Sunday, August 26, 2012

A touch for teaching English rhythm and fluency

Clip art: Clker
A question in the hall at the conference yesterday woke me up this morning. Figuring out the neurophysiology of how rhythm is learned will be a major break through in understanding language acquisition--when it happens. At the moment, if it is systematically  part of instruction at all, rhythm is "taught" for the most part, inductively, through techniques such as identifying rhythm groups and then doing poetry or jazz chants, etc. In this research report from MIT, it was discovered that brain rhythms during habit formation differ radically from those evident once the "procedure" was initially mastered. In effect, during "learning" there is high gamma activity. Once the frenetic work is over; beta wave patterning dominates. Beta is the same pattern associated with meditative states of various kinds. Interesting. In the EHIEP system, the order of march of the syllabus and taught in the protocols is something like:

Warm up < (discourse prominence) < vowels < stress  < phrasal grouping < intonation  < rhythm < conversational "speed" < classroom integration.

Clip art: Clker
Wow. Rhythm is embodied using a pedagogical movement pattern based on a "TaiChi-like" set of moves that I first became aware of in Japan watching a group of seniors do TaiChi every morning in the park across the street. In general, rhythm is identified or experienced with structures of more than one focal or phrase grouping. And notice where that happens: after the "basic stuff" has been worked through. If you are working with a written conversational dialogue, that rhythm phase happens literally on the 5th pass through. (Discourse prominence would have been identified prior to the "Vowel" pass.) The felt sense of the TaiChi PMP is one of flowing fluency. (It was earlier termed the "TaiChi Fluency Protocol), in fact. Our intuitions were right all along . . .we just didn't have MIT behind us!

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