Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Putting pronunciation back in the box (and the visual-haptic field)

Clip art: Clker
Over the last few years (and in several earlier posts) I have played with different visual-haptic representations of the sound system of English from a clock shape to a 3x3 matrix. The 1997 study by Coello and Grealy helps resolve the issue. Most recently, we have focussed on anchoring the matrix as precisely as possible, moving away from the earlier "clock man" model which, although it connects up very quickly for learners to the general spatial orientation of the clock, it has turned out to be nearly impossible to consistently locate fixed points accurately on and within it. (That includes the pedagogical movement patterns associated with the vowel system, intonation, rhythm, pitch and some other elements of the expressive system of English.) The research seems to explain why the matrix is ultimately preferable: when the visual field was defined (marked out visually in front of subjects), angular--as opposed to circular movements--were shown to be significantly more accurate. That concept may apply with any visual schema that we use in teaching. Metaphorically and analogically, the whole notion of "seeing" pronunciation work through a somewhat more "digital" lens is long overdue, especially as technology begins its inexorable invasion and takeover of the (visual and methodological) field. There is apparently still hope for all us "squares" out there . . . 

1 comment:

Bill Acton said...

My colleague, Karen Rauser, developed and continues to do workshops on a great clock and color-based schema for introducing the vowel system. I still use her framework with learners as an initial entre into the system, especially in a couple of the (mostly kinaesthetic) warm up protocols. Just looking at the picture of "clock man" helps explain why she can pull that off much better than I can . . .

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