Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Aha! change uptake!" versus the "practice" of haptic pronunciation teaching

For a while I had a special label for research reports that managed to confirm what any teacher with a modicum of common sense had figured out already, the "Well . . . duh!" category. There are any number of studies that demonstrate that practice, in addition to in-class work, is essential--in many different fields. In this field there are only a few. I cited one earlier, a 2010 study by Yoshida of Purdue University: those students who practiced pronunciation outside of class did better, significantly so.
Clip art: 
With only a few exceptions, and for the most part with good reason, classroom-based research focuses on in-class or in-lab treatment, not what happens beyond those contexts. In part that is because, contemporary methodology often implicitly must assume that nothing is going to happen outside of class of theoretical interest, whether the context is EFL or elsewhere. 

Decades ago, when ESL was still the conceptual center of pedagogy, you could tell students to go out there and practice, letting yourself off the hook. No longer. We talked about bringing the world into the classroom. For many, the "world" of language learning is now limited to the classroom--and maybe with random assistance of "my technology."

Pronunciation instructors who assume that just in class instruction, without any formal follow up, either face to face or as monitored homework, is sufficient may get lucky occasionally. There are, indeed, those rare, highly receptive students and memorable "Aha! change uptake," teachable moments when a lesson is life- or interlanguage pronunciation- altering, when explanation and insight and contextualized practice and uptake all collide! If you recall one, however, please describe it in a comment to this post! (Generous reward offered!) 

For Essential haptic-integrated English pronunciation model (EHIEP), and its haptic video offspring, Acton Haptic-integrated English pronunciation system (AH-EPS), practice is the sine qua non of pronunciation change. Haptic anchoring (gesture, plus vocal resonance positioned in the visual field consistently), sets up the process well but requires follow up, either in integrated focus on form by the instructor and peers, or practice outside of class, preferably with a technology assist. 

Haptic engagement, by its very nature is exploratory and at least temporarily very somatically attention grabbing (emotionally gripping.) But it is not sufficient. (That is, in part, why gesture work, in general, feels so good but rarely, by itself, sticks, to use a good haptic metaphor.) 

Next post will back up a bit and look at research underlying the relationship between haptic anchoring and subsequent noticing and practice. Keep in touch. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Introduction to haptics and some possible applications

If you are new to the idea of haptics and "haptic," here is a neat 6 minute TEDYouth 2012 talk by Kuchenbecker of University of Pennsylvania (Hat tip to Karen Rauser.) Our work in haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching is something of the flip side of this. Whereas Kuchenbecker's work digitizes touch and movement to accompany video, we create the haptic felt sense of sound (through awareness of vocal resonance, upper movement and touch) to accompany the positioning of the hands and arms in the visual field. Have been working on the outlines of a TED talk proposal myself for next year. Keep in touch!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction: Techniques

Here is the abstract and URL for a paper by Brian Teaman and myself just published in the JALT Conference Proceedings: JALT 2012:

In this paper we describe a series of new techniques for the teaching of pronunciation using movement and touch. The “haptic approach” described here assumes that speaking is essentially a physical act that engages the entire body and not just the speech organs. This paper reviews the theoretical foundations of a haptic system, describes 9 haptic-based techniques, and explores the specific application of these techniques with Japanese learners of English.


Haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction: Preliminaries

Here is the abstract and URL for a paper by Mike Burri, Amanda Baker, Brian Teaman and myself just published in Proceedings of the 4th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference / Iowa State University:

