How to teach pronunciation: 5 steps

I have been teaching pronunciation to students for about 17 years or more. I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t, especially for East Asian students, and Japanese in particular. Here are five easy steps to teach pronunciation.

Follow a routine

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re going to teach English, in English, you must follow a routine that your students can quickly pick up and understand easily. The routine could be a standardised lesson plan, of your own design; but it should be a routine for teaching pronunciation, another routine for teaching vocabulary, and another for teaching grammar, and so on. This way, students can understand what is happening now, what is happening next, and they can see how each step of the lesson is integrated, because they’ve become accustomed to your routines. This makes it easier for students to focus, follow, and participate positively.

The 5 Steps

Your routine for a pronunciation segment of your class would be:

  1. Introduce
  2. Demonstrate
  3. Main activity
  4. Wrap up
  5. Segue to the next activity

Step 1: Introduce

Socrates said that every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end. That is, all successful narratives follow this, and it is a structure that humans can easily understand. A simple introduction could be to list some key words on the board (pictured), and elicit some features about them. The key words should be the first few moves of the main activity you will do.

  1. Do a listen and repeat drill of the words, and always, always give students time to…
  2. Rehearse the words with their partner.
Teaching two-syllable pronunciation. The blue is the list of examples, the black is the information elicited from students, and green is the explanation of the parts of the input students get.
Teaching two-syllable pronunciation. The blue is the list of examples, the black is the information elicited from students, and green is the explanation of the parts of the input students get.

Features of the input phase, as can be seen in the image, there are:

  • The first few moves included
  • Information about the pronunciation is elicited from students
  • Extra information so that students can work autonomously (with their smartphones) is included.
  • Examples and anti-examples are included. Anti-examples show what an answer would be unacceptable in the activity.

Step 2: Demonstrate

This is especially important for language learners. All students understand things better when they can see it being done; also they can understand your verbal instructions better. Simply walk through the first three moves of the activity eliciting from the students each move/step (see picture below). If it’s a pair work activity, choose a capable student to partner with you. My preferred option is to elicit the first, second, and third moves from the class, just to get them started on an activity.

Always, always, after giving a set of instructions, always, always say:

  1. “Check with your partner, what did I say?” (give half a minute for them to talk & confirm things with each other)
  2. “Do you understand?”
Example of a pronunciation activity that students would work together on.
Example of a pronunciation activity that students would work together on.

Step 3: Main activity

After eliciting the first few moves, I say, “Now continue with your partner”, and most students usually know what to do with no problems.

I prefer to use paper-based pair work activities. This way, they can see their progress, and you can see where they are going wrong. Also, working with a partner helps students have more confidence in their answers, and the social situation lightens the classroom anyway. Walk around and check to see how they are doing.

Most pronunciation activities can be repeated or reviewed in the next lesson. Simply by having students remind each other what the main point is, and “test each other”. For instance, demonstrate with a dichotomous choice question, giving yes-no, same-different, i-i:, æ-ə type of responses. For instance, “Does it have two syllables that are big-small? ‘really’ – yes, ‘zero’ – yes, ‘again’ –  no; great, now ‘test’ your partner”. This would be your demonstration, and so students can now understand what to do, and can review with each other.

Step 4: Wrap up

Simply follow these steps:

  1. elicit the answers from students / or “test” them if it’s a review
  2. Have them listen and repeat your pronunciation
  3. Give them a minute to review the pronunciation in pairs

Step 5: Segue

Some how make a link between this activity and the next. Or else say, “Next, as usual, is grammar…”. Having a segue creates a cognitive link, and a flow in the lesson. Without segues, lessons seem stop-start, or fragmented. Create some flow or continuity, so things seem smooth.

Key points

At the appropriate times, always ask these questions:

  • Do you understand?
  • Check with your partner, “what did I say?” / Summarise what I said with your partner
  • Practice together
  • Any questions?

The example above came from my own book, however, the procedure still holds well if you use a great book called Pronunciation Games by Mark Hancock.

About my Monday classes (9th Oct)

To my Monday classes (OC FB, CS, & Literacy),

I’m sorry I couldn’t be there yesterday. I was, and still am, very ill. The schedule will be:

OC FB: 

  • Thursday 12th, poster preparation day,
  • Monday 16th, poster presentations
  • Thursday 19th, Orbits unit 16
  • Monday 23, Orbits unit 17

CS:

  • As normal, RRW Intro, unit 8 Products from Space (no change)

Literacy:

  • Submit Task 8 as soon as possible (Tuesday lunch time at FLEC-EED R32, or Thursday in class). I am still not feeling well, and may need to leave soon after lunch.
  • Continue with Class Graded Reader (no change in schedule)

Local speech contest

This is a little speech contest that at least one first year student from Nanzan wins a prize, most years. One of my first year students last year won an iPad. Not many people enter it, but it’s important, as it gives you important practice and experience before entering the bigger and more lucrative competitions. The entry form is attached. Good luck and have fun.

Details: 2017 English Speech Contest for Students.

A presentation and audience
A presentation and audience

Room changes

Quarter 4, Oral Communication FB & B

Mark this in your calendars now. These changes are for Presentation preparation. Regarding OC P class, we will discuss what to do.

