Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Temporary Mind-FILL-ness in (pronunciation) teaching: Weil's 4-7-8 technique

A few months ago I sat through a good presentation on a technique for "fixing" the English rhythm of adult Japanese learners--in relatively big classes. At the time I was very interested in research on the role of attention in learning. Later, over coffee I asked the presenter something to the effect of "How do you know that the students were paying attention?" (I had earlier taught for over a decade in a seemingly very similar context in Japan, myself.) His response was: "Good question . . . Almost everybody was looking at me and more than half of the lips were moving at the appropriate time . . . "

How do you establish, maintain and manage attention in your teaching? (Anybody looking for a great MA or PhD topic, take note!) Based on my recent survey of the research literature, I'm preparing a conference proposal on the subject now. This is a follow up to the earlier post on how pronunciation should be taught "separately", in effect partitioned off from the lesson of the day and the distractions of the room and surroundings.

One problem with efficient attention management  is often in the transitions between activities or just the initial set up. Some tasks require learners to be very much "up"; others, decidedly "down" and relaxed. 

The popularity of Mindfulness training today speaks to the relevance of managing attention in class and the potential benefits from many perspectives. Most of the basic techniques of Haptic Pronunciation Teaching are designed to require or at least strongly encourage at least momentary whole body engagement in learning and correcting articulation of sound in various ways. I have experimented with a number of Mindfulness-based techniques to, in effect, short-circuit mental multitasking and get learners (sort of) calmed down and ready to go . . .

Powerful, effective stuff, but it is not something that most teachers can just pick up and begin using in their classes without at least a few hours of training, themselves, especially in how to "talk" it through with students and monitor "compliance" (manage attention.) I'd recommend it, nonetheless.

I recently "rediscovered" an amazing focus technique, suggested by Dr Andrew Weil (Hat tip, this month's issue of Men's Health magazine!), that works to create very effective boundaries without requiring any special training to administer. One of the best I have ever used. Simple. "Mechanical" (not overly cognitive or "hypnosis"-like) and quick. Takes maximum of 90 seconds. Anybody can do it, even without having seen it done:

A. Breath in with mouth closed, a slow count of 4
B. Hold the breath for a slow count of 7
C. Blow out through the mouth softly for a slow count of 8

*Do that four times. It basically lowers the heart rate and helps one focus. May take a two or three times for 4-7-8 to get to full effectiveness, but it does quickly, almost without fail. You can use 4-7-8 two or three times per class period. If you don't have a warm up that gets everybody on board consistently, try this one. I'd especially recommend it before and after pronunciation mini-lessons.

Pronunciation, and especially haptic techniques, are very sensitive to distraction, especially excessive conscious analysis and commentary. 4-7-8 is not necessarily the answer, but it will at least temporarily get everybody's attention. After that . . . you're on!




Sunday, June 26, 2016

Why pronunciation should be taught "separately" (and the 15 second rule)!

Clker.com
The pendulum is swinging back, my friends. A central concern among pronunciation teachers is that what is "taught" in class, in whatever form, is so often not integrated well (or at all) into spontaneous speaking. One reason for that, I am convinced, is the general reluctance to correct spontaneous speech today.

This one is for all of you who teach a successful, stand-alone pronunciation course in the face of current theory that seems argue that pronunciation should generally be integrated in instruction, any skill concentration--not taught in isolation.

When a pronunciation problem just "pops up" in class, what do you do? Correction of pronunciation is again an important focus of research in the field. In fact, it is coming to be seen as more and more central to effective instruction. (From a haptic perspective, as developed in this blog and elsewhere, correction, especially during spontaneous speaking activities, is key to successful pronunciation work.) The other option, I suppose, is still that instruction is done so well early on that few errors in spontaneous speech occur . . . That was the dream of some early structuralist and behavioral approaches. They just forgot to factor in sufficient boredom and fear.

In-class instruction and practice is not sufficient in many contexts. Ongoing, effective feedback is essential. Research, however, has consistently revealed a strong reluctance on the part of instructors to correct learner pronunciation in any instructional context, in part a legacy of communicative language teaching and the current de-emphasis on pronunciation teaching in general (Baker, 2014; Saito, 2016).

Some of the most recent research on spontaneous correction of pronunciation in the classroom (See my blogpost focusing on delaMorandiere, 2016) has begun to point to two key features of effective correction (a) a link back to earlier instruction is "remembered." and (b) that link is used by the instructor in various ways, including a quick reference to the concept or explanation or reminder (or a question to the learner). In other words, correction works best when it is anchored back to an earlier consciously constructed schema, not just by a simple prompt, such as repeating the "correct" pronunciation.

