I generally had about half a page for each piece of language. There’s plenty of space in the exam booklet!

Here are some examples.

Paper 1 Task 4b

Paper 1 Task 4c

Paper 1 Task 4d

Paper 1 Task 5a

This is another one to write out before you start answering the question. By using a table and including ‘eg’ in each box, you remember to include three strengths and three weaknesses, and not get too carried away with adding extras. Don’t forget to clearly state the area you are writing about for each strength/weakness (e.g. grammar, task achievement) and to make sure you only write about areas requested in the question!

Paper 1 Task 5a

Paper 1 Task 5b

The use of the two headings ‘area to prioritise’ and ‘because’ save you a lot of words!

Paper 1 Task 5b

Paper 2 Task 1

Here you should have two pages on the go at the same time, one for ‘positive’ and one for ‘negative’. This means you can jump backwards and forwards between the two and you have plenty of space.

Paper 2 Task 1

Paper 2 Task 1

Paper 2 Task 2a

This was another task where you need plenty of space to go backwards and forwards. Write a clear title for each exercise you need to analyse from the materials, then use bullet points under each. Start each bullet point with ‘To + infinitive’ to make sure you’re focussing on the purpose of the exercises and not what the students have to do to complete them.

Paper 2 Task 2a

Paper 2 Task 2b

Using ‘A’ for Assumptions and ‘R1’/’R2’ for reasons helped me to remember to include all three parts. Write them as you go along.

Paper 2 Task 2b

Paper 2 Task 3

This one is very simple. You just have to make sure you include enough bullet points!

Paper 2 Task 3

Paper 2 Task 4

This task is complete pot-luck, as you have no idea what you’ll be asked about. As a general rule, use a different page for each section of the question. For example, if you’re asked ‘Why is homework a good thing?’ and ‘Why is homework a bad thing?’, put the answer to each part on a different page. [Totally made-up question!] I numbered the points as I wrote them on each list, to make sure I got a total of 20 points (2 marks per answer, 1-10 on each list for example).

Final tips

A lot of the preparation for Delta Module 1 is nothing to do with teaching at all (I won’t mention here how much that frustrates me, since it’s supposed to be a mark of your ability as a teacher, not as an exam-taker…). By using a clear layout and knowing the requirements of the exam inside out, you’ll help yourself a lot.

Collect key terms, test yourself on them, and include them in your answers, but only where appropriate. Don’t try to include them just for the sake of it (especially in the questions on testing!).

Use bullet points, not full sentences. The examiners are looking for content, not linguistic ability.

Use the guideline answers in the exam reports to see what the examiners do and don’t like. Don’t try and be original – just tick the boxes!

If you have time (I didn’t), try out some of the exam-style tasks on your own materials and the work you get from your students. In theory, the requirements of the exam are supposed to help you in your analysis of materials/student work in your day-to-day work as a teacher by making this kind of analysis more efficient.

Finally, good luck! Get a good night’s sleep before, and you’ll get through it!

Delta conversations: Natalia

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.

Natalia Gonzalez Brandi (Nati) started teaching in 2007. She was Director of Studies at IHMontevideo for two years and in 2013 she moved to IH Buenos Aires, where she currently works as teacher and YL Coordinator. She loves teaching and sharing ideas with colleagues. In 2013 she attended and presented at IATEFL’s annual conference. She tweets @natibrandi.


My DELTA experience, when I finally learned with a little help from my mistakes and peers.

How did you do your DELTA?

I signed up for a Distance DELTA Module 1 course in 2011. I did my background reading but didn’t have time to do enough exam practice, and reading Cambridge sample answers didn’t seem as interesting as my ELT books, so I failed. Despite this, I did the intensive DELTA Module 2 Course at IH Buenos Aires in 2012, and the experience wasn’t as bad. Although I struggled with the assignments, I did pass the course and managed to never fail a lesson. Of course, I wouldn’t have finished this course if it weren’t for the help and support of my tutors and peers, most importantly Hannah Pinkham and Eduardo Santos. We would read each other’s work and observe each other’s lessons. Hannah even proofread some of my assignments, so I cannot thank them enough. On December 2012 I retook DELTA Module 1. This time, my classmate Tom Campbell and I spent a whole week doing exam practice and analyzing Cambridge sample answers in great detail, with a kind of product approach to DELTA 1, and the result wasn’t at all bad: MERIT. DELTA 3? I honestly couldn’t think of ticking more Cambridge boxes in 2013, so I took a year off, and will definitely submit my assignment in June this year.

What did you gain from this course?

  • I had a chance to observe and read my peers’ work. We were all keen teachers sharing the same group of students. We could observe other people teach, and analyse students’ reactions, and thereby reflect on what was conducive to learning and what wasn’t. I saw people do dictogloss, TBL, Dogme, grammar translation, genre and even humanistic approaches, and in a way, I incorporated aspects of each of those lessons into my own teaching practice.
  • I enjoyed writing the lesson commentary and post lesson evaluation.
    The lesson commentary linked my background essay with my lesson, and feeling that my lesson made sense and that I could justify each part of it was wonderful, because I finally felt I was doing my job the way it should be done. It didn’t feel like potpourri; it was more principled teaching? Eclecticism? Good teaching? You name it! Next time someone tells me that teaching is to stand in front of a class and follow a couple of coursebook activities, I’d say: write a background essay, a lesson plan and a lesson commentary and call me, maybe!
    The post lesson evaluation was also empowering because I had a chance to reflect on what worked and what needed to be worked on. To finally share this with a tutor who would give me detailed feedback was very useful, and I remember reading the feedback I got three times at the very least. It encouraged me to reflect on my lessons, in a way I hadn’t done before.
  • Module 1 was also helpful. It helped me to analyse language in great detail and I also learned a lot about discourse analysis, testing, guided discovery and many other topics. It’s really useful, especially if your job involves observing other people. You learn so much about standard coursebook practice as well as language and genre analysis, that then it’s easier to plan your own lessons and help other colleagues do the same.

What wasn’t so good?

  • I didn’t get much sleep.
  • The criteria is really long, and I sometimes felt I just couldn’t tick all those Cambridge little boxes. It’s not easy to meet standards.
  • I only realised how much I learned months after the course was over. It’s too intense to keep track of how much you are learning.
  • Like Sandy, I didn’t get a holiday neither before nor after the course, so my 2012 wasn’t great.

What tips would you give to candidates?

  • Make sure you narrow down the topics you are studying. Don’t be too ambitious and study everything at the same time. This is true for all modules, and it especially helps if you know what the topic of your Module 2 LSAs will be.
  • Before you start reading, write down all your ideas. It’s like a classroom brainstorming, and it did help me. I remember my classmate Meghan Finn suggested this, and she was right! We know more than we think. We are there in the classroom, we are experienced teachers and brainstorming before reading help us read more efficiently. If you are doing the intensive DELTA, time is always a problem, so you’ve got to read efficiently and be good at taking notes.
  • We normally tell our Cambridge exam students ‘read questions carefully’. Well, I’d say read the Cambridge criteria carefully, make sure you know what you are expected to do, because otherwise you cannot possibly pass. There are too many boxes to tick, and sometimes you just need to state the obvious.
  • Ask for help! Read other people’s assignments, look at your peers’ lesson plans: you cannot learn on your own. Some candidates do not like helping others and they prefer to work on their own; it’s okay. Now, if you don’t like learning like that, get help! Twitter, blogs, even people who’ve already passed DELTA, and I’d be happy to share my lessons and assignments with anyone who asks for it.

What would you have done differently?

Holidays after the course! The rest was a learning experience: you fail, keep going, learn from your mistakes, work really hard and then pass.

Useful links for Delta

During my Delta I gathered a list of links which I returned to again and again. I’ve also seen many useful links since that I wish had been around before I started my course! I thought I’d share these with you, and I will try and keep the list up-to-date as I find more things which I consider useful. Please let me know in the comments if you think I have missed anything or if any of the links are broken.


Take your time Delta Module One / Module Three

If you’re looking at this page, you are probably contemplating doing the Delta, or are already part-way through it. I’ve created a more relaxed way to study for Delta Module One, taking your time over the course of an academic year to really get to know the content before you take the exam, or for Delta Module Three, being supported throughout the process of writing your assignment. Find out more here.


Before you decide that Delta is the right qualification for you, take a look at this list of alternatives from Jim at SpongeELT. Sam Smith did the Delta and the DipTESOL in the same year (top tip: don’t do this – it’s a heck of a lot of work!) and has compared the two qualifications. Pete Clements’ tips on How to get a DipTESOL Distinction are equally applicable to doing the Delta.

Jim Fuller has a general introduction to Delta. I particularly like this paragraph:

Before doing Delta I had in my mind that Delta was an impossible-to-conquer beast that only those teachers with years and years of experience would even consider taking on. Now, whilst I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking on Delta with less than two, perhaps even three years of experience, I would, however, recommend viewing it differently than I did. You see, I was looking at it the wrong way. Delta is not just exams and ridiculous amounts of assignments, LSAs, etc., it is a programme in true professional development. YOU are the starting point and Delta then makes you look at that and then look at where you want/need to be. It is hard. It is long. But, it is massively worthwhile.

If you want everything in one place, try ‘How to Pass Delta‘, a very reasonably priced e-book written by Damian Williams, who was one of the tutors on my course. Another excellent resource is ELT Concourse’s Delta index, recommended by Katy M. I particularly like the myth-busting they do about Delta.

