Teachers talk pron 1 : Owen King

This is the first in a new series of guest posts from teachers we have worked with. Mark and I are teacher trainers on a Diploma course and also do other teacher training F2F and online. Owen is more than halfway through his Dip TESOL course and has very successfully passed his teaching practice and phonology interview. When he came to Barcelona in the summer to do his teaching practice he spoke about how one of the biggest transformations in his teaching is how he includes pronunciation in his lessons now. I quickly saw this from his lesson plans and teaching. It was lovely to observe. Mark and I asked him to contribute to our blog so we can share his development and inspire our readers to get more involved with phon!

Owen King

owen 2

“How the Trinity DipTESOL changed how I teach pronunciation”

Beforehand

Before undertaking the Trinity DipTesol late last year, I honestly had no clue about the basics of phonology, let alone how to teach pronunciation effectively to my students. Sometimes I might have drawn upon my knowledge of my students’ L1 to write a word how they would pronounce it in order to save time and get on with the lesson, but looking back this wasn’t really of any benefit to the learners as they never got to practise or improve their pronunciation.

Before signing up to do the DipTesol, I was most worried about the phonological focus the course had and, of course, having to learn how to decipher those scary-looking symbols that make up the IPA. Whenever I saw pronunciation activities in course books, I would just treat it like any other activity; “teach” it, do it but never really bringing the activities to life or using the IPA or other tools to enhance the learning experience. I had used drilling techniques with younger learners but I had no idea how to utilise it with teenagers and adults.

 

Consolidation

I think that everything I had learnt in the phonology modules on the online part of the course really began to click during the face-to-face module. Being able to see the tutors and other teachers integrate phonology into their lessons and to be able to share ideas about teaching pronunciation and talk about past attempts, or in my case the lack-of, brought everything together for me. I guess I had learned a lot through reading, learning the chart and so on, but I think being able to spend time in an environment like the one the face-to-face part of the course provides helped me a great deal in consolidating everything and putting the skills and techniques into practice.

 

What I do differently

After completing the Diploma course, the way I approach teaching pronunciation has changed considerably. Mostly, I’ve become more responsive to integrating pronunciation into my lessons and react in a more effective way to how I deal with emergent pronunciation issues in class. While before the Dip when planning classes I could anticipate problems the learners may have had with the target language, I wasn’t really sure how to deal with “on-the-spot” errors. Now, I am better equipped to deal with whatever pronunciation challenge crops up in the lesson and I find that most of the useful pronunciation teaching, and which benefits the students more, tends to be reactive; something I would probably still be dancing around rather than dealing with if it hadn’t been for the Diploma course.

 

Techniques

As well as learning different techniques and overcoming my fear of drilling pronunciation to adults, one of the most useful aspects of phonology I learnt on the course was how to incorporate the physiology of pronunciation into my lessons. Learning about how each of the sounds are produced has made a huge difference to how I teach pronunciation to my students and to how effective it is for them, too. Being able to show the students what is happening when producing certain sounds, and also having the confidence to do so thanks to the Dip, has helped me teach pronunciation in a more effective and engaging way.

I also find that now the way I approach teaching pronunciation is fresher; more interesting for both the teacher and the students. Mixing it up by using different techniques (substitution drilling, transformation drilling, back-chaining and using props such as rubber bands for sentence stress etc) keeps it interesting and allows for more creative teaching and is of more benefit for the students as it’s not the same process each time.

Before the Dip, I used to sometimes write a word as my students would say it in their L1 to save time but now I look to see if I can make connections between the two languages to enhance the pronunciation teaching experience rather than just tell them how it should be pronounced. For example, a word that always causes problems is colleague. When this came up in class recently, instead of just getting the student to listen and repeat, I got them to make a connection to their L1. I wrote the words La Liga on the board and asked them to say it. Then I erased the La and the final a in Liga and then asked them to say it. Then I got them to make the connection and apply this to the word colleague.

Since the Dip, pronunciation has become something I no longer ignore and it has become an integral part of my lessons.

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