#AusELT Chat Summary: Integrating Pronunciation into the Classroom (5/9/2013)

Another enjoyable #AusELT chat was held on September 5th, 2013. It was well attended by a number of regulars and a few newcomers (Welcome to @robologhlin and @Bega_84). The chat transcript can be found at http://t.co/09kWexWOe4.
The chat started with our moderator @Eslkazzyb asking everyone how they and their colleagues approach pronunciation in their teaching. There were a range of approaches and pitfalls that were mentioned. The main themes are outlined below:
  • Coursebook-based – it was noted that many course books provide pronunciation sections sometimes in each unit. Unfortunately, the participants felt these sections did not always meet the needs of their learners, particularly if they were teaching in a multilingual classroom. However, this was seen to only be true for General English course books as EAP and exam preparation course books tended to not include pronunciation sections at all.
  • Remedial – participants noted that they could plan sessions for classes experiencing particular pronunciation issues. Some participants felt this was only useful when they teach a group in an ongoing basis.
  • Reactive – some participants mentioned they put in a lot of work to responding to issues as they arose. Pronunciation work could be embedded in any lesson and not treated as a stand alone
  • Emergent – a challenging idea for some that is outlined in more detail later.
  • Absence of pronunciation work – due to unfamiliarity with the International Phonemic Alphabet (IPA), avoided due to time or curriculum constraints, overlooked in favour of one of the macro skills or grammar, ignored because of teachers not feeling confident or informed enough to spend time on it.
Two tweets rounded out this section nicely by reminding us of two significant products that pronunciation contributes to.
  • Not focused on on textbooks though it is a significant criteria in tests! @robologhlin
  • Maybe we’ll focus more on it if we remember that we understand our students’ pron. better than anyone outside of class does…? @TomTesol
The use of the IPA was raised again and it was was asked whether the students want or need it. Some participants admitted that they have largely stopped using it. However, some added that they love it and often use it. Aside from teacher attitudes, @Penultimate_K reminded us about the students thinking:
  • It’s in the books and they want to know why it is there.  @Penultimate_K
A number of other tweets gave suggestions on how to integrate the IPA into the lessons:
  • Focus on IPA for key sounds that cause probs for YOUR group of learners @Eslkazzyb
  • T’s need to pick and choose according to needs @Eslkazzyb
  • Yes, key sounds for indiv good and if your lesson is focussing on one sound or group of sounds @thesmylers
  • I find IPA useful for visually highlighting difference between minimal pairs @ElkySmith
  • I find the Macmillan Sounds app has made the IPA come alive for sts. @trylingual
Following an emergent approach to pronunciation was raised by a number of participants as a valid idea that is not always included in teacher training or professional development (refer to the introduction of Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings for a clear explanation of this notion). @thesmylers mentioned the idea of pronunciation emerging in class over time and then teachers planning lessons or tasks on that output. This could be done alongside the day to day use of immediate correction and drills and unplanned teaching moments on pronunciation issues. @Eslkazzyb tweeted a simple work flow for this: observe->note->plan->teach.
@Eslkazzyb continued by asking whether teachers focus mostly at a phoneme level or on suprasegmentals. Most participants noted that the teachers focus on phonemes. However, it was mentioned that for communicative purposes, particularly for higher-levels, students need just as much work on the suprasegmentals (@Penultimate_K and @robologhlin). Another point was made that the students themselves need to see value in suprasegmental work but the often may not if they already consider themselves ‘fluent’ (@Eslkazzyb).
Drilling was mentioned as a necessity but a common pitfall for teachers. Some participants felt it was easy for these tasks to degrade into ‘mindless’ or ‘mechanical activities’ (@ElkySmith and @Eslkazzyb). Ideas on how to avoid this included: drilling in context and practice using sentences on areas of student interest (@Bega_84) and ensuring that students are noticing the pronunciation feature being practiced (@TomTesol). Backchaining (@TomTesol and @Penultimate_K) and open pair drilling (@Eslkazzyb) were seen to be valuable types of drills.
The chat was rounded out by a great point from @robologhlin that a lot of teachers have probably found themselves saying.
  • Do you ever tell your students to ‘work on pronunciation’? What do we mean by that? can they practice outside the classroom? @robologhlin
The participants gave a number of ideas on how to get around this one.
  • Sounds hard but I just refuse to ‘understand’ something barely intelligible (even if I do). @Eslkazzyb
  • Running dictation great for ss to notice their pron issues. ask SS to notice breakdown in comm due to pron @TomTesolI ask sts to judge their own inteligibility or get someone to do it of them. Too fluffy though. @trylingual
  • Listening diaries. What did you find difficult? Why? Ss notice that it is due to pron often then they WANT to do pron @Eslkazzyb
  • Got a good tip from @chimponobo: The Speech Accent Archive http://accent.gmu.edu  Useful for helping Ss develop awareness @ElkySmith
  • I’ve had ss record a diary of themselves to listen back to. Some liked that. @thesmylers
A large number of ideas now seemed to involve the use of mobile devices.
  • Sts can now record themselves on their smartphones and play it back. I think Ts need to think outside the box here. @trylingual
  • Also SS records themselves on s/one else’s smartphone andthe owner has to dictate the message. @Penultimate_K
  • How bout calling each other in class and taking a message to pass on..chinese whispers style @Eslkazzyb
  • VOIP apps are great-free calls. Make half the class exit the room for realism. @trylingual
  • I spent one weekend getting my family and mates to record themselves saying selected word on my phone. Sts loved it. @trylingual
Two resources were mentioned throughout that chat.
  1. Macmillan Sounds App http://www.soundspronapp.com/
  2. How to teach Pronunciation by Gerald Kelly http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Teach-Pronunciation-Gerald-Kelly/dp/0582429757 (Thanks to @TomTesol  or sharing this blog post of him demonstrating some of the techniques in this book – http://tomtesol.com/blog/2013/04/6-quick-pronunciation-techniques/)
Thanks to all the participants. Don’t forget to join us next month for our special guest chat with @Paul_Driver on gamification and game-based learning in ELT. You can check out some of Paul’s work over on his blog at http://t.co/8iEtZu4QtL. A big hat tip in advance to @ElkySmith for setting this one up. It should prove to be a very interesting session. Hope to see you there.

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