In this post we will show how learners can take control of improving their pronunciation. We like to call this handing over the pron!
In a recent lesson I wanted some of my upper intermediate learners to become more aware of how they sound in English and take control of improving their pronunciation. The goal was for them to record some utterances that they had prepared giving their opinion about improving the environment. They would record themselves and then listen and evaluate how clear and effective they sounded. They would then think about what aspects of their pronunciation could be clearer, practise in their groups and then re-record.
There was a lexical aim for this lesson. We were working with some phrases for sharing suggestions about a topic. E.g. One thing we really need to do is + verb. We decided a good pronunciation aim would be to stress the keywords to help them convey their opinion clearly. Many of the phrases included adverbs such as really and extremely.
My idea was that by asking them to record themselves they would really focus on using these phrases as fluently and effectively as possible and pay attention to the meaning and form (including the pronunciation) of these phrases. Perhaps more than if there was not any recording. I also thought it would be good to give learners the opportunity to work without me on their pronunciation so they really listened to themselves and started to notice what they do well and not so well in their pron! We feel that this is a good way to encourage learner autonomy in general, but with a clear focus on the pron.
We are calling this handing over the pron in our commandments. You can see more of our tips in the commandment tab above.
Below are the students recording themselves. They chose to leave the classroom and work in the garden for more privacy, better acoustics and a nicer atmosphere. They were really relaxed, laughing a lot and enjoyed the task! They recorded, listened to themselves and then re-recorded themselves at least four times!
After they had finished recording, I asked one person from each group to move round the other groups playing their recordings. The listeners had to listen and decide if they had similar or different ideas. I thought it was important to give them a clear task for listening.
It was incredible. The learners were 100% involved and listening intently. They asked for numerous play backs and if they still didn’t understand some chunks, the person with the phone summarised. In a future lesson I’d like to take this work a little further. I would like students to identify the bits they could not hear and think about why. I don’t feel the lexis was the problem in this activity, as they had all learned it beforehand and had access to notes – it is more likely to be the pronunciation of that lexis, and this is what I’d like to be sure about. Not only that, but also make the learners aware of it at the time of listening. The next lesson would be to analyse the pronunciation of sections which were not intelligible and to work on those! So much to do with pron!
In the photo below, you can see one learner getting down on the floor to position his phone so the listeners could hear his group’s recording.
The result of handing over the pron was really interesting. They obviously found it engaging and useful, if a little difficult to do. One learner in particular stood out for me. He was incredibly nervous about recording himself as he has a low opinion of his English and lacks confidence. I did my best to support and encourage him in the lesson without pressuring him. He eventually recorded himself as the other learners were coming back into the room. He got only one opportunity to listen to himself and there was no time for him to redo it. BUT, he smiled and actually realised his English is better than he thought. My goal was achieved! His confidence will surely grow after this.
In general, learners embraced this lesson. It was an absolute pleasure to watch. I will let their feedback here speak for itself!