ITI Istanbul have produced a webinar lasting a little over an hour, also called How to pass Delta:

Sally Hirst, who presented the ITI webinar above, is in the process of compiling a very useful website about the Delta modules – as of August 2021, it includes clear study tips on how to study for Module One, how to find what to read and how to read what you find. There is also a set of questions to help you work out what you might need to read for Delta Module Two, though much of the reading you do is applicable to all three modules.

DublinTEFL have a series of short videos called ‘How can I prepare for a DipTESOL or a Delta?

I collected all of the Delta posts I have written on my blog into one page. The one which is probably most useful is called Preparing for the Delta, including advice about some good books to read before the course and a lot of ways you can improve/brush up on your Word skills in preparation for all of the typing you’ll end up doing. I’ve also written one about Delta grade statistics, summarising statistics from 2014-2019 for each of the three modules.

Lizzie Pinard, who got a Distinction in all three modules, has been writing an incredibly useful series of posts about the Delta since she finished her course. Here is her annotated list of the resources she read before and during the course. Sue Swift regularly posts useful materials on The Delta Course blog.

Alex Walls has a selection of useful Delta resources, including reading lists for each module.

Chris Wilson wrote a summary of an ELTchat entitled ‘How to survive, and make the most of, your Delta‘. Chris also recommended tools he uses to keep track of references from his background reading for Delta, and shared his Delta diary from throughout the course.

Anthony Ash did the Delta full-time in Autumn 2014, and wrote a series of posts about his thoughts on various things that come up during the course. These cover the highs and lows of someone going through Delta, and give a good overview of what the course is like. He has also written a series of posts offering a general introduction to the course, particularly useful if you have no idea what it is or how it works!

Olya Sergeeva has written about her Delta too, as has Emma Johnston and Dr Harriet Lowe. Harriet talks about the gaps between L2 teaching and L2 research in her series of 5 posts, as well as what she feels she got out of the course as a whole.

If you’re considering doing a Distance version of the course, but are struggling to find a local tutor, Alex Case may be able to help.

The facebook group Delta and DipTESOL – Candidates and Survivors is a great place to go for advice.

If you are worried about academic writing as part of your Delta course, you may be interested in this short course from CELT Athens, called Academic Writing for the Cambridge Delta. [Note: I haven’t seen or done this course, but I think the premise is interesting, and I know it’s a reputable centre. The inclusion of the link does not consitute a recommendation!]

Finally, although this is advice designed for MA students, I think Laura Patsko’s tips on how to recover from an MA can definitely be applied to Delta candidates too!

Module One

I’ve created a Take your time Delta Module One course. It runs over 30 weeks, with about 3 hours of work per week. There are three options: October to May for the June exam, March to November for the December exam, or a little more intensively over the summer followed by monthly meetings for the December exam.

Here’s what current participants say about the course:

Emma Johnston has self-study tips for Module One, based on the post-2015 version of the exam.

[Please note: the rest of these links are based on the old version of the exam. Many of them are still relevant, but please check carefully that the descriptions of the questions match up with the updated version of the exam.]

ELT Concourse has a comprehensive Module One preparation course, which is completely free. You probably won’t need many of the other resources here if you use that, but just in case…

I created a ‘Delta’ group on Quizlet, which contains all of the Delta-related flashcards I made/could find. Quizlet is a great resource to help you brush up on your terminology, which is especially useful for parts one and two of Paper One of the exam. If you have never used Quizlet, here is my guide to show you how to make the most of it. There is also an app available for Apple devices.

The Cambridge website has a list of materials for Delta candidates, including various past papers. David Harbinson has compiled a list of books and resources for Delta Module One.

James Fuller has a guide showing you how to prepare for the exam. Dale Coulter created a step-by-step guide to the Delta exam, divided into one post for each of the two papers: Paper One; Paper Two. Lizzie Pinard did the same: Paper One; Paper Two. She also created a list of useful resources to help you revise for the exam, as well as a countdown which you can use as a last-minute checklist to make sure you know everything, or a starting point to plan your studies. Ricardo Barros describes how he prepared for the exam, as do Yuliya Speroff and Sérgio Pantoja. I’ve written a post with ideas about how to lay out your answers in the exam and information on how I prepared for it (though this is now perhaps out of date due to changes in the exam since I took it).

Emma Gore-Lloyd made an infographic with questions for evaluating the effectiveness of a test, relevant to Paper 2 Question 1, and much prettier to look at than a lot of the things I was revising from!

You can also find a guide to the exam on ELT Notebook and tips from Lu Bodeman. Roya Caviglia has created a flowchart with a breakdown of the marks for each section of the exam. Barry O’Leary has general tips for how to prepare for the Delta exam and tips for dealing with Module 1Elliot Brett wrote about how he felt about doing the exam and his tips for success. Jamie Clayton reviewed the Distance Delta Module One course.

Module Two

If you’re trying to decide where to do your Delta Module Two course, Sue Swift has a set of useful questions.

Information about all of my Delta Module Two assignments is available on my Delta page, including a summary of feedback on two passes (one merit for an essay) and two fails, so you can get some idea of the problems I had and what I learnt from my experience. At the other end of the scale, Ricardo Barros tells us how he got a distinction in at least three of his LSAs (nobody ever finds out about LSA4!) and shares his bibliographies. He has also shared the bibliographies from Konstantinos’ LSAs, mostly focussing on young learners. Stewart offers practical tips for writing your background essay and lesson plan based on his experience from his first two LSAs.

Lizzie Pinard gives you her reading list and feedback from her LSA1 on lexis (collocations), and Tiago Bueno goes into a lot of detail about his LSA3 on reading. Jim Fuller from Sponge ELT has a list of tips for the whole of Module 2, along with his reference lists for all of the assignments he wrote. Alex Walls talks about how to succeed in Module 2. Martin Hajek shares his Module 2 tips, including a list of books he found it useful to read.

Matthew Smith shared his Delta Module Two assignments and Joanna Malefaki shared her grammar one and her vocabulary one. Jemma Gardner shared her experimental practice assignment, on the subject of Dogme, and Rachel Tsateri shared her lesson plan on the same topic. Ricardo Barros has shared an example of some of the materials for his LSAs on phrasal verbs and listening. ELT notebook also has examples on developing fluency and phrasal verbs. Emma Halliday shared an example of a listening essay (merit) and lesson plan (pass). Bruno Sousa wrote about Community Language Learning, his choice for experimental practice. Please bear in mind that Cambridge does not take plagiarism lightly, and it can result in you being banned from the course – these are examples only, so please do not copy from them!

Talk TEFL has a Delta LSA survival kit full of lots of tips and decoding some of the many acronyms on Delta courses.

Katy M has written about her experience of doing Delta Module Two, including some practical tips for how to reduce your stress levels. Jamie Clayton wrote some notes from different weeks of the Module Two course, including tips for planning lessons.

Christina Rebuffet-Broadus and Jennie Wright have written a book called ‘Experimental Practice in ELT‘ which came directly out of their experiences of Delta Module 2. It includes lesson plans and ideas for the five most popular topics for the Experimental Practice part of the Professional Development Assignment. It’s available from the-round for a very reasonable price.

Mike Harrison runs the Experimental Practice Academy blog, including interviews with various people about their Delta experimental practice.

Lizzie Pinard explains:

And if you need a bit of a laugh, I would highly recommend The stages of a Delta assignment, all of which I have definitely experienced! You could also read The Secret DoS on why we should banish the word ‘practise’ from our aims.

Module Three

Dublin TEFL have a guide to help you choose your specialism for Module 3.

Read this before you start writing anything: Lina Gordyshevskaya has practical tips which will make completing your Module 3 assignment more efficient and hopefully save you time and stress.

Information about my Module 3 assignment, on teaching exam classes, with a specific focus on IELTS reading and writing, is available on my Delta page.

Jim Fuller at Sponge ELT has written a very comprehensive guide to what Module 3 is, ideas for how to approach it, and supplied a very long reading list you could use as a starting point. Martin Hajek reflected on his Module 3 experience, and talked about why he recommends you find a tutor to help you, or at least somebody who can read your assignment.

An overview of types of syllabus was a useful primer for different types of syllabus, although I would recommend reading about them in more depth before you write about them.

Yuliya Speroff has written about her whole Delta experience, and has included her reference list for the Module 3 EAP syllabus she wrote. Lizzie Pinard has guides to writing each section of the Module 3 assignment:

Please remember that Cambridge looks on plagiarism very seriously – if you copy sections of other assignments, you are likely to be disqualified from the course.


Skills are reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* is a series Lizzie has produced based on the notebooks she kept during her Delta course. Here are her notes on:

Sue Swift has a 9-minute presentation introducing skills and sub-skills, with particular reference to listening and speaking. Rachael Roberts has a post which asks What do we mean by speaking skills? This is useful as a starting point to help you think about sub-skills and come up with a more specific speaking aim for an LSA.

I have a list of online bookmarks, which I constantly add too. The links below take you to the bookmarks tagged ‘Delta’ and:


Systems are grammar, lexis, phonology and discourse management.

I looked at conditionals (grammar) and multi-part verbs (lexis) for my two systems LSAs. For the latter, I found a couple of particularly useful articles in the Macmillan Dictionaries magazine, including one about the pronunciation of phrasal verbs, by Adrian Underhill. You can find my full bibliography in my assignment on my Delta page.

Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* is a series Lizzie has produced based on the notebooks she kept during her Delta course. Here are her notes on:

I have a list of online bookmarks, which I constantly add too. The links below take you to the bookmarks tagged ‘Delta’ and:


Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* on:

Emma Gore-Lloyd is doing the Delta at IH Seville intensively in autumn 2014. She’s writing a series of posts including some reflection questions for her weekly blogging.

