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Raising student awareness of
intonation at discourse level
- by Jeanette Corbett
- 3

Conclusion: how to integrate it into future teaching and my professional development

From the evaluation of my lesson, I would conclude that it is very important to begin to integrate intonation in classroom activities. Admittedly within discourse, there is still a lack of materials and nor can we make an authentic recording every week, however as highlighted by Jenner & Bradford almost any existing listening material can be exploited (3).

First I feel it is important to develop learners' awareness without blinding them with science. By introducing it gently as a gist listening with questions relating to voice features as I have already done in some classes, we can get a natural response from students as to their assessment of the tape - an assessment is what we do naturally in a spoken interaction, we make assumptions about the other speaker as the conversation continues.

I also feel it is important to expose students to authentic texts, perhaps first listening for perceptions, then marking the tonic and tone units to develop their awareness of the important information and division across syntactic boundaries. With lower level groups have I already done this activity, after which they shadow read, the text with the tape. This helped cross the divide between receptive knowledge and production. They admitted that it was difficult but commented equally useful for their pronunciation and their overall production of the piece of discourse.
After developing their awareness of tone units, the general patterns across spoken discourse can be introduced and students can mark the changes in pitch across chosen sections, as done in my lesson. For noticing purposes, they can compare to their own language as well as changing tone boundaries on the script or key choices, then discussing the difference in meaning.

A step further as suggested by Clennell would be encouraging students to record native speakers, then transcribe it marking the prosodic features, practise, after which they record themselves then compare to the original as a C.R. activity (2). I think this is a wonderful activity in developing awareness and encouraging production. However it seems to be workable in an English-speaking environment, perhaps we could encourage students to this using a video scene.

In making suggestions for the integration of intonation into the classroom, I will draw the line at activities to force the production of pitch variation. First we have to raise their awareness of its importance by allowing them to notice the variations. Then supply a classroom with genuinely communicative activities, which allow learners to develop their management of spoken discourse in L2.

As a teacher I have found this a very useful assignment to complete. One can read suggested material and form conclusions about its usefulness for learners. However it is not until you analyse a tape script for it discoursal features, do you really understand what your language is about.

 

References

1. Sound Foundations, Adrian Underhill, Heinemann, 1994
a) Part 1: Discovery toolkit, level 3.5 Intonation
b) Part 2: Classroom toolkit, level 3.4 Intonation
2. Raising the pedagogic status of Discourse Intonation Teaching,
ELT Journal, Volume 51/2 April 1997, Charles Clennell
3. Intonation through listening,
MET, Volume 10/4, Jenner and Bradford
4. Ch 4, Discourse Analysis & Phonology, Discourse analysis for Language teachers, McCarthy, CUP, 1991
5. Ch 5, Discourse in spoken language, Discourse analysis for Language teachers, McCarthy, CUP, 1991 Used in planning the lesson
6. Ch.8, Intonation, About Language, Scott Thornbury, CUP, 1997

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