So what does that mean in the classroom? Effective, corrective feedback on pronunciation generally depends upon good "prior knowledge" of the correct form that can be reactivated or reinforced . . . That does not suggest that rhythm, intonation and stress should not be attended to in other areas of language instruction; they should, if only to reinforce learning of meaning, structure and vocabulary. But to CORRECT some aspect of any of those, something other than or in addition to simply "repeat after me" has to be employed. In the case of adults, that should generally refer back to well-conceived explanation and focused practice, both controlled and meaning-based.

Now that can, for example, be accomplished by teaching one chapter of a student pronunciation text occasionally as part of a speaking or conversation course, but the experience of more and more intensive English programs, particularly, is that a designated pronunciation class that is used as a point of reference for all other instructors in the program to refer back to in in-class correction is far and away the best approach. In that context as well, research has identified the types of classroom interaction where such intervention by both instructor and other students is most appropriate (small group discussions, prepared oral readings, impromptu speeches, etc.)

To be in a position to intervene, interrupting the flow of conversation, generally requires an expectation that important errors will be addressed continually in an atmosphere of confidence and trust--and even collegial fun and support. Spontaneous error correction in pronunciation should be received with genuine appreciation and "uptake". The conditions for that to happen consistently are not that complicated but require for some a rethinking of the form of pronunciation instruction and its place in (virtually) every class. I think most would agree, however, that it is often exceedingly challenging to temporarily switch on and off that "safe" classroom mode or milieu in any setting other than one focused only on pronunciation. (Pronunciation classes are generally rated as the most useful and enjoyable by students.)

What research is suggesting is that effective "spontaneous" correction is very important to helping learners integrate changed forms--and that it is actually not all that spontaneous, in the sense that it relies on rapid recall of not just previously taught forms, structures, phonemes and specific words, but a concise, explicit understanding of the issue as well. That level of clarity can require more than just a brief note or simply drawing attention to a feature of pronunciation in class: a previously completed,  designated pronunciation class session or something analogous, such as complete modules, either online or f2f. 

That is a fundamental principle of most public speaking systems and, from our perspective, the Lessac method, upon which much of my work is based: explanation and practice must be carefully partitioned off from performance, so that errors in performance can be efficiently recognized at least post hoc (after the fact) and effectively recast by the learner in real time. For many pronunciation issues--and especially integration of change into spontaneous speaking-- that is best facilitated by a team approach as well, where the instructor briefly refers the learner back to not just the correct sound but also its structure and rationale (SSR), and the learner momentarily "holds that thought" and physically experiences what it feels like to produce words or phrases to be used more appropriately the next time they occur.

It is not necessary to do all three SRR components every time, of course, but the intervention used must in some sense reconnect to the in-class instructional experience in toto. Just repeating a word or phrase might accomplish that on some occasions, but the research suggests that more cognitive involvement accompanying a verbal recast is essential. I could not agree more, only adding that more somatic (body-based) engagement is essential as well.

The best option, I think, despite its limitations, is still something like the "traditional" pronunciation class taught by a well-trained and experienced instructor, where correction of all kinds, done right, is seen as immensely valuable and productive--and relatively speaking, stress-free!

Haptic work attempts to create the experience of that classroom by linking earlier training in systematic gesture to the pronunciation of the word or expression, which could also have been done in a separate class or class meeting or online, independently. The key is that it be conceptually partitioned off, by itself, without demanding thorough content and context integration, and also not requiring a  "seasoned" instructor to do the presentation, instruction and practice. (More later on the importance of such seemingly counter-intuitive conceptual partitioning to subsequent recall and utilization. In the meantime, consult your local neuroscientist or hypnotist!)

Try the 15-second rule: During spontaneous speaking and interaction with students, only pause to correct what can be effectively reconnected to previous (brilliant) instruction--which may include a bit of SSR--and practiced three times in 15 seconds. That will get you a better sense of how well your initial teaching of pronunciation "bits" is going, too.

However you approach correction and facilitating integration of pronunciation change, it should at the very least be more than just "spontaneous."




Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why research on (pronunciation) teaching is often irrelevant to my method and my classroom

In 1994 Kumaravadivelu sounded what has turned out to be something of the death knell for the usefulness of much research on English language teaching for the individual classroom entitled: The Postmethod Condition: (E)merging Strategies for Second and Foreign Language Teaching. At the time, it seemed liberating from many perspectives, but the intervening two decades have often proven otherwise. A recent, very revealing article in Education Week by Tucker goes a long way toward explaining why: Why Education Research Has So Little Impact on Practice: The System Effect.

