Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘review’

The CELTA Teaching Compendium by Rachael Roberts (a review)

As a CELTA tutor, I’m always searching for materials which will make life easier for my trainees, so when I saw Rachael Robert’s book The CELTA Teaching Compendium appear on the round, I knew I had to take a look. I wasn’t disappointed.

CELTA Compendium cover

Rachael’s e-book is arranged as a series of short entries based around key CELTA concepts such as ‘rapport’ and ‘setting up pairs and groups’. Each entry starts with a definition of the concept, telling trainees why it is an important area to know about and offering tips to deal with key pitfalls, like finishing a lesson early or realising you’re going to run over. There are often examples too, such as of stage aims or what and how to elicit. There was even a new idea for me in the pre-teaching vocabulary section, that of getting students to write a sentence connecting two or more of the items you plan to introduce. As Rachael acknowledges though, that idea only works if the vocabulary items are already half-known. The entries end with a summary of three bullet points pulling together the most important things to be aware of. In the pdf version, these are in a blue box, making them stand out clearly when you are skimming through. There’s also a bibliography of further reading at the end of the book, which I was pleasantly surprised to find my own Useful Links for CELTA page in 🙂

It took me ninety minutes to read the epub version from cover to cover, or whatever the ebook equivalent of that is, while I was at the airport on the way to my current CELTA course. I found it easy to access and highly practical. I also liked the way it addressed trainees directly, as if Rachael was in the room chatting to them instead of her words being on the page. Rachael’s sense of humour is also evident, and I laughed more than once while reading the Compendium, particularly when talking about how to use variety to manage pace when teaching young learners and adults. The sections are easy to navigate, with the concepts listed in alphabetical order, main concepts hyper-linked to each other within the text, and a contents page at the start. I also really like the cover design.

There are only two minor faults I can find with the book. The first is that there is no separate entry for context, an area which trainees often have problems with, though it is referenced various times in the book. The other is that Rachael’s suggestion that it’s a good idea to write the exact start time of lesson stages on your plan, which I believe can be quite confusing if you end up starting late.

The book is aimed at those currently doing a CELTA, and to those working within private language schools, with a reference to ‘what they’re paying for’ in the error correction entry. However, I believe it’s useful to anyone wanting to build up an understanding of basic concepts in language teaching, as it is so clear and practical. It’s also affordable, at just under $5. If you’d like to get yourself a copy, you can find more details at the round, and buy it in various formats from Smashwords and for Kindle from Amazon [the latter two are affiliate links]. Thank you very much to Rachael for putting this together, and for those involved in publishing it at the round – it’s definitely a valuable addition to our profession.

Future Learn Italian course – week 3

This is a continuation of my reflection notes made while doing the Future Learn Beginner’s Italian course. You can also read about weeks 1 and 2.

One of the benefits of doing the Future Learn course in the correct weeks is that you benefit from the moderators being online. It’s possible to sign up for a course and complete it whenever you like, but during the set period of the course (in this case six weeks), various moderators are available to respond to questions in the discussion thread, normally within 24 hours. Last week I posted a comment to ask about online dictionaries, and was referred to a list by one of the moderators which included both translation and monolingual online dictionaries. I was impressed at how quickly I got a response. This was useful, though in future it might be more beneficial to have a page on the course where you can go to for extra resources like this, as I would never had found it without the moderator. Moderators would then be able to refer participants to it if they can’t find it themselves.

Another advantage of studying the course in the specified time is the ability to use the tips sent out in the summary email at the end of each week. These are pulled together based on comments and questions from the discussion threads. At the end of week 2, this included a response to user requests which I was very pleased to see:

To help you to practise listening comprehension, a downloadable audio version the dialogues will available from next week.

Perhaps the dictionary links could also have been included here?

Week 3

The video story is working well for me. I’m enjoying learning more about the characters, and am quite pleased that they don’t seem to be going down the line I’ve seen before in this kind of video of boy meets girl, lots of slightly strained sexual tension, then they fall in love at the end of the story. Instead, Mike and Anna both have partners (Sarah and Leonardo) who they tell each other about in the first video for this week, introducing descriptive language. As mentioned previously, I also like the fact that the videos are at normal speed, but you have lots of options to help you: no, English or Italian subtitles; watching at half speed, downloading the transcript, and from this week, downloading the audio.

