Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What teachers must know about pronunciation teaching!

Clip art:
Found an interesting 2012 study by Wahid and Sulong entitled, "The Gap Between Research and Practice in the Teaching of English Pronunciation: Insights from Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices." Their conclusion is that teachers need to know more and researchers need to be better at talking to them. Amen. One interesting finding was that the teachers in that study identified their "pronunciation" work as follows. (Frequency of teaching activity chart from page 136):

Repeating a sound after the teacher (as in error correction) - 23; Reading aloud - 22; Dictionary work - 10; Oral drills e.g. tongue twisters - 9; Choral reading - 3; Games - 2; Role-play - 2.

Now, granted, that may be a bit "extreme," in that today, at least among those teachers more exposed to contemporary methodology we would expect a wider range of activities and explicit pronunciation instruction (e.g., Baker, 2012.) 

Recently, on a professional discussion board of pronunciation researchers, the question came up as to exactly WHAT teachers should know. (Kudos to Levis of Iowa State University who got the original discussion going.) I later gave my grad students that list and asked them to order and edit it some. Here is basically what they came up with.  (Note the obvious bias on that first item on the list!) 
  • Pronunciation work should be embodied in movement as much as possible.
  • Spoken language is different from written language. 
  • Pronunciation actually does matter.
  • There is always time to include pronunciation. 
  • All well-trained teachers can teach pronunciation effectively. 
  • Any thoughtful pronunciation work is better than none. 
  • Suprasegmentals are pronunciation. 
  • There must be a working familiarity with segmental and suprasegmental features of speech. 
  • Teachers must learn how to put more emphasis on suprasegmentals. 
  • Teachers must understand how to systematically integrate pronunciation into language teaching. 
  • Pronunciation can be included in or integrated in classes for all language skills.
  • Pronunciation is closely connected to receptive skills and should be taught that way. 
  • Some pronunciation issues should be made explicit while others can be left implicit. 
  • Student needs should drive pronunciation rather than pre-selected targets. 
  • Teachers must listen to and identify L2 speech problems, separating pronunciation from other elements of spoken language.
  • Pronunciation work does not disrespect a learner’s L1, home culture or identity.
  • Thought groups/tone units are the basis of all prosody work.
  • Vocabulary should always be taught with elements of pronunciation, such as the stress pattern. 
  • The word is the basic conceptual unit for pronunciation.
  • Awareness of vowel duration and the alternation of long and short syllables is essential. 
  • Stress-timed rhythm and syllable-timed rhythm may both be appropriate depending on the context. 
  • Some errors are more important than others. 
  • There must be practice in marking errors and classifying them according to importance. 
  • Teachers must know how to provide useful feedback. 
  • Teachers must understand how to help learners develop automaticity.
  • Teachers must know how to teach compensatory strategies such as oral spelling.
Interesting list. What do you know . . .

Monday, April 21, 2014

Communicating with touch in (haptic) Pronunciation Teaching

In answer to the question: "What does touch add to pronunciation teaching?", the 2010 (free pdf downloadable) piece "From active touch to tactile communication - what's tactile cognition got to do with it?" by Nicholas of Haukeland University, Norway, is a good place to begin. It certainly was for me. (It has been cited in earlier blogposts.) 

Those who work with the deaf-blind have, understandably, a different, more informed perspective as to the nature of what Nicholas refers to as "tactile communication." Of particular interest to us is the concept of "active touch":

"Active touch, also described as haptics, is when the individual deliberately chooses his or her actions in the exploration and manipulation of an object. Active touch plays a regular and frequent role in our everyday life . . . It is only our sense of touch that enables us to modify and manipulate the world around us (McLaughlin, Hespanha, & Sukhatme, 2002)."

Image: Socialstyrelsen
For the deaf-blind the links between tactile cognition and emotion and interpersonal communication are, in a very real sense, primary. For the sighted and hearing, in varying degrees, tactile modality is a complement to visual-auditory-kinaesthetic processing--although the inner-connectivity and overlap between locations in the brain for tactile processing and the other senses is extensive. 

