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Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

April 26, 2017
by LTSblog
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LTS Faculty Post Trish Pashby: Pronunciation Teaching—Moving from Fear to Fun

Trish Pashby is a Senior Instructor II in the American English Institute and has been a teacher educator in LTS since the program began in 2004. She has taught many of the LTS courses over this time, and currently teaches her favorites, LT 541 Teaching Pronunciation and LT 528 Teaching Culture and Literature.

For me, pronunciation lessons are the most fun possible in the classroom. I love the whole process:

  • finding out who my students are, what they want, what they need;
  • creating opportunities for them to unveil simple yet hidden patterns of the English sound system;
  • observing as they compare how they had been previously producing a word (or phrase or text) to a variation that improves their intelligibility and confidence;
  • setting up practice drills followed by more communicative activities that allow them to work with the new pronunciation in various ways;
  • checking in with them about their progress and providing encouragement and guidance to keep going,

Sadly, only a handful of my colleagues share this passion. In fact, many English language teachers lack confidence in how to teach it at all (Baker, 2014; Murphy, 2014). This may partly be explained by the fact that “relatively few teacher education programs provide courses on how to teach L2 pronunciation” (Baker, 2014), which experts in the field (Derwing, 2010; Murphy, 2014) deem essential. The LTS program requires LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation) for students focusing on English. In this post, I will share some of the key areas we cover in the course. If you are a current or future language instructor who feels nervous about teaching pronunciation, I strongly encourage you to dabble and play with the following. Parts may lead to ways for you to build your confidence, and maybe even fall in love.

Intelligibility vs Comprehensibility vs Accent—and other “Big Picture” Issues

Munro and Derwing (1999) define intelligibility as how much a listener actually understands, comprehensibility as how difficult it is for the listener to understand, and accent as how the speech varies from the dialect of the listener. For example, substituting a “th” with /s/ in “think” or /d/ in “the” will probably fall under “accent” if the listener notices the substitution but has no trouble understanding. In diagnosing the pronunciation of their learners, teachers need to distinguish among the three, and prioritize the former.

Several key questions interact with this to create the “big picture.” What are the learners’ goals? Who will they be interacting with? What is possible? Reasonable? Desirable? (Don’t assume all of your learners want to acquire your particular pronunciation. Some may prefer another dialect of English. Or want to maintain a connection to their native language.) What about those seeking to sound native-like? What progress can they make and what role can you play in that? Can non-native speakers be good pronunciation teachers?

My answer to this last question: Yes, of course non-native speakers can be excellent pronunciation teachers as long as they understand the sound system of the target language and have the skills to communicate this to learners through effective practice activities. They can use their own voice to model the language but should also present a variety of models to their students, just as native speaker teachers should.

Advice: Keep your assumptions to a minimum and instead rely on (1) much communication with your learners and (2) current research in the field.

Suprasegmentals (Stress, Rhythm, Intonation)

For many teachers, especially those who are native speakers of English, suprasegmentals may present the most challenging aspect of pronunciation teaching and require considerable training of the ear. I clearly remember sitting in a phonology class years ago as student unable to distinguish one syllable from another—to my ear, none sounded longer, clearer, higher. However, suprasegmentals can play a huge role in the intelligibility and comprehensibility of your learners and will thus need your attention.

Rising vs falling intonation might be a reasonable place to begin—for example, exploring American English patterns for differentiating wh-questions from yes/no questions. I tend to start off my pronunciation courses with a lesson on “tonic stress” (the main stress in a thought group), essential for the international graduate students and scholars I work with. This is then followed with a session on word stress, also key to their intelligibility and comprehensibility. Rhythm (stressing content words and reducing function words) is covered in many pronunciation texts for students, yet not all experts agree on how accurate/effective this is. Dickerson (2014) argues this approach should be replaced with finding the “anchor” among the content words to complement the tonic stress.

To consider: How does intonation affect meaning in English? Where does tonic stress usually occur? Why might it vary from this position? What are typical word stress patterns in English? Which of these might be most useful for students?

Advice: Teach yourself–with patience and kindness–to hear/notice stress, intonation, and rhythm (most of which may lurk below your consciousness, especially if you acquired English as a child) and become familiar with the fascinating role they play in English communication. I recommend getting your hands on one or more pronunciation textbooks for students and carefully studying the exercises. In my case, I finally learned to hear stress via the first edition of Marsha Chan’s (1987) Phrase by Phrase.