  • 12/11(Mon) 11A04-002 英語IVオーラルコミュニケーション[FB]2 Q305→S25
  • 12/12(Tue) 11A04-008 英語IVオーラルコミュニケーション[B]1 LB1→S25
  • 12/07(Thu) 11A04-002 英語IVオーラルコミュニケーション[FB]2 Q305→S25
  • 12/08(Fri) 11A04-008 英語IVオーラルコミュニケーション[B]1 LB1→S25

Homework for Quarter 3

Announcement

WordEngine needs to be updated before it can work on iOS11. Please wait before upgrading to iOS11 or do your study on a real computer. WordEngine is a 32bit application, but iOS11 will now only run 64bit applications. If you have upgraded to iOS11, you will need to study WordEngine on a computer by signing into WordEngine.jp.

Communication Skills

  • Review Conversation Gambits units: units 1, 3, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 28, 29.
  • Review English First Hand 2: units 1-8 (including grammar & pronunciation).
  • Prepare Reading in the Real World Intro: Unit 8 Products from Space.
    • Prepare answers for these questions.
  • Review Reading in the Real World Intro, units 7 & 8.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 4,000 words a week, and have ER reports each Thursday.
  • Poster Presentation: Choose a book with your partner, and start reading together.
  • Have fun 🙂

Literacy

  • Review English Grammar In Use units: 42, 69, 72, 85, 98, 99.
  • Task 9, Love Story. Read up to chapter 4 (if you can, read more).
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 3,500 words a week, and have ER reports ready for each Thursday. Task 9 Love Story reading is included in the 3,500 word total.
  • Have fun 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Review pronunciation, conversation strategies, and vocabulary from Orbits units 1-15.
  • Research and prepare your topic for the poster presentations.
  • Prepare Orbits unit 16, vocabulary (dialogue & article), and article.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • World Plaza is open daily, from 11am to 6pm.
  • Have fun 🙂

Class party

Sometimes Andrew’s classes will have a class party. If we have a class party, it’s for four reasons. One, students have worked hard and have achieved a lot, and should be rewarded. Two, to practice and rehearse attending office and staff parties and events. Three, to develop informal social-linguistic skills. Four, get experience in how to host informal events at work.

Usually, the parties will be in the morning, so they will be brunch parties; half breakfast, half lunch. If you can, bring food or drink to share at the party. You may need to bring paper plates, plastic knives, paper cups, whatever. Please avoid buying cheap sugary food from convenience stores, because most people prefer healthier options. Not everyone has time to prepare something, and not everyone has the money to spare to make or get something. Consequently, if you can, bring extras; if you cannot contribute this time, please bring extra next time. Don’t know what to bring? Google search “brunch food” or “brunch recipe” for morning parties, and “healthy snack recipe” for afternoon parties. Please avoid sugary foods.

What to do & rules for class parties:

  1. DO NOT bring smelly or difficult-to-clean-up food & drink. Imagine if it spills, can it be be cleaned up easily?
  2. Use only English. If Andrew hears any Japanese being spoken, the party will end immediately, and he will give everyone grammar worksheets to do.
  3. Move some tables to the middle of the room, and push all the chairs to the sides. Put the food and drinks (opened) onto the middle tables. Keep bottles in the centre.
  4. Small talk with people. Talk about summer plans, an extensive reading book, part-time work, club activities, about the food at the party, about an article we discussed in class, anything.
  5. Do not stand silent talking to no one; always mingle. If Andrew sees anyone not mingling the party will end immediately, and he will give everyone grammar worksheets to do.
  6. Small talk with people you don’t normally talk to. Avoid talking to friends and your normal class partners.
  7. Selfies with friends is ok, but ask first. Also, if you post photos to social media, ask first and ONLY say nice things about people.
  8. ALL the food must be eaten. Otherwise, it makes cleaning up difficult.
  9. Clean up. Find an empty bag so everyone can use it as a rubbish bag. Clean up any spills immediately. EVERYONE must help clean up in the last ten minutes.
  10. If the party goes well, we may have another.

OC & CS classes: During speaking tests

Don’t waste time during speaking tests. Use the time wisely. Use ONLY ENGLISH. You can adjust the air conditioning any time as needed.

  • Practice & prepare for your speaking test
  • Review articles & vocabulary
  • Review conversation strategies / conversation gambits
  • Review pronunciation (especially of key vocabulary)
  • Do Word Engine study
  • Do your extensive reading
  • OC classes: Bring your laptop and work on your final report
  • OC classes: Do Orbits Unit 12
  • If we have a class brunch party, plan what you will bring. Remember that not everyone can bring something.

Battle for the Net is today!

Today is a very important day for the internet. Net neutrality is vitally important to us, and to you. The concept relates to our digital rights as published by the Global Trust Centre. Net neutrality, they say, is our access to information (see Rights and Responsibilities for Citizens in the Digital World). Net neutrality was never really embodied in law in many countries around the world, as it was just assumed by default, but it was enshrined in law in some countries including the US. However, some governments have censored the internet and the most famous is the “Great Firewall of China”. The United States government is considering ending net neutrality, and allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to slow or even block traffic from particular websites. This is effectively allowing commercially decided censorship in the United States. The ramifications are that websites like Winjeel.Com could be blocked if US based ISPs wanted to demand a ransom. Ending net neutrality would also set a dangerous precedent, where other countries may follow suit.

Consequently, the Fight for the Future and Demand Progress digital rights groups, and over 70,000 internet-based companies are protesting the US process of ending net neutrality. If you support net neutrality, I strongly urge you to add your name to this petition on the Battle for the Net.

Teaching & researching EFL listening in Japan