Generally, the videos are very well produced, both for the story and the language introductions.

As in previous weeks, the ‘Try it yourself communication’ activity again relies on you being able to use the four or five phrases they’ve introduced so far, or going off and finding your own phrases/using what you know already. These are examples of what has been introduced: If they don’t have long, black hair or aren’t tall or thin, there aren’t many people you can describe 🙂 I know they’re trying to separate the functional language and the vocabulary sections, but I don’t really feel like commenting because I don’t know what to say. I feel like a more specific prompt would be useful. This is the task at the moment:

Do you have any questions about how to describe people and things? Are you unsure about something? Share your comments and questions in the discussion below. Don’t hesitate to help other learners if you know the answer, or to share links to helpful resources.

I clicked ‘mark as complete’ without adding anything.

The vocabulary introduction is the next stage. To me, it would make sense to flip these two steps in the course. There is an extra practice activity though you have to do a bit of guesswork – are her eyes green or light? Is her hair short and black, curly and black, short and curly?

Noun and adjective agreement video: refers back to previous grammar units very clearly, so it’d be easy to find them again if you wanted to. Slight confused by this random question at the end of the grammar quiz, which doesn’t appear to practise noun and adjective agreement, and must have slipped past whoever was checking the course!

Mike e Leonardo sono _____. gentile/studenti

The ‘Exploring Italian’ section throws out a whole load of new language again, and does nothing with it apart from showing us a couple of example sentences. The phrases include: “stare insieme con (to date someone)” and “essere fidanzat-o/a/i con (to be engaged to)” Questions in the comments section reflect this: can we have the audio or hear the pronunciation? Speculation on the grammatical forms… On the plus side, the examples mostly use the characters from the video, so at least the context is maintained. [In the end of week email, the moderators said that audio files will be available for these sections from next week. Great to see how they respond to the comments.]

Italian sounds: vowels. Aha, it turns out they can easily put in sound files, as there is one to accompany each of the words used to introduce the vowel sounds. I feel like this would be a more useful way of introducing the vocabulary, or at least they could have a vocabulary list with the audio to accompany the videos so you can listen repeatedly to particular words you want to practise with ease. Lots of comments in this case to show that the differences between /e/, /ε/ and /o/, /ɔ/ haven’t been made clear. It’s OK for me because I understand the phonetics, have lots of practise differentiating sounds, and the example words they’re using to equate the sounds are from English, my mother tongue, but a lot of the course participants will have trouble distinguishing these pairs as they are so similar. A little more explanation would be useful, or indeed, a video showing you the physical differences between the sounds, rather than just an audio file!

The directions video goes nicely with where I’m up to on the Memrise Learn Basic Italian course: level 5 is called ‘Here, there and everywhere‘ and covers directions too (and, randomly, numbers and times!) The first question in the comprehension quiz asks you where Mike wants directions to. The answer was given in the introduction to this video, when the phrase ‘post office’ is pre-taught. This is an example of the importance of choosing which language to pre-teach carefully and/or ensuring that comprehension questions actually require you to comprehend the materials! The use of a map in the video with Mike and a stranger is also reflective of my experience as a tourist. I’m enjoying seeing clips of Sienna, and like the fact that it’s not just in the sunshine! Mike feels like a real person in a real city with (fairly) real reasons for needing to speak Italian.

I like the fact that the ‘focus on communication’ video begins by the teacher acknowledging that although we often use GPS nowadays, it’s still useful to be able to ask for directions. The communication quizzes generally test passive recognition of collocations, which I think is fairly useful. There was another quiz on Learning Apps to help us, this time matching the two halves of sentences. It’s good to explore this app, which I learnt about last week. Lots of people have been motivated to post in the comments, mostly writing short conversations with directions in them. These add extra reading practice. There is also peer support when people have questions about the language, for example what ‘vicino’ means, which was mentioned in the video, but never explicitly taught. I learnt it from memrise yesterday! (They teach it in the next video)

More vocab for directions in a video (the previous video was focussed on communication, or what I would class as functional language). It’s noticeable that the previous three or four stages have had about 200-300 comments, but this stage has nearly 1000. This is the difference when there is a clear task to complete. I’m not sure if this would be possible, but perhaps the interface could be adapted so that you can post your comment, then read the others. At the moment, you have to view all of the comments to see the box to post your own, so often it’s difficult not to look at other people’s answers before you write yours. There are so many different ways that people have chosen to give directions to Mike to help him find Anna – a genuinely engaging and motivating productive task, probably the first one on the course so far!