LT 541: Students George Minchillo (center) and Yan Deng (right) teaching pronunciation to an international visitor (March 8, 2017)

Segmentals (Consonants and Vowels)

Set a goal for yourself to learn the phonetic symbols and details of articulation for all the sounds of the target language. You probably won’t be creating lessons for all of them, but you’ll want to be ready in case a student needs some feedback or instruction. If IPA symbols intimidate you, look into alternative systems such as “the color vowel chart,” which provides a very accessible way to for teachers and students to understand and manage North American English vowels: https://elts.solutions/color-vowel-chart/.

To consider: Which sounds most strongly affect intelligibility and comprehensibility? How do sounds change depending on their place in a word and the sounds surrounding them? What is the best way to convey this information to learners? What kind of practice is most effective?

Advice: If mastering all of the vowels and consonants feels overwhelming, pace yourself and start with a few at a time. Consider which sounds are most connected to your learners’ intelligibility and comprehensibility issues. You can also explore information on “functional load”: the frequency of a sound’s occurrence and in how many instances this sound distinguishes one word from another.

Designing Lessons

As with any subject you teach, you will need a framework/approach for designing effective lessons. Learners will need access to information and opportunities for practice. In the LT 541 course, we use Celce-Murcia et al.’s (2010) “communicative framework.” Lessons begin with clear explanations and demonstrations in which students can experience the sound or pattern, often with visual, tactile, or kinesthetic accompaniment. Tools like the following can play a role:

  • mirrors to observe lip, teeth and jaw movements
  • feathers to test aspiration of of /p/, /t/, /k/ at the beginning of words
  • plastic teeth with puppet tongue to show articulation
  • animated video of sound articulation http://soundsofspeech.uiowa.edu/english/english.html
  • rubber bands to stretch on stressed syllables
  • coins or other small object to illustrate stressed and unstressed syllables
  • kazoos to focus on intonation (humming will work too)

Tools from Trish’s pronunciation “toy box”

Students will need plenty of production practice, moving from very controlled exercises (with limited focus on meaning to keep the attention on the new sounds) to gradually more meaningful contexts. They will also need strategies to continue building skills outside of the classroom.

Integrating Pronunciation across the Curriculum

English classes focusing primarily on pronunciation are rare. Thus teachers must find ways to bring pronunciation instruction into courses that focus on other skills. These lessons may be less elaborate than those in a pronunciation course but can certainly cover both segmental and suprasegmental aspects affecting intelligibility and comprehensibility. Char Heitman, a guest lecturer in LT 541, presents a variety of such activities to use in a reading/writing course including having students search texts for specific spelling/sound correspondence examples, chart new vocabulary according to word stress patterns, and practice thought groups and intonation before discussing key ideas [http://eflteachingresources.blogspot.com/2015/02/shaping-way-we-teach-english-webinar_15.html]. Additional ways for integrating pronunciation across the curriculum can be found in several chapters of Tamara Jones’ (2016) Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential.

Recommendations

Form a group with colleagues or classmates (or go solo, if you prefer) to tackle areas of pronunciation instruction most important and interesting for your teaching context. Resources might include the following.

Teaching Guides:

  • Celce-Murcia, M. et al (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd edition)
  • Grant, L. (2014). Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press
  • Jones, T. (2016). Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
  • Meyers, C. & Holt, S. (1998). Pronunciation for Success. Aspen.

Student Textbooks:

  • Dale, P. (2004). Pronunciation Made Simple. Pearson.
  • Lane, L. (2012). Focus on Pronunciation 3. Pearson.
  • Grant, L. (2016). Well Said. Cengage.
  • Miller, S. (2005) Targeting Pronunciation. Cengage.

Journals in the field, such as TESOL Quarterly, regularly publish research related to pronunciation teaching. TESOL’s “Speech, Pronunciation, Listening” interest section publishes a newsletter with practical ideas for teachers [http://www.tesol.org/connect/interest-sections/speech-pronunciation-and-listening/as-we-speak]. Conferences are an especially enjoyable way to build your pronunciation expertise. The annual TESOL conference always features a number of excellent pronunciation workshops and demonstrations, from which I have learned many of my favorite techniques and activities for pronunciation fun.

References

Baker, A. (2014). Exploring teachers’ knowledge of second language pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices, and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48, 136–163.

Derwing, T. (2010). Utopian goals for pronunciation teaching. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Iowa State University, Sept. 2009. (pp. 24-37).

Dickerson, W. (2014). A NAIL in the coffin of stress-timed rhythm. Proceedings of the 6th annual pronunciation in second language learning and teaching conference, UC Santa Barbara, Sept. 2014. ( pp 184-196).

Munro, M. & Derwing, T. (1999) Foreign Accent, Comprehensibility, and Intelligibility in the Speech of Second Language Learners. Language Learning, Vol. 49, Supplement 1, 285–310.