What Nicholas' brief essay demonstrates, however, is both the power and potential of touch in learning and communicating. We have known from the outset in haptic pronunciation teaching that the methodology itself, of using haptic anchoring on words and phrases to be remembered, along with the regular "full-body" warm ups, generates not only quality attention and engagement, but also a rich, interpersonal "dialogue" about pronunciation change.  In other words, not only does the learner use touch to learn more efficiently, but the ongoing, generally impromptu "conversations" with instructor and fellow students, signalling unobtrusively with gesture to model or correct pronunciation, should be both interpersonally and emotionally rewarding as well.  

Communicating together in that manner about pronunciation, or form in this case, becomes not only nonthreatening and non-disruptive of language learning--it becomes a rich source of collaborative, professional, focused exploration and engagement--and even fun. 

Required reading for "Hapticians" and the otherwise out-of-touch! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Basics of Haptic Pronunciation Teaching

After you have reviewed what is on the website, before you get the Instructors Guide, the Student Workbook and the Videos, here is the rest of your recommended reading list!

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

Teaman, B., & Acton, W. (2013). Haptic (movement and touch for better) pronunciation. In N. Sonda & A. Krause (Eds.), JALT 2012 Conference Proceedings (pp.402-409). Tokyo: JALT. Umeå universitet. (2012, October 26).


"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is." (Yogi Berra)

Keep in touch!

Pronunciation "Flow-ency!"

Ran across an interesting note on prerequisites for speaking fluently, posted on the website of the "Effortless English Club""To speak English fluently, of course you must understand instantly and speak without thinking." It then goes on to pitch its program:"After only 5 hours, most of my seminar students show improvement with their English speaking. They speak more quickly and more clearly. How? Mostly by changing their feelings and beliefs– by developing strong confidence in their English speaking ability." After only 5 hours . . . Wow.

Actually, they may be on to something. We could take the idea of "speak[ing] without thinking" in several directions, including the use of mindless drill,  but what is intended (I think) is closer to "flow," as proposed by Csíkszentmihályi, the experience of "completely focused motivation" -- or being in the zone.

We have all had the experience of at least temporarily speaking very well about something that we believe in so strongly that the words seem to flow from us almost "without thinking." (One of the parameters of holistic lie detection, on the contrary, is evidence of the interviewee "making things up" on the fly.) In our work, a protocol called the "Rhythm Fight Club"is designed to give the learner a feel for what "being centred, confident and on a roll" is like. (Preliminary findings of a research project on the process are again confirming that effect.)

A couple of nights ago, for the first time, I tried to do a 3-minute talk about haptic research and teaching using RFC "Flow-ency" accompanying or driving everything I said. In part because I had rehearsed the talk a number of times--and it is something that I probably have "completely focused motivation" about, it went very well (at least from my perspective, if not that of the audience!) At least a couple of very partisan observers agreed with that assessment!

I have experimented with the "Flow-ency" technique with learners for a number of years. Will now get it operationalized and more "teachable" as an extension of RFC. If you still haven't signed on as a haptician, try that for a couple minutes sometime with a topic that you are truly passionate about. And keep in touch.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gym-glish! Fiona gets physical!

Fiona's ESL Blog this month has a brilliant excerpt from the second issue of Here Magazine: AT THE GYM - a beginner's workout (PDF downloadable!) For some, body-based pedagogy can be enhanced considerably by a little "body work" up front--and other places! Required reading.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Haptic solutions: [i] versus [I] - Not even close to a close vowel!

Clip art: Clker
Got any students who have difficulty making or hearing the distinction between [i] and [I] or [u] and [U]? In articulatory and perceptual terms, those two pairs of vowels are problematic for learners from many different L1s. Phonetic descriptions refer to [i] and [u] as close vowels; the other two are said to be done with the tongue "not so close" to the roof of the mouth.

