a Case for Beginning with Suprasegmental Features in Pronunciation
Teaching by Scott Shelton
- lesson plan: preliminary information
lesson is the second in a series, which is based on a fictitious
American soap opera. In the previous lesson the characters
were introduced, their relationships to each other were
explored and the basic plot was set up through a reading
with subsequent work on family relationships and error analysis
typical in describing people made at this level.
lessons in this series will be dealing with reported speech,
work on cohesion through listening and ordering sequences,
everyday fixed lexical expressions and predicting and writing
future episodes of the soap opera.
We have done some work on suprasegmental features of pronunciation
in previous lessons and we will be reviewing/recycling some
material at the onset of the lesson.
is an intermediate class
class meets once a week for a three-hour class every Friday
evening from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.
aims and objectives
To raise awareness of how voice quality and intonation can
To provide receptive and productive practice in how prominence
affects intonation and helps to convey meaning.
2. To provide practice in working out meaning of words and
phrases from context.
3. To provide intensive listening and reading practice.
4. To provide opportunity to develop inferences skills via
contextual and aural clues.
(but incomplete) knowledge of basic stress patterns in English.
The basic plot of the soap opera and a superficial familiarity
of the characters involved. General schemata of soap opera-like
family problems and the discourse that accompanies them.
problems and solutions
As the interlaced family and social relationships in the
script are complex and the class has only just been introduced
to them the week previous, some students (especially any
who were not present last week) may find the story difficult
By giving the students a chance to discuss the characters,
their relationships, and activities in groups and by listening
and reading the scene twice will, I hope, allow everyone
to maintain a high level of involvement and comprehension.
The conversations in the dialogue are spoken quickly, colloquially
and many, quite possibly unknown, phrasal verb expressions
are used which the students might not be familiar with.
By presenting the possibly unknown lexical phrases in a
clear and known context and through the focus on the character's
feelings towards each other and intonation carrying meaning
throughout, I hope to enable the students to cope with the
new vocabulary in this way. They will have a chance to work
out the meaning of many of them further on through analysis
of the text and context.
The students may have problems with the inherent rhythm
English and feel self-conscious trying to produce it in
a convincingly natural
way. By focusing on voice quality and encouraging the students
to 'put on' an English/American accent early on, and in
doing so, providing them with a mask of sorts, I hope to
create a fun and safe atmosphere in which they feel comfortable
enough to experiment in. Also, by focusing on the prominence
of information words both receptively and productively,
I hope to provide them with the necessary awareness in order
to perceive important patterns. By employing a 'shadow reading',
technique, I also hope to give them the necessary productive
practice in motor skills and stretch their 'normal' pitch
taped and written dialogue of a four part scene of a fictitious
soap opera from "Inside Out" intermediate student's
book. (Macmillan Heinemann 2000)
of part two and part three of scene one
personally designed handout 'what was said first'
74 and 75 of "Inside Out" student's book
class consists of twelve students, running from last October
and continuing up through the end of June. With the exception
of two students, Marisa and Silvia who joined the group
approximately one and a half months ago, the entire group
has been together since October and there is a feeling of
camaraderie among them. The majority are very motivated
and seem to look forward to their Friday English lesson.
am generally pleased with their progress. We recently did
a 'mid-level' progress test and all scored higher than sixty
percent on the written portion. There are several students
who are progressing at a quicker rate than others and I
think that this is due to them having had a higher level
previously which they are now able to access and build on.
Quentin, Javier, and Marisa fall into this group, I feel.
I can usually rely on them for correct models or peer correction
and I think the rest of the class 'look up to them' in that
respect. Elena and Maria Dolores are a bit older than the
class average. Both of them have made noticeable improvements
recently in their productive skills but still have more
problems than the majority in understanding spoken instructions
or taped material. David and Maria Jose are productively
on the low end of the class level but they do make quite
an effort. I usually try to pair them with someone who is
a bit above their level. Sonia is a Spanish teacher trainer
who has had very erratic attendance but is usually able
to hold her own in the class. She is now quite a bit behind
the rest and I wonder if she will be able to come to enough
classes to make any real improvement. They are all working
people with the exception of Pilar who is a university student,
so they all come directly after work to class-sometimes
a few of them a bit after we have already started. They
are a nice class to teach.
needs and this lesson
lessons previous to this one, I had the class do a quick
writing warmer for ten minutes under the heading of "Pronunciation-my
feelings and experiences". They were instructed to
write, without stopping, for ten minutes putting down on
paper anything that came to mind related to the topic. The
results were quite interesting to read. Almost everyone
cited pronunciation as being 'very difficult' or 'one of
the most difficult things in English.' Several people made
mention to 'tone', intonation and the appearance that English
was really two languages-one spoken, and one written.
mentioned that different accents were difficult to understand
and had it easier with ESL European speakers of English.
Many were overly concerned with the problem of making individual
sounds correctly but mentioned that through imitation one
could finally get close. All in all, it seemed to me that
not only did the students feel discouraged about their pronunciation,
but that they perceived it was something of an almost insurmountable
problem. I was also able to notice that their perceived
lack of 'good' pronunciation was affecting them on an emotional
and self-confidence level. Reference was made to a communication
breakdown over the phone due to pronunciation problems and
how this person 'spent a long time thinking about this'
we have done some pronunciation work, both in segmental
and suprasegmental areas, the class only meets once a week
and I like to include something each lesson if possible.
I felt that with the conversational material in this lesson
something more could be done with it besides just listening,
reading, vocabulary and speaking skills. The dialogue lends
itself nicely to a look at prominence and intonation and
how it conveys attitude and feelings when we speak. I think
that the class will benefit from a shift away from bottom
up pronunciation teaching and phonemes and enjoy a different
approach to learning to speak clearly though a more top
down approach and focusing on the suprasegmental elements
of intonation and prominence.
the lesson procedure
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