I have a list of bookmarks on diigo to which I regularly add. I tag all of the ones I think are relevant to Delta. You can subscribe to the list to find out when I add anything new.

Remember that it will all be over at some point, and you’ll be able to go through the post-Delta phases described by Joanna Malefaki.

And finally, if it’s all getting a bit much, go and see English Droid.

(*This series is a work in progress, and I will add more links to it as Lizzie writes the posts.)

Good luck!

Delta conversations: Roya

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.

Roya Caviglia is currently setting up her own business to offer in-company courses in the Randstad area, South Holland: EnglishVoice. She blogs at LanguageLego and tweets at @RoyaCaviglia

Roya Caviglia

How did you do your Delta?
How did you arrange the modules?
Why did you choose to do it that way?

I did the Delta over a year or so, tackling one module at a time and moving house from Geneva to Hamburg in the middle. I started with module 3 because you need a class to use as a case study (I anticipated some time out of work after the move). Then I sat the module 1 exam shortly arriving in Hamburg. I studied with the Distance Delta for these two modules. Finally, I went to London for 6 weeks to do module 2 at International House.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

If you had asked me that question immediately after completing the course I would have found it hard to answer. My head was so full of teaching approaches that for a while I was in a quandary every time I sat down to plan a lesson! Things get clearer with time, your brain needs some space to digest it all.

A year and a half down the line I think my answer is confidence.

I know that I have worked hard, have gained a lot of experience and that I have a grip on the theory that backs everything up. I know how to study by myself and I still try to do a little research before starting each new course. I want to make sure that I am utilising the methodology that will best help each particular student.

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

If you are looking at the Distance Delta, be aware that you will probably need a lot more time than they estimate on their website. I found I needed almost double their suggestion. This was a common observation on the participant forum!

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Studying at home is not always easy. I remember having all my books spread out on the kitchen table and glancing nervously at the clock as it got closer to dinner time, knowing I would have to pack up and clear out the way! Of course there is also the issue of motivation.

Module 2 in London was difficult as I was away from my family for several weeks. And one should never, never underestimate how intensive it is! There were tears. I’m convinced that is the case on every full time Module 2 course (and the intensive Celta for that matter!).

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I was able to combine Module 3 with work. And Modules 1 and 2 fit in nicely and kept me busy while I was establishing myself in a new country and did not have much in the way of work.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Do your research, there are so many different ways to take the course, find out which route is really the best for you.
  • Be aware that it will be intense and sometimes painful – always keep in mind why you are doing it!
  • Revel in the chance to take time out and examine our profession, it is a rare opportunity.
  • Consciously step back and watch your teaching improve!

Preparing for the Delta

There’s a lot I wish I’d known before I started studying for my Delta, and I thought I’d put it all into a post for anyone else preparing for the course. If you’ve got any tips you’d add, feel free to put them into the comments.

Before you decide on a centre to study Module Two at, I’d recommend asking this list of questions from Sue Swift.

1. Take a holiday

Before you start the course, make sure that you’ve relaxed as much as possible. However you do it, the Delta is incredibly intensive, and if you go into it already tired, like I did, you’ll regret it. If you need somebody else to tell you the same, Jye Smallwood also talks about the pressures of the course and the importance of being organised here.

2. Get reading

Start reading a few general books to get you in the zone. This will also give you a starting point when you are doing the course. Reading is something you probably won’t be able to take the time over during the course, so the more you can do before you start, the better. You’ll definitely return to the books again and again, but if you’ve read them once, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for later.

Some books which I found useful were:

  • Tricia Hedge: Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom* – a good Delta-level overview. It covers each area of ELT in separate chapters.
  • Michael Lewis: The English Verb – one of the few books I had time to read cover-to-cover during my Delta, I can honestly say that this book changed the way I thought about English grammar.
  • Adrian Underhill: Sound Foundations – a great guide to all of the sounds of English, designed to raise your awareness of how they are produced.
  • Scott Thornbury: About Language – half of the book has tasks to make you really think about English in depth, the other half has commentaries to tell you if you’re on the right track.
  • Scott Thornbury: An A-Z of ELT – not necessarily one to read from cover to cover, but good to open at random and test yourself. It will quite possibly become your bible during certain parts of the course.

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

ELT books are pretty expensive, and it all adds up, so think carefully about which books you really need to spend money on, and which you can borrow. Ask around the people you know, especially if they’ve already done the course, and you may find you can borrow some of them. You might also be able to get them from your school or from a library. In the UK you could also try inter-library loans at a public library.

If you’re not sure how to approach your reading, Stewart has some ideas.

You should also use the resources available on the Cambridge website to find out more about the course criteria.

3. Brush up on your Word skills

You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer, and every timesaver you can learn will make a difference. Regardless of how confident a Word user you are, it’s worth checking out my friend Liz Broomfield’s very clear posts about making the most of Word. She uses Word for Windows. If you have a Mac and can’t work it out, Google it first, then ask me and I’ll try to help – I have Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. I’ve picked out some of the things I found myself doing all the time.

Two more things you might find useful, taken from other sites (not Liz’s):

  • How to check the size of a file – Windows / Mac (Cambridge have a 10MB upload limit, especially annoying for Module 3)
  • How to add footers

Lizzie Pinard shares the three Word functions which she has found most useful.

4. Start learning phonemics

In the Module 1 exam you must use phonemics in question 4. If you don’t, you will lose marks. You may also need them for question 5, and you will probably also need to include them at various points in your Module 2 and Module 3 work. Even if you’re not comfortable with them and would never use them in the classroom, you MUST learn them.

Cookie studying the IPA
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Adrian Underhill has all the best materials for making you aware of how phonemics work. Try these to get you started:

  • Introduction to Teaching Pronunciation on YouTube – one hour, but well worth it
  • Sound Foundations – the book mentioned in part 2 of this post
  • Adrian’s Pron Chart blog – breaks down the phonemic chart into easy sections, often comparing two or three sounds, and goes into depth about how the sounds are produced

I learnt phonemics largely thanks to the English File pronunciation chart. I found the pictures really helped me to remember the sounds. However, my accent is largely standard British English, so most of the sounds aren’t a problem for me – I find the ‘u’ in ‘bull’ and the ‘ou’ in ‘tourist’ the most challenging sounds, and most of the time drop the latter, as it’s dying out in British English.

If you have an iPad or iPhone (possibly Android too, but I’m not sure), you could also try these apps:

  • English File Pronunciation – £3.99 at present, limited free version available. Record yourself and compare your pronunciation to the original.
  • Macmillan Sounds – £3.99 at present, limited free version available. Read and write phonemics throughout the app – great for forcing you to match sounds to symbols.
  • British Council Sounds Right – free, but no activities.

You can type IPA (International Phonemic Alphabet) using various typewriters online, for example here, then paste it into Word. When typing your documents, use a ‘Unicode’ font, for example ‘Lucida Sans Unicode’. If you’re not using a Unicode font, it may well turn into boxes like this [][][][][][] when printed.

5. Choose the four areas you’d like to focus on in Module 2

During Module 2 you have to teach four observed lessons (LSAs). These are divided into systems (grammar, lexis, phonology and discourse analysis) and skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

The four lessons you teach are made up of two systems and two skills lessons, one of which should be receptive (reading/listening) and the other productive (writing/speaking). To pass the course, you need to pass a minimum of two of your lessons, one systems and one skills. You cannot repeat an area, i.e. if you have done a lexis LSA, you cannot do another lexis one during the course.

If you have at least a rough idea of the four areas you’d like to investigate, you can start to read some of the most important books in those areas. For example, if you know you want to do a listening lesson, you might want to read Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field.

Note: please check with your centre before setting your heart on your four areas. They may have set rules about which areas they want you to focus on. For example, on Distance Delta, your first LSA is always grammar, and for the second you have to choose between listening or writing. You have free choice for the other two.

6. Choose your specialism for Module 3

In a similar vein, if you know the general area you will look at for Module 3, you can also start reading some of the books that you need. You can find the list of specialisms to choose from on page 68 of the Delta handbook. The handbook is generally a very, very useful document to have. This is the latest version I know about (if there is an updated version, please can you let me know. Thanks to Alex Case for doing just that!)

I chose Teaching Exam Classes, which I then narrowed down to reading and writing for IELTS. The first section of Module 3 is (loosely) about teaching general English is different to teaching students within your specialism, so in my case it was how general English classes differ to exam classes. You don’t focus on the specific exam until later. I found How to Teach for Exams by Sally Burgess and Katie Head particularly useful as a general overview.

7. Read up on needs analysis and diagnostic testing

While this is most useful for Module 3 (the whole of section 2 revolves around it, and it’s the basis for the whole course you put together), it’s also good to know to help you identify the needs of your students and justify your choices when putting together your LSA lesson plans in Module 2. I found Curriculum Development in Language Teaching by Jack C. Richards to be the most useful book in this regard, although they’re obviously covered in many other books. The same book was the one I referred to most when it came to justifying my course proposal too.

I didn’t really find out the principles of good needs analyses or diagnostics tests until very late in the course, meaning that my needs analysis and diagnostic test were thrown together very quickly for Module 3, and I then had to retrofit the theory to it – not easy!