Advice to learners on how to produce the differences ranges from "Smile more on [i]" or "Round your lips more on [u]," to "Tense your jaw more on one," etc. Vowel charts typically have them located very close together visually, often in the same high-front or high-back box. (Why the IPA chart or something close to it is used for learners has always been a mystery to me. Probably something to do with the linguists who set it up?) As explored in several earlier blogposts, even the choice of the left to right (front to back) lay out of the vowel chart is apparently arbitrary--and from a phonaesthetic perspective, probably backwards. (EHIEP does go right-to-left, in fact.)

The importance of spatial positioning in anchoring conceptual and emotional "closeness" has just been highlighted in a new study by Maglio at the university of Toronto-Scarborough and colleagues, briefly and informally summarized by our friends at ScienceDaily.com: " . . . something that feels close in one way, such as physical distance, will also feel close in time, probability, and social similarity." 

In the case of haptic vowel positioning, the opposite should apply; those perceived as more haptically dissimilar should be easier to distinguish and produce. In the EHIEP system, those pairs of vowels are experientially "distanced" by: 
1. Being visually distinct: [i] is represented as [iy]; [I], as [I]
2. Pedagogical movement patterns that are very different. On [iy] the left hand had brushes by the right hand (positioned at 1 o'clock in the visual field) and continues on to just above the middle of the forehead at the hair line. On [I], the left hand lightly taps the right hand, positioned at 2 o'clock. 
3. The typical student reaction to learning the haptic distinctions between close and non-close vowels  involved being something like "Those vowels are really not that close at all!" Exactly. 

See demonstrations of double smooth (tense vowel + off-glide) and single rough vowels (simple lax or tense vowel) there on Vimeo.com or on the AH-EPS website. If a demo is password-accessible only by the time you go to look at it, email info@actonhaptic.com for temporary access.

Stay close; keep in touch. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Haptic "INTRA-diction!" in Pronunciation Teaching

Credit: Henrichsen, BYU
Our new, favourite new word: INTRA-diction! (You may have noticed that we, hapticians, occasionally have to come up with new terms to accurately characterize what we do (e.g., haptician.)) Hopefully, it will be the focus of a new haptic workshop that we are proposing for TESOL 2015 in Toronto, next March: "On the spot, impromptu haptic pronunciation modelling, feedback and correction." (See earlier blogpost on the range of topics that we are considering for proposals at upcoming conferences.) Here is a great example from Henrichsen at BYU. (It is not, strictly speaking, haptic--the learner does not have something to squeeze in his right hand--but it does beautifully illustrate the concept, using what we call the "Conversational Rhythm Fight Club" PMP.

"INTRA-diction" defined: 

On the spot, unplanned, brief attention to pronunciation (typically taking less than a minute)  during a lesson in any skill area, involving modelling, feedback and correction. That will usually involve providing the learner with a more appropriate model using a "pedagogical movement pattern" (a gesture that terminates in touch on a stressed syllable) and (probably) doing the word, phrase or sentence out loud, together with the learner 2 or 3 times. 

It brings together five ideas:

a. Introspection
b. Interdiction
c. Intra-personal
d. Inter-personal
e. Haptic anchoring

Try that. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mind-body Connections in Pronunciation Teaching

Clip art: Clker
For most, the systematic use of movement and gesture--or even haptic is now at least of interest (See, for example the work of ThornburyGilbert or Chan.) You really can't be very successful in this business without some somatic (body-based) technique to support or reinforce classroom instruction, even if that just means clapping hands occasionally to emphasize stress placement.

Show me an instructor who loves doing pronunciation work, however, and I'll almost always show you one who is at least an enthusiastic "gesticulator" but probably also a musician of some kind or avid exerciser! Every time I do that informal poll at a conference, the agreement is near 100% in the audience.

Still the best place to get a general understanding of the integration of mind and body in education and therapy is in psychotherapies such as Somatic Therapy: Somatic Therapy: Using the Mind–Body Connection to Get Results. (To access that 7-page primer, however, you'll have to sign on to Psychotherapynetworker.org; go to the "Free reports" tab and download a copy. No need; I've done that for you. I'll be reporting in later blogposts on some innovative and applicable techniques from that source.)

