I am sure all of you have heard of STT versus TTT. On initial teacher training courses there is often an “increase STT and reduce TTT” comment, and often for good reason. As new teachers we tend to think we need to explain a lot. This of course changes over time and we learn how to move towards a more inquiry based approach, we develop lesson planning skills and adopt a more inductive approach to teaching.
In this post we want to introduce and focus on a different acronym; TLT and consider how we can use it to teach pronunciation more effectively. Reflecting on this will help us develop our teaching generally. The examples in this post will help you think of other moments in class when you can utilise these skills to teach in a more purposeful, controlled and effective manner. So, what does TLT stand for? Can you guess? Yes, it is Teacher Listening Time! As Chia Suan Chong says in an article for ETp Magazine we need to start listening more to our learners.
This article has lots of great ideas, but one key shift needs to happen in our planning before we can develop our active listening skills as teachers. We need to make more space for student talking time. We need to design lessons which give students plenty time to engage with each other so we have something to listen to. Then, we also need to make space to do something with what we hear. You can find out more about this in another post of ours FFP – this is basically making stages in your lesson devoted to developing language in feedback slots.
To demonstrate this, read the lesson plan below and consider the following two points:
- How can each stage be more communicative, if at all?
- What can a teacher listen for during this stage?
STAGE ONE – Warmer
The teacher asks the class some questions about family and relationships. For example, ‘Have you got brothers or sisters?’, ‘Are you married?’, ‘Would you like to get married?’, ‘How many children do you have?’, ‘Would you like to have children?’ etc. Students answer the teacher’s questions.
STAGE TWO – Presentation of topic
The teacher draws a relationship journey line on the board and places the following headings at each stage of a possible journey, for example, ‘single’ and ‘engaged’. Then continues to place the other stages on the journey line, ‘engaged’, ‘married’, ‘divorced’ and ‘widowed’ explaining what each stage means.
STAGE THREE – Introduction of target lexis.
The teacher now goes back to the first stage and writes phrasal verbs related to relationships at each stage and explains what each means. For example, ‘go out with’, ‘fall for’, ‘fall out’, ‘break up’ etc.
STAGE FOUR – Pronunciation (catenation)
The teacher says each phrasal verb and asks the students to repeat. The teacher then explains that that if the verb ends in a consonant sound and the particle begins with a vowel sound, they will join together and possibly sound like one word. The teacher elicits which verbs and particles will join from the list on the board and then leads some choral and individual drilling of each phrasal verb.
STAGE FIVE – Lexis
The students complete a matching activity in which they match each phrasal verb with its definition. This is followed by a gap-fill activity which requires the students to complete the gaps with the phrasal verbs from exercise one.
STAGE SIX – Communicative activity
In pairs the students create a story from a series of pictures using the target lexis. Each student will make a new pair with a student from another pair and tell each other the story they have created.
STAGE SEVEN – Reflection
Students discuss in small groups how the story compares to their own culture and their own and their family’s situations.
Now look at our answers to the two questions on each stage. Here we look at giving the students more time to speak and consider what we are going to listen for.
STAGE ONE – Warmer. The teacher’s TTT seems rather high and this doesn’t look justifiable. The students could complete this in small groups to provide an opportunity for TLT in which teacher picks out pron difficulties common to the group and assesses their current vocabulary range. As the teacher monitors they can write good examples the stronger students use and also identify potential vocabulary gaps and write language to fill these gaps on the board. Then, there is a 5-8 minute feedback stage where the teacher goes over that language. For example, students in Spain might struggle with the pronunciation of -er endings in brother/sister/partner. This could be checked after the discussion.
The teacher writes words on the board like the example below and asks, “What is the correct stress?” What is the correct vowel sound?” and demonstrates the pronunciation. Students answer and then the teacher drills the correct pronunciation and asks students to make sentences using the words and tell their partner – here we can encourage peer feedback and correction. And, we can listen again quickly. Delayed feedback stage.
STAGE TWO could also be interactive – in small groups or pairs they can place the words on the ladder and discuss why each word is in its specific position. Groups and pairs compare ladder positions and must make changes so all ladders are the same – this will involve a debate, justifications and agreement to change. TLT here is to listen for pron difficulties with the target language and respond to it in a similar way to stage one, where pronunciation of -ed endings in engaged, married and divorced might cause issues in this case. The teacher writes the problem words on the board and elicits the correct pronunciation of the first one and drills. The students write the other words next to the phonemic script and agree on the correct pronunciation in pairs. This gives the students time to work on problem sounds and the teacher has an opportunity to drill and give them confidence. Delayed feedback stage.
STAGE THREE could be led through teacher questions instead of explanation so they can assess understanding and not assume students don’t know the meaning or pronunciation of the phrasal verbs, e.g. Can you give me an example sentence or question with go out with? Can you give me a synonym for fall for? Then, the whole class ask the teacher questions using the phrasal verbs. Then, the teacher asks students to create drawings for the verbs and in groups they decide where they should go on the line. This gives the teacher another opportunity to listen to their pronunciation and use of the vocabulary. TLT here could deal on the spot with intelligibility issues where the teacher insists on all language being intelligible for the 5-minute period of the activity and elicits self-correction as they monitor the groups. Immediate feedback stage.
STAGE FOUR could be a receptive listening. Teacher gives one example of C-V catenation and explains why this happens – the students then predict which ones will link in pairs, before listening to check. The pron point could also change completely and deal with stress patterns, for example. TLT opportunity could be a productive stage in which students are dictating in some way, see the Pronunciation Journey activity from Pronunciation games by Mark Hancock for a nice idea on how you can do this by adapting that activity to your given pron point. The TLT is clearly dealing with the target pron – catenation or even word stress. Teachers monitor and assess pronunciation and respond by writing persistent problems on the board. They can also prompt self-correction in an unobtrusive way with facial expressions and gestures to indicate there is an error. Immediate & Delayed feedback stage.
Example feedback board work
STAGES FIVE AND SIX already offer plenty opportunities for TLT. The challenge is usually what do we correct and feedback on when students do longer speaking activities. The answer in this lesson, is all the language you have drawn their attention to so far in the lesson, including meaning, use and pronunciation. Ideally, feedback and delayed correction would not come at the end of the lesson but between the two final discussions. We call this sandwich feedback. By feeding back in this way we can also include focused language work which the students have an opportunity to use again in the second part of the task. Sandwich feedback stage.
Ideas for correction
By planning with TLT in mind we can anticipate what our learners will already know, what they will have problems with and most importantly go into the lesson ready to respond to it all, with an increased focus on pronunciation. By doing this we can build our teacher toolkit for working on pron.