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The End

Scott Thornbury closes down his A-Z Blog with an insighful last post

Make sure you visit this blog often – not clear from last post if it will be taken down or not

An A-Z of ELT

So this is it, folks: I’m closing down the blog for the summer… and for good. After 3 years, 150 posts, nearly 7000 comments, and innumerable hits, visits, views, however you want to describe and count them, plus one e-book spin-off (but no sign of a second edition of An A-Z!), I think it’s time to call it a day.

But that’s not the end of blogging.  In the autumn (or in the spring, if that’s your orientation) I’ll be resuming with an altogether different theme and format, provisionally titled The (De-)Fossilization Diaries.  Watch this space!

At some point between now and then I’ll lock the comments on this blog, but it will hang around a little longer. If you think you might miss it if it suddenly disappeared, you could always buy the book! 😉

Meanwhile, thanks for following, commenting, subscribing, tweeting… I have so enjoyed hosting this…

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The effect the Delta has had on my teaching and learning

After I finished my M.Ed in Tesol I thought to myself, “ok I have studied a lot, I have conducted research, written some assignments. I am ready to teach!” And I did. I have been doing so for some years actually.

Then I found out about the Delta. Whatever I thought about my teaching style, my materials, the way I planned my lessons automatically changed and I started viewing everything more critically.


Teaching my diagnostic lesson

In fact, this is probably the biggest effect. I look at my lessons more closely. I question the effectiveness of my materials,my tasks, what my aims are and how I will achieve them. I now look closely at my lessons and reflect on them. I then make an action plan and try to improve any weaknesses of my lessons. I have become better informed about my own teaching and believe I can observe others too and make suggestions regarding what could be done to make a lesson more effective for the students.

The contents of the course has been extremely beneficial. The background reading has informed me about approaches/ methodologies and educational matters which as a result have affected my teaching. My tutors’  input and feedback have steered me towards more skilled teaching and guided me throughout this whole experience. The workload is heavy and at times overwhelming. This has been an intense experience that has made me step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new teaching techniques and tools. No pain, no gain. This experience is so rewarding and the effort my tutors and I have put into it so far, has paid off.

At a more personal level, this course has given me the opportunity to meet some marvelous people who have become part of my PLN. I started attending conferences, I  have my own reflective blog and often tweet about ELT matters. All this because of the Delta.

The delta is a teacher training course which does exactly that. It trains you. No matter how many hours I have spent reading or in a classroom, the training I received during the course has truly changed the way I view myself as a teacher.

I think the key words here are: Learn- be trained-reflect and take action.

How the DELTA has shaped my thinking about teaching and learning so far.

Having done the CELTA back in 2000 I felt it was time to upgrade my knowledge and skills.

The DELTA has helped me to take a closer look at how I conduct my lessons and to learn about the theory that underpins a lot of what we teachers do in the classroom.  It has, in fact, forced me to critically examine my current beliefs about teaching and learning, which in turn has made me more aware of the teacher I want to be for my students.

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Over the past few months, I have gained great depth and breadth of knowledge and this as make me feel more confident and empowered as a teacher.  This has included new approaches, methods, techniques and activities, many of which have been incorporated into my teaching repertoire. I also feel that I am more sensitive to my learners’ needs and can give feedback in a non-threatening way.

The DELTA has also given me the opportunity to read a variety of books and academic articles, all of which have stretched my mind and brought me up to date with current trends in ELT; a must for any serious ELT teacher.

The background reading for the assignments for Module 2 has been very educational, as have the detailed lessons plans I had to produce.   I think the most useful thing I have learnt is how to make informed choices about what to teach and in what order, selecting material that is appropriate for my particular class.  The tutors I have worked with have offered constructive feedback and then by reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of a particular lesson from the teaching practice, I have planned a course of action towards better and more effective teaching.

Being very near the end of the course, I feel I now have the skills to go on developing as a teacher by exchanging ideas with my Personal Support Network – colleagues who feel very passionate about what they do, and who are always forthcoming with innovative ideas and support.   When I finish the DELTA, I truly believe I will be in a position to apply for more senior teaching roles and I will also be eligible for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) which means I will be able to transfer credits onto an MA in ETL/TESOL.

All in all, I would say the DELTA has been a worthwhile investment of time and my only regret is that I did not do it earlier in my career.

Using Wiggio with our Cambridge DELTA Trainees

This year we started using a new communication platform for our online/blended DELTA courses, Wiggio. We already have  our DELTA wiki, a wiki  rich in resources, links, material, sample assignments and more, but felt we needed a kind of Social Network/Learning Management System that would allow us to communicate instantly and be rich in content features needed for our DELTA courses. 