Murphy, J. (2014). Myth 7: Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (ed) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.pp188-224 Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

 

 

January 15, 2016
by LTSblog
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LTS faculty spotlight Melissa Baese-Berk

Melissa Baese-Berk is faculty in the Linguistics Department whose research focuses on 2nd language speech perception and production. She will be teaching a seminar in Spring that is open to LTS students.

How are you connected to the LTS program?

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I’m passionate about understanding how people learn languages and discovering how learning languages impacts cognition and our use of our first language. Although my research is more theoretically oriented, I am also very interested in the applied implications of the theoretical findings. I love working with students from various backgrounds to better inform my research questions, and hopefully to help inform their teaching practice!

What do you think students get out of the LTS program?

I think the LTS program has a number of strengths, including the support of a cohort. However, I think our greatest strength is the diversity of students and student interests in the program. Students are hoping to teach a variety of languages in a variety of settings after the program. Because of this, our students leave the program being quite well rounded, having thought not just about their target language and target context, but about language teaching much more broadly.

What advice do you have to applicants to the program this year?

I would encourage students to think about what they want from a graduate program and to try to convey that to the admissions committee. I’m always excited when an applicant makes it clear that they understand what our program offers and demonstrate how our offerings will help them achieve their goals.

 

 

December 1, 2015
by Misaki Kato
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Alumni Spotlight: Marcella Roberts

Marcella with her students in Switzerland.

Marcella with her students in Switzerland.

Marcella Roberts graduated from LTS in 2010. Her MA Project was titled: Pronunciation for Integrated Skills English Courses: A Teaching Portfolio. Below, she shares how she has used things that she learned in LTS in many different teaching contexts.

Where did you teach after graduating from the LTS MA program, and where are you now?

Since graduating, I’ve taught both in the U.S. and abroad in Switzerland and China. Immediately after finishing the LTS program in August 2010, I taught at the American English Institute (at the U of O) for one year. After that I moved to Switzerland, where I taught on and off for three years at a residential summer camp for children aged 10-17 from many countries all over the world. I also taught for one semester at Arizona State University (between summers in Switzerland), and then taught at a university in China for 8 months in 2014. As of September 2014, I’ve been teaching in the INTO Intensive English Program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR.

Is there anything you use in your teaching now that you first learned in LTS? 

Definitely. The focus on Communicative Language Teaching, as well as all the practice developing curriculum and materials, has continued to help me throughout my career as a teacher. When I was teaching in Switzerland, I was given a class of students and pretty much no guidance on what to teach except for an estimate of their level. I therefore had to draw on all of my practice and knowledge learned in LTS with needs analyses, adapting, creating and using materials, as well as ways to make language learning authentic, communicative and fun for students. Throughout the rest of my teaching experience, which has been in university programs, where more guidance, materials and textbooks have usually been provided, the basic language acquisition and teaching principles that I encountered in the LTS program have still been invaluable.

What was your MA project about, and did you apply it later in your teaching?

My MA project focused on pronunciation, and specifically how to integrate it into classes focused on other skills (or on integrated skills). To do the project, I had to really delve into pronunciation and learn about it in depth, which has definitely helped me in my teaching experience since graduating. While teaching in Switzerland, I often did pronunciation focused lessons, as well as integrated it into other content and skill focused lessons. During the time I was teaching in China, I developed a four week mini course on pronunciation for university students, which included a focus on the International Phonetic Alphabet and in depth practice of segmentals and suprasegmentals. Since having started teaching at INTO OSU, I’ve also taught specific pronunciation elective courses, during which I’ve drawn on, and added to, the experience and knowledge I gained while doing my MA project all those years ago.

What was most challenging for you as a new teacher?

It was challenging at first to have the confidence in myself as a teacher to be able to adapt my original lesson plans to what was happening in the classroom. Through experience, I’ve learned that sometimes going with the flow, adapting activity lengths, and responding to questions or issues as they arise can be more beneficial than rigidly sticking with a lesson plan even when it’s not working. But this definitely took time for me to realize, as well as time to understand how to do it in a way that helps students and keeps everyone focused and learning.

Marcella with some of her cohort at graduation in August 2010. She is the one in the middle top of the photo.

Marcella with some of her cohort at graduation in August 2010. She is the one in the middle top of the photo.

What advice do you have for students looking for language teaching positions after graduation?

Use your time in the LTS program to learn and share with such a wonderfully diverse group of students from all over the world. Many of the language teaching positions (especially in teaching English) are in countries all over the world and knowing something about countries other than your own, as well as being willing to travel and/or live abroad, will be valuable assets in finding rewarding teaching positions.