(Sidetracking a little – I bought Syllabus Design by David Nunan to help with Module 3, but found it pretty confusing and not very practical. Could just be me though…)

8. Network!

Last, but definitely not least, start networking! Join Twitter and facebook, and find other teachers around the world on there. The Teaching English British Council and Cambridge Delta facebook groups are particularly useful. I could not have survived my Distance Delta without the support I got from my PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). This may be different if you study face-to-face, but it’s still useful to have a set of people who can respond to questions you may have at any hour of the day or night.


You can read other people’s advice on how to survive the course in the Delta conversations series.

And with all that hard work, don’t forget to take time off, be with people and to find things to laugh at. 🙂

Good luck!

Delta conversations: Sandy

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.

Sandy Millin is me 🙂 Find out more here.

What's cooking? Me (on the right) with one of my classes
What’s cooking? Me (on the right) with one of my classes

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I followed the Distance Delta Integrated Programme from September 2012 to June 2013. This consisted of a two-week orientation course at IH London (you could do this at many different centres around the world), followed by a nine-month online course. During the course I decided to postpone my Module One exam, so I have only completed Modules Two and Three, although I did all of the preparation except for the mock exam for Module One. I’m hopefully going to do Module One in December 2013.

Update: I did the Module One exam at IH Sevastopol in December 2013 and got a distinction – postponing it gave me time to really focus on it! I got a pass in Module Two and a Merit in Module Three. I don’t think the Merit would have been possible if I’d been trying to prepare for the exam at the same time.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I wanted to study the Delta part-time as I had done CELTA this way, and I thought it would give me more time to absorb what I was learning. I like my sleep, and I (still!) don’t understand how people can survive an intensive full-time course and stay sane. There was no local part-time option, like Mike’s, so I had to do it through Distance Delta.

How was your Module Two taught?

During the orientation course we did a diagnostic lesson, which included practising how to write an essay and lesson plan to the standard required for the Delta course. We then completed each LSA (observed lesson + essay) over about 6 weeks, with some gaps in between to give us time for other parts of the course. LSA1 was due in November, LSA2 in December, LSA3 in March and LSA4 in May. This may seem very spaced out, but with Modules One and Three as well, there was a deadline to hit almost every weekend, apart from a two-week break at Christmas.

For each LSA, we chose our topic, posted it in the forum so that the tutor could approve it, then were able to submit a draft essay and lesson plan for the tutor to comment on. I normally had a fairly complete essay and an outline of my lesson aims and procedure ready for the draft deadline. We could then use the feedback to edit our essay/lesson plan. There was a two-week window in which to arrange the lesson, which was observed by our local tutor (LSA 1, 2, 3) or an external person (LSA 4). The local tutor then sent a complete report about the lesson to the Distance Delta. Our course tutor used the report to give us our grade, and they also graded our essays.

The Professional Development Assignment was also started during the orientation course. We completed our Experimental Practice lesson in October, then submitted the other three sections throughout the rest of the course.

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

At least 10 hours, and often more like 20. I regularly spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday working on the course (at least 9am-6pm). I did try and have some weekends off to keep sane, and I was ill for most of December due to exhaustion, so it wasn’t quite like that all year, but it felt like it. I was also teaching full-time. At the start of the course I did a bit of work in the evenings, but had given that up by Christmas (possibly before?). I also stopped reading for pleasure and only read Delta-related books until May.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

I wouldn’t have done Module Two distance. I think Modules One and Three can be done that way, and I feel like the support I got for Module Three was a lot better than it has been for other people I know who have done a face-to-face course, but I felt very isolated doing Module Two that way, and I don’t feel like I got enough support from my local tutor.

I would also have done all of the modules separately, spacing them out rather than overlapping them. When I decided to postpone the Module One exam, I had nearly finished Module Two. The month I had to focus purely on Module Three was when I was happiest during the course.

Finally, I would have had a proper holiday before the course started to make sure I was refreshed and ready to go. Instead I went straight from the Paralympics to the course (pretty sure nobody else has been that stupid!) 😉

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

The DELTA has made me start reading methodology books and start to incorporate what I read. It has also given me lots of material for blog posts, many of which are still in my head. It gave me the push I needed to film myself teaching and encouraged me to question what I’m doing in the classroom in a more methodical way.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I felt very isolated and didn’t feel like I had much support from my local tutor. I didn’t think about checking up on how much support we were supposed to receive until I spoke to a coursemate and realised that she was having the same problems as me, by which time it was too late. There were times when I thought about giving up on the course because I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and I got quite depressed. I normally love studying, and the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the course at all was a vicious circle. I don’t know how I could have finished it without the support of my PLN via Twitter and facebook.

All of us on the course seemed to spend quite a lot of time trying to work out what was required of us for each assignment, and the asynchronous nature of the course (with everyone logging on at different times) meant it was often at least a day, and sometimes longer, before you got an answer to your questions. This could be very frustrating at times, and while I expected this to some extent from the forums, it would have been good to have some faster ways of getting help, as well as clearer guidelines for each of the assignments. Lizzie Pinard has now written a Delta tips series, which I wish had existed before I started! The conversations I had with her during the course really helped too. [I’ve also put together a list of Delta-related posts on my blog, and Useful links for Delta]

I also felt like the way the course was delivered was out-of-date, and didn’t take advantage of a lot of the new technology that it is available for those organising online courses. The course was forum-based, with no opportunities for synchronous meetings, such as using online classrooms, incorporated into the programme. All of the input was via pdf documents, which I stopped reading in February because I couldn’t find the time and didn’t seem to be getting much from them. There didn’t seem to be any recognition of different learning styles, for example by providing a range of input through videos, online meetings or even just using colours in the pdfs. I really feel like the Distance Delta needs to be updated before I would recommend it to anyone.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Studying part-time meant that I could incorporate new ideas into my teaching as I went along, although I didn’t do this anywhere near as much as I expected to because most of the time I was just too tired.

I worked with a range of tutors and peers from all over the world, and the input that I got from them was very helpful.

The support I got for Module Three was much greater than that received by others I know who have done Delta in different ways. We could submit two drafts (one in February, another in May) and the comments that I got on those were incredibly useful – they really helped me to work out what I was doing.

I realised how amazing my PLN are. Every time I had a question about anything, I would post it on facebook, and I would normally have a reply within the hour. It was considerably faster than the forums, and normally more useful.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

My main tip for potential DELTA candidates is to build up a network of useful people. Start with Twitter and add facebook too (try the ‘International House World Organisation’ and ‘Teaching English British Council’ pages to start you off).

Make sure you have some time off during the course, especially if you are doing it distance. Having holidays to look forward to made a massive difference to my mental state. Have a holiday before the course starts too to make sure you are refreshed.

Read my post on things you should do before starting the Delta, and do them! Also read Lizzie Pinard’s Delta tips. You could also check out my page of Delta-related blogposts, which I add to all the time.

If you have a question, ask. You will not be the first person with that problem, whether it’s about methodology, your classroom, or the course itself. We all feel stupid at some point during the course – if you can get over that feeling, you’ll be fine!

Really think about the best way to do your course. There a lots of options, which is why I’ve been publishing the Delta conversations – I didn’t know there were so many ways to do it.

Good luck and remember, it will all be over at some point!

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


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:


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?!

Watching myself teach – the encore

I have just submitted my Reflection and Action (RA) Stage 4 for my Delta, and it feels like a weight off my shoulders! The four stages are, briefly:

  1. Teach an experimental practice lesson, where you try something you have never done before.
  2. State your teaching beliefs, highlight your main weaknesses, create an action plan to deal with them and describe how you will collect data connected to your plan.
  3. Show how you have progressed with your action plan and what data collection methods have helped you. Create another action plan, highlighting different weaknesses if necessary.
  4. Describe your teaching beliefs now, and whether they have changed. Show what was most useful from the RA process and create a plan for the future (watch this space to find out how my blog will be incorporated into this).

I’ve already shared a video from a class I taught in January, and I learnt so much from it, I decided to do it again. The quality is a bit better this time, helped in large part to being in a bigger classroom! I have put up two excerpts here, which I would be interested to hear what you think of.

The group were B1 intermediate, mostly from Brazil, with one German and one Saudi. We were working on the money vocabulary from unit 2a of New English File Intermediate (pages 20 and 147), including listening to the song Ka-Ching. The lesson was 1h45.

The first video shows all of the times I gave instructions during the lesson, including a couple of remedial instructions when students didn’t understand. One student got very stressed because they really didn’t understand the first two exercises – I haven’t included this in the video, obviously, but I think it’s important to know that before you watch. Instructions are one of the areas I highlighted in my Stage 3 action plan, and I still need a lot of work on this. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I’ve tried writing instructions down, and have also audio recorded myself, but neither of these seem to have helped particularly. The only thing that seems to have changed is that I now use a few more instruction-checking questions, but clearly not enough! The same video also shows examples of me feeding back from exercises and drilling pronunciation.

The second video shows a focus on ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’, which were causing students some problems. There is a black-screen transition in the first video to show you the point at which this was covered in the lesson. (I divided them so you don’t have to watch 25 minutes if you don’t want to!)

Apart from looking for instructions suggestions, I’m not going to ask specific questions as I don’t want you to miss the gorilla 😉

Thanks in advance!

Photo by me, shared on eltpics

Starting the Delta

No, not time travel. Instead, a few questions for Chris Wilson, who’s about to start the Delta. He’ll be dedicating his blog, elt squared, almost exclusively to Delta for the duration of his course. Here are my questions and his answers:

  1. Why did you decide to do Delta?

    As soon as I heard there was a higher level teaching certificate than the Celta, I knew I wanted to get it at some point. I heard that I needed two years teaching experience, something that I am grateful for, but I knew I didn’t want to be a “base-level” teacher, although since then I’ve realised there are plenty of great teachers who haven’t done the Delta but still have learnt a lot over time.
    I wanted to really know why I should teach in a certain way and how to craft better lessons. I guess I also just love learning about language, teaching and how the brain works. Really I just want to know more about teaching and help people more.