Clker.com
In essence, what Tucker argues, based on a piece by Kane in Education Next, is that a technique (or variable) generally cannot be judged in terms of effectiveness outside of the system in which it functions. And, most importantly, research that attempts to isolate one procedure and then generalize to multiple learner populations is epistemologically invalid (the wrong question!) For a range reasons which Tucker outlines, such as time, resources, tenure and culture, especially North American researchers do not (or cannot) evaluate a variable, such as ability in the context of the method or system in which it is embedded--or compare that system, with its isolated variable to another nearly identical system with only that variable affected. That is especially true when it comes to studying change over time.

Kumaravadivelu identified the last "system" in language teaching, the last prevailing method where internal changes could be judged in terms of effectiveness: the structuralist "Audio-lingual" paradigm. It has (thankfully) nearly disappeared today. Its problems with generalizability were legend, but something also was lost: a common method where individual variables and techniques could be credibly assessed for effectiveness. Tucker's argument speaks clearly to our problem today.

Problem? Well, maybe it is also an opportunity for individual instructors to maintain perspective when reading research studies focusing on one variable or technique before trying it out on students--and more importantly trying to figure out whether something worked or not. ("Research" has overwhelmingly established that it is always far more difficult to learn from our successes than our failures.)

What is the solution? My guess is that a new paradigm, a more iconoclastic method--for teaching pronunciation in this case--will emerge from the chaos. What would that look like? Like ALM, it will at least initially show promise to provide a highly systematic model, a more comprehensive and complete set of tools for a wide range of learning populations and classrooms.

At the moment I can (not surprisingly) only think of one . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gesticulate your way to better pronunciation teaching?

If you have never seen Howard Keel do "Gesticulate" from the 1953 musical, Kismet--especially if you are an aspiring "Haptician"-- it is a must. I'm going to kick off an upcoming half-day Haptic Pronunciation Teaching workshop September 30 at the BC TEAL Interior Regional Conference at Thompson Rivers University, here in British Columbia with it!

In haptic pronunciation teaching the focus is first on hand position and movement across the visual field, not on what the arm, head, voice and torso are doing. The idea is that the hand in some sense becomes the "conductor" of what the rest of  the body is doing. It is, of course, far more than just "gesticulating" but Keel's performance does certainly make the point!

Enjoy! And if you are in the Kamloops area at the end of September, please join us!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Are you an "upstanding" pronunciation teacher?

If not, you should be, but take your time . . .  (We'll give you 4 weeks, in fact!) More evidence as to why, when doing pronunciation work, you should at least get your students on their feet as much as possible (or, of course, just switch to haptic pronunciation teaching (HPT) where almost all training is done standing, regardless!)

I have reported on this topic and the work of the researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health previously. Here is a quick summary of their latest study, summarized by Science Daily (full citation below).

They looked at call center employees who either used a desk where they could stand while working or didn't. Not surprisingly, those who could stand up performed better. After about a month the effect kicked in, making them about 46% more productive! Earlier studies looked at cognitive function, gluteus maximus.
Clker.com
attention, health benefits, etc., coming to pretty much the same conclusion: we are not design to work best parked too long on our

What is interesting in that study for us is that it apparently took a while, about a month for the subjects to become "acclimated" to the new desk structure. Their evidence for that explanation is purely speculative, however. How the "full body" process of speaking and thinking and problem solving is enhanced just by standing is a fascinating question that is not really addressed. (I work on my feet for at least an hour every morning with coffee. Not sure it is always my best stuff, but in terms of organization and clarity, it often seems so.)

We have seen something analogous in HPT. Assuming the typical pacing of a course, one 30-minute module plus about 90 minutes of homework per week, it is typically after Module 4 that it all "clicks", when generally everybody "gets it", and begins to see tangible progress. Look at the sequence:

Week 1 - Introduction to haptic learning (50% done while standing)
Week 2 - Short vowels and word stress (about 75% standing)
Week 3 - Long vowels and word stress (about 75% standing)
Week 4 - Rhythm and phrase stress (almost entirely done while standing)
Week 5 - "Aha, I get it!"

I have always assumed that it, the "Aha! I get it!" point, was primarily because of the path of the syllabus or that the patterns and techniques had become more second nature. But there may be more going on there, perhaps much more.

If you think that you got the answer . . . stand up!

Full citation:
Texas A&M University. (2016, May 25). Boosting productivity at work may be simple: Stand up: Research shows 46 percent increase in workplace productivity with use of standing desks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 5, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160525220539.htm

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why does haptic pronunciation teaching work?