It’s now two days into week 4 and I haven’t finished week 3 yet, and didn’t have time to do any over the last three days since the last things I wrote…

Because I know I won’t have time to catch up next weekend either, and want to finish the whole thing before I get to Milan, I’m tempted to rush (though not enough to stop writing this!) Instead of watching the full video for the conjugations of ‘andare’ and ‘venire’ I listened to enough to hear the pronunciation of the verb forms, then looked at the transcript. This was probably more useful than watching the video more times as I spent time thinking about and trying to memorise the verb forms, instead of just listening to the next thing the teacher said. I’d like to be able to see the forms and listen to them individually, as I’ve said before about the vocab. Managed to get most of the quiz right, but have trouble with tu/lui/lei endings because of Spanish – I feel like there should be an -s for tu!

Introduction to consonants – good that there are Italian example words which you can listen to as many times as you like. However, I don’t really like the fact that there are English example words because these can be misleading. For example /p/is aspirated in the British English ‘pit’, but not in the Italian ‘papà’, at least that I can hear.

Discussion point task at this point:

Write a description of you or someone that you know in the comments. You may include:

  • Hair colour
  • Eye colour
  • Height
  • Etc.

For example: Mia moglie è bionda, ha gli occhi marroni, non è molto alta, ma è molto carina e simpatica!

I have no idea! I can’t really remember any of these words and initially thought we hadn’t even studied them, then looked back up this post and realised they were at the beginning of this section. Directions in the middle confused me – seems like a very random order! Having looked back, this was my contribution, which required quite a lot of effort to produce:

Mia mama ha capelli longhi. Non ha capelli neri. Lei non è alta, non è piccola.

The final section for the week promises to introduce these things:

You will learn to ask for the time and the related vocabulary. Moreover you’ll also learn the names of public places and the present tense of the verbs ending in –ere and –ire.

This feels like a lot, though it may be the fact that it’s 21:30 as I write this. Not sure I’m mentally in the right place to manage all of this, but I want to try and finish the week!

The video has a few lines of dialogue, then some text messages. I think that’s the first real reading practice we’ve had so far on the course, and it’s an interesting and different way to introduce it, again well-produced too. The subtitles have the times in numbers and in words, which is great. In the comprehension quiz, I have no idea what some of the words in the final question mean ‘Anna incontra Mike oggi pomeriggio:’ but have managed to guess the answer. ‘incontra’ is like ‘encontra’ in Spanish, so I know that means ‘meet’, but I have no idea about the last two words.

How to tell the time: “You have already learned the numbers.” Hmm…not really. I’d recognise them at a push, but I wouldn’t say I’ve learnt them yet. Just started doing them on memrise, which will probably be what helps me to remember them.

There’s a Quizlet quiz to help you practise some of the questions. This is good for recognition, especially the scatter mode, which is the only one I can be bothered to play at this time of night. One of my bugbears in general (not just on this course, but in many online materials) is the disregard for punctuation, especially capital letters. Learners need to see how and where capitals are used correctly, as rules for capitalisation vary and some languages don’t have them at all. There are no capital letters at all in the set at the moment 😦

The second video about time has lots of examples of times, in sentences too. Very clear. It was also good that they clarified that in informal spoken Italian you normal use 1/2/3, but when talking about official things e.g. opening hours or train times, you use the 24-hour clock. The ‘try it yourself’ quiz tests whether you recognise if times are formal or informal, rather than your understanding of the numbers themselves.

The extra practice quiz involves writing out a time in words, but only accepts one possible answer in each case, which is a bit frustrating when you have something like 20.45 and there were three possible ways to say it in the video. I couldn’t be bothered with this after one question (again, time of day/tiredness).

The next grammar video introduces new conjugations for verbs ending in -ere and -ire, comparing them to -are. It’s all in a clear table on the slide, so you can see that many of the forms are the same across all three conjugations, reducing the processing load needed to retain the information. “Don’t worry if it seems difficult. It will become familiar very quickly.” – I like these supportive messages 🙂

The grammar test always puts the options in the ‘correct’ order (I, you, he/she/it etc), so if you can understand the question, you don’t necessarily need to remember the verb form very confidently, just the order. Having said that, it’s helping me to remember that -i is a second person ending, not third person (Spanish again), because I keep seeing it in the same position in the list.