 It is instructive to read comments by clinicians who work in such holistic paradigms, especially to better understand why what we do works. In the piece, Wylie (p. 7) makes the following "prophetic"point--which applies to this field as well: " . . . somatic approaches may become sufficiently ordinary and acceptable that the line between “body psychotherapy” and “talk psychotherapy” may one day disappear entirely."

With emerging video and hapic methodology and technology, I'd only substitute "will" for "may"--and "very soon" for "one day!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

AHEPS on 33 cents a day!

Package includes: 

(1) Student workbook Introduction and Module One sections in  PDF format download

(2) Vimeo.com access for 30 days for Introduction and Module One AHEPS videos
  ***Each module involves 8-10 short video clips and 3 audio recordings of module dialogues.

(3) PDF of one additional module (your choice!) and Vimeo.com access for 30 days. (PDF of the additional module and Vimeo.com password sent w/in 3 days of purchase.)

*** At the end of 30 days, access may be extended for an additional $3.99 per month.
*** Purchase of additional modules includes access to all previous modules purchased.

Email info@actonhaptic.com after purchase to expedite delivery (via email) of the selected Module PDF and password. Indicate your choice of module:

Introduction Module (Included)
Module 1 - AHEPS haptic leaning (Included)
Module 2 - Short/single vowels and word stress (lax and tense)
Module 3 - Long/double vowels and phrasal stress (tense vowels + off glides and diphthongs)
Module 4 - Basic rhythm and rhythm groups
Module 5 - Basic intonation
Module 6 - Fluency and linking
Module 7 - Conversational speed/style
Module 8 - Advanced intonation/expressiveness
Module 9 - Baton integration (combing the work of modules 4, 5, 6 & 8)
Consonants (14 consonants)

For additional information on AHEPS, go to: www.actonhaptic.com -- or go directly to the GETONIC PopShop:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Future (pronunciation) Teaching and Learning? Gesture!

Barras of the BBC in the "Future Education column" this month has a select, light-weight, informal summary of research and opinion on the impact of systematic, body-assisted learning, entitled, "Want to learn quicker? Use your body!" Although the studies referenced have been reported on the blog previously, that is still a readable, almost fun piece, one you can pass on to those new to the idea of kinaesthetic and haptic engagement. Especially like this quote from Cook at the University of Iowa:

"In every study that we’ve tested the importance of gesturing, we’ve found it works,” she says. “Even in the experimental settings where we thought gesturing wouldn’t work.”

I'd paraphrase that this way: In every aspect of pronunciation or teaching context that we've tried "haptic," we've found it works!

So will you.

(Have not formally tried the depicted "inter-nasal" gesture, but who nose?)

Monday, March 31, 2014

TESOL 2014: Why didn't they mention THIS?

As evident in the previous post, it was a good conference for Hapticians and friends. If you work at it and go to a conference with focus, that'll always be the case. A few more post-Portland thoughts:

  • The 50/50 rule held. Half of the presentations you attend are good. Half of those involve something that you can take back to your school or classroom. (The other half you can still learn from!)
  • Of the roughly 2 dozen refereed presentations related to speaking, listening and pronunciation, a little more than half a dozen provided practical training and techniques. Three of those were haptic. (There were another couple dozen or so unrefereed publishers' sessions pitching books, software and materials.) The others were research-based.
  • The three haptic presentations (General workshop, intonation workshop and "fight club" demonstration) were not only packed, but fun. We have do much more of that.
  • The reaction to our haptic work was better than in the past, in part because we are getting better at presenting it. We are better now at scaffolding in the "body" training so that few in the audience cannot keep up. (Has taken us a long time to get that right.)
  • Haptic work is highly relational. At a conference, when you are trying to connect with your audience, that is great. In the classroom, using the haptic video system (AH-EPS) may be a better strategy, depending on your level of training in pronunciation teaching and the nature of the crowd in front of you. (See several earlier posts on that!)
  • Clip art;
  • The word, haptic, is finally getting out. That has been our primary objective for the last two years. It is apparently spreading a little better "horizontally" than "vertically" . . . After our workshop, one of the participants came up to me very much excited about what she had just experienced. She begins by commenting that the day before she had been to two workshops on pronunciation by "experts" in the field. Then (using emphatic gesture) she says:

 "Why didn't they mention THIS!!!"