Good question! Here is an excerpt from the new Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - English (HaPT-E) Instructor notes. (If you'd like to preview the first 2 modules of the course (no charge) and get a free a copy of the Instructor Notes, contact: info@actonhaptic.com)

Essential Haptic Integrated Pronunciation Teaching (EHIEP):
  • Provides a principled way to integrate body movement into pronunciation teaching, "embodying" a number of techniques commonly used, some consciously, some less so-- emphasizing the importance of the kinesthetic, “felt sense” of fluent body movement and speech. 
  • Is HAPTIC!, using touch to make use of gesture systematic, consistent, focused and (relatively) "safe" and nonthreatening.
  • Focuses on intelligibility and fluency, not just accuracy, but can be used for accent reduction, if desired.
  • Integrates in basic voice training and public speaking skills --especially vocal resonance training--so that some improvement in vocal production is noticed relatively quickly by learner.
  • Uses vowels as the conceptual center of the presentation and practice system, establishing a conceptual and sensory space matrix in which (1) sounds and processes can be learned and adjusted, and (2) production can be consciously regulated better.
  • Is structured so that almost anyone, regardless of native language or learning style can learn it or learn to teach using it.
  • Hooks learners on the process so that they do their homework! (If done right, it is stimulating and refreshing, especially when done for at least 30 minutes, every other day!) 
  • Involves a set of basic, easy to learn exercises and techniques (warm up, vowels, word stress, rhythm and intonation) that are then integrated into classwork as the need arises. Seems especially effective in doing impromptu, incidental correction and modeling of pronunciation in classroom instruction.
  • Balances conscious analysis and “noticing” with contextualized drill and controlled practice; balances energizing, motivating activities with controlled, focused procedures.
  • Is more output-based system, encouraging earlier “safe” speaking and oral production than does many contemporary methods.
  • Is based on research from several fields in addition to pronunciation teaching, including public speaking, drama, music, haptics, sports training, psychology and neuroscience. 
  • Has been classroom tested over the last decade by hundreds of teachers. (Several empirical studies are now underway to better establish the effectiveness of the EHIEP method on more empirical, "scientific" grounds!)  
See also the YouTube summaries of the main modules from v3.0 (Not great video quality but reasonably informative.) 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Invisible pronunciation: What you see is not necessarily what you get.

Nice new study by Smotrova "Making Pronunciation Visible: Gesture In Teaching Pronunciation", in
press, in TESOL Quarterly, examining in depth the pedagogical gestures used by a pronunciation teacher. She had devised an ingenious set of gestures to signal various aspects of pronunciation, such as stress placement, intonation contours, etc. Students (subjects) seemed to have engaged well with the process and there was evidence of both uptake and subsequent student-initiated use of the gestural system.

EHIEP
In the literature review, Essential Haptic-integrated Pronunciation (EHIEP) is described in some detail, for the most part accurately. What is missing, however, is any reference to the critical role of touch in contributing to the effectiveness of haptic pronunciation (HPT). EHIEP is, instead, characterized as a "kinesthetic" approach, meaning: movement and gesture-based. That is, of course, correct at face value, as far as it goes, but the application of touch to the system has been fundamental for over a decade, since 2005.

What we discovered very early on was that gesture used for such "signalling" by the instructor has valuable applications, such as pointing out problems or coordination of gross motor movements such as hand clapping or dancing. What was far more problematic, however, was attempting to use gesture systematically by conducting learner body movement to help them "embody" the new or corrected sounds. Only by using touch to anchor gesture, primarily by touch on the stressed syllable but also in many cases by assigning touch to the beginning and the terminus of the gestural movement, could we consistently work effectively with pedagogical gesture.

That is particularly the case when you want learners to use gesture spontaneously or with homework assignments. If not carefully controlled and applied, gesture use is often at best only marginally effective; at worst, threatening, intimidating and highly invasive.

In other words, the key is not just what you can see someone else doing,  but how well that gesture connects up in the body, or is "embodied" with the sound element or structure being taught, corrected or practiced. And that happens most consistently when the learner does the pedagogical movement pattern (gesture) with precision, the focus of EHIEP. Touch makes that process consistent and systematic, and generally quite acceptable and emotionally "safe" for learners as well. 

The general visual/cognitive bias in pronunciation teaching today is very problematic. Although it is understandable, given the often rigid and noncognitive nature of traditional drill and articulatory training models, it is simply too easy for learners and instructors to avoid the physical/kinesthetic side of the process which can be both inordinately time consuming and individualized.

At the basic instructional level, HPT is (simply) the answer.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching and Applied Phonology Course, August 1st~26th in Vancouver, BC!

If you are in the Vancouver area in August, join us at Trinity Western University for the Ling 611 Applied Phonology course (3 graduate credits), part of the MATESOL or just the Haptic Pronunciation Teaching component of that course. (Housing available.)

