I got my results last night! I passed Delta’s Module 1 test the first time.
If I hadn’t been teaching TOEFL for so long, I’m not sure how I would have done on Module 1. Honestly, I just turned a lot of the same strategies that I use when I coach my TOEFL students on myself. I imagined that I was a TOEFL student who had a pretty big goal, and I created an intensive study schedule that I would give to one of my students.
One of the things that really irks me is that we don’t know anything about our score — so I might have just squeaked by the 50% mark, or gotten closer to Merit, and there’s no way to know.
Anyway, assuming that I did something right, let me recommend a process that could outline and focus how you study. Like I said, this is the same process that worked for me and countless students who have gotten their target TOEFL scores under my guidance.
Please reach out and ask any questions you have.
A 3-step Process for Passing Delta, Module 1
Here’s the process I would recommend to you:
First, assess yourself in the following key areas.
1.A — Your Teaching History
- How many years have you been teaching?
- What age range do you typically teach?
- Do you have experience teaching a variety of levels (Advanced, Upper-Int, Int, Pre-Int, Elementary), or is your experience concentrated at one level?
- What kind of books have you been teaching with?
Below, I’ll tell you about myself.
1.B — Areas of Knowledge
On a scale of 1 to 5, how many stars would you give yourself for knowledge, or ability to quickly explain something to a student in each area?
- ELT Terminology
- Pronunciation / ability to use the IPA
- Grammar knowledge
- Vocabulary knowledge
- Knowledge about “testing / assessments”
- Discourse knowledge
- ELT History and Methodology
Down the page further, I’ll tell you how I rate myself in each of these areas. I’m by no means a master in each area, but I started Module 1 with a pretty solid grasp of a few of the areas.
Second, pick an area you’re weak in. Read one of the authorities in that area. Then immediately apply that to your lessons.
The more you have opportunities to actually teach students the things on that list above, the easier it is to remember them and apply the concepts. The beautiful thing is that if you’re teaching, you constantly have opportunities to see new links. We’re swimming in chances to apply this new information — especially if you’re teaching anything above intermediate English.
I didn’t bust out ELT terminology with my students, and I rarely talked to them openly about what I studied for Delta, but I did notice when that was what I was actually teaching. For example, I remember when I read Scott Thornbury’s Beyond The Sentence and got a lot of insight about why a text is cohesive. I was immediately able to start seeing the application of discourse in my students’ attempts at writing essays for TOEFL. Mentally I was like, “Oh! Wow, I never could have articulated this before, but one of the main reasons that this student’s TOEFL essay is weak is because she never links the concepts from one sentence to another — there’s no consistent repetition of ideas.”
So I would tell my student something like, “To write a strong essay, you need to repeat the same concept in every paragraph (but it’s really important to use a variety of new words — don’t just repeat the same phrase over and over again).”
Another example was how I incorporated my own study of the IPA into my pronunciation lessons. I selected which phonemes were easier for my students to use, and rather than making a big deal out of it or scaring them, I just started integrating little, manageable, bite-sized chunks into lessons. While my students thought of what to say for a TOEFL response, I multi-tasked and reviewed my notes about things they had said — I trained myself to identify catenation, elision and assimilation in phrases. Then, if I still had time, I would think of spontaneous examples of the same thing with new sentences.
Third, apply that to while you answer Module 1 tasks.
Refuse to get stressed. Indulging my inner panic queen is an easy option for me, but it’s the least productive way to use my energy. Anytime I felt overwhelmed by information, I asked myself, “Where can I use that in an answer on Paper 1 or Paper 2?” I always found an application. And if I couldn’t find an application, I stopped studying it.
Use serial repetition. This is my tried-and-true method that I use with my TOEFL students. The process has to be repeated until you can perform well despite stress. Honestly, nothing makes people improve more quickly than repeating back-to-back and explaining out loud what the similarities are.
Start small. I chose the task that was already easiest for me (Paper 1 Task 3) and I did about 5-7 of them. I noticed patterns about how answers were similar. When it got easy and I was confident that I was on the right track, I moved to another another task and did 5-7 of them.
Do timed practice. I mean… You just have to. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you can’t recall it quickly under stress in your living room, you’ll be screwed at the exam center.
Practice writing by hand. I teach online so I use a pen maybe 15 or 20 minutes a week, maximum. When I started writing in a notebook a couple months before the Module 1 test, I feared I had developed dyslexia. Despite my awesome spelling, letters flowed out of my pen in the wrong order. My hand would cramp up after 10 minutes of writing. I almost couldn’t hold a pen. :) No, seriously.