  2. How are you going to do it? Why did you choose this method?

    I’m doing a modular distance Delta, which means I’m taking each module on it’s own when I want, fitting them in as I can. This was largely a practical decision tying in with the financial help that I could get from my school, but also because of difficulties in finding a local tutor for module two. I am probably going to have to do module two intensively at a local centre because of that.
    Also I’m interested in taking a closer look at how the distance delta does the distance learning aspect of the Delta so our school can hopefully steal some ideas too 🙂

  3. How much do you feel you know about the course before you start?

    I feel I know quite a lot about the course thanks to ELTChat and the recent “How to survive the Delta” discussion (and the previous “what has the delta ever done for us” one). I’ve also spent the last few months just asking people who had done the course lots of questions. At the same time I don’t know anyone who has done it the way I am about to, so I’m still unsure how it will go!

  4. How have you prepared for the Delta?

    I’ve been asking a lot of questions, blogging for professional development and getting my note-taking system in order. At the same time we’ve been really busy here at work recently (and I’ve been finishing off a few projects that I want to get done before the start of the Delta) so perhaps erratically would be the best adverb 🙂

  5. What do you think will be the most useful part of the course?

    I am really looking forward to all of it, to be honest, and I am sure it will all be useful. I can’t wait to up my game in both knowledge of terminology and methodology, conducting a research project and lesson observations. In all honesty the lesson observations and classroom practice probably scares me the most and so is probably the part that will be most useful for me.

  6. What will be the most difficult part?

    I think it’s connected to the point above, class observations. I am quite clumsy and forgetful at the best of times but with stress I know I can slip up more and take longer to recover.

  7. Anything else?

    I guess thanks to everyone who has helped with their advice and recommendation in relation to the DELTA. I hope you don’t mind me asking a few more questions over the coming months!

I’m looking forward to following Chris’ blog over the next few months, and even more, to the end of my own Delta on June 5th! This post is, in fact, procrastination, as I’m supposed to be getting ready for the third of my four observed lessons. Hope you found it interesting!

Chris' new friend?
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

A brief thought on writing for an audience

I am currently preparing for my third Delta observed lesson, which will be on the topic of writing. One of the things that has been mentioned again and again in my reading is the importance of writing for an audience, preferably a real one. 

Yesterday I took my students to St James Park, the home of Newcastle United football club. We had a fantastic tour, taking us all over the stadium, including into the dressing rooms:

Shared by @sandymillin on http://flickr.com/eltpics

This afternoon I worked on formal and informal emails with my upper intermediate class. They had the choice of three tasks to consolidate our language work:

  • write to a fictional language school asking for information about their courses;
  • accept a fictional wedding invitation;
  • write to our tour guide from yesterday to thank her, including saying what you enjoyed and suggesting any possible improvements for the tour (which would be emailed to the tour guide).

3 students chose to write the thank you email, 1 the reply to the invite, 1 a completely different email (confirming that he would be attending the Nobel Prize award ceremony!) and the other 6 wrote to the language school.

I find it interesting that, given the chance to write to a real person, most of the class chose not to. I wonder why?

Watching myself teach

I’m constantly telling students to record themselves to improve their speaking. I finally took my own advice and recorded myself to improve my teaching. I procrastinated a lot before watching the video, despite knowing it would be useful, and the initial shock at my accent at the start (even though I’ve heard recordings of my voice many times before!) almost put me off, but it was worth it in the end.

It was a two hour grammar lesson with a (very friendly and supportive) upper intermediate group. I recorded it as part of my Delta Reflection and Action. The main thing I realised was that it was a bit of an uninspired PPP lesson (present-practice-produce), and I probably could have used something a bit more exciting and Delta-y, but the students learnt the language (or at least, remembered it the next day), so it wasn’t a waste of time. We were looking at uses of the gerund and infinitive based on New Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate Student’s Book page 88.

I was looking at my methods of language clarification, and the main thing I noticed was that I used a whole range of methods:

  • definitions;
  • explanations;
  • examples – both on the board and spoken;
  • concept check questions (CCQs) – where you ask questions to lead students towards the meaning of a piece of language;
  • giving students a dictionary;
  • gestures

Apart from the structure of the lesson and the language clarification, the main thing that I noticed was that I never seem to be still. I’m always moving around the room, looking at my materials, putting my hair behind my ear (!)…not sure if that’s a good thing, showing energy, or a bad thing, making the watcher nervous! I also don’t know if that’s normal, or only because I was filming the lesson. I forgot it was there most of the time, but you never know what your sub-consciousness is doing!

On the plus side, I think I was speaking at a manageable speed, using appropriate language, with some repetition, as you would get in normal language. I do speak faster to these students at times, but I feel in a grammar lesson it’s better to take your time. There is also a lot of laughter in my classroom, which I think is incredibly important. If the students aren’t comfortable enough to laugh, to ask me questions and to work together, then I’m not doing my job properly.

Unfortunately, I did the recording in a small room, and it was quite difficult to find a good position where the camera could film what I was doing at the board and when I was monitoring/moving around the room to listen to the students. A lot of the video is the back of one of my student’s heads! Here’s a little clip though, focussing on my time at the board (and the back of said student’s head), just to whet your appetite:


Clarifying Language

As part of my Delta Reflection and Action stage 2 action plan I said that I would try to:

move away from a teacher-centred, board-focussed model of language clarification

In two weeks time, I have to write up my stage 3 action plan, including reflecting on what has changed in my teaching since I wrote stage 2. It seems to me that I’ve not done much about this point, and I’d like to ask your help. 

When I wrote this I was focussing specifically on language clarification, as opposed to presentation. Most of my reading seems to be talking about moving away from PPP (present-practice-produce) towards a more guided method of introducing language. I think I’ve already made this journey, and can generally choose a presentation method to match the grammar point my students need (if, indeed, they need to be taught a particular grammar ‘point’ at all). What I wanted to focus on was how to clarify the meaning of this grammar if it was unclear to the students from my initial teaching.

He just doesn’t get it…
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @yearinthelifeof, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/


My natural instinct is always to go to the board, and I seem to end up spending a relatively long amount of time there. The students’ eyes glaze over, and they end up none the wiser. My explanation normally includes example sentences, perhaps timelines or pictures if relevant. I use concept checking questions, and I always have some kind of context, or at least I’m pretty sure I do. 

My question to you is: what have I missed? What could I be doing instead of lecturing from the board? 

Why I love the people I connect to online

On Friday I posted a ranty, very annoyed, very depressed blog post. Within 48 hours I had had 5 blog comments, an email, two direct messages on facebook (none of which were less than 100 words), and three direct messages on twitter offering support, advice and general friendliness
A couple of hours ago I asked people to spend a few minutes to send me a short recording of them talking about their favourite TV programme. I already have four recordings and another on it’s way.
Some of these people I’ve known for years, some for a few months, and some I’ve never met in person, only online. You are all amazing, and I really do appreciate your help and support! You are making what could have been (and sometimes is) the hardest year of my life a whole lot easier. Thank you.


I’ve thought for a while about whether to publish this, knowing that people from my Delta course read my blog, colleagues read it, that representatives of my current employer probably do, and that potential future employers may read it as well. But I really need to get it out of my system. And if I didn’t publish it, I feel like I would be hiding something that needs to be written about.

Delta is doing my head in!

I’ve been ill for the last month (a combination of IBS, which I’ve never had before and you probably didn’t want to know about, and a bad cold/cough/losing my voice). Now admittedly, last year was very busy, and the lack of a proper, doing-nothing-at-all type holiday for 12 months probably had something to do with it, but I strongly suspect that constant thinking about Delta probably tipped me over into nearly two complete weeks off work – and the guilt and resentment I felt about having to take that time off probably made it worse too.

The amount of motivation I need to actually achieve anything towards my Delta seems to be increasing exponentially. For everything I hand in, it seems to take twice as much motivation to get through the  next piece of work. I’ve had a relatively relaxing Delta-free ten days off for Christmas and the New Year, after the two weeks of no Delta at all that I had when I was off sick. I came home on New Year’s Day to give myself five days to Delta in before going back to work. So far, in two days, I have read two documents for background reading, gone through two sets of exam guideline answers and done half of an exam training document . To do each of these it has taken me at least twice as long as it should have done, with probably more time spent on procrastinating than work in each of these cases. I have no motivation to write a timetable and stick to it. What would be the point? As long as I hit my deadlines. Before I started the Delta, I thought I would like a distinction. After a couple of weeks I thought ‘As long as I pass, who cares what grade I get.’ And I still intend to pass, but I find I can’t be bothered to work a lot of the time.

After six hours of ‘work’ today, probably consisting of about two hours of actual work, and about the same yesterday, I am already tired and in tears because I am so frustrated. And I still haven’t started doing any work for Module 3 (extended assignment) at all yet. All the effects of my holiday seem to have worn off already, and my illness, which seemed to have almost gone three days ago, has come back with a vengeance. That can’t be coincidence.