This paper reports on aspects of a haptic (movement plus touch) integrated system for classroom pronunciation instruction. It is based, in part, on established pedagogical practice in the use of somatic/kinesthetic techniques such as gesture in language instruction (Acton, 1984, 2012; Celce-Murcia, Brinton, Goodwin & Briner, 2010; McCafferty, 2004), and management of vocal resonance in singing and voice training (Lessac, 1997). The pedagogical method is designed for use by relatively untrained instructors and is generally best delivered through video with classroom follow up. Relatively recent research and development in haptics, especially in the areas of gaming, prosthetics and robotics, provides a rich source of potential principles and procedures from which to draw in exploring and rethinking the “clinical side” of pronunciation work. The use of haptic integration procedures in various teaching systems, in the form of designated movement patterns accompanied by various “textures of touch” has been shown to more systematically coordinate sensory modalities involved and greatly enhance both effectiveness and pace of instruction. In field testing the basic English pronunciation system to be described, this application of haptic procedures shows promise of also enhancing efficiency in anchoring sounds, words and phrases and in facilitating both recall and integration of targeted material in spontaneous speech.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hmm! . . . Correcting English pronunciation (the Haptic-mimetic method)

Clip art:
Have been holding back on publishing this post on a somewhat different application of the EHIEP (Essential haptic-integrated English Pronunciation) or AH-EPS (Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System) for some time. One reason was that I didn't have a term for how it works: mimesis or mimetic. In essence, by "rich" imitation. (There is actually much more behind that choice of term, which will be unpacked in upcoming blogposts.)

The other consideration was part theoretical, part bottom line: In some contexts, "Hmm!" can be carried out quite effectively-- without the students even being introduced formally or trained in the haptic system. That would be slick, of course, and also very inexpensive. (I need to make at least a little money on this, eh!)

Here is how EHIEP usually works:
A. Typically, students and instructor work through a 30-minute training video that teaches a haptic pedagogical movement pattern/technique for correction or presentation. (See previous posts for PMP description and links, including this one for lax vowels and this one for tense + off-glide vowels. Note: A PMP is one movement + touch for one vowel in those cases.
B. From there, students can either practice the technique in short dialogues or word lists immediately.
C. An additional option is for students to do 1-3, additional 30-minute homework assignments working with special practice video lessons.
D. Ideally, after A or B or C, the instructor begins using the PMP or technique in class for correcting or presenting.

Note: AH-EPS will work in classes of almost any size; Hmm! seems to work best in small classes where the Instructor already has good rapport and communication with students.

Here is how Hmm! may work: 
A. Instructor simply uses the PMP for correction in integrated classroom instruction-- without any explicit explanation or previous training of students.
B. Students "uptake" the correction almost as if they had been trained in haptic anchoring previously.

To train yourself to work with Hmm!, all you have to do is get the Instructor's Guide and accompanying videos (either off Vimeo or DVD format) and practice along until you can do the PMPs for the most typical pronunciation problems that you encounter daily in your classroom. To get it, go to the GETONIC shop and order it!

More on Hmm! shortly, Keep in touch!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Guidelines for using (haptic) gesture in pronunciation teaching

Literally for decades I was working under the assumption that gesture and general body movement work, in principle, was a good way to loosen learners up and get them engaged, let alone teach aspects of pronunciation. For some, it is, but the impact on others, especially those from less "gesticular" cultures, can be unproductive, at best. I have evolved, somewhat at least, from cheerleader to coach/consultant in that regard. A few general principles:
  • If you do make extensive use of gesture with adolescents and adults, you must be able to explain why FIRST, at least initially persuade them that it is research and success-based. 
  • The directed movement must be highly controlled, both in terms of range of motion and emotional loading, and very easy to teach and to follow. 
  • The gesture work is most effective when done "in chorus," as a class, with learners visually attending to and following the instructor, not being able to see what each other is doing. 
  •  It must not be forced. If a learner choses not to participate, or do so only minimally, that is fine. (Research on mirror neurons and years of experience with this kind of teaching confirms the power of engaged observation.)
  • The gesture must be consistently coupled with strong vocal resonance to make sure that it is well anchored. That is based, in part, on the work of Lessac in voice training.
  • Learners must experience early success. Using baton-like gesture on stressed syllables to enhance memory for vocabulary is often a good start. 
  • The gestural patterns, what we ("haptic" pronunciation teachers) term "pedagogical movement patterns" need to be used consistently in integrated classroom instruction, presentation and correction. 
If you'd like to see an example of what the haptic patterns look like, here is a demonstration video clip that shows the set that can be used for presenting (not training in or practicing) the lax vowels of general American English. Especially the set of low and mid-back vowels in that demonstration would have to be adjusted accordingly were you working with specific regional dialects of English or "World Englishes." 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Haptic pronunciation teaching presentations at TESOL 2014 in Portland!