Ling 611 meets on campus 9~12:00, Tuesday through Friday. August 2nd ~ 18th. Monday's are "reading days". Fridays, students in teams submit a brief research report on the week's work. During the 4th week of the course, students do an individual research paper in consultation with the instructors and take final certification test in haptic pronunciation teaching. 

HaPT-E Certification Course
General syllabus:
  • Week 1 - Learning and teaching pronunciation
  • Week 2 - Teaching listening and pronunciation
  • Week 3 - Teaching speaking and pronunciation
The  topics of the 3 hours of each morning are roughly as follows:
  • Hour 1 - Haptic pronunciation teaching
  • Hour 2 - Phonetic analysis of learner data
  • Hour 3 - Theory and methodology
Options: (If interested, contact me at TWU: william.acton@twu.ca)
  • Take the graduate course for credit (about $2400) or as an auditor (less than half price). You have to apply for that and have some prerequisite background in either case. 
  • Do just the Haptic Pronunciation part. That means 12 hours of class, plus about 12 hours of  homework, which includes 2 tests. If you pass the tests, you get a certificate in HPT. (Cost of that will be about $500, which includes materials and certificate. You'll also be free to sit in on the other two hours of Ling 611 if you have time.) Limited number of places available for that option. 
Keep in touch!

Bill

Sunday, May 1, 2016

(New) Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Certificate - in 24 hours!


Sign up now!

Improve your pronunciation teaching in less than 3 months
 by taking the new 
Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - English (HaPT-E) Course

Haptic pronunciation teaching has been shown to be one of the best ways to provide good modeling, feedback and correction of pronunciation, plus enhance learning of vocabulary. HaPT-E uses specially designed pedagogical gesture with touch to make teaching more effective and efficient. 
  • The course is designed especially for the non-native English speaking teacher. 
  • To take the course you need no background in pronunciation teaching or linguistics. 
  • Each module of the complete, 10-module course takes about 2 hours. 
  • Recommended course length is 2 hours per week for 12 weeks, 
  • Includes all materials (Course book and Instructor notes), 6 months free access to course videos (Vimeo.com) and automatic updates. (Regular price for unlimited video access is $8CAD per month)
  • Includes all materials you need to do haptic pronunciation in your classroom, too!
HaPT-E course is $150CAD



Cost for the course, plus certificate is $250CAD, which includes personalized feedback on two video/written tests and final SKYPE report with Bill Acton (for limited time only).




Course content is provided online from Vimeo.com. If you also need hard media (DVD) format, those can be purchased for an additional $75CAD, free shipping.



*You can also pay by check, cash, bank transfer or barter! (For those options, email us: info@actonhaptic.com

Certification is provided by Actonhaptic.com or can be offered in partnership with your institution. (Contact info@actonhaptic.com for further details.)

For more about haptic pronunciation teaching, go to www.Actonhaptic.com or check out:

Acton, W., Baker, A., Burri, M., Teaman, B. (2013). Preliminaries to haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction. In J. Levis, K. LeVelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the 4th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Aug. 2012. (pp. 234-244). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New (haptic) Rhythm Fight Club at BCTEAL 2016: Why haptic works better . . .

Photo credit: BYU.edu
Next Saturday, at Simon Fraser University, at 11:45 at the BCTEAL conference, Shine Hong and I will be doing a 45 minute mini-workshop on the new version of the Haptic Rhythm Fight Club. The HRFC, introduced in 2013, has "evolved" considerably since.

Murphy (2013;38) describes the typical use of "boxing-like" gestures in pronunciation teaching as follows: ". . . while using nonthreatening boxing moves, gently sparring with partners to coordinate simulated jabs with stressed syllables of prominent words."

On the face of it, the HRFC looks like that. In its early development, before 2013 it was in many respects. The current version is substantially different, however, for at least three reasons.
  • First, the boxing gestures are intended primarily for personal use, not in sparring with a partner--although we still do that occasionally in demonstrations just for fun, as we will next week. 
  • Second, The HRFC gestural patterns are highly controlled, moving within narrow "channels" in the air in front of the learners, such that the energy of the "punches" is focused, never out of control. 
  • Third, something must be held in the hand that creates the tactile anchoring very distinctly, that can be squeezed on the stressed syllable word or words spoken during the boxing gesture. That can be a ball of some kind, a wadded up piece of paper, a glove, etc. 
As noted in any number of previous posts here, in general, the indiscriminate use of gesture in pronunciation or language teaching is pretty much a wash (can have both strong positive and negative affects). Although it can be quite motivating and "fun", for learners, in many cultures it is at best a turn off, at worst personally very invasive. In addition, research in kinesic and haptic learning has long established the fact that just because a gesture or movement accompanies a spoken phrase or visual focus does not mean that the location of the stressed element will automatically be recalled later. In fact, a "wild" gesture may do more to disguise the location of that key focus by drawing attention instead to anything else that is happening simultaneously. More is required.