The last set of consonants are introduced to round of the unit. These ones are different to English, or have no equivalent. If they have no equivalent, there is an example from Spanish, though I’m not sure these match up, at least to my South American experience. I guess many people may know those sounds, but otherwise it seems odd. I’ve just noticed that all of the phonetic symbols are there too – my eyes had completely skipped over that column with the consonants! Two new symbols in my IPA arsenal now: /ɲ/ for ‘gn’ in ‘gnocchi’, /λ/ for ‘gl+i’ in ‘figli’ and ‘gli+a/e/o/u’ in ‘familia’ etc. The latter sound is equated to ‘ll’ in Spanish ‘llave’ or ‘llamar’ which I don’t think is the same sound.

OK, it’s 22:11 now, and I’m not sure how much of this I’ll actually retain, but I’ve at least seen it. Numbers continue to be a challenge, and I clearly can’t remember the description vocabulary, so should probably revise both of them. I know it’s not going to happen though, because I’m busy and unless it comes up on the course I won’t make the time to do it.

I haven’t downloaded any of the slides or extra resources yet, and just go back to the page I need using the ‘to do’ list if I’m not sure about something. Still feel like I’m learning, but pretty passively. This is mostly my own fault, but I also don’t feel like the course is making me be particularly active at points when I should be able to produce target language. It tests you at various points, but normally before rather than after the fact.

Roll on week four…

FutureLearn Italian course – weeks 1 and 2

I’m in the process of completing the FutureLearn beginner’s Italian course, which is free to participate in, although you need to pay if you want to get a certificate of completion.

While I’m doing the course, I’m hoping to write notes on my responses to the activities from a teaching perspective. Week 1’s are a few general thoughts on the course, and from week 2 onwards they’re quite in-depth reflections on how each activity is set up, my responses to them and what I feel I have learnt/could learn from them. Not sure how useful they are to anyone other than the course creators (or even to them?!) but since I’ve written it, I thought I’d share… 🙂

Very happy that due to a couple of weekends with no other plans and a national holiday, I’m on track with the course (it’s halfway through week 2 on the timeline at the moment). I’m mostly watching the videos in between doing other things, like my physio in the morning or the washing up in the evening, so it fits nicely around life. Not sure if that will continue, but I hope so, since week six is timed perfectly to end on the day that I fly to Milan for my first ever trip to Italy 🙂

Week 1

Videos at normal speed – options for half-speed, subtitles in English/Italian, can watch as much as you like. Pre-teaching some vocab and set up context beforehand – all positive points and help the learner get supported exposure to ‘normal’ Italian. Comprehension task is more of a memory test – can you remember which city she said?

Multiple-choice questions can sometimes be guessed without having looked at the content, but better on this course than on the dyslexia one, where you really didn’t need to read the content to answer them! (By the way, I’m half-way through the dyslexia course and will write about that when I’ve finished it…currently looking like that will be at some point in August)

Jobs – spelling test. Useful! Interesting activity design.

Spelling Italian vocabulary

Scaffolded nicely through the week. Could be useful to have the vocabulary in some kind of clickable form so you can just listen to the words you want to, not all of them (they’ve done this a little with some Quizlet grammar quizzes, but not with the vocab) All slides are downloadable for review, but would be more useful with the sound too

Grammar videos, e.g. intro to regular -are verbs and fare is clear, and he says that it’s normal to make mistakes at the beginning – supportive message. Would be useful to have more time to repeat the phrases after each one, and perhaps a ‘can you remember’ type activity within the video to aid memorisation, though I know it makes videos longer than current 4 minutes.

Week 2

Clear task before you watch video: “Watch the conversation between Mike, Anna and Lisa. Who is oldest? Who is youngest?” Advice to switch off subtitles, or use Italian only – little bits of learner training are useful.

Focus on communcation (ages) – one brief question and answer, then a little test – good way to introduce functional language.