October 26, 2015
by LTSblog
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Faculty spotlight Trish Pashby

webmail.uoregon-2

What is your connection to the LTS Program?

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching in the program since its beginning in 2004 and was director for four years (2007-2010). I love my colleagues, who are a very talented group of teacher educators, and the students we serve: new and/or developing language teachers from all over the world. I also teach at UO’s American English Institute, where a number of graduates from the LTS program are now employed. It’s wonderful to see evidence everyday of their success as professional, skilled, creative, enthusiastic language teachers.

What courses do you teach?

Currently I’m teaching LT 528 (Teaching Culture & Literature), where we explore culture from a sociolinguistic perspective and work on approaches for effectively bringing culture and various kinds of literature into language instruction. The other course I regularly teach is LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation). In this class, we study English phonetics/phonology, focusing on both segmental and suprasegmental features, and then apply this knowledge to a teaching context: What do our learners need? How can we provide this? In both courses, we work as a group on principles and basic approaches but students must then apply these to their individual teaching contexts to demonstrate mastery of the subjects and ability to adapt these to their learners.

What do you like best about your work in the LTS Program?

The people! I love working with colleagues and students who are motivated, open-minded, curious, and willing to work hard. I also really appreciate the opportunity it gives me to continuously increase my knowledge. I learn as I prepare to teach my courses (keeping up with new research, developments in the field, etc.), but I learn even more from what the students bring to the courses (their ideas, their experiences) and the innovative approaches they come up with when interacting with the coursework.

I hear you’ve had some interesting international experiences this past year…

Yes, this past year has been especially exciting. I traveled to Pakistan twice, where I visited Karakorum International University in Gilgit as part of their partnership with UO (through the U.S State Dept.). My job there was to work on faculty development in terms of teaching and publishing in English. I also had a quick trip to Colombia where I facilitated a 3-day workshop for faculty at Universidad Del Norte in Baranquilla. And then at the beginning of September I was in Egypt for two weeks working with faculty at Ain Sham University in Cairo to create a certificate program for English language teachers. I loved all of these adventures!

Do you have any advice for LTS students?

September 13, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight Sothy Kea

Sothy Kea was a Fulbright student from Cambodia who graduated in 2014. His MA Project was titled, “An Integrated Oral Skills English Pronunciation Course for Cambodian College Students”. Below he shares his current perspective on what was most useful and memorable from his time in LTS (photo below is at Spencer Butte, Eugene, OR).

What did you want to accomplish when you applied to the LTS program?

When I first applied to the program, I wished to improve my knowledge about English language teaching methodology, research, linguistics, and curriculum design. Upon program completion, I was hoping to provide assistance in revising curricula, conducting workshops, and teaching in the undergraduate and graduate teacher training programs at my workplace: Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh.

KEA Sothy 1What is your teaching or administrative position now?

Now I am holding two positions. I am a university lecturer teaching in a Bachelor’s Degree in a TEFL program and a Master’s Degree in TESOL at the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh. I am also a Language Program Manager at CIA First International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In this position, I am responsible for managing various language programs at the school. At the moment, I am managing the General English Program, and in the future, I will expand this program and develop other language programs.

Now that you have returned home, what do you think was most useful from the LTS program?

The curriculum of LTS Program is of sound quality. A large number of subjects that I took are both directly and indirectly relevant and useful for my current work. For instance, I am currently teaching the same subject of Academic Writing for Graduate Students in MA in TESOL and teaching Applied Linguistics subject in BA in TEFL Program at my university in which a great deal of knowledge and content of English Grammar and Linguistics Principles and Second Language Acquisition courses  are relevant and useful. Plus, working as the Language Program manager, I have to revise the current curriculum and develop new ones. Thus, the Curriculum and Materials Development course and my curriculum design Master’s project are of great help to me. They allow me to analyze the program, effectively identify its problems, and propose feasible solutions. The rest of the subjects in LTS have also indirectly contributed to my understanding about language learning and teaching and better teaching performance.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time in Oregon?

If I could recall, one of my favorite memories in Oregon is my graduation day. This is one of the best moments of my academic life at UO. It marked the achievement of a milestone and the great result of hard work throughout the program. I was so excited to have such achievement and to see my cohort having the same feeling. It was also fantastic to have the presence of my professors, friends, and relatives on this special occasion. The moment I received the certificate on stage was when I thought to myself that “this is the result of not only over one year of sweat and blood at the UO in the USA but also a whole life of education, and I am thankful to all the people who are part of this”.

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