Controlled gestures, on the other hand, with discrete touch on the focal syllable do much to deal with such "distraction" and make the classroom and personal practice of gesture use more acceptable to a wider range of personality styles and preferences. That has certainly been our experience in the last 4 years.

If you are in town, join us Saturday, either in the workshop or at the TWU MATESOL table in the exhibition area.

Keep in touch!

Friday, April 22, 2016

20 Ideas for TESOL 2017 haptic pronunciation teaching proposals!

Time for doing proposals for TESOL 2017! The deadline is June 1st. If you are interested in being on a team that does a workshop, poster session, demonstration or paper, please let us know. We almost always work with teams of 2 or more and invite those who are not trained hapticians but want to be to sign on to a proposal. With the new v4.0 Haptic pronunciation teacher training program (out soon) you can be quite up to speed by next March!

Hopefully, we'll also have a booth this coming year for the first time to promote v4.0. (With that comes a couple of Exhibitor's sessions on the program as well.) Here are some of the proposal ideas we have been discussing of have presented or published on earlier. A formal proposal could, of course, be a combination of topics with a haptic "core"!
HaPT-E v4.0 -Serious Fun!
  1. Pre-convention institute or workshop on haptic pronunciation teaching
  2. Spontaneous and incidental correction (using haptic techniques)
  3. Haptic teacher training certification course
  4. Haptic phonetics (working on that one already)
  5. Haptic techniques for vocabulary development
  6. Haptic homework (working on that one already)
  7. (Ch)oral reading (haptic-anchored) 
  8. Changing fossilized pronunciation (haptically)
  9. Haptic consonant workshop (working on that one already)
  10. Contrastive (haptic) analyses (e.g., Chinese, Korean or major dialects)
  11. Fluency training (Rhythm Fight club)
  12. Haptic accent reduction techniques
  13. Haptic-anchored attending skills
  14. Haptic techniques for basic literacy training
  15. Haptic discourse strategies/markers
  16. Haptic phonics
  17. Brain Research on haptic learning
  18. Expressive (haptic) pronunciation teaching
  19. Haptic linking techniques
  20. Haptic techniques for vowel reduction, unstressed and secondary stressed vowels 
  21. Haptic-anchoring of online pronunciation instruction


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gesture the cause of pronunciation problems?

That's right! You should try it! Here's why . . .

 Referring to ways in which learners' L1s differs from their L2s is generally not a priority in pronunciation teaching--or in general language instruction. In some contexts, however, especially EFL-like courses where phonetics or translation serve as the point of departure, the structure of the L1 may be among the early topics addressed. For a number of reasons, nonetheless, many contemporary methodologists avoid it. A quick, informal poll among colleagues recently came up with a nice range of opinion:

"Why confuse things?"
"Best avoided."
"Not that confident, myself."
"May cause even more interference."     

That last comment is interesting. Clearly, if not done carefully or well, that could be the case. So, how might you "do that well?" (If you have some suggestions in that regard, in addition to the one I am about to recommend, please post a comment w/it!)

In haptic pronunciation teaching, we often and very effectively lead learners across "gestural bridges" between L1 and L2 phonological elements, such as individual sounds (vowels and consonants), rhythm patterns and tone movement (intonation). We do that by having learners mirror us or a video  as they perform "pedagogical movement patterns" (PMPs),  gestures synchronized speaking, that represent both the L1 and L2 sounds or sound patterns--and often the relative distance between them--in the visual space in front of the learner. 

Recently published research by Carlson, Jacobs, Perry and Church in Gesture, The effect of gestured instruction on the learning of physical causality problems, suggests why the "contrastive haptic PMP approach" may work. (Now granted, the analogy between video instruction on how gears work and the relationship between how an L1 sound is physically articulated and that of its L2 near-equivalent--that may cause serious interference or negative transfer--may be something of a stretch! But stick with me here!)

In the study, subjects either viewed a video where the instructor (a) explained the process without gesturing or (b) the "speech plus gesture" protocol.  Their conclusion: 

"Results showed that . . .  instruction was . . .  significantly more effective when gesture was added. These findings shed light on the role of gesture input in adult learning and carry implications for how gesture may be utilized in asynchronous instruction with adults."

What the conclusion misses, but is unpacked in the article, is the potential importance of the nature of the concept being taught in the first place, as it says in the title: physical causality, meaning that the contact and motion of one  gear as it affected the state and movement of the other gear. In other words, the impact of the gestural protocol was so pronounced, in part, because it was portraying and embodying a physical process.