Numbers and age (vocab) – all of the numbers, plus six phrases connected to stages of life (e.g. baby, teen, middle aged) in about 5 minutes. Woah! First time I’ve struggled to keep up (thanks to French/Spanish) – information overload. Receptively (the numbers he asked at the end and the multiple choice – can guess from three options), not too difficult because of other languages. Productively, no time to repeat, though you can watch the video again as many times as you want to and download the slides – lack of opportunity to drill yourself repeatedly on one word. Perhaps better to break into separate videos (0-10, 11-20, 21-100, ages), with some practice between each. A Quizlet set would also be very useful at this point (there have been a few scattered through the course so far, mostly for conjugations)

Grammar – conjugation of ‘avere’ (to have) – practise it alone, then combining it with ‘essere’ (to be) – good to see some revision. Comments on the quiz remind you of which forms you’re using once you’ve answered, though that only helps if you know grammar terms like ‘second person singular’ All quizzes have short sentences – good that it’s not just matching person to conjugation, but giving you a tiny bit of context.

Exploring Italian gives you some useful extra phrases for conversations from the original dialogues, e.g. ‘Veramente?’ ‘Really?’ – not accompanied by audio or any practice at all though. For example, maybe you could watch the original video again at this point to hear them being used in context. Or a little gapfill? Feels like this is extremely useful language that isn’t really being taught

Personal details comprehension questions are pretty impossible – the address one is OK, but you need to memorise an entire phone number, then answer a question using the word ‘indirizzo’, which hasn’t been introduced previously. ‘Mike ha un indirizzo di posta elettronica.’ – I interpreted this as ‘Mike doesn’t like email.’ (!), not Mike has an email address. Again, comprehension questions should be at same time as video, not a memory test.

Introducing formal/informal in a clear, easy way – the clips from the videos are great because they put all of the functional language into clear contexts and add a bit more language around them.

Culturally the difference between via/viale/strada is interesting, and sets you up for the quiz afterwards where you have to decide whether a word is connected to an address, email or telephone number, but that’s a minute that would perhaps be better spent elsewhere.

Lots of grammar terminology being thrown at you in the grammar videos at this point, without necessarily checking/glossing e.g. singular/plural, definite article. Should become clear as you work through the video, but a brief definition/comparison to English the first time it’s introduced might help e.g. ‘singular, when you have one, or plural, when you have many’ (see later…)

Discussion point 2/3 of the way through week two asks you to describe your family. There’s an example, but it’s before you’ve been introduced to any of the family vocab (which is the last third of this week’s course), so it relies on you understanding the example, making guesses, and using what other people have written. I guess it’s test-teach-test, but could be off-putting. Why not get us to do this after we’ve been introduced to the vocab? On the plus side – lots of reading practice in the comments. 859 things for me to read if I so choose 🙂 Comments demonstrate that a lot of the people doing the course have some level of Italian already, as they’re adding lots of things which haven’t been introduced. Fairly normal for a beginner’s course in any of the big languages, but could be off-putting for someone who is genuinely a complete beginner.

Good to see a Quizlet set after the communication video to help you practise some of the family vocab (family, sister, father, mother), along with some of the other things which have come up – extra jobs, one or two numbers. Would be good to have other key family words in there (brother, child, son, daughter, husband, wife) rather than using ‘sister’ so many times, though all sentences seem to be taken from the video – good for context. There’s one English mistake in there ‘How is your family?’ rather than ‘What is your family like?’

Family vocabulary video is good because finally the words are introduced twice over with time for you to repeat them, once in the context of Marco’s family tree, then repeated again. At the end, they ask you to find some words yourself (cousin, grandchild, uncle) ‘using the family tree and a dictionary’. It would be useful if they recommended an online dictionary to use, as for learners with no experience, they will probably just go to Google Translate. Actually, that’s what I did too. From that, I don’t know if ‘cugino’ is the same for masculine and feminine – there’s no information to support the learner as there might be in a learner’s dictionary.

For practice, there’s a link to a crossword. Would be useful to see more of this kind of thing throughout the course as an option to go further. This really tested whether I’d taken it in, and made me go back and look at the words again, something I haven’t really been motivated to do at any other point in the course so far. The only other repetition I’ve done is to watch each video in Italian twice, and to watch the numbers one twice. I didn’t bother to do any more practice with them, as I know I can recognise them, but I’m also very aware that I can’t produce many of them at all. I learnt about a new app in the process which looks brilliant – lots of options for creating interactive activities.