Good question.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Good report on haptic presentations at TESOL 2014!

Haptic Thursday
at TESOL 2014
As mentioned in an earlier blogpost, on the first day of the conference we did all 4 "haptic" pronunciation teaching sessions back to back. (Fellow hapticians had submitted about 16 proposals; that 25% were accepted is about the average for TESOL.) A few general notes on the sessions and responses we received:

A. Audience response was, as usual--and for the most part--very enthusiastic!
B. In two of the sessions, the basic haptic workshop and fluency demonstration, the rooms were jammed with about 100+ people, with many not being able to get in.
C. In the haptic research session and the nonnative-speaker intonation sessions, there were between 30 and 50 participants. (The reference list from those is now available on the website." Many great comments and networking followed for the rest of the conference.

My favourite comments: "That was just . . . fun!" and "Best workshop I've gone to in years!" If you missed us, join us at Cornerstone University next weekend, BCTEAL and TESL Canada in May--or TESOL 2015 in Toronto next March!

Keep in touch!

TESOL 2015 Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Proposals!!!

Proposals are due by the first of June. Here is the list of tentative topics that we are considering for TESOL 2015 in Toronto:

  • Reports from the classroom: Haptic pronunciation teaching (academic sessions)
  • Research project on haptic-assisted fluency (paper)
  • Haptic-assisted Rhythm instruction (Butterfly and Fight club) workshop
  • Haptic phonetics (anchoring L1s in addition of L2s) demonstration
  • Haptic techniques for consonant repair (workshop)
  • (Haptic-enhanced) Embodied confidence (Research paper)
  • Haptically anchoring word stress rules and word stress (workshop)
  • Linking linking with fluency: haptic circles (mini-workshop)
  • Basics of haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching (1/2 day pre or post convention ticketed session)
  • From intonation to expressiveness: dramatic, haptic bridges for Non-native speakers
  • Haptic and kinaesthetic listening (Research paper)
  • On the spot, impromptu haptic pronunciation modelling, feedback and correction (workshop or research paper)
  • Haptic anchoring of Academic Word List vocabulary (demonstration or workshop)
  • Sentence diagramming with movement and touch (I did a demo of this that went great!)
  • Songs that touch on pronunciation: haptic anchoring of rhyme and reason (workshop)
  • Teaching pronunciation to young children (workshop)
  • Embodied conversational discourse markers (demonstration)
  • Phonics "a la haptique!" (demonstration or workshop)
  • Haptic Handwriting for L2 English learners (demonstration)
  • Embodied conversational listening: haptic anchoring of attending skills
  • Haptic self-monitoring

See anything you like? Even if the topic is of interest to you, I could at least connect you up with somebody who is interested in it or does it already.

Keep in touch!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop at Cornerstone University!

If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area on April 5th, please join us for a day-long training workshop on haptic pronunciation teaching at Cornerstone University. I'd especially recommend the workshop if you have little or no experience in teaching pronunciation (and little or no money!) And, as the subtitle proclaims, it will be FUN and INTERACTIVE! (I promise!)

13th Annual ESL Conference Details:

The ESL Conference at Cornerstone University is held to provide practical training opportunities for teachers in a variety of teaching situations. These workshops are appropriate for volunteer tutors and professional teachers, for K-12 and adult ESL teaching contexts, and for those teaching in academic, community, or church-based programs.

This year’s conference will feature a Haptic Pronunciation Instruction Workshop (making extensive use of movement, touch, and fun) for those with little or no training in pronunciation teaching. Whether you are a teaching novice or expert there will be something for everyone as we focus on new and exciting ways of teaching English to our students. Please join us for a day of learning, fellowship and encouragement!