Studies of the connection of gesture to more abstract, far less embodied concepts such as interpretation of emotion or intent are much less consistent, understandably. Pronunciation of a language is, on the other hand, an essentially physical, somatic process. Hence, using gesture (and touch) to anchor it makes perfect sense. 

Just thought I'd point that out . .




Saturday, April 2, 2016

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - v3.5 TESOL 2016 Special!

Even if you can't make it to Baltimore next week for the TESOL Convention for one of the demos, you can still get the AHEPS "TESOL special" version 3.5 for a limited time (until this September!)

Keep in touch!
Basic cost: $100 CAD for (copying authorized), 12 months unlimited streaming and (the BIG bonus) . . . a half hour SKYPE Chat w/me after you have tried some haptic with your students.  (DVD set is also available for $60 CAD, free shipping). For immediate purchase, go here! For hard copies and special orders, contact: info@actonhaptic.com.

p.s. If you don't want to talk w/me, I'll knock of my "2 cents worth" from the price!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Haptic Fight Club Demonstrations at TESOL 2016 in Baltimore!

Cilker.com
If you'll be at the TESOL Convention in Baltimore week after next, join us for two VERY brief but "hard hitting" demonstrations of the "Haptic Rhythm Fight Club" pronunciation movement pattern (PMP) technique from AHEPS v3.5 (Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System.) Here are the times and venues:

  • April 6th 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm in Holiday 3 at the Hilton Baltimore. Only 6 minutes of that will be the Fight Club but it will be fun. Promise! The session is a promo by TESOL for the book that our chapter is in (See full title below and pick up a copy at the conference.) If you do, I'll give you access to M7 of v3.5 for a month! Speaking of v3.5, that will go "live" on April 2nd!!! 
  • Wednesday, April 6th, 8:30pm-9:30pm. Blake Room at the Hilton Baltimore. That one is put on by the Speech Pronunciation Listening Interest Group (SPLIS) and should be fun, too. If you come to that one, I'll give you one free round of the Fight Club (assuming that you sign the injury waiver, of course!) 
See you in Baltimore!

Burri, M., Baker, A. and Acton, W. (2016). Anchoring Academic Vocabulary with a "Hard Hitting" Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Technique, in Jones, T. (Ed.) Pronunciation in the classroom: the overlooked essential. New York: TESOL

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rethinking gesture use in technology and (pronunciation) teaching

Personal digital communication technology is revolutionizing our understanding of the critical role played by touch in accessing "data" and thinking. As students rely more and more in school and out on handheld devices, the designers and promoters of those interfaces are far out ahead of educators in systematically exploiting the "haptic" (movement plus touch) possibilities, what Sinclair and deFreitas term "tangible gesture". Not all gesture involves tactile engagement, of course, but that which does in cutting edge haptic technology has much to teach us about the effective use of gesture, especially in pronunciation teaching.

A recent paper by Sinclair and de Freitas focusing on "tangible gesture" provides a helpful framework for understanding better the value of systematic haptic gesture work. Quoting the abstract:

" . . . This re-thinking of gesture returns to the principle of indexicality found in Peirce’s material semiotics, and develops this principle through the work of Gilles Châtelet and Gilles Deleuze around hand-eye relationships. Drawing on the work of Jürgen Streek, we propose and discuss the notion of the tangible gesture, in the context of mathematical explorations of young children with a multitouch iPad environment designed to promote counting on and with the fingers."

Allow me to translate that: As research in haptic learning has long established, what touch does is create a more efficient, integrative bridge to meaning that gesture alone may not accomplish. In effect the point of touch by the hand can drastically narrow the focus of attention and enhance the bonding together of the concept or symbol and object or process underway.

More practically speaking, a gesture involving strategic touch in pronunciation teaching on a stressed syllable, for example, should be substantially more effective in promoting the acquisition or access to memory of the targeted sound, word or phrase than the same gesture done without the haptic anchor.  

Tangible gesture. Nice concept. More on it shortly. Keep in touch.

Citation:
Sinclair, N. and de Freitas, E. (2015). The haptic nature of gesture: Rethinking gesture with new multitouch digital technologies. Gesture 14:3, 351-374.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Move me, I'm in; show me, I learn.

Always nice to stumble onto yet another piece of empirical research that helps explain why something you do in teaching probably works. Having been using gesture more or less systematically in pronunciation teaching for over 40 years, it was obvious that the ability to mimic gesture was closely related to ability to interpret and learn from pedagogical gesture in class.

There were, of course, some learners who seemed naturally to have great "kinaesthetic intelligence"; others clearly didn't. Consequently, so much of our work has been aimed at developing gesture-enhanced or gesture-synchronized techniques that the less "kinaesthetic" could learn quickly and use.