Definite article video is much more scaffolded than previous grammar videos, with an explanation of what that terminology means and when you use the definite article. Grammar quizzes separate the singular and plural articles, and as with all the grammar quizzes, if you get it wrong, there’s a comment underneath to help you self-correct. Might be useful to add one more quiz pulling them together and making you choose between singular or plural. I know that adds time to the week, but the two 10-question quizzes could be reduced slightly to balance it.

Summary of the week video seems a bit pointless to me (but then I’ve never been a fan of that kind of thing!) I just clicked on the transcript as it’s faster to skim. To me it would make much more sense to have the discussion task where you share family info at this point in the week, after you’ve studied it, so you can actually put it into practice.

General feelings about week 2: useful language has been introduced, but there’s a lot of it, and not much opportunity to practise. Receptively, I feel like I know more; productively, I’m not so sure, especially the numbers, and the family words which are more different to English.

Working with Images by Ben Goldstein (a review)

I was given Working with Images [affiliate link] when I was doing a CELTA at IH Palma, as they had a couple of extra copies left over after a conference. As one of the curators of the amazing resource that is ELTpics, I am very interested in how images can be used in the classroom, although I have to say that in the past I have tended to stick to tasks involving describing the story behind an image or using modals of deduction (because they’re easy, not because I don’t know about many other ways to use images!)

Working with Images by Ben Goldstein (cover)

This is a useful resource book full of ideas for different types of images, not restricted only to photos as is often the case. It includes ideas for analysing adverts, icons, and works of art. There are activities for every level and age group, and it is accompanied by a CD-ROM with all of the relevant images. Every activity is explained step-by-step, and often includes many variations to adapt it to other age groups or images, or to extend the core activity.

A lot of the activities could also be used in conjunction with ELTpics sets:

Having read all of the activities, I certainly have a much better idea of how versatile images are and the range of different ways that you could exploit them in the classroom, moving beyond storytelling and grammar activities.

There are activities that will prompt critical thinking and visual literacy, particularly those in the section about advertising, such as 6.6 Adverts everywhere, which encourages students to consider how the positioning of an advert can effect their response to it. 2.19 Coursebook Images challenges students to say what kind of images should appear in a coursebook, and think about how representative the images in their coursebook are.

For those of you who want to incorporate PARSNIPs (a variety of potentially taboo subjects, covering politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, -isms, pork) into their lessons, activities like 6.8 Subvertising look at how advertising messages we are familiar with can be subverted to make us think about a company or an issue in a different way. 5.7 Culture Shock uses signs to prompt students to consider differences in attitude and exposure to different situations in different cultures, such as the sign ‘no ice cream or guns’.

Working with Images [affiliate link] would be useful to have in a school library as a reference for teachers who would like to push themselves, although I suspect that as with many resource books like this, teachers would also need to be prompted to use it or it will just sit on the shelf gathering dust. That’s not to say that it isn’t full of great activities, just that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to incorporate them if you are working from a syllabus.

My challenge now is to start trying out some of the activities I keep reading about in resource books more actively in the classroom, slightly hindered by the fact that I now only teach for three hours a week! I’ll take it into school for our teachers to use, and hopefully it will be just one of the books which I use next year as I try and make our professional development for second years at the school more research driven. Watch this space to find out if I manage it…

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

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 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.

Two books about professional development

When I was at IATEFL I decided to use some of my birthday money to buy a couple of books in the sales on the final day. Because of my current role as a CELTA tutor and my move into management as a Director of Studies, I’ve been thinking a lot about professional development recently. I thought it would be a good investment to read some of the literature about it and get a few more ideas about how to help the teachers I work with to continue their development. Here are brief reviews of the two books I bought. Clicking on their titles will take you to Amazon, and I’ll get a few pennies if you decide to buy them via these links.

The Developing Teacher – Duncan Foord

The Developing Teacher cover

Books in the Delta Teacher Development Series (DTDS) are always easy to read and full of great ideas, and this one was no exception. I saw Duncan speak at IATEFL 2012 and as well as being a good communicator, I got the impression he must be a very good person to work for because he seemed to really care about the people he managed. That care comes across in this book.

Each DTDS book is divided into:

  • Section A: a look at the current theory underlying the area being discussed;
  • Section B: practical ideas to try out;
  • Section C: further areas to explore.

