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Teaching House Nomads Blog | May 21, 2019

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How to Ace Your Delta

How to Ace Your Delta
Barry O'Leary

Obtaining a Delta is no easy task. Ask anyone who has passed one and they’ll tell you that it was tough going. It takes over your life, absorbs your energy and pushes your boundaries. But you want to become a better ESL teacher, right? If you’re really up for passing a Delta, then here are a few tips to make your life easier.

Before I give you the tips, I’d just like to tell you that I did my Delta in just over a year. I got a distinction in Module 1 (the exam), a merit in Module 2 (the observed classes) and a pass in Module 3 (the project). As you can see, my grades declined, but that was mainly because I knew I was about to become a father and had other things on my mind by the end. Anyway, here are my tips.

 

1. Do plenty of pre-reading

The reading list on the Delta is probably longer than your university one, so get started as soon as you can. The Delta covers a vast range of topics and it’s extremely easy to get bogged down. My Module 1 began in September, but I got started with the reading during the May beforehand.

Welcome to your new life

Welcome to your new life

Pick two or three books on each area, such as language awareness, phonology or methodology, and get stuck in reading them. Take notes as you go so that you can check what you have read. I spent most of the summer reading the material and studying the terminology.

Don’t make the same mistake that I did of going through the pre-reading material for both Module 1 and 2, instead of just the module you are doing first. I read about 13 books (or some other crazy number) in preparation for Module 1. When I told the tutors how much I’d read, they just laughed and told me that no one had ever done that much before. It worked though, as I got a great mark.

 

2. Apply what you learn to your classes immediately

Initially, I read the material to learn and enjoy it. Since there was too much information to take in, however, reading it wasn’t enjoyable all of the time. Once I actually began to apply the theories and techniques to my classes, though, I found that I absorbed the material better and that my students benefitted as well.

Learning phonology is so important

Learning phonology is so important

I’d been dabbling with phonology for a couple of years before the Delta, but it wasn’t until I started teaching the phonetic symbols that I really became fluent. My students’ pronunciation began to improve and I also became an expert at writing the symbols. That’s what you’ll need to do for the exam in Module 1 and when you are observed in Module 2.

I also applied several theories and methodologies to my classes. One I particularly liked was called Guided Discovery, where students discover the grammar rules through context rather than presenting them. I also began to analyse text books more and work out why they had been structured like they had.

Every little helps. I just found that the more I applied to my classes, the more I retained the information. It’s like learning a language; the more you practise, the better and more efficient you become.

 

3. Terminology cards are your new best friend

Leave your mobile phone to one side, turn off your TV, and get to studying those terminology cards. In the Module 1 exam, you have to provide definitions for specific ESL vocabulary and also give the correct word depending on the definition. It’s only a few points in the exam, but it helps. Plus, I found that as I learned the terminology, I could answer the rest of the questions more thoroughly.  

Studying is the only way

Studying is the only way

Your tutors should go through exactly how to prepare them at the start of the course. I used to spend about 30 minutes a day either making new terminology cards, or memorising the existing ones. If I was to flick through them now, I’d probably only know about half, but it got me a distinction in Module 1.

 

4. Practise your observed classes

Our tutors told us to practise our lessons once, or maybe twice, before being observed. You spend such a long time preparing the assessed classes: the ideas, the background reading, the project and the material that it would be a shame for you not to do a practise run. This helps with your timing, allows you to identify any serious gaps or faults in your materials, and gives you to a chance to deal with any surprise questions from students.

After doing your lessons with a class, you can adapt the materials and lesson plan accordingly and maybe add new ideas or just cut something out if it fell flat on its face. This is especially true for the final observed lesson, which is worth about half of the mark. Make sure you go into it well prepared and practised, and you’ll get a decent mark.

 

5. Space the Delta out

My only regret of doing the Delta was that I couldn’t space it out enough. I was revved up and raring to go through Module 1, extremely focused. Going into Module 2, I was still very keen, especially because this was my favourite one (as it was more interactive and I had a laugh with other teachers).

Becoming a father

Becoming a father

By the time I got to Module 3, I was totally burnt out. I’d been teaching full time and it had really exhausted me. Adding the pressure of knowing I was about to become a father meant that my heart was in another place when it came to Module 3, so I didn’t really enjoy it at all. I know a lot of people who found it the most useful part though, so don’t take my word for it.

If you can, space the Delta out over more than a year or two. You’ll feel less pressured and will also take everything in more effectively. It’s worth taking your time over, and you’ll reap the rewards eventually.

 

Any further questions? Drop a comment below.

 

Photo Credits: Paxson Woelber, Wiertz Sebastien, CTJ Online, University of Central Arkansas, Barry O’Leary

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