Teachers talk pron: Jessica Teaches /w/

Vlog two

Working together as teacher trainers on the Trinity Dip TESOL for many years inspired us to begin this pronunciation project. We had a number of thoughts on what that would entail, but the main one was to share the ideas we had been passing on to our trainees on how to integrate pronunciation into their assessed lessons. We know; this sounds like just fulfilling an obligatory criterion in an assessment, which it is in a way, because phonology is a huge part of the Dip TESOL assessment. However, what we have discovered doing all this is that integrating pron into lessons is not only fascinating and incredibly useful for our learners, but great fun to do! And passing on these pron ideas is precisely the aim of this blog.

In this vlog entry we decided to tell you a little story. The story of a teacher’s assessment, the story of a YL English lesson in need of pron practice, and the story of two teacher trainers in two different countries.  

This month of September Mark went to Carpi, in northern Italy to train and assess three teachers from Language for Life, Gina, Helen and Jessica, who were doing their Trinity Dip TESOL teaching practice assessment and phonology interview. While Mark was in Carpi, Nicola did Trinity’s first ever distance video assessments from the comfort of her own home in Barcelona by doing three of their internal assessments. The fly-on-the-wall observations were made possible using two tablet cameras. We are all very proud to have been part of this ground-breaking event in Trinity Dip TESOL assessment.

The result of all this is our vlog entry for this month – Jessica Teaches /w/! We would like to thank Jessica for allowing us to use the film of her assessed lesson to hopefully inspire other teachers to integrate pron into their lessons!

Jessica was working with a Young Learner group of 10 to 11-year-olds this month. This age group brings its own challenges to the classroom, which Jessica dealt with admirably, but she also had the extra challenge of integrating pron into the lesson. She started with the communicative aim of “deciding which exchange student will stay in our home” to which she added the linguistic aim of “reviewing and practising Wh- questions”, but what could the phonological aim be? The answer was in the language she was teaching and some consideration of which sounds are difficult for Italian speakers.

Watch the video below to see Jessica in class with the YLs and hear her tell the story of how it all went. The format of the interview follows the lesson evaluation part of the teaching practice assessment format fairly closely, and although not all of the criteria are covered, it can give you a fair idea of what you would do in this type of assessment.

Looking at the video of the lesson and the evaluation we agree that 1. Work on physicality – the physical journey 2. Receptive recognition work to allow learners time to work with the sound with no pressure to produce, and 3 drilling for production is a supportive cycle. We can see from Jessica’s lesson and evaluation that a simple listen and repeat activity would not be enough, as the sound /w/ is not easily recognisable for Italian speakers. The students need to discover how the sound is made before they can begin to work with it. She worked with a rationale suggested by Adrian Underhill which is activate the muscle memory by taking the student on a new physical journey of the sound. We could possibly add some work on airflow here, both sounds have a different kind of airflow – /v/ is fricative and /w/ an approximant or semi-vowel. We liked the recognition activity because not only is it clear to the YLs, but it is also fun and engaging for them. Jessica gave them time to process and work with the sound, which is clearly supportive, before progressing to sound production. This was a great lesson and activity to observe because we see the great energy she has in the classroom and how hard she works to engage the YLs. This was also a great takeaway for us because we can learn so much from observing experienced colleagues going about their everyday work in the classroom.  
Thank you to Gina Benson, Helen McKinney and Jessica Bennett at Language for Life, Carpi for allowing us to film them in class and giving us insight into how they teach and inspire YLs. We hope to feature more Carpi lessons in the not too distant future.


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