Take regular breaks, I hear you say. Since I started the distance part of the course at the end of October, I have only had three (I think) weekends which were entirely dedicated to Delta. Most weekends I have gone out in the evenings to meet friends/go to the cinema/…, and many weekends I have had a complete day off. I’ve had two complete weekends off since then, until I got ill. Since the middle of November, I have done almost no Delta on weekday evenings, sometimes working on one evening if I could motivate myself to do it. I am lucky enough to work 9-5 so I have a regular timetable, and should have some energy to work in the evenings, but I just don’t. I don’t really see how I can have any more breaks. And I can’t go away on holiday unless I don’t plan to have any time off for the rest of 2013. I’ve already booked the week after the Delta exam off work.

At the start of the course I felt like I was learning quite a lot. Now I feel like I am filling up pieces of paper with pointless notes about how to do the exam in the (too short) allotted time. Oh yes, the exam. Is it just me or does the Delta exam not actually test whether you are a good teacher or not? I know that the things you have to study for it are useful, and I’m sure without an exam most people wouldn’t bother with it, but surely some of that stuff could be put into module 2 teaching practice more. How about a spoken exam? It would require more manpower, sure, but why not have Skype exams? Recorded video ones? Those are my best suggestions at the moment, but this is something I thought long before I started doing Delta, and it’s a feeling that just won’t go away. All it seems to test is whether you’re good at studying for and doing exams, and whether you can handwrite for three hours without your arm falling off. Luckily, I’m normally fine in exams, so I shouldn’t worry, but all it does is annoy me that other people might fail despite being amazing teachers. What part of teaching is a three-hour exam really applicable too? Apart from maybe helping you sympathise with students you are preparing for exams.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that THIS IS NOT ME. I like studying. I like learning new things. I even, weirdly, don’t mind doing exams. I normally want to do the best I can in any course I do. I love teaching. I want to be a better teacher. But is this really the best way to do it? Now I feel stressed, I find I increasingly don’t really care about Delta, I am bored with it, and annoyingly, I sometimes find I’m not really that bothered about my lessons: “Oh, that’ll do.” THIS IS NOT ME.

But it’s OK, because this is apparently normal for Delta students. You should expect to feel like you don’t know how to teach (I haven’t felt like I don’t know how to teach (big-headedly perhaps), and I’ve always  known that I have a lot more to learn about it). I don’t like hippy-dippy overly cheery ‘everybody is amazing’ type things, and I am a realist about this kind of thing, or at least I like to think so, but why should you be torn down and built back up again. Surely it should be a gradual, positive, building process all the way through your career. Dream on?

On the plus side, because of Delta I’ve read some books I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I’m thinking about starting a kind of blog-based EFL methodology book club after I’ve finished Delta, if I can motivate myself to keep reading. Another plus point: I’ve learnt some terminology I didn’t know before, which helped me understand said books.

So how else can you get in-depth certified CPD that will let you become a DOS or a teacher trainer or simply a better qualified teacher? There must be a better way than this. Suggestions on a postcard please.

Reading a short story

This week, my colleague Lesley and I decided to work on a short story with our (two classes of) pre-intermediate students. We chose the Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia. We have four hours a day with them, divided into two two-hour lessons, so we dedicated the afternoon lessons to the story.

This post is intended as a list of ideas for using a short story, rather than a series of lessons you could necessarily follow yourself. If you want to follow it exactly, you need to find an abridged version of the story – I can’t find a suitable one to link to, unfortunately.


We showed the students pictures of Irene Adler (x3), Dr. Watson (x4) and Sherlock Holmes (x4), in that order, taken from various TV and film adaptations of the story. The students had to describe the people and decide what they had in common. Until they got to the final group of pictures, they didn’t know it was connected to Sherlock Holmes. After each group, we wrote a set of sentences on the board about the characters (the names were added later).

Character sentences

We then brainstormed everything the students already knew about Sherlock Holmes. Of my seven students, one had read a short story and two had seen the film. This is what we came up with:

Sherlock Holmes mind mapAfter this preparation, it was time to start reading the story. I read aloud while the students followed. I stopped on the second page of our abridged copy, so that the students had seen the description of Adler, Holmes and Watson, giving them enough information to add attach the names to the pictures.

To stop the students from trying to understand every last word of the story, I asked them to highlight every word they understood in their copies. This idea was inspired by Kevin Stein and really motivated the students. I put % on the board, and asked them to estimate how much they had understood so far, getting answers from 70-99%. They then worked together to fill in some of the gaps, highlighting any extra words they understood. Estimating the percentage again after this exercise, all of the students raised it. I pointed out that they didn’t need to understand every word to understand the story, but that it’s a good idea to focus on a couple of new words, and this is where we left lesson one.

Turn into and outsmart

Lesley had decided to start from the title, discussing what a scandal was. I never ended up doing this explicitly, but should have done at some point.


On day two we started by recapping what the students remembered from the first two pages of the story. I showed them the Watson/Holmes pictures again, and asked them to decide which Watson assisted which Holmes, based purely on the images. For example, Jude Law with Robert Downey Jr. and Martin Freeman with Benedict Cumberbatch. We talked about how they decided, using clues like the age of the photo and the kind of clothes they were wearing, as well as prior knowledge of the film. This introduced the idea of observation, and linked to a quote I had on the board: “You see, but you do not observe.”

In the next page of the story, Holmes lists four things about Watson which he has observed:

  • Watson is enjoying married life.
  • He has put on weight.
  • He was caught in the rain recently.
  • He has returned to his career as a doctor.

The students had to identify the paragraph where Watson confirmed each observation by writing a key word next to it, which the students decided would be married, fat, rain, job. They were very motivated when they realised this was easy to do, as they had initially said they couldn’t understand.

For the next sections of the story, Lesley and I had prepared pictures taken from screenshots of a YouTube video. I haven’t uploaded these, as I think they are probably covered by copyright. The students had to read the part of the story where the King describes his problem, and match what he said to the pictures. They then worked together to complete a gapped summary of his problem:

Sherlock Holmes gapfillSherlock Holmes completed gapfillFor the last ten minutes, they divided a piece of paper into four and wrote sentences describing everything they knew about the four main characters. For example:

  • Sherlock Holmes: He is observant. He lives at 221B Baker Street.
  • Doctor Watson: He is married. He works with Sherlock Holmes.
  • Irene Adler: She is very clever. She has a photo of the King and her.
  • The King: He wants to get married. He needs Sherlock’s help.


We started by recapping the summary from the end of Tuesday’s lesson. The students were amazed at how much they could remember! They also added to their sentences as we’d run out of time on Tuesday.

The next part was picture-based again, this time with the students predicting what they were about to read about. They  had pictures of Sherlock Holmes in disguise as a tramp, Godfrey Norton arriving at Irene Adler’s house, then leaving, and Adler leaving. There was another summarising gapfill for them to complete at this point.

Once they had checked their answers, they had to guess what would happen next. They were right in suspecting that Norton and Adler would get married, but were surprised when they read and discovered that Sherlock Holmes was the witness!

To finish the lesson, we read about Holmes’ plan to get the King’s photo back from Adler.

By this point, the students were flagging a little, but I told them we would finish the story the next day and they perked up a bit!


The students read about how Holmes and Watson put the plan into action. They then watched three short clips from the TV episode, showing:

To finish the story, the students had to say what they thought would happen in the final four pages, then read to check whether they were right or not.

They then started to work on an 8-10 sentence summary of the main events of the whole story, which they had to finish for homework.


All of the students did their homework 🙂 They worked together to decide which sentences were necessary in the summaries, as some students had written a lot more than eight to ten.

I divided the class into two groups of three/four students each. Each group had to choose any scene from the story and reenact it. They had about 25 minutes to plan what they would say and do (luckily there was a spare classroom next door). They then performed their scene, to much raucous laughter – one student played the King visiting Sherlock Holmes. In the story he is wearing a mask, but she made do with her sunglasses and headscarf, which none of us expected! It was probably much funnier being in the room, but affective filters were definitely lowered! While watching the scenes, the other group had to decide who was playing who, and which part of the story it was. The task wasn’t very difficult, but they had used a lot of English to prepare for it, and they really enjoyed it, as they told me afterwards.

For the final half hour of the week, we played Hot Seat/Backs to the Board, using words taken from the story. We hadn’t really focussed on anything in particular, but words and phrases the students had picked up and started using during the week included: witness, framed photograph, panel (which Adler hid the photo behind), tube (which the smoke bomb was made of), false alarm, observe, Your Majesty…

When I asked them to think back to the first lesson and how they felt when they first looked at the story, the students all said it looked hard, but that now they could understand. There was a great sense of achievement on looking around the room.

Doing it again

I definitely would! And I wouldn’t change much at all – the students were engaged, motivated, and picked up a lot of new language along the way. Hopefully it will inspire them to read a little more in English, and remind them that it’s not necessary to understand every word of something to get the main points. One student did go home and look up all of the unknown words on Monday evening, but that was the only time she did it.

The final lesson was one of the most entertaining I’ve had for a long time. The students were very motivated by the role play, and put a lot more energy into it than I expected. (The role play was included as part of my Delta Professional Development Assignment.)

What other ideas do you have for using short stories in class?

Distance Delta: one down, three to go

This is the second post bringing together some of the ‘wisdom’ I have gathered while studying for my Distance Delta. The first post is here, in which I explained how Delta is structured if you get lost in this post!

One down, three to go

At the beginning of November I taught my first observed lesson. It was based on the first conditional, and did not go particularly well, although I haven’t had my grade yet so may just scrape a pass. Despite that, I learnt a lot from the process.