Strategize. I basically just decided that Task 1 and 2 were a lost cause for me. I’m so bad at writing definitions on the fly that my time was much better spent attaching Task 4 or 5. First I tackled Paper 1 and became reasonably confident that I could get the necessary 50% there, and then I moved on to Paper 2. I also brought 5 different colored highlighters with me in the exam because I had developed a system of using them for Paper 1, Task 5 and Paper 2, Task 2-3.
My Teaching Background
- Teaching Experience: CELTA immediately after I got my BA and then taught 5 years, full time
- Students: almost exclusively adult learners
- Students’ Level in English: all levels, but mostly I’ve worked with intermediate, upper-intermediate students or advanced students — and mostly who are preparing for TOEFL
- Books I used: My school’s programs often used communicative courses like New Headway, Face 2 Face and Cutting Edge. As a teacher, I had a lot of “incidental learning” where I just sort of magically absorbed things like functions, collocations and assumptions about communicative competence and activity cycles.
I think that there are skills that
How I’d rate my knowledge:
For sure with Module 1, this was my ongoing struggle. My early assignments failed miserably because I wrote in a conversational voice as if I was writing a blog post.
I made loads of my own flashcards and later created two giant mind maps that held lots of information. During the actual test (especially on Paper 2, Task 4), there were a few times that I closed my eyes, visualized my mind map and searched around my memory of the image to find some other little bit of inspiration to write about.
However, now that I look at it again a couple months later, I have forgotten much of that info. It was just stored in my short term memory. This is still the area where I would say I am the weakest.
Phonology / IPA-wizardry
How I’d rate my abilities:
Because I primarily work with TOEFL students who are trying to improve their speaking scores, I already had about 12-16 months of really conscious skill-acquisition with teaching pronunciation. Even before Delta, Module 1, I felt very comfortable analyzing students’ pronunciation and noticing patterns. Honestly, though, I rarely used IPA with my students before studying for Module 1.
The first time I encountered IPA was in my CELTA. I didn’t see it again until Delta. I really understood how important it was to learn, so I lied to myself and convinced myself it would be a fun code to learn. About 3 months before the exam, I created an ultra-laid back, long-term acquisition schedule for myself. By the time that Delta Module 1 rolled around, I was about 80-85% accurate in my use of IPA and could write out sentences relatively quickly.
How I’d rate myself:
Honestly, I was a late bloomer with grammar. When Mrs. Wallace tried to explain the difference between direct an indirect objects in 8th grade, I glazed over like a Krispy Kreme donut. It wasn’t until I moved to Turkey and started learning Turkish that I really started to understand grammar. I had already had a lot of practice explaining random little bits of grammar as they cropped up with my private TOEFL students.
So, when I studied for Delta, Module 1, I only brushed up on differentiating between weird little bits like prepositional phrases versus adverbials.
How I’d rate myself:
I’ve always been a complete geek for words. It was my childhood dream to be an author. Although I had trouble remembering the tedious difference between “homophone / homonym / homograph”, I was pretty good at identifying what kind of vocabulary I was looking at (collocations, compound words, adjacency pairs, bi- or trinomials, morphemes, and idioms).
Knowledge about “testing / assessments”
How I’d rate myself:
Because I’ve been teaching TOEFL for the last four years, I started studying for Module 1 with a decent background of the concepts. I had to learn the terminology and learn about other kinds of tests, but it wasn’t very daunting.
How I’d rate myself:
I started with absolutely no concept of what this even was. I just read Thornbury’s Beyond The Sentence and applied the ideas (like I mentioned above on this page). I am still not very strong in this area, but I have a basic working understanding of it.
ELT History and Methodology
How I’d rate myself:
Again, I didn’t really know anything about this when I started studying for Module 1. I read Diane Larsen-Freeman’s Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching and then I made a mind map so that I could conceptualize the development over time. I also went through Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT, page by page, and added major points from there.
Hint: I used different colors to represent different types of information. Green was the general explanation and in red I wrote the classification (“behaviorial” or “humanistic” or “communicative”).
Ok so back to you!
- Assess yourself in each area according to the major categories I’ve laid out above.
- Make a list of your weaknesses. The more specific you can be, the better. For example, it’s nearly useless to write down, “Improve Grammar Knowledge.” It’s much more useful to write down, “Improve Grammar Knowledge: adverbial phrases, determiners, auxiliary verbs”)
- To boost your motivation and confident, pick off the easiest areas to study from first. Always make sure that you can apply what you’re studying to the test and to your students in their lessons.
- Get an accountability partner! Studying with someone serious is way better than studying alone. If you’d like help from me, please reach out. I’m happy to explore ways that I could help you.