We are very happy to have selected Wiggio. Below, I am reposting an interview which was just published on the Wiggio Blog a couple of days prior to this post. 

Read my comments there and try it out with your students yourself. 

Marisa Constantinides

June Wiggio Group: Cambridge DELTA Trainees

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This month, we connected with Wiggio user Marisa Constantinides.  She is using Wiggio to manage students in her online Teacher Education Courses for English Language Teachers.

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Teacher Successes & Failures

One of the questions we ask prospective candidates applying to follow a Cambridge DELTA course at our centre, is to describe an activity they have used with one of their classes which was successful and one which wasn’t. In both cases, the candidates have to explain why they think this has happened.

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A typical response looks like this:


  1. Think of your own experiences as a teacher and describe one   successful and one unsuccessful classroom activity used with a group of adults, explaining the factors contributing to their success or otherwise. Please describe each activity briefly and comment as to why it was successful or otherwise. 

Approximately 250 words

Successful  activity

Unsuccessful activity

Students were asked to follow up a lesson on giving/following directions by hiding/writing directions to a piece of candy.  Students were put in pairs.  One student would attempt to find the candy by reading the directions, the other student taking note of any confusion caused by the wording or structures they used (and maintaining silence). If the first student was unable to find the candy using the written directions, the students would then attempt to verbally direct their partner to the candy (If they managed to find the candy, they would be verbally directed back to the classroom).After both partners found the candy they would report back to room and the teacher.  Students would be put in groups as they arrived back in the classroom and encouraged to speak about what structures/wording was easiest to follow and where they became confused (problems in structure/wording for the most part).The activity was successful for several reasons.We focused entirely on directions for a couple of days before the activity, so the students were aware of directions (and directions vocabulary) and how to go about phrasing them already.Students were able to spot mistakes more easily because the directions were written down and being interpreted by someone else in their presence.The small group discussions helped me to see and understand who might need more help with the topic and also helped students become more aware of the language they were using (rules, things they ought to consider, etc.).

When all of the students had returned we had a short class discussion on common mistakes/troubles, that allowed all students to learn from their collective mistakes (and helped me know what to focus the final lesson on).

This activity was structured around a course designed to provide students with English skills they might use in the workplace.  The unit related to restaurant services.  The activity was a reading exercise designed to produce vocabulary from students/expand their vocabulary by explaining words they might not understand.The focus of the lesson was to be vocabulary and pronunciation, as my job was to teach this class conversational/spoken English skills as opposed to grammar and structure.The students were asked to read through passages as a group and individually.I was unprepared for the students to not understand the grammar presented in the chapter (the grammar teacher’s class had been cancelled). We got bogged down in things (mostly grammar and structure) that I was unable to adequately explain, as I was not fluent in the students’ native language (I did not know the grammar terms in their language and they did not know the grammar terms in English).I was so focused on trying to fill this gap in their knowledge that the class hardly learned anything in the lesson and both the class and I left incredibly frustrated.If I had been aware of several factors the situation might have improved. First off, had I been more aware of my teaching environment I would have known the grammar teacher was absent and I could have changed the lesson.

Secondly, if I had had an alternative plan ready just in case, I could have taught something else/presented the material in a different way.

I was caught unprepared.  Because I was unprepared for this to happen, I shifted the focus of the lesson drastically to try to salvage some part of the lesson.  I tried to take on another teacher’s job, a job for which I was not qualified.  All in all, the lesson was unsuccessful.  I later presented the material again (successfully).


Is it possible to predict something about a teacher from this write up?

We believe it is. A reflective teacher is one who can learn from their successes and failures but who can also analyse the processes follow and reflect on the factors that allowed or prevented success.

Failure and success analysis are a vital part of our development and should be practised regularly, on a blog, in a private journal, even as a recorded comment on our iPhone or laptop

Can all these reflections be accurate?

Reflecting on the reasons for success or failure is more important as a process than as an outcome. In the case above, there may be factors which the teacher has not considered, e.g. the grammar lesson got bogged down because the teacher did not have any methods of teaching grammar without recourse to terminology in the learners’ L1, something which may spring to mind in this instance.

Recording one’s reflections in some way

This is actually not as important as the recording of the reflection and revisiting it later, possibly in the light of further reading or discussions, or even a staffroom or online chat!

We learn by constantly assessing and reassessing our teaching practices and planning decisions and this learning needs its own time and its own individual pace for each teacher.

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