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Teaching Tips 102

Scotland Yard

Warming to phonology


New Scotland Yard

September 29th is the 177th anniversary of the Metropolitan Police in London, based at Scotland Yard, providing lots interesting material for classroom use. Here are a few ideas & links:

First stop is the Metropolitan Police home page:

There is a lot to choose from such as the history & definition of policing:
Choose & modify to suit.

There's also a Scotland Yard Youth page with lots of practical safety information for the younger person:
The page 'Having a Good Time' would lend itself to giving out the headings, predicting the information that might come, & then reading the paragraphs & match them with the headings. A discussion could follow with opinions on the information & anything to add.

In the Youth pages there are a series of sound files, in wav format, of police noises - sirens, police dogs, car alarm, car crash & shop alarm.
All very useful for creating a series of sounds as in the Tip 'Sounds Intriguing' - for ideas on using these:
I've been playing around with Audacity, a very easy to use, lightweight & free, sound editing programme. Here's an mp3 sound story - 1mb - that could be posed as a crime mystery.
To make your own sound stories, download Audacity:

Also on the Met site there are a series of 'Famous Cases', summaries which can be found with the following links:

These would make interesting reading for the more advanced learner. You could give each student a case story to read for homework, with the brief to come back to the next lesson & explain the case to the other students. This could be carried out as a mingle activity with the students deciding on the most interesting, most cold blooded, most difficult to solve etc..

The police in London are commonly known as 'the Old Bill' & nobody really seems know where the name came from. The site offers 13 possible origins so students could use the text as a reading & then discuss the 4/5 most probable origins.

Here are some more links to Scotland Yard material:

Lots of stories from Scotland Yard:

History of the Peelers:'s learning section - 'Free lesson plans, ideas, and online mysteries to teach critical thinking and reading comprehension.'

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Warming up

Warming to

There are several ways of looking at pronunciation in the classroom. It can be in isolated pronunciation activities that highlight a useful aspect for the learners, it can be integrated or it can be looked at in correction as it crops up. We have briefly looked at integrating it in a previous Tip 'Phontegrated':
And in the Tip 'Sounding right' we looked at sound problems & correction:

Another way of integrating & consolidating phonology is through warmer, cooler & filler activities. Here are a few ideas:

Short activities with sounds:

- introduce a couple of new phonemes - give words containing the sounds, students work out the predominant sounds & go on to think of other words with the same sounds.

- phonemic hangman.

- put a phoneme on each students' forehead with sellotape & they wander round saying words to each other containing the sound they see on the other foreheads & each student guesses their phoneme from what they hear.

- noughts & crosses with phonemes.

- bingo with phonemes.

- dictate words - minimal pairs - & students put in the correct sound column.

- tongue twisters - 'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' - students practise saying them as quickly as they can.

- spell out words & students guess how they are said.

- give the spelling & students guess how they are written.

- info gap maps - give out maps with streets that have minimal pairs - eg. Ship Street & Sheep Street - students ask each other for directions.

- Check out the following pages for these activities:

Short activities with word stress:

- dictate words & students put on correct stress columns.

- review a couple of stress rules by getting the students to work out which rules from a group of words.

- give a series of words - find the odd word out - the word with the different stress.

- give each students a word & a different stress pattern. The students wander around humming their stress pattern & when they hear the pattern of their word they get the pattern from the hummer.

Short activities for prominence:

- give newspaper headlines or telegrams & students write them out in full form. After highlight the information function of prominence.

- students write telegrams on each others' backs, a letter at a time. After, same as above.

- find a short text, maybe one the group have already looked at, & copy it twice, tippexing out & adding different information in one. The students read out their texts & correct each other. Good for contrastive/corrective stress.

Just a few activities. We'll provide more in a future Tip. Most of the phonology ideas on the site can be reached from the phonology index page at:

For a list of general warmers. fillers & coolers:

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Different groups & different students need different things, & one of these is the amount of work in the classroom devoted to accuracy & fluency. Some learners might be very hesitant in freer speaking activities & need lots of roleplays & discussions to help them become more fluent. On the other hand, a group might be able to ramble on about most subjects but at the same time they may be making lots of mistakes, so they may need to concentrate on being more accurate.

In general terms, a big factor here is the level of the learners. Lower levels need not only language, but also lots more fluency work as they are very stilted when they speak, while the advanced group would need more accuracy work, making lots of mistakes & errors. Other factors might include the intensity & duration of the course, short & long-term needs, external constraints& whether the course is in an English-speaking country where there is a need to be communicative, or if the learners are studying in their own countries where there is time to work on problem areas.

Although you decide the degree of accuracy & fluency work in the classroom, a major part of achieving the right balance is in helping the learners to become aware of their needs. A fluent student who enjoys speaking may feel constricted by lots of accuracy work & quite happy making mistakes so long as he is able to communicate. It is a question of showing them how better they can be. Taping them while they do speaking activities & playing back with a task to help them focus can be a very effective way.

Here are a few questions you could ask - grade to suit:

Listen to your conversation & discuss the following questions at the end:

a. Imagine you are speaking in a real-life situation, do you think you would have achieved your communicative purpose?

b. Do you think you could have been more effective?

c. Do you think this depends on making less mistakes? If so, which areas do you think you should be concentrating on?

d. Do you think this depends on speaking more fluently? If yes, how do you think you could be more fluent?

An alternative is to play a tape of native speakers doing the same task & the students compare with their versions.

Another idea would be to bring in a non-teacher native speaker. Native speakers of the target language are less tolerant than non-native speakers so it would be interesting to see how well they fare interacting with native speakers. You might be surprised as your perceptions of your students can be markedly different to the reality of real speech.

And then there are what are called 'bridging activities', those activities that are in between accuracy-based & fluency-based tasks, a stage that can be easily overlooked. A good example is the flow chart which you can see in the past Tip 'Going with the flow':

As mentioned before in past Tips, there is a tendency to plough on through a coursebook as the school requires a number of units to be covered each term. By considering accuracy & fluency globally, & taking appropriate action, we are fine tuning the course & helping the students to become 'accufluent' balanced learners.

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