There were at least a dozen explicitly "haptic" pronunciation teaching proposals that were submitted for the convention that I am aware of. (See earlier blogpost on that.) There are also always a number of other "near-haptic" presentations that focus on kinaesthetic techniques and those that involve touch+movement-based procedures indirectly. I'll report on those later, once the program is published. This year, four being done by myself and "haptician" colleagues were accepted:

Workshop: Essentials of haptic (kinesthetic+tactile)-integrated pronunciation instruction
    Kielstra, Baker, Burri, Rauser, Teaman and Acton

Practice-oriented session: Speak fast; speak easy: The Fight Club technique 
   Burns, Serena and Kielstra

Research-oriented session: Exploring research supporting haptic (movement + touch) pronunciation teaching
   Rauser, Acton and Burri

Workshop: Teaching basic English intonation by non-native English speaking teachers
   Lam, Zeng, Hong, Takatsu and Donkor

If you know of any others, please let us know!

See you there!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Use of (haptic) gesture in pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
An excellent general framework, or place to start, in looking at the use of gesture in pronunciation teaching is Natalie Hudson's 2011 dissertation, "Teacher Gesture in a Post-Secondary English as a Second Language Classroom: A Sociocultural Approach," done at the university of Nevada, Los Vegas. The study looks at the use of gesture by both instructor and student in a pronunciation class. The detailed analysis includes examination of both consciously directed and incidental or "involuntary" use of movement in instruction. There is, for example, one short pronunciation-related section on "Haptic gestures of voice," where the instructor touches her throat to "concretize" consonant voicing.

Where haptic engagement comes much more into play is in anchoring lexical concepts related to smell, hearing taste and touch. That section is closer to what we refer to as haptic anchoring. Although the study is descriptive of what we do "naturally," it points very clearly--at least to me--toward the systematic use of directed movement, and especially haptically anchored pedagogical movement patterns, in pronunciation teaching.

Required reading for any HICP instructor-in-training.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The "touch-ture" of haptic pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
A new study by researchers from Laboratoire de psychologie et neurocognition (LPNC) (CNRS/Université Pierre Mendès France/ Savoie University) in collaboration with Geneva University's Faculté de psychologie et des sciences de l'éducation and Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (Dreaming Fingers) in Talant (Côte-d'Or, France), reported by Science Daily, demonstrated the positive impact of variable texture on image comprehension in blind children. In essence, by providing materials with different, distinctive surface textures for the hands to survey, subjects were able to learn and recall more effectively. Research has long established that the blind develop superior touch-based senses that serve to replace visual--often in the same areas of the visual cortex as the sighted use.

The same principle should also apply to the application of touch and movement in our work. In the EHIEP (Essential haptic-integrated English pronunciation) approach, there are "roughly" a dozen distinct types of touch, each having its own texture. In principle, the "touch-tures" are related to the phonaesthetic and somatic qualities of the sound or sound process. For example:

For lax, or short vowels (such as: I, ae, a, Ə, U), the "touch-ture" is a light tap of both hands
For tense vowels+off glide (such as iy, ey, ay, ow, uw), the "touch-ture" is a brushing motion of one hand across the other as the first part of the vowel is pronounced. The moving hand then continues on to a location in the visual field associated with either glide, w or y.

We often have learners close their eyes or use eye tracking as they execute various pedagogical movement patterns across the visual field in presenting or correcting pronunciation. More focused attention to the "felt sense" or "touch-ture" of the hands in the process and the attendant vocal resonance has always been understood to be very important. Here is more evidence why. Keep in touch.