Hello, Delta troopers!
You are on a mission.
Aim: Pass Delta Module 1.
Status: Buried in books.
I hear you. I am equally drowning in the copious amounts of research I am doing, although mine is for Module 2. Luckily enough, Module 1 is behind me – I enjoyed all those early, caffeine-fuelled mornings in autumn last year, trying to absorb all Thornbury & co. have to say on the matters of the English language, its systems, skills, the ways to teach it, learn it, test it… The difficulty of my preparation was equally hindered by lockdowns and isolation. So really, I hear you.
Good news, though: it’s 100% doable! I don’t want to blow my own trumpet when I say I’ve managed to get a distinction. I am mentioning it because I did not feel prepared for the exam (who ever does), I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of what I didn’t know, and I overanalysed the exam in my dreams for about a fortnight after sitting it, fretting I had royally ehm-ed it up. Apart from that I didn’t. Because it is doable.
Two things are key to success: exam technique and ELT knowledge (surprise, surprise!). I am not going to elaborate on the details of either here, your Delta tutors (and Thornbury in case of the latter) are certainly doing a grand job. What I will do, however, is give you my two (or three) pennies on how to accomplish the seemingly impossible thing of passing the Delta Module 1 exam. Let’s get to it.
1) Look at everything from the learners’ perspective.
The one thing you will learn from Delta is that learners are the centre of your universe. They are your Han Solo/Princess Leia, it’s all about them (whoops, spoiler alert). But don’t put them on a pedestal! Quite the opposite: take their shoes off and put them on your own feet (metaphorically), because you should look at every task from their perspective.
Easier said than done; my Module 2 tutor could tell you all about how (not) great I am at doing it myself. But when I didn’t know what to write in the exam, I closed my eyes, took a (mental) step back, and thought about the situation posed by the exam question from the perspective of my learners.
What would they find difficult? Why are they in that situation, taking that test, learning English in that context? How would they react to this or that?
And depending on the question, I would shuffle my perspective around. I’d think about my learners at different levels, of different ages, from different contexts and backgrounds. If you have enough teaching experience, which you DO because you are doing Delta Module 1, then this shouldn’t actually pose too much of a challenge once you’ve got the hang of it.
In terms of actual exam tasks:
- P1T2 – How would you explain this particular term to your learners? What example would you give to help them understand?
- P1T3 – Don’t even take their shoes off, here you literally BECOME your learners!
- P1T4 – Think about your own learners at the given level. What are they expected to know? What do they usually have problems with? What slips do they make and how are they different from systemic mistakes?
- P1T5a – Your learner wants to know what makes the text a particular genre. What do you tell them? What examples do you give them?
- P1T5b-d – Think of your most motivated learner. The one that has a gazillion questions. The Baby Yoda who wants to absorb the knowledge of the world. Tell. Them. Every. Single. Little. Detail. They’re a beginner baby, after all!
- P2T1 – See P1T3 above, you and your learners are still one. The impact on the learner in that situation is of utmost importance.
- P2T2 – You are in the process of kicking the shoes off here, but they’re still on a bit and thinking about what the learners can get out of particular exercises (a), how they link with what has been done in the lesson before (b), and why they were successful at learning it (c) will still help.
- P2T3 – Go wild here. Become your learners and think as them about every aspect of the question. Imagine yourself sitting in the classroom. Imagine yourself using the material. Imagine yourself being taught in that particular way. How do you feel? Why are you there? What’s the impact? Then think of a learner from a different class, level, background – and repeat. And then again. And again.
So keep your learners at the forefront of your mind, they’ll get you through the exam.
*I know, I didn’t mention P1T1, that’s a Veermok in the room.
That stands for “Make It Your Own”.
Acronyms are easy to remember, which comes in very handy when you’re under stress, trying to recall what you need to include in a particular task.
CLOGS is a famous one (Cohesion, Layout, Organisation, Grammar and Lexis, Style), useful for P1T3 and P1T5a.
When studying, I came up with BiLaDAPaVeG. That was my acronym for places of consonant articulation, front to back: Bilabial, Labiodental, Dental, Alveolar, Palatal, Velar, Glottal. And I knew I had to remember that palato-alveolars slot in between, wait for it, alveolars and palatals. Not only does BiLaDAPaVeG sound like a planet out of Star Wars, but because I came up with it, it made sense to me, and I felt confident knowing that I’d nail a question on this should it come up. It didn’t.
I had a similar acronym to help me brainstorm depth ideas for P2T3 which, sadly, I can’t remember anymore (covering learner types, backgrounds, contexts, levels, age groups, types of courses, BaCoLAG something…). It wasn’t the easiest to create either, but it really helped me try a myriad of different learners’ shoes in a short space of time.
The point here is – identify a specific language or exam technique area, list the possible items, and keep reshuffling them until you can come up with an acronym that YOU can remember. It’s basically a zip file for your brain which you can open when you get into the exam – write them all down before you open the exam paper, so you have one less thing to think about.
3) Truly understand terminology.
Dun dun dun dundana dundana, here comes the one we’ve been waiting for, Darth Vader, aka the most important piece of advice.
Base your learning on terminology, but go deep.
But Filip, I’m already doing this, I learn nothing but terminology, my flashcards are all over my desk, stuck to my bathroom mirror, scrunched up under my pillow… Well, I know, there is no end to them. What made a real difference, however, was really understanding the terms, not just memorising definitions.
First, I approached a topic by reading about it and taking notes. Later I’d revisit those notes and condense them onto flashcards (each topic had a different colour: pronunciation was orange, testing green, discourse purple…). It takes time, it’s not easy, but who expects M1 to be a piece of cake? Upside is, by this point you have seen the same material twice, and you have written it twice. Especially making flashcards meant I had to really think about the topic to make sure I’d understood it. It often resulted in me having to do additional reading at this stage to completely grasp it, I came up with my own examples (MIYO), and I tried to put my own twist on the definitions I’d found.
All this ensured that when it came to doing revision (oh boy, was it endless *facepalm*), I had flashcards I could look at and explain (ish). This not only made the revision smooth and relatively effective, it also armed me with the best Starfighters the Imperial Starfleet had to offer – true knowledge.
It helped me feel that little bit more confident (if that’s even possible).
It helped me recall concepts in the exam (because they were zipped in bite-size cards).
It helped me give it my best (which is all one can ask for).
(No, I didn’t eat the cards, though I was close to marrying them at one point.)
I am no Emperor Palpatine (the mastermind behind the Imperial takeover of the galaxy), I am no Delta trainer, merely Kylo Ren, a mere wannabe, sharing my humble formula to success. I am also not a Star Wars fanatic, actually, but I do like to think of Delta candidates as Stormtroopers – extremely keen, giving it their best at all times, and devoted to the mission to be the best teachers for their learners they can.
You are doing a grand job, I salute you, may the force be with you. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)