Experimenting with Pronunciation

For the Reflection and Action (RA) stages which are part of the Professional Development Assignment (PDA) a DELTA candidate has to decide on parts of their development they want to focus on. This all starts on the DELTA Orientation course and can be teaching skills you want to improve or things you would like to explore.

When starting my RA stages I wrote down a few beliefs of mine as a teacher and some skills to develop. One of the teaching skills that I wanted to develop was the teaching of pronunciation and for this reason I have decided to experiment with teaching different aspects of it and reflecting on the here.

Originally I had intended to write them down in a journal however I didn’t keep a clear structure to it whilst here I can always edit what I write so it seems to be more practical in my opinion.

TPR with YLs

One of my young learner classes were struggling recently with word stress in a series of lexical items related to food. However much I drilled it they still couldn’t get it. Drilling seems to work well for individual sounds or phonemes but they find word stress a little more complicated. For this reason I wanted to find something that would make the stress in the word more memorable for them. It was during the week interval I had between classes that something I had learnt on the YL extension popped into my head. It was as if I could hear my tutors saying: “Use TPR”.

The following lesson we reviewed the lexical items from the previous lesson and the problem remained. Words such as /bəˈnɑːnə/ sounded like the Minion style /bæ’næ’næ/ I tried drilling again which is my natural instinct but then I remembered what I had planned. I got the students to stand in a line and put their hands down beside them. Then I modelled the activity with the word /bəˈnɑːnə/ and put my hands up above my head for the stressed syllable. I did this with a few of the more difficult words in the lexical set we were focusing on and after a while the students remembered how to pronounce most of them, and if they couldn’t I just had to act out the hand movements and they were able to produce the stress a lot more accurately.

Cuisinaire rods

I heard of cuisinaire rods a long time ago during the CELTA and when I was taking a subject during an exchange program in the Facultat de Lettres of the Univeristat de Barcelona called “Llengua Anglesa per a l’Ensenyament”. However they came up again in two conversations recently. The first when I was talking to a colleague about her Experimental Practice (she tried out the silent way) and the second time I was talking to another colleague who has a bunch of cuisinaire rods as his profile picture for his blog (#eltplanning). I decided to ask what he used them for, as he has his own set, and this is when I was introduce to using them as visual aids for stress patterns and immediately included them in the teens lesson I was planning at the time.

It just so happens that they were quite helpful. We were introducing new vocabulary that lesson related to jobs. I found it helped students visualise the stress patterns in the words which aided them to produce the correct pronunciation. They hadn’t really struggled with this before but it certainly provided variety and a new way to introduce stress patterns in words and represent them with something physical.

Cuisinaire rods proved to be very effective when helping young learners too. In my class of 8 year olds when we were covering food, having something physical to help raise awareness got students very involved and really improved their pronunciation by the end of the activity.

Using phonemic chart with Adult classes

About a month or two ago a teacher from a different school cam to our and delivered a workshop on phonetics. This was an excellent way to refresh my knowledge on the phonology and the phonemic chart. I always find this so interesting and the fact that there are so many variations (from person to person depending on accents, places you’ve lived and so on…).

One very important thing that came up (which appears to be coming up a lot throughout the DELTA) was having to know your students and the sounds that they will find difficult because of their linguistic background such as certain consonant clusters. This teacher was able to provide a website which was able to help understand where students problems come from. This linked with another website called “sound of speech”, suggested by the “cuisinaire rod” colleague mentioned above,  and the phonemic chart helps students understand the physicality of the sound that they are having trouble producing, practice it and associate it to the correct symbol.

One thought on “Experimenting with Pronunciation

  1. Pingback: ESL Blog Roundup No. 2 | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

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