A 2015 study by Wu and Coulsen of UC-San Diego, Iconic Gestures Facilitate Discourse Comprehension in Individuals With Superior Immediate Memory for Body Configurations provides an interesting clue. As part of their research into the relationship between "kinaesthetic working memory" (KWM) and perception of  (iconic) gesture, the instrument they used to determine KWM involved having subjects basically attempt to mimic gestures of a model, independent of verbal language. Those with stronger KWM by that measure were better at interpreting gestures used in somewhat fragmented conversation--which required contribution of the meaning of the gestures for the core sense of the conversation to get across.

The question, of course, is whether or not KWM can be enhanced by training or even engaged more in teaching and learning. Study after study in the areas of athletic training and rehabilitation confirm that it can.  KWM is, likewise, the basis of haptic pronunciation teaching. And how is such training accomplished? By highly controlled, systematic repetitive practice of relevant body movements involved, not simply by demonstrating the movements to learners or using them naturally in teaching--which is what most enthusiastic (pronunciation) instructors do anyway.

What that means, especially for language teaching, is that the benefit of simply using gestures in teaching may be minimal at best for any number of reasons. In general, techniques such as stretching rubber bands, tapping on desks or playing choral conductor with intonation appear to be good for presenting concepts but not for actually helping learners practice and improve their pronunciation. (For those with high natural KWM it may, of course, be a different story.)

Systematic work with KWM is, I think, the key to at least efficient learning and teaching of pronunciation. If you are still not moved to act on that concept, check in with your local aerobics or Alexander Technique instructor for a tune up. (Research suggests at least 4 weeks needed to establish new kinaesthetic patterning.) Or join us hapticians. See info in the right column and elsewhere on the blog on how to do that!

Full citation: Wu, Y. and Coulsen, S. (2015) Iconic Gestures Facilitate Discourse Comprehension in Individuals With Superior Immediate Memory for Body ConfigurationsPsychological Science vol. 26 no. 11 1717-1727,


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Incidental Correction of Pronunciation


MA Thesis defense here (Trinity Western University) today by Rebeka delaMorandiere: Incidental Correction of Pronunciation: Beliefs and Classroom Practice. The thesis itself will be accessible later this spring. Very good work.

Abstract

In English language teaching, pronunciation is making something of a “comeback”. Since the late 1970s, in part as a response to structural methods, pronunciation has generally been downplayed. Today, it is being integrated back into communicative and task-based teaching, with the recommendation that it be addressed according to an “intelligibility”, rather than “native speaker”, model. With these developments have arisen new questions about error-correction.

In the past, it was expected that errors be immediately corrected, whereas today, errors tend to be corrected when they interfere with intelligibility, providing teachable moments for learning. With a focus on intelligibility, incidental correction occurs based on observed student needs during meaning-focused tasks; this kind of error correction is well known as a subset of “focus on form” instruction (Long, 1991). It is suggested that feedback is effective if it is salient, systematic and engaging for the student. Despite several recent studies suggesting effective techniques for correcting pronunciation (Saito and Lyster, 2012; Saito, 2015; and Lee and Lyster, 2015), studies focusing on incidental correction of pronunciation in an integrated, task-based program are lacking (cf. Foote et al., 2013).

A qualitative study was conducted at an English for academic purposes institution in Vancouver, British Columbia. About six hours of instruction were observed, 54 students were surveyed, and five instructors were interviewed regarding their beliefs about pronunciation-related incidental corrective feedback in the classroom.

Overall, results suggest that incidental correction of pronunciation targeted segmental errors (e.g., consonants and vowels), mainly in student-fronted contexts such as presentations or read-aloud activities. Incidental correction focusing on suprasegmentals (e.g., focus words and connected speech), though minimal, was evident in discussion activities. The survey revealed that students prefer pronunciation correction that involves negotiation rather than direct recasts, i.e., students prefer to be prompted for the correct answer rather than being provided with it. Students, especially in the higher proficiency level classes, tended to be wary of correction that might interrupt their “thoughts”. Surprisingly, without directly being elicited, the predominant theme that arose from the instructor interviews was the need for comfort and trust in the classroom, with instructors believing that correction is necessary and important, but not if it will increase student stress and anxiety.

Based on these findings, a preliminary framework for incidental corrective feedback of pronunciation is outlined, including suggestions for when and how feedback could have occurred in the observed classes. In conclusion, the contemporary definition of “incidental” is revisited, suggesting directions for further research and practice in incidental pronunciation correction.
------------------------------------------------------



There is even a "touch" of haptic pronunciation intervention as well!