Monday, March 31, 2014

TESOL 2014: Why didn't they mention THIS?

As evident in the previous post, it was a good conference for Hapticians and friends. If you work at it and go to a conference with focus, that'll always be the case. A few more post-Portland thoughts:

  • The 50/50 rule held. Half of the presentations you attend are good. Half of those involve something that you can take back to your school or classroom. (The other half you can still learn from!)
  • Of the roughly 2 dozen refereed presentations related to speaking, listening and pronunciation, a little more than half a dozen provided practical training and techniques. Three of those were haptic. (There were another couple dozen or so unrefereed publishers' sessions pitching books, software and materials.) The others were research-based.
  • The three haptic presentations (General workshop, intonation workshop and "fight club" demonstration) were not only packed, but fun. We have do much more of that.
  • The reaction to our haptic work was better than in the past, in part because we are getting better at presenting it. We are better now at scaffolding in the "body" training so that few in the audience cannot keep up. (Has taken us a long time to get that right.)
  • Haptic work is highly relational. At a conference, when you are trying to connect with your audience, that is great. In the classroom, using the haptic video system (AH-EPS) may be a better strategy, depending on your level of training in pronunciation teaching and the nature of the crowd in front of you. (See several earlier posts on that!)
  • Clip art;
  • The word, haptic, is finally getting out. That has been our primary objective for the last two years. It is apparently spreading a little better "horizontally" than "vertically" . . . After our workshop, one of the participants came up to me very much excited about what she had just experienced. She begins by commenting that the day before she had been to two workshops on pronunciation by "experts" in the field. Then (using emphatic gesture) she says:

 "Why didn't they mention THIS!!!"

Good question.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Good report on haptic presentations at TESOL 2014!

Haptic Thursday
at TESOL 2014
As mentioned in an earlier blogpost, on the first day of the conference we did all 4 "haptic" pronunciation teaching sessions back to back. (Fellow hapticians had submitted about 16 proposals; that 25% were accepted is about the average for TESOL.) A few general notes on the sessions and responses we received:

A. Audience response was, as usual--and for the most part--very enthusiastic!
B. In two of the sessions, the basic haptic workshop and fluency demonstration, the rooms were jammed with about 100+ people, with many not being able to get in.
C. In the haptic research session and the nonnative-speaker intonation sessions, there were between 30 and 50 participants. (The reference list from those is now available on the website." Many great comments and networking followed for the rest of the conference.

My favourite comments: "That was just . . . fun!" and "Best workshop I've gone to in years!" If you missed us, join us at Cornerstone University next weekend, BCTEAL and TESL Canada in May--or TESOL 2015 in Toronto next March!

Keep in touch!

TESOL 2015 Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Proposals!!!

Proposals are due by the first of June. Here is the list of tentative topics that we are considering for TESOL 2015 in Toronto:

  • Reports from the classroom: Haptic pronunciation teaching (academic sessions)
  • Research project on haptic-assisted fluency (paper)
  • Haptic-assisted Rhythm instruction (Butterfly and Fight club) workshop
  • Haptic phonetics (anchoring L1s in addition of L2s) demonstration
  • Haptic techniques for consonant repair (workshop)
  • (Haptic-enhanced) Embodied confidence (Research paper)
  • Haptically anchoring word stress rules and word stress (workshop)
  • Linking linking with fluency: haptic circles (mini-workshop)
  • Basics of haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching (1/2 day pre or post convention ticketed session)
  • From intonation to expressiveness: dramatic, haptic bridges for Non-native speakers
  • Haptic and kinaesthetic listening (Research paper)
  • On the spot, impromptu haptic pronunciation modelling, feedback and correction (workshop or research paper)
  • Haptic anchoring of Academic Word List vocabulary (demonstration or workshop)
  • Sentence diagramming with movement and touch (I did a demo of this that went great!)
  • Songs that touch on pronunciation: haptic anchoring of rhyme and reason (workshop)
  • Teaching pronunciation to young children (workshop)
  • Embodied conversational discourse markers (demonstration)
  • Phonics "a la haptique!" (demonstration or workshop)
  • Haptic Handwriting for L2 English learners (demonstration)
  • Embodied conversational listening: haptic anchoring of attending skills
  • Haptic self-monitoring

See anything you like? Even if the topic is of interest to you, I could at least connect you up with somebody who is interested in it or does it already.

Keep in touch!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop at Cornerstone University!

If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area on April 5th, please join us for a day-long training workshop on haptic pronunciation teaching at Cornerstone University. I'd especially recommend the workshop if you have little or no experience in teaching pronunciation (and little or no money!) And, as the subtitle proclaims, it will be FUN and INTERACTIVE! (I promise!)

13th Annual ESL Conference Details:

The ESL Conference at Cornerstone University is held to provide practical training opportunities for teachers in a variety of teaching situations. These workshops are appropriate for volunteer tutors and professional teachers, for K-12 and adult ESL teaching contexts, and for those teaching in academic, community, or church-based programs.

This year’s conference will feature a Haptic Pronunciation Instruction Workshop (making extensive use of movement, touch, and fun) for those with little or no training in pronunciation teaching. Whether you are a teaching novice or expert there will be something for everyone as we focus on new and exciting ways of teaching English to our students. Please join us for a day of learning, fellowship and encouragement!

Each participant will receive a teacher's guide with DVD, continental breakfast, and a boxed lunch. 
9:00 am     Haptic Learning
10:00 am     Vowels & Word Stress
11:00 am     Vowels & Phrasal/Compound Noun Stress
12:00 pm     Lunch (with breakout sessions)
1:00 pm     Rhythm and Rhythm Groups
2:00 pm     Intonation
3:00 pm     Consonants & Conversational Fluency
4:00 pm     Close


Before March 14th, 2014: $50 regular rate/$30 student rate
On or after March 14th, 2014: $60 regular rate/$35 student rate

TESOL-Portland 2014 "Haptic" Schedule!

Let's just call Thursday, Haptic Pronunciation Day, this week at the TESOL convention!

9:30 -11:15 - Convention Center, F152 - Workshop: Essentials of haptic (kinaesthetic+tactile)-integrated pronunciation instruction (Kielstra, Baker, Burri, Rauser, Teaman and Acton)

11:30 - 12:45 - Convention Center, Room F152 - Research-oriented session: Exploring research supporting haptic (movement + touch) pronunciation teaching (Rauser, Acton and Burri)

1:00 pm–2:45 - Convention Center, D134 - Workshop: Teaching basic English intonation by non-native English speaking teachers (Lam, Hong, and Takatsu)

3:00 pm–3:45 - Convention Center, B110 - Practice-oriented session: Speak fast; speak easy: The Fight Club technique (Kielstra and Teaman)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Situated, epistemologically "HIP," pronunciation teaching!

Clip art:
Hat tip to fellow Haptician, Angelina VanDyke of Simon Fraser University, for this great quote from Brown, Collins and Duguid (1998): 

"A theory of situated cognition suggests that activity and perception are important and epistemologically prior at a non-conceptual level - to conceptualization, and that it is on them that more attention needs to be focused. An epistemology that begins with activity and perception, which are first and foremost embedded in the world, may simply bypass the classical problem of reference-of mediating conceptual representations." (Brown, Collins and Duguid (1998) Situated Cognitions and the Culture of Learning, pp. 28, 29.)

Is that not us (HIP - Haptic-integrated Pronunciation)? Trying to successfully bypass the amount of "hyper-cognition" and "talk about" that often represents itself as sufficient or legitimate, effective pronunciation instruction can be a challenge. 

It's the old (live) chicken and egg (head) conundrum. By the time you finish your explanation (no matter how elegant, engaging and worthy of noticing it be), it is probably too late. 

Enough said . . . 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What students want: Real-time, on-the-spot, impromptu correction of pronunciation!

Credit: © Terence Mendoza
 / Fotolia
We just finished putting together a proposal to do a conference workshop:

Conducting On-the-spot Corrections of Rhythm, Stress and Intonation: Haptic Baton! 

"This workshop focuses on a haptic (movement + touch) technique for correcting and modelling pronunciation during any classroom activity—using a pencil, much like an orchestra conductor. The key is to include a set of “haptic anchors,” where the baton touches the other hand on stressed syllables of problematic words."

The point of the workshop is to develop a (haptic) technique that " . . . can be done in a relatively unobtrusive manner, a brief pause that provides clarity but will not seriously disrupt the flow or coherence of the classroom activity or lesson." Just ask your students if they'd like more impromptu correction of pronunciation . . . 
Now who knows if it will be accepted. (Haptic pronunciation proposals have about a 50/50 chance of being accepted. We still need to get the word out!) But a new study by Smith, Boomer, Zakrzewski, Roeder, Church, and Ashby of University of California, Santa Barbara.. "Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning,just summarized by Science Daily seems to add support to the use of "real-time" interventions--if done right, of course! 

In essence, what the research suggests is that deferred feedback does not connect well with implicit learning. (Well, actually, there is a great deal more to it than that! The research is actually looking at the nature of the two cognitive systems that we use to learn with, one explicit; the other, implicit.) When ongoing feedback on performance of a sorting task was suppressed or absent, implicit learning was dramatically impeded.

Your in-class, pronunciation teaching feedback protocols in need of a little correction? 

Keep in touch!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

NEW! Put some "PIP!" in your Pronunciation! (AH-EPS, one-on-one, Pronunciation Improvement Program!)

In this program (AH