PCI on Teaching Pronunciation

Dear Readers,

Last year, I attended the pre-conference institute (PCI) on teaching pronunciation that focused on vowel quality and suprasegmentals.  Shirley Thompson and Karen Taylor of English Language Training Solutions, LLC, provided the workshop.  I learned about the concepts of stress: syllable timed vs. stress timed.  The English language is stress timed, meaning that stressed syllables receive more time than unstressed ones when we pronounce them.  Most other languages are syllable timed.  Therefore, noticing stress is an important first step in learning about pronunciation.

During the workshop, they suggested several ways to build syllable and word stress awareness with your students.  They designated this as the first level of stress and gave the following teaching strategies to address it:

1. Identify syllabication by categorizing a list of words by the number of syllables in each.  For example, the word Philadelphia would be placed into a 5-syllable category of a chart and Dallas would go into the 2-syllable category.  They demonstrated clapping out the syllables to help hear the syllabication.

2. Recognize and categorize stress patterns at the word level.  For example, the word Pennsylvania would fit into the da-da-DA-da-da category, whereas Texas would go into the Da-da category.  They utilized rubber bands to differentiate the stress-timed extension from that of the unstressed syllables.

3. Use the line-dot strategy for visualizing stress patterns for the visual learner.  They shared a chart from Sue Miller’s book, Targeting Pronunciation (2006).  Lines represent stressed syllables and dots represent the unstressed ones.  For example, the word perfect would be represented as a line and a dot.

4. Use color coding of the stressed vowel in a word to categorize new vocabulary according to a vowel chart with existing words.  Taylor and Thompson created the Color Vowel Chart, which would appeal to the visual learner, too.

The workshop lasted all day, and they covered many more concepts. I noticed that Taylor and Thompson are offering another PCI on pronunciation today that focuses on comprehensibility.  If you attend their workshop today, or any of the the PCIs, please share what you have learned.  For those of you at home, now is the time to be proactive and apply for a TESOL professional development award, so you can attend a PCI free next year at the convention in Dallas, Texas!  That’s how I was able to afford it.


About Sandra Rogers

Sandra Rogers
Mrs. Rogers has a master's in TESOL, as well as the TESOL certificate in the Principles and Practices of Online Teaching. Currently, she's enrolled in a doctorate program for instructional design. She has a K-12 bilingual (Spanish) teaching certificate from California. Her areas of expertise are in bilingual education, culture, language acquisition and development (BCLAD), reading, quality assurance, and technology. She's active in the CALL-IS of TESOL and volunteers to provide free professional development for the Electronic Village Online (EVO). Mrs. Rogers spends her days scoring the TOEFL and TOEIC online for ETS. Additionally, Sandra founded a nonprofit charity to help job seekers find employment utilizing social media as a career tool. Find her on twitter @teacherrogers to learn about tips on integrating technology into the classroom.
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3 Responses to PCI on Teaching Pronunciation

  1. Hi Nino,

    I have a lot of experience with intonation since I score the Read Alouds for the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) for ETS.org. I would be happy to share teaching ideas. If I can’t help you, then certainly someone from our TESOL community can. For example, there is a TESOL interest section on Speech, Listening & Pronunciation. If you are a TESOL member, you have access to their community discussion: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=161&DID=1631
    Anyhow, please share any specific questions you have.

    Best Wishes,

  2. Nino says:

    Hello! I am an English teacher from Georgia . I teach English to Georgian students as a second language and my research is about English intonation teaching to the second language learners. So your article about the pronunciation interested me. It would be useful for me to partcipate in any of your discussion.
    wth respect

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