Pranjali Mardhekar is a language enthusiast dedicated to teaching English and literacy since 2012. She has a Master’s degree in English and has a Cambridge CELTA certification as well as a Trinity DipTESOL which she completed at Oxford TEFL in 2016. Now, Pranjali works as an independent teacher and teacher trainer in Houston, Texas. Here, she explains her top tips for preparing for the Trinity DipTESOL exams.
Here are some things I wish I knew about the Trinity DipTESOL before I jumped into it in 2016. These are my diploma tips for Units 1, 3 and 4. You will have a great deal of assistance with Unit 3 from your wonderful mentors at Oxford TEFL. I hope all new DipTESOL trainees will find these helpful.
There is a ton of reading to be done throughout the course and a good way to engage with the reading is to make notes, collect quotes that you identify with the most and note down teaching experiences that correspond/justify the quote throughout the year. Highlighting your references with experiences works in your favour in your answers.
Actively participate on the Moodle platform and be sure to keep up with the assignments. There was so much to be learned from all my peers on the course from all parts of the world and the various teaching contexts. Feedback you receive on the assignments is sure to help you with the final exam.
Be sure to organize these notes in a dedicated notebook or proper folders. If you make notes on your computer be sure to save them in a manner that you can refer back to them before the exam. This may not apply to those who are in the habit of being well organized and neat. It applies to those who are like me: a bit all over the place. Stay organized right from the beginning. For instance, when you find a quote make a note of where you read it, page no, website, author, publication, etc.
Studying and revising closer to the exam
Start preparing well in advance for the exam. I started a month and a half in advance by committing to at least 4 hours of studying a day – but that’s me – you might need less or more time. But make sure you give yourself enough time.
The grammar section of the exam is the most feared. The good news is that it is also the section that you can be most prepared for. There are so many resources out there on the internet and there’s the trusted Dip grammar companion – Parrott. I can recommend this and this website which will give you a good list to start with if you do not wish to follow the sequence in Parrott. While studying all this grammar think about how you might teach it and the problems you might encounter while doing so.
DO AS MANY PAST PAPERS AS POSSIBLE. I cannot emphasise this more. After I had finished studying quite a bit of this endless exam syllabus, I gave myself 12 days to revise all that I had studied through questions in the past papers. I wish I had started with the past papers sooner. They might scare you initially as you will find there’s enough you don’t know. Fear not. This is why you are going to do past papers. At the risk of sounding like a total language nerd, past papers were a lot of fun to do! It was like solving puzzles or in the case of some essay questions delving into a fantastic new world of some ESL theories and terminology unheard of during the course and being disappointed and surprised at how it wasn’t covered in Parrot. (At this point in the prep you want any reason to hurl some French at Parrot). Coming back to my point – dedicate enough time to past papers, that’s for sure.
There are a ton of podcasts out there. Here are links to a few. They are great to keep up with all the current buzz in the ELT world.
If you’re a tweeter, this is a great list to follow some big names in ELT:
If you’re curious about ESL celebrities like Harmer, Maley, Underhill and Penny Ur and want to know what they look and sound like, there’s a treasure trove of their presentations, workshops, interviews and conference videos on YouTube. These videos make it easy to relate the books to their authors. It made it easier to remember who said what! Also, it was entertaining and broke the monotony.
Some ESL conferences are also available in full online.
Unit 3 – Phonology
Adrian Underhill all the way! His book Sound Foundations is great and there are several videos of him online. Gerald Kelly’s How to Teach Pronunciation will also be a good friend to you.
This video here of Adrian Underhill is great. I love this one!
Closer to the phonology exam, study with your fellow dippers. You can record some conversation before the meeting about how tough and/or wonderful your day as been and you will have all the material you might need to practice transcribing. It takes no more than 15-30 minutes to transcribe words and short sentences or dialogues and discuss your answers. It’s a great way to revise and learn about different accents (if you have a multi-national group) and manner of speaking.
Know the phonology chart well and how and why it’s organized the way it is. Be prepared for the questions:
How important do you think phonology is in teaching English and why?
How do you incorporate phonology in your classroom?
I was asked about certain dark and light /L/ sounds and I said I didn’t know and I think that was okay because I passed!
Here is another resource for pronunciation practice and features of connected speech from our trusted BBC Learn English treasure chest.
Unit 4 – Teaching Practice
Start working on student profiles on day one. They need to be very detailed and your lesson plans need to address all your students’ individual needs.
Writing the lesson plan
Writing a lesson plan, as you will find, is a monumental task and you will have to do six of these. They need to be extremely detailed, detailed to the point where you sound silly. Then take all the details and ask why, when, what, where and what if…. Before the lesson, your lesson plan will be examined by the teacher observing you and you will be asked question about your plan. Post lesson, you will discuss in detail your reflections on how the lesson went and how you could improve what you taught and how you taught it. Being cognizant of everything that went on in your lesson and then being able to reflect on it is key.
For every language point you choose to teach during your teaching practice you have to present a language analysis. Again, be extremely detailed when you determine the possible difficulties that students might have. You should include everything under the sun that is known about this language point – pronunciation, examples, problems, timelines, stress patterns, exceptions –everything! Research it as deeply as possible.
This sounds nuts but by the end of the sixth lesson I knew exactly why it needs to be so detailed. It helped me a lot to think about absolutely EVERYTHING in detail and it was great.
At the end of every lesson you have to answer ten reflection questions. Again, it has to be ridiculously detailed. It’s best to fill it out immediately after your lesson and chat with your mentor.
Breathe in and breathe out
Teaching practice is by no means easy and I would like you to know that if you cry and have a breakdown you are not alone. I broke down too. But you will persevere and come out a winner and you will look back to realize there is method to the madness and that you’re stronger than you think you are. Okay? Okay.
Reflecting on your learning
I strongly suggest keeping a record of your own changing beliefs as you gain more perspective through the readings. For instance, I had very strong opinions about using only the target language in the classroom. During the course we discussed using the students’ first language in a manner that enhances second language acquisition and it had a profound effect on my teaching. Maintaining a record of your feelings and changing opinions through the course might sound a bit like something your self-help book would ask of you but keeping a page in a notebook for some ‘before and after’ reflections on my own learning experience really helped me engage with the course. At the end of eight months it was nice to see how this course had changed my views. This helps me with job interviews too.
Taking this course has been the best thing I have done for my career as an English language teacher and I am certain you won’t feel otherwise once you’re done. Good luck and happy dipping!
If you would like to advance your career, transform your teaching and work with some top name tutors in ELT, you could consider our Trinity DipTESOL course. This internationally-recognized and advanced qualification will help you stand apart and compete for some of the best jobs in ELT. Apply here or contact us for more information. Next course: January 7th 2019.