Well, I'm finally done. I actually have been for some time, but I got bronchitis and some other stuff happened and I'm only now finally feeling like writing about my Delta experience. I've written about this before, but only from the perspective of having done one or two modules. Now that I've done the entire Delta, I feel more qualified to write holistically about my experiences.
That'll take awhile though, so I thought I'd start out with an essential Delta reading list. Sandy Millin has one going, and though I generally agree with hers, my recommendations are not quite the same.
Obviously most people are unlikely to be able to read all of these before they start a Delta, so I've starred (*) the ones that are the best choices for pre-reading
Some of these titles are only helpful for one module, some will inform your understanding and learning in all three, but all provide the essential knowledge needed to do well on Delta:
*About Language (Scott Thornbury)
This provides an essential overview of the language system of English, which will help you quite a bit on Module 1 Paper 1 Task 4 (though I've heard they've changed around the tasks, so this may now be Task 5), inform your systems assignment decisions (especially if you do a grammar assignment) and papers in Module 2, and be useful to know when figuring out what learners need in Module 3. What's more, it gives you the essential background in basic phonology that make it possible to skip a foundational phonology text (though you may want to read about connected speech and intonation elsewhere, perhaps in Field's book on listening, recommended below). All in all, an essential text as you won't pass Delta without a knowledge of systems.
Testing for Language Teachers (Arthur Hughes) - only the first few chapters are necessary
This will help you out in Paper 2 on Module 1, in the task where you analyze a test for strengths and drawbacks. It will also inform your choices of assessment methods in Module 3 and give you solid background knowledge - though nothing you can cite - for assessing progress in your Module 2 classes. Overall a working knowledge of key concepts in testing is necessary to do well on Delta.
Syllabus Design (David Nunan)
(* only for Module 3 pre-reading)
This is almost entirely for Module 3, but you can't write the paper without having read this text or something similar. I chose this text over others (e.g. Kathleen Graves' Designing Language Courses) as it's short and to the point, so it's a good book to read before you attempt to write your Module 3 paper.
*How Languages are Learned (Patty Lightbown and Nina Spada)
This is solid general background reading and will help quite a bit on Module 1, Paper 2 Task 4 (the one where you try to suss out the assumptions of other language teachers based on some sort of excerpt), as well as inform your choices in Modules 2 and 3.
Beyond The Sentence: an introduction to discourse analysis (Scott Thornbury)
Extremely useful for all three modules - obviously for a Module 2 systems lesson on discourse, but also in Module 1 for Paper 1 tasks 3 and 4 (in which you analyze lesson content and a learner's production, where a knowledge of how that lesson and how that production is organized - or not - in terms of discourse), as well as in Paper 2 tasks 2 and 3 (where you analyze coursebook materials, and being able to provide ideas taken from a fundamental knowledge of discourse will help earn marks). It will also help you in Module 3, in terms of deciding if a dip into discourse-related topics would be suitable for your group of learners. All in all I found this to be one of the more enlightening Delta books I read, as I began with zero knowledge of discourse.
How to Teach Grammar (Scott Thornbury)
(good to read as you are looking at Module 1 Paper 2 tasks 2 and 3, or Module 2 for a grammar systems assignment)
Of all the skills and systems books out there, this is the only one I'm putting in the "core list" as it is the most informative one across a range of topics. It specifically focuses on grammar, but "grammar" is such an open-ended word, and the teaching methods discussed in the book (inductive and deductive learning, guided discovery, the relationship of lexis to grammar etc.) so adaptable, that it can be used to inform a number of teaching decisions even on non-grammar topics. Plus, "teaching grammar" is such a bugbear for many language teachers, and has such a bad reputation among those who have an outdated view of what 'teaching grammar' means, that it's essential on all levels.
An A-Z of ELT (Scott Thornbury)
This is not a book to 'read', though I suppose you could do so. It will help you in the terminology sections of Module 1 (the first two tasks) but the real key is to understand the concepts that underpin the terms, which will help you through the rest of the course.
*An overview text of ELT as a profession
(Can be skipped if you have already read such a book)
If you haven't read one already (perhaps for a CELTA course), an overview of ELT would be a good book to digest before starting. Tricia Hedge's Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom or or Jeremy Harmer's The Practice of English Language Teaching are good options.
*An introductory course book in Linguistics
(if you haven't already read one)
This would be a smart thing to read as well, as you'll be expected to be familiar with a lot of the terminology and basic concepts. Except for the syntax chapter, which I couldn't follow to save my life, I recommend Linguistics for Non-Linguists, though any decent introductory text for a Linguistics 101 course would be suitable.
* * *
That's about it for a core reading list, but of course that's not all you're going to be reading. During the course, you're going to want to read more on skills and systems - especially for Module 2, but even for Module 3 it's useful to have this knowledge as you decide what your learners would benefit from in the course you design.
With that in mind, here are the best books I've found for macroskills:
Reading: Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language (Christine Nuttall)
This is really the seminal book on reading, and is updated regularly.
Listening: Listening in the Language Classroom (John Field)
Similarly, this is the seminal book on listening and it really informed my skills essay on connected speech. Other books are out there but this is the winning choice.
Writing: How to teach writing (Jeremy Harmer)
This is a fairly easy foundational text in teaching writing. By the time I got to my Module 2 skills assignment on writing (the second-to-last thing I ever did for Delta) I found it a bit too foundational. But it's great for citations and for anyone who doesn't know how to start a skills assignment in writing - far more so than other books on teaching writing that are out there.
Speaking: How to teach speaking (Scott Thornbury)
The aim of the "How to" series really is to act as foundational texts for newbies in the profession, but for citations and a basic working knowledge, without being overly fusty or theoretical, this is your best choice.
And here are some choices - admittedly incomplete - for systems:
Pronunciation: How to teach pronunciation (Gerald Kelly)
Discourse: I haven't found a great book for this, I would say "Beyond The Sentence" (in the core list above) is the best you are going to do for now, though it's more about core ideas in the field than actually teaching them.
Lexis: I didn't do an assignment on this so I don't have a good suggestion. Anyone? I don't know how good the "How to" book is on this (not every book in that series is good - I found "How to teach with technology" to be rather useless).
Grammar: As above, "How to teach grammar" (Thornbury)