student awareness of
intonation at discourse level
- by Jeanette Corbett
Lesson Plan 2
This lesson forms part of a series in developing the students
listening skills and strategies. This focus has been spread
across Unit 15 and Unit 3 of Proficiency Masterclass.
As the group are following a two year preparation course,
we have been able to choose which units to do and when. At
the beginning of the year, the group decided on their chosen
eight units. Having completed four, we've almost completed
the fifth - Unit 15 The Media and the Message.
Previous lessons have focused on the news in printed form,
visual (a news broadcast), language of advertising and the
genre of radio advertisements
I will use a recording made of two colleagues talking about
advertising, focusing on three sub topics. The students will
listen to the entire dialogue, before analysing their allocated
segment. I decided to use this recording for the following
· It is as close to an authentic conversation that
I could obtain and therefore I believe shows clear intonation
patterns at discourse level.
· The topics discussed are relevant to the students
and they already have knowledge of the lexical field.
· There is a natural use of fillers, as well as the
features of natural discourse: turn taking, topic management
a while we have focused on improving their listening skills
and strategies, primarily for the Proficiency exam and as
a means of developing their awareness for their conversational
As a teacher, I believe too many course books offer inadequate
listening scripts for higher levels - they are not recorded
based on an authentic source nor hold true to natural discourse,
by virtual of the fact that they are cleaned up. I hope that
students will find this recording challenging and that it
begins to redress the balance.
of the lesson
Once I had selected my material, I decided the focus of my
- to develop the listening strategy of my students, by raising
their awareness of intonation.
This was for the following reasons:
- In the previous week, students did a mock Proficiency listening
exam, as their mid year test. We used a recording of the new
Proficiency exam. Students expressed concern about their performance
on Part 4 - the opinion exchange. Quite often, we express
our opinion by use of a filler or repetition which is evident
in voice pitch
- During tutorials in December, the majority of the class
cited listening as their weakness and highlighted the problems
as being not enough time, differentiating between accents
and extracting relevant information. This lesson is a continuation
of a series to develop their strategies and skills.
- In general I feel too little focus is given to listening
in course books in relation to the other skills. Exercises
focus too much on accuracy rather than understanding from
the piece of discourse and associated voice patterns.
- With the revised exam, there are 40 marks available for
the Listening exam.
to past and future lessons
I recently read an article about listening and agree with
our shortcomings of practising the skill rather than teaching
it. Agreeably it is a process, we shouldn't expect learners
to extract accurate answers if we haven't developed their
strategies, how to manipulate the surrounding factors.
Over the past month, I have focused a segment of some lessons
in developing their listening strategies and micro skills
and it's applicability to an exam task.
In previous lessons we have looked at voice quality and promience
to assist with listening, therefore this lesson continues
the process of developing their awareness.
Equally as outlined in my accompanying report too often intonation
has been used in the classroom as an add on rather than being
integrated with the language presented or the skill being
focused on. Hopefully, this lesson will also redress the balance
as well as raising their awareness for future lessons and
for conversation in general.
After introducing the topic, students will compare typical
advertisements for perfume and cosmetics. This is to generate
interest and revise the language used in advertisements as
this has been focused on in a previous lesson.
After which, I will introduce a copy of the Opium advertisement,
for comment to see if in their opinion, its fits the typical
genre. Then as a prediction activity for stage 4, students
will consider what would be offensive about the advertisement.
I have included this stage to develop their predictions skills
but also to elicit a natural response to the advertisement.
Myself, I'm unsure if it has been published in Spain or not.
After checking their predictions (stage 4), students will
answer comprehension questions about the article and the situation.
I have chosen to include this stage primarily to develop their
reading skill but also to provide them with background information
before the listening. Hopefully by providing them with some
knowledge about the topic, students will not panic by attempting
to focus on content rather than voice - voice patterns being
the objective of the subsequent activities.
Following the reading, I have included stage 6 - this is to
develop their understanding of the factors involved in conversation
and listening equally to create a purpose for Stages 7 -11.
Too often in classes, we ask students to complete activities
blindly without allowing them to see the relevance to their
learning by labelling them 'practice'. By creating a reason
and purpose for listening, I hope to motivate my students.
The 1st listening is to practise listening for gist, dispel
any panic before they have to complete a detailed exercise
and to raise their awareness that across languages, all topics
have sub topics. An awareness of this will help them when
Stage 8 is to revise the voice features of speakers in conversation
before the subsequent stage. I have included this stage, so
that students can define the speakers' normal key, changes
over the sub topics and develop an awareness of their natural
voice tone, then they will be able to predict the pitch changes
more effectively in stage 9 and notice them when listening
in stage 10.
The analysis of the script is an important stage for the students.
Prior to asking them to analyse it I will list the features
of discourse to focus on: topics, turn taking (yield, take
up, signalling), transactions (opening, closing markers) and
information (given, new) and use of fillers. I have chosen
to highlight this information to them, so that they can categorise
the functions as per the tape script and think more effectively
about the voice pitch in comparison to their language (if
needed as a guide). I have decided to ask them only to distinguish
between the areas as highlighted on the tape script (which
are underlined, in italics and brackets) equally only to predict
a conscious change in key (high, normal, low). I have decided
on this because I feel to distinguish between fall (new) and
fall-rise over such a dialogue would be very difficult. Also
this lesson aims to introduce features of discoursal intonation
as a strategy to assist with the listening. In my opinion,
it would serve no purpose to ask for such an indepth analysis
of the script.
This stage may be very challenging for them, not before have
they completed such a task. Throughout which I will monitor
and provide explanation if required. Stage 10 will act as
a confirmation of their predictions or as a noticing activity
of the differences against their expectations. It's aim is
to highlight the reality in natural speech.
Then in the interests of student autonomy they will explain
each relevant section to other members of the class and I
will monitor to check their understanding. (Stage 11)
as with all my lessons, I will ask the students to evaluate
the listening activities and stage 9, to conclude whether
it has been of use to them and how it can assist their listening
and speaking skills. Hopefully by integrating intonation into
a skill, it will develop their awareness and move it forward
as something, which they can manage and understand as part
of the language package
the lesson procedure
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