In this case, section B was further divided into five areas of investigation or ‘circles’, moving out from the teacher and gradually involving more and more participants:

  • You
  • You and your students
  • You and your colleagues
  • You and your school
  • You and your profession

(I don’t have my copy in front of me, so I hope I’ve remembered those correctly!) Each circle starts with a checklist of possible tasks, where the reader is encouraged to identify what they have already done and what they would like to try. This is then followed by a variety of different activities, broken down into the aim, the reason for doing them, and the steps needed to achieve them.

Section C focused on longer term projects, such as how to set up action research. The projects could draw on some of the activities from section B, or be completely independent of them.

Overall, I felt the book would be particularly good for less experienced teachers or for those looking for inspiration to put together a professional development programme, and less so for more experienced teachers. Through the schools I’d worked at and the online development I’ve done, I’d tried most of the ideas already. There are still some I’d like to experiment with, though I can’t recall any specific ones now a few days after I finished it. It will be a useful book to refer back to when I want to try something a bit more unusual for my development.

Professional Development for Language Teachers: Strategies for Teacher Learning – Jack C. Richards and Thomas S. C. Farrell

Professional development for language teachers cover

This is the first book I’ve read from the Cambridge Language Education series, which Jack C. Richards is also the series editor for. It was easier to read than I expected – even though this has been the case with most of the methodology books I’ve read, I’m still pleasantly surprised when they are written in such an accessible way.

It is divided into 12 chapters (again, no copy here so do correct me if I’m wrong!), plus a brief introduction explaining how to use the book. Each chapter focuses on one particular approach to professional development, including:

  • Observations
  • Teacher journals
  • Critical incidents
  • Case studies
  • Action research

In each case, a definition is given and the benefits and potential drawbacks of engaging in this kind of development are examined. This is followed by a step-by-step guide to how to approach it. Throughout every chapter there are vignettes to show real-world examples of how they were used by teachers around the world.

I had only heard about the concept of peer coaching from Ela Wassell in the last year, but this book had a different definition of it, seeming to express it as something closer to a form of delegation of training. Critical incidents was a term I’d heard, but didn’t really understand before reading this, and case studies were completely new to me. The information about action research and teacher journals complements Foord’s book, and taking the two together would be a good starting point for anyone wanting to try either of these for their development.

One frustrating thing for me was the lack of a contents page or index, so you have to flick through the book if you want to find a particular section again. The depth of the book was useful to me as an experienced teacher, as was the way that the chapters and ideas fed into each other. For example, critical incidents were suggested as possible fuel for a teacher journal. However, I feel this depth and difficulty of navigation might be off-putting to newer teachers, and they may feel overwhelmed. For them, the suggestions in the book may need to be mediated or introduced chapter by chapter rather than being read in one go as I did.

Having said that, it has given me a lot of ideas for possible professional development sessions over the next couple of years – I just hope I can remember some of them!

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 He tweets at @ashowski and regularly blogs at

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 (, 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.

My new favourite podcast

About a month ago (when I first started writing this, nearly 8 months ago now!) I was browsing iTunes podcasts and came across The History of English podcast. It’s presented by Kevin Stroud, a lawyer from the United States. It’s designed to be a complete history of the English language, going right back to the Indo-European roots of the language.

History of English podcast

Kevin has a very clear presenting style and is always well prepared, with clear links running through the whole series. The episodes are 30-60 minutes, and vary in length depending on what the presenter decides to include, from linguistics to historical detail. I like the fact that he doesn’t have a fixed length for each episode, as with other podcasts that can mean missing things out or cramming things in. They’re just as long as they need to be, although some people might find them a bit repetitive at times. I think the repetition helps though because Kevin doesn’t assume you remember past episodes, or that you’ve listened to them all.

I’ve learnt a lot of European history from the podcast, including things I vaguely knew about before but didn’t really know what they were, for example the Punic Wars.

I find the etymology Kevin discusses particularly interesting, including the history of the names of various countries which I’d often wondered about. The episode that I thought was most fascinating was about the history of the letter ‘C”, which has helped me with my Russian too as it explained the ‘funny’ order of the alphabet. I regularly have ‘aha’ moments while listening.

I would highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in history or linguistics, which I imagine includes a lot of readers of this blog!

[I’m not sure why it took me 7 months to publish this, since it’s been ready all this time…but better late than never!]

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