A second pair of eyes
The cracks are starting to show! (my photo)

  • A second pair of eyes. Whatever you do, however little time you think you have, make sure you go over your lesson plan with somebody else before you teach it. That would have made a real difference to my lesson. I had one overlong stage in my plan. If I’d considered it more, had more time to think about it and, especially, spoken to someone else about it, I would have realised before I was in the middle of the lesson that there was no way that practice would take that long with those students!
  • Context, context, context. It sounds basic, it is basic. I thought I had it. But it wasn’t solid, and I didn’t communicate it to my students. Make sure you get your context across in more than way, for example orally and with an image. Again, mine wasn’t solid enough.

Don’t feel sorry for me though! It was a definite learning curve, and I won’t make those mistakes again, I hope, which is the point of the whole process.

Experimental Practice and Professional Development Assignment

Two tips, now that I’ve had my experimental practice feedback. Both of them apply to the PDA in general too:

  • Be SMART. Make sure all of your aims are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Wikipedia has a good explanation of what this means in real terms. Mine were a bit wishy-washy at the end of my experimental practice.
  • Data. Include scanned examples of the data you have collected in it’s original form. You don’t need to have all of it, a sample is enough. For example, if you have collected student questionnaires, scan a couple of representative ones and put them in your appendix.

Module One exam preparation

  • Quizlet. If you’ve never used it, start now! It’s one of my favourite websites. I’ve written a guide for students here. I collected all of the Delta-related sets I can find and put them into one group. Many terms appear multiple times, but that means you can choose which exact definition you want to use.
  • Start learning phonemic symbols now! Throughout the Delta you will come across phonemic symbols again and again. In one part of the exam, you have to include examples of phonemic script or you will lose marks. To make this process easier, I’d recommend making yourself familiar with phonemes as early as you can. I find the English File pictures useful to help you remember which sounds go with each symbol. To help you learn how the sounds relate to one another, Adrian Underhill’s pronunciation chart is very useful. Here he is explaining how it works. Cambridge also have a set of resources to help you familiarise yourself with phonetics.

Learning the phonemic chart
Cookie’s started learning already (Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @senicko, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license)


For my LSA 1 (first observed lesson) I read The English Verb by Michael Lewis. For me, this was an interesting alternative way of looking at  English grammar. It seemed to make a lot of sense, and helped me to understand why some seemingly illogical parts of the tense system actually make perfect sense.

I have started to work my way through Sound Foundations by Adrian Underhill. He explains clearly how the sounds of English are made, and how he put together his chart. I haven’t got to the practical teaching ideas yet, but judging by his blog, I imagine they will indeed be very practical.

For my second observed lesson I have read a lot about listening. I’m planning to write a fuller blog post about it, as this reading has changed my ideas a lot, but so far the books I would recommend are Listening by Tony Lynch and Anne Anderson and Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field.

Don’t forget to use the articles in the reading section of the Distance Delta website if you are studying that way. Quite a few of them are available as pdfs and they are a good way to get a few further reading ideas too.

If you can manage it, start your Module 3 reading as soon as possible. This will help you to fend off the situation I had a couple of weekends ago, when I felt really stressed because I hadn’t done anything for it up to that point. (I’m feeling a lot better about it now)

Generally, read as much as you have time to do, but make sure you start writing at some point! Tefalump has a very funny blog post about the stages of writing an LSA, with advice about reading in stage 2.

And two bonus tips…

  • Don’t forget to use your local tutor. I was trying way too hard to be independent at the beginning of my Delta, and didn’t ask my local tutor anywhere near enough questions. This partly goes back to what I said above about a second pair of eyes too – remember that going over something with someone else can really help to clarify your ideas. Needless to say, since the end of LSA 1, I’ve asked a lot more!
  • Take some time off before you start. Not always possible, and a bit late for me to realise this now, but if you can, have a holiday before the course starts. This should help you to feel fresher and more ready to face the course. I’m flagging a bit now after a busy summer, and can’t wait for the longer Christmas break!

Put your feet up
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @Raquel_EFL, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0

That’s all for now. I’m sure there’ll be more as the course continues!

An improvised monologue

I spent Saturday reading all about listening in preparation for my second LSA (Language Skills Assignment). While working through Penny Ur’s Teaching Listening Comprehension, I came across a few ideas which I’d like to try out. From both that and Listening (Anderson/Lynch), I’ve realised how little ‘natural’ English our learners generally hear. They often hear scripted things from the CD/mp3/films, or ‘teacher’ English from us, but not a lot of false starts, stuttering, repetition, and all of the other features of a normal English conversation. This was my variation on a grid activity suggested by Ur which I did with pre-intermediate students.

  • I introduced a few adventure sports using pictures.
  • Students drew a grid in their books (sorry for it’s a bit of a mess!):
    like                             |                  would like

  • I had a similar grid on my paper, where I had listed a few of the adventure sports:
    like              /                  would like
    √                       skydiving    /climbing
    x                        skiing         /snowboarding
    .                   rollerskating   /
  • I monologued about the sports above, telling the students what I like/don’t like doing and what I would (not) like to try. I made it into a kind of story, mixing up the sports: “When I lived in the Czech Republic, I went skiing, and I really didn’t like it because…” The first time they listened, all the students had to do was count how many sports were in each box.
  • After students had compared in pairs (in true CELTA fashion!), I then monologued again, in a different order, but with roughly similar elements to my story. This time, students had to write down which sports were in each box. We then checked it on the board.
  • Finally, students created their own tables, and did the same two-step process – listening and counting, then listening and writing.

The only place I was happy for my skis to be
The only place I was happy for my skis to be

Did it work?

Mostly, yes. One of the students even said it was much more useful doing listening like this. I ended up doing the monologue four times, as the first time students thought they were counting sports for themselves – they didn’t realise it was about me! Once they got the hang of it though, they seemed to be motivated, and were concentrating hard to try and get the right answers. They also enjoyed the chance to do it themselves afterwards.

It also served as a useful basis for looking at ‘like + ing’ and ‘would like to + infinitive’ which was the main focus of the lesson.

Doing it again

I’d pull out a few more phrases from my own monologue to help students build their own stories. I also needed to make it clearer that it was a listening exercise when I started! Apart from that, I’d follow a very similar procedure again.

(This is one of a series of shared mini reflections on some of the activities I’m trying out during my Delta. The first was here, the second here.)

The loneliness of the long-distance Deltee

Just a quick post.
I knew this would happen. You get a few weeks in and it all gets on top of you. Suddenly you start thinking “What am I doing?” “Why am I bothering?” “Why can’t I go out and enjoy the sunshine like everyone else?”
Today is that day. I know I’ll get through it. I know it’ll all be worth it in the end. But that end is 8 months away, and right now, that feels like a very long time.
So I’m going to take a break, eat some lunch, go for a walk, and come back and try again later.

Picture role plays

I’ve been investigating role plays as part of my Delta reflection. I rarely use them because I never enjoyed them as a language student, but I think some students would respond to them very well.

Today I adapted an activity from Role Play by Gillian Porter Ladousse, called ‘Picture role plays’, with pre-intermediate (A2+) students.

  • I put a few pictures from eltpics around the room. Each picture showed a minimum of two people, and it was relatively easy to imagine that they were having a conversation. First, students walked around in pairs discussing what they could see. To prompt them, I had the question words Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? written on the board.

By the river
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @acliltoclimb, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

  • Each pair chose their favourite picture and took it back to their desk.
  • They chose one person in their picture to write a mini biography of.
  • These were quite short, so I then asked students to read all the biographies and add one question under each.
  • The students then had to ‘inhabit’ the person they wrote a biography of and have a conversation with the other person in their photo.
  • Finally, they wrote out the conversation.

In the rain
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @inglishteacher, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Shaun Wilden brought picture role plays to my attention during his seminar at the recent IH Online Conference. You can watch his session here and read the original description of the activity here.

Did it work?

Yes and no. The quieter students were very creative in the biography, and added lots of extra details. My favourite was ‘My grandmother loves playing chess and is the world champion.’ However, when it came to the roleplay, the conversation was quite stilted. They did ‘inhabit’ the role a little, but for the quieter students this was very difficult. The more confident students really seemed to enjoy it, and were arguing quite a lot about the correct language to use.

We had been practising indirect questions during the week, and one or two of the quieter students got them into their conversations. However, I didn’t have a particularly clear aim for the activity. It was very much a ‘Friday afternoon’ activity.

Doing it again

With role plays, you definitely need some kind of clear aim. Why do the students need to imagine the conversations between the people in the photos?

Most of the language work I did with the students was in their pairs. It would be useful to work more with the language and build on it further.

We didn’t have time to repeat the role play, and this is definitely something the students would benefit from.

Do you have any other advice?

(This is one of a series of shared mini reflections on some of the activities I’m trying out during my Delta. The first was here.)

What shape is your classroom?

Photo by me, also shared at http://flickr.com/eltpics, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Today, mine was plane-shaped. A simple thing like moving the chairs into a different formation, and me standing at the front giving a very brief safety briefing (In case of emergency, the fire exits are in that corner…), was enough to get students imagining they were on a plane and meeting strangers for the first time. It only took a couple of minutes to move the chairs, and it created the right atmosphere immediately.
It helped me to easily set up a role play – something which I’m trying to introduce to my lessons as part of my Delta reflection, by getting students in the right mindset. It was also easy to end the roleplay, as all I had to say was “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seatbelt sign and we will soon be coming in to land.”
Have you ever tried anything like this? Apart from buses and planes, what other environments have you created?
(This is the first in what I hope will become a series of shared mini reflections on some of the activities I try out during my Delta.)

Distance Delta – the story so far

A little bit of background

For those who have never heard of it, the Delta is an advanced teaching diploma offered by Cambridge. It consists of three modules:

  • Module One is theory-based and culminates in an exam.
  • Module Two is based on teaching practice, with four observed lessons and a professional development assignment.
  • Module Three is an extended assignment on a chosen ELT specialism.

Some people choose to do the modules separately, and others to do them in tandem. There are two common ways to study it: intensively, normally over six or eight weeks, or extensively, normally over the course of an academic year. I chose the distance option as I wanted to work at the same time, and I also like having more time to reflect on what I am learning and try it out with my classes.

The Distance Delta is a collaboration between International House London and the British Council. I am studying on the ‘Integrated Programme’, meaning that I do all three modules in tandem over about nine months.

Orientation Course

Everyone on the Distance Delta has to attend a two-week orientation course at the beginning of the year, with various dates and locations offered around the world. I did mine at IH London in September, just after I had finished at the Paralympics. There were seven of us on the course, from a range of different backgrounds, levels of experience and teaching contexts. During the course we taught a series of peer-observed and tutor-observed lessons, culminating in a diagnostic lesson to give us an idea of what would be expected during the formal observed lessons later in the course. We also had to write a draft background essay and full lesson plan for the diagnostic lesson during the two weeks. At the end of the course, we each had a tutorial offering us advice based on the essay, lesson plan and diagnostic lesson to help us during the rest of the course. It was incredibly useful, and I learnt something new every day. I enjoyed having the chance to do a lot of peer observation, to plan in groups, and to bounce ideas off my colleagues.

We had input sessions in the morning as well to give us some of the grounding we needed for that start of the Delta, including an introduction to many of the abbreviations we see during the whole Delta. Here are just a few of them:


After all of that, we were ready for the first assignments.

Experimental Practice (Module Two)

On the Distance Delta you start with your Experimental Practice lesson, where you try out an approach or technique which you haven’t used before. I chose to investigate grammaticization, which in its simplest form involves removing the grammar from a sentence and asking students to put it back, then compare their version to the original. For example, the first sentence of this paragraph might be given to the students as:

Distance Delta / start / Experimental Practice lesson / try out / approach / technique / not / use / before

That would be a pretty difficult example though! 🙂 I found Thornbury’s Uncovering Grammar and Batstone’s Grammar to be the most useful sources for this topic. I taught the lesson a few days ago, but haven’t had any feedback yet, so won’t tell you too much more at the moment.

Reflection and Action (Module Two)

The other big assignment we have worked on at the start of the course is a reflection on our current teaching strengths and weaknesses, and creating an action plan of how to focus on our weaknesses. The weaknesses I have identified in my teaching are:

  • not taking advantage of emergent language during the lesson;
  • teacher-centred, long, sometimes convoluted, grammar explanation;
  • a complete lack of any drama/roleplay type activities.

If anyone has any useful tips on how I can work on these weaknesses, please let me know! I have a few ideas which I submitted in this section of the course, but more wouldn’t go amiss.

Exam practice (Module One)

We’ve looked at four parts of the exam so far. There is a lot of training before you submit your practice answers. It’s broken down very well, and seems quite manageable at the moment, but I’m sure that feeling won’t last!

Extended Assignment Proposal (Module Three)

Although we don’t have to start writing it yet, we have submitted our proposals for the topic we will investigate in Module Three. I have chosen to look at Teaching Exam Classes, focussing on FCE. If you have any tips or suggestions for this, they will be very gratefully accepted 🙂

What it’s like and a few tips

Don’t forget me-time. Everyone I knew who had already studied the Delta told me it would take over your life. It does! But at the same time, it’s important to find time for yourself as well, otherwise you will go crazy. I’ve decided not to study on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and to try to finish by about 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Normally there is a deadline every Sunday on the integrated course. Mostly this has worked so far, although in the first couple of weeks after the orientation course I felt very overwhelmed – there was a lot of information to get your head around, both about the way the course worked and for the assignments that we have worked on so far. I feel that by giving myself set time off I am much more in control now than I was a couple of weeks ago, even finding time to write this post!

Print. When I first started, I was trying to read all of the documents shared online or on my iPad to save paper, but I soon realised that that way lies headaches and eye strain. Invest in a printer, and try to reduce your computer time – you’ll be spending enough time there without reading on it too! I print everything two-per-page, double-sided, so at least it’s a quarter of the amount of paper than full page, one-sided 🙂

Index cards: so useful! I have cards with key terms, and cards for each section of the exam we have looked at so far. I’m sure I’ll find more uses of them as the year goes on.

Make your life easier. Learn how to use style formatting in Word – this will make contents pages very easy to produce, saving you a lot of time later. Learn how here. Also, add sources to your bibliography as you go along, rather than trying to find them all when you’ve finished your assignment. Little things like this save you time and stress later down the line (at least, in my opinion they do!) They also make your document look a lot prettier.

Plan on paper before you go anywhere near a computer. The assignments I have got through fastest were the ones which I planned in as much depth as I could on paper before I opened Microsoft Word. This could just be a personal preference, but I generally find that staring at a blank computer screen is a surefire way to kill any inspirational thoughts I might have!

Use the ‘mark all as read’ buttons on the forum. The forum is the single most useful part of the Distance Delta website. You can share your worries, ask questions, try out ideas, and feel a lot less alone. On the home page, the site shows you all of the posts which you haven’t read yet. At the first opportunity go through all of these and read as many as you can. After that, keep the home screen as empty as possible. Again, this is a personal preference, but I’ve found it much easier to manage the forums when I did that. You can always search the forums later to find out if your question has already been asked, without having to scan all the subject lines and try to find it.

Find someone to vent at. And warn them that you’re going to do it! It’s so useful to have somebody to talk at occasionally, just to get things out of your system. I’m lucky to have a few people I’ve been able to do this with so far (hopefully they’ll still be talking to me in June!)


The most useful book I have used so far is An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury. It’s an easily-accessible introduction to most of the terminology you will need to understand during the course. And Scott takes this introduction further on his blog too.

Dale Coulter shared two very useful posts about the Delta exam on his blog: Paper One, Paper Two.

I’ve also been collecting, and continue to add, links which I think are useful for people studying Delta on this list.

The next step

Once I’ve finished writing this post, I will start researching and preparing for my LSA1, or first observed lesson. The draft is due next Sunday, so I’ve got 7.5 days to do as much as I can. Grammar is the first area for us to investigate.

I hope these tips have been useful, and that I’ll have time to share a few more as I continue through the course! And if you have any tips for me for Module 3, or advice on how I can work on my weaknesses (see ‘Reflection and Action’ above), please let me know! Thank you 🙂

DELTA-type lesson aims

As part of CAM, we had to plan a lesson using DELTA-type lesson aims. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that these are the same aims which appear in my ‘Evaluating Lessons‘ post – I cunningly managed to use one lesson plan to cover all or part of four CAM modules 🙂

Here are the lesson aims which I wrote:

Main aim: By the end of the lesson the learners will be better able to write a review of a book or a film.

Subsidiary aims:

  • They will have been introduced to and practised the use of participle clauses to replace both active and passive subject + verb constructions in relative clauses and following conjunctions. (Devastated by the fact…, Because he is devastated; carefully keeping, who is carefully keeping)
  • They will become more accurate and confident in using adjectives they have previously learnt for describing books / films (depressing, entertaining, fast-moving, gripping, haunting, heavy-going, implausible, intriguing, moving, thought-provoking)
  • They will become more accurate and confident in the use of adverbs of degree to modify (the above) adjectives, including the difference in register implied by the choice of different adverbs. (a bit, slightly, a little, really, very, absolutely, rather, pretty, quite, incredibly, extremely)
  • They will become more aware of the typical contents and layout of a review. (Introduction including author / director’s name; plot outline; strong points of the book film; weak points; whether the reviewer recommends the book; who the book is suitable for)

The stage aims looked like this:

  • Activate schemata so SS are prepared to think about books / films.
  • SS are able to activate the review-writing skills they already have to create a framework for language input.
  • SS create an initial list of the contents of a review based on their pre-class knowledge.
  • SS modify the list of review contents based on input from a detailed reading task.
  • SS notice the difference between two texts, one with and one without participle clauses.
  • SS analyse the purpose of the use of participle clauses.
  • SS practise the use of participle clauses in a controlled exercise.
  • SS identify adverbs of degree based on pre-course knowledge.
  • SS analyse the purpose of the use of these adverbs.
  • SS practise the use of adverbs of degree in a controlled exercise.
  • SS analyse the differences in register created by the choice of differing adverbs of degree
  • SS use the new language (participle clauses / adverbs of degree) and the detailed framework for a review created during the lesson to decide how to modify their review from the beginning of the class.
  • SS rewrite the review, taking into account the modifications decided on in class. Doing this as homework gives them time to absorb the new language and review framework.

It was difficult to write such specific aims, and I’m still not sure if they use the right kind of wording for DELTA-type lesson plans. I tried to find examples of DELTA lesson plans, but they’re very difficult to come across – I know that people are unlikely to publish the work that they have completed during a course, but it would certainly be useful for people like me when trying to decide whether to take the plunge or not. In a way, that’s one of the reasons I am writing this blog – to enable people to see what CAM entails and decide whether they would like to follow in my footsteps. Thus far, I’m finding the whole course very useful, despite the paucity of blog posts! There will certainly be many more after Christmas when we have the majority of the sessions.