What I learned from doing my first two LSAs

So I survived my first two LSAs on Cambridge Delta Module 2.

I *think* I’ve learned a thing or two that might help others out.

The first few points are about the Background Essay…

Choose a narrow topic.

Go specific! A sufficiently specific topic allows you to go in depth. 2500 words isn’t actually that much!

Start writing immediately.

Start writing straight away – if you read something you think is useful, go straight to your Word doc and paraphrase it and reference it (include the page number so you can go back to the source later if you need to expand or get clarification). If you’re feeling lazy, even just ‘copying and pasting’ text from sources is a good start, though not as useful in the long run.

Find journal articles.

Use journal articles (and not just published ELT books). Their scope is always narrower and so almost always go into greater depth. For both my LSAs so far (restricted collocations and lexical inferencing) I found more than a dozen research or review articles freely available through Google searches on those specific topics (in fact they were usually much more specific!).

Use Scribd.

Scribd is a great source for scholarly articles. It’s free for 14-30 day trial (but you have to provide CC details).

Use Word’s bibliography tool.

Use MS Word’s sources and bibliography tool. Don’t just manually type in authors and dates as you write. Create a source. Then just insert a citation when you want to reference that source in your writing. Then create an automatic works cited (reference list) at the end of your essay.

Link your Analysis to your Issues to your Suggestions for Teaching.

Regarding the Background Essay, the biggest guiding principle for me was that whatever issues you raise in your Issues section must have been covered in your Analysis, and that all these issues must be “solved” in your Suggestions for Teaching. In other words, nothing in your Issues hasn’t already been explained in your Analysis, and nothing in your Issues is not “solved” in your Suggestions for Teaching.

These 3 sections are intimately linked and build on each other.

A really good way to explicitly show the links between parts across these sections is to using a Style in MS Word that uses a numbering system with its Headings. For example:

1. Heading 1

1.1 Heading 2

1.1.1 Heading 3

Then you can implement Word’s Cross-referencing system and insert references from your Issues back to your Analysis, and reference back to your Issues from your Suggestions for Teaching. It makes it nice and clear for your reader.

Cover a sufficient range of learners.

Make sure you have a range of learners mentioned throughout your Issues section. Type of class (IELTS, EAP, Business, etc) age of learners (teenagers, adults), contexts (high school, university, language centres), L1s or nationalities (Japanese, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, etc).

If you’re struggling to come up with some, be ‘creative’ (i.e. make them up – not that I made any of mine up!). If they’re from your own teaching experience, there’s no way assessors can check the validity of your claims (unless you say something illogical or obviously false for that type of learner!).

Research articles have usually performed studies on a specific group of learners – look out for these and see if you can mention them in your Issues.

Get Grammarly.

Get the Grammarly plug-in for Word. The free basic account picks up on things the built-in Word grammar and spell check misses, and a premium account gives you suggestions on a whole range of advanced issues (refer a friend and you get 1 week premium for free).

Now a few things about the assessed lesson and lesson plan…

The LSA1 lesson plan will take the longest.

The first LSA lesson plan took me a lot longer to write than the next one. I think this is because I was still getting my head around the format and required content. There’s also a number of sections that you really only write once and tweak for later LSAs. So, allow yourself more time for LSA1. LSA2’s lesson plan *should* come along more quickly.

The Aim is everything.

You’ve got to choose a narrow, managable, challenging, meetable aim for your lesson. Set up your lesson in a way that the aim is clear at every stage to you, your learners, and your assessor. Every stage in your lesson should be getting your learners closer to that aim. Nothing is done in the lesson that doesn’t get the learners closer to the aim. By the end of the lesson, it should be clear to you, the learners, and your assessor that the aim has been met. Choose activities that make it easy to demonstrate that the aim has been met (and don’t choose an aim where it is difficult to demonstrate its “met-ness”!)

Plan LESS.

I planned too much for both the LSA1 and LSA2 lessons. All of the other trainees did the same. The lessons are only 40-60 minutes. You really can’t do a lot in that time. Not when you factor in set-ups, feedback, clarification, and unexpected tangents that arise from learner questions and emergent needs. Plan a little bit more than you think you’ll need – just in case – but think long and hard about how long stages will realistically take and how many stages/activities you can actually fit in to such a limited time.