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Thread: Minimal Pairs

  1. #21
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    I've been doing pure pronunciation lessons since the beginning of the school year. We started using the phonemic alphabet. They were already copying the symbols from their dictionary to their word lists, but nobody had bothered explaining what they meant! We've now moved on from the phonemic alphabet vowel sounds into the consonants using minimal pairs.

    For both phonemic alphabet vowel and minimal pair lessons I have provided the students with mirrors and mouth diagrams. We learn to make the basic sound, then move onto some example words, then a communication activity to re-inforce it. If my students don't laugh and joke in the lesson amongst themselves they remember diddly squat.

    For each lesson we've done a selection of word trees (mentioned above and on the wiki), criss-cross, hands on heads/hips, sentence completion, questionnaires, bingo etc...

    Most importantly, we've been stressing that they need to relax and not worry about it. The way they speak now is fine, but if they want to improve we can show them the secrets.

    And we have had improvements, because we gave them the diagrams so they had something concrete to model not just some random sound the ALT was making that they couldn't distinguish. We also made the environment relaxing and fun, something very important for such a delicate thing as pronunciation. I actually found that the low level students with poor understanding, who usually hate English, really shine in these lessons. They can model, use and hear the sounds well, and finally they're the stars of the class. As a knock on effect they're now trying to communicate with me more outside class, something they always felt incapable of before.

    So yeah, just thought I'd share my experience. It's by no means ground breaking. But I think it shows that pronunciation lessons are worth doing, if only to give that extra bit of confidence to the shy kids.
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  2. #22
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    Thanks for adding to the discussion!

    Can you elaborate on this?

    criss-cross, hands on heads/hips, sentence completion, questionnaires, bingo etc...
    Does anyone work with sentence stress and intonation? I went to a seminar with Clear Speech author Judy Gilbert. She suggested using large rubber bands (which I could see leading to trouble with JHS kids) or even raising eyebrows or slightly pulling yourself out of your seat to physically emphasize strong parts of sentences and/or words. The upshot is that stress carries meaning in a larger sentence context (i.e. Did you buy five apples? No, I bought four. vs Did you buy five apples? No, I bought oranges.) and dictates pronunciation of vowels in the smaller syllabic context, often reducing unstressed words/syllables to /schwa/ or /I/.

    Gilbert also recommended using kazoos, which is a great idea, but could be expensive considering it's not something you necessarily want to share or something you can wash because of the tiny tissue paper membrane. But it was fun and illustrative in the seminar, and I could see it being really useful in a private student setting.

  3. #23
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    I'm interested that you used the IPA for your students.

    A lot of people poo poo doing that because it's too hard for students, but i've found that while i've never taught it, it's much easier to teach students pronunciation when they already know it.

    To my thinking if I can learn kana then students can learn 44 IPA symbols.

    Or because Japanese students tend to have trouble with only some phonemes (like any other student) one of my lecturers suggested a personalised IPA chart for each student.

    This is good for a classroom where each student comes from a different L1 background, but in the case of Japanese students all of the same age it'd be even better because the same chart can be used for all the students.

  4. #24
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    I teach a few APA symbols in my classes in the US (sorry -- I'm American, that's the one I'm most familiar with! It's mostly the same, though) but I don't teach them all. Maybe I should, but I usually only use those that I'm likely to refer back to.

    We always have reference words, though. I don't just write /a/ and expect them to remember it. I say /a/ as in father.

    I know a lot of people poo poo it, and maybe that's why I've shied away from it. But you need something to refer to. Many students can't even hear it, and if you can't hear it you don't even know to try to hear it.

  5. #25
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    Default I to the P to the A

    What's APA?

    I learned IPA at university in a linguistics class although I was never very good with it and didn't use it enough and now I've wholesale forgotten it.

    Japanese students must learn it at some point - although perhaps not until university. I seem to recall that on more than one occasion I had friends ask, 'oh is it like this?' and write it out in IPA and I had no idea... (That was all prior to taking linguistics so I really did have no idea.)
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  6. #26
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    It's the American Phonetic Alphabet, because we Yankees have to do everything differently, regardless of how pointless it is.

    It's mostly the same. There are a lot of phonemes that can be written multiple ways, too.

    I'm a big proponent of using two symbols only for diphthongs and single symbols for single sounds (i.e. not /dz/ but instead /j with a tiny v over it/)

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtegnell
    Thanks for adding to the discussion!

    Can you elaborate on this?

    criss-cross, hands on heads/hips, sentence completion, questionnaires, bingo etc...
    Ok, so after lots of practice in making the sounds we do some listening checks. They can say the sounds but can they hear them? It's a progression check because I demonstrate the differences using a word list at the beginning of class, so now we check if they've improved.

    Listening...

    Criss-Cross
    I write minimal pairs on the board in a grid format. Labeling the left side with letters (e.g. A-F) and the top with numbers (e.g. 1-10). Now each word has it's own co-ordinate (e.g. LIP = B7)
    I'll say a word, the student must then tell me the co-ordinates of that word and then model the pronunciation for the class. They can then choose if their row or column sits down.

    Hands on Heads/Hips
    Similar to above, but if prep time is short then you don't need the word grid. We nominate a sound for both the head and the hip (e.g. Head = L and Hip = R)
    The class stands and I say a word. The students place their hands on their heads or their hips depending on what sound they think I said.
    After a few words for practice, you can turn this into a competition with rows competing to get the most correct answers.

    Sentence Completion
    They have a worksheet with some sentences on. Each sentence contains a choice of two words. I'll read the sentence and they must choose which word is correct. For example "She enjoys washing/watching the children"


    Listening & Speaking...

    Bingo
    Give them a blank bingo card and have them choose and then write in some words from a list. Have students take it in turn to pull a word out of the hat and read it to the class. Have the winner read his/her winning row to the class.

    Questionnaires
    You can do a variety of questionnaires, a good one uses the 'find someone who' activity. It gets them listening and talking to each other. Just ensure that the questions use lots of examples of the sounds you've been practicing. This could also tie into the bingo game above. (Find someone who = they walk around asking each other questions and write the name of the person they find who has or does whatever.)

    Hope this helps.
    There are so many ways to incorporate this kind of pronunciation practice into a fun communication activity. I believe it really helps the students remember all the points that you were banging on about with the 'place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth' stuff!!!

    We try to do a simple activity after looking at a pair of sounds. Then later (in the lesson or next lesson) we try to include an activity that reviews sounds from previous weeks.
    Give me my marker show me my line... surely this is it... the edge?

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