Saturday, July 21, 2012

When to do pronunciation work and what to do before you do

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Stare at that pineapple for a minute or so before reading this post, please . . . From a curriculum perspective, pronunciation work can happen most anytime. It can, of course, be more or less integrated into actual classroom or one-on-one lessons depending on a "plethora" of factors. The EHIEP system, for example,  involves (a) decontextualized, out of class or in class introduction on video, (b) formal integration within lesson teaching objectives and content, (c) impromptu correction and anchoring in any lesson, and (c) focus on integration into spontaneous speech. (For a good, basic introduction to curricular integration for beginners, advanced and workplace programs, see Fraser's 2001 general introduction.) Where in time, however, in the course of a lesson or even a personal practice session at home is another question. In general, we begin with Lessac's "Train the body first!" dictum, which applies to the overall pronunciation program to some extent as well, meaning we try to do some kind of explicit body-engaged warm up as an integral part of speaking instruction in general. The importance of some kind of warm up that focuses mind and body has been empirically validated by any number of studies. Here is a striking example, a 2012 study comparing the effect of meditation type on creative thinking. "Open attention focus meditation," in effect clearing the mind and concentrating on nothing specific, enhanced creative, divergent thinking. "Focused attention," on the other hand, where for example one might concentrate on one object, like a pineapple on the table or a visualization of some kind, tended to improve creative, convergent thinking, the sort you might need in pulling together the pieces of a puzzle or problem. In most cases, effective anchoring of pronunciation requires the latter type of mind set. Meditate on that. 

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