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!

1 comment:

Bill Acton said...

Here is a clip from the warm up! https://twitter.com/nathanghall/status/726482072001351680

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