Each participant will receive a teacher's guide with DVD, continental breakfast, and a boxed lunch. 
9:00 am     Haptic Learning
10:00 am     Vowels & Word Stress
11:00 am     Vowels & Phrasal/Compound Noun Stress
12:00 pm     Lunch (with breakout sessions)
1:00 pm     Rhythm and Rhythm Groups
2:00 pm     Intonation
3:00 pm     Consonants & Conversational Fluency
4:00 pm     Close


Before March 14th, 2014: $50 regular rate/$30 student rate
On or after March 14th, 2014: $60 regular rate/$35 student rate

TESOL-Portland 2014 "Haptic" Schedule!

Let's just call Thursday, Haptic Pronunciation Day, this week at the TESOL convention!

9:30 -11:15 - Convention Center, F152 - Workshop: Essentials of haptic (kinaesthetic+tactile)-integrated pronunciation instruction (Kielstra, Baker, Burri, Rauser, Teaman and Acton)

11:30 - 12:45 - Convention Center, Room F152 - Research-oriented session: Exploring research supporting haptic (movement + touch) pronunciation teaching (Rauser, Acton and Burri)

1:00 pm–2:45 - Convention Center, D134 - Workshop: Teaching basic English intonation by non-native English speaking teachers (Lam, Hong, and Takatsu)

3:00 pm–3:45 - Convention Center, B110 - Practice-oriented session: Speak fast; speak easy: The Fight Club technique (Kielstra and Teaman)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Situated, epistemologically "HIP," pronunciation teaching!

Clip art:
Hat tip to fellow Haptician, Angelina VanDyke of Simon Fraser University, for this great quote from Brown, Collins and Duguid (1998): 

"A theory of situated cognition suggests that activity and perception are important and epistemologically prior at a non-conceptual level - to conceptualization, and that it is on them that more attention needs to be focused. An epistemology that begins with activity and perception, which are first and foremost embedded in the world, may simply bypass the classical problem of reference-of mediating conceptual representations." (Brown, Collins and Duguid (1998) Situated Cognitions and the Culture of Learning, pp. 28, 29.)

Is that not us (HIP - Haptic-integrated Pronunciation)? Trying to successfully bypass the amount of "hyper-cognition" and "talk about" that often represents itself as sufficient or legitimate, effective pronunciation instruction can be a challenge. 

It's the old (live) chicken and egg (head) conundrum. By the time you finish your explanation (no matter how elegant, engaging and worthy of noticing it be), it is probably too late. 

Enough said . . . 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What students want: Real-time, on-the-spot, impromptu correction of pronunciation!

Credit: © Terence Mendoza
 / Fotolia
We just finished putting together a proposal to do a conference workshop:

Conducting On-the-spot Corrections of Rhythm, Stress and Intonation: Haptic Baton! 

"This workshop focuses on a haptic (movement + touch) technique for correcting and modelling pronunciation during any classroom activity—using a pencil, much like an orchestra conductor. The key is to include a set of “haptic anchors,” where the baton touches the other hand on stressed syllables of problematic words."

The point of the workshop is to develop a (haptic) technique that " . . . can be done in a relatively unobtrusive manner, a brief pause that provides clarity but will not seriously disrupt the flow or coherence of the classroom activity or lesson." Just ask your students if they'd like more impromptu correction of pronunciation . . . 
Now who knows if it will be accepted. (Haptic pronunciation proposals have about a 50/50 chance of being accepted. We still need to get the word out!) But a new study by Smith, Boomer, Zakrzewski, Roeder, Church, and Ashby of University of California, Santa Barbara.. "Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning,just summarized by Science Daily seems to add support to the use of "real-time" interventions--if done right, of course! 

In essence, what the research suggests is that deferred feedback does not connect well with implicit learning. (Well, actually, there is a great deal more to it than that! The research is actually looking at the nature of the two cognitive systems that we use to learn with, one explicit; the other, implicit.) When ongoing feedback on performance of a sorting task was suppressed or absent, implicit learning was dramatically impeded.

Your in-class, pronunciation teaching feedback protocols in need of a little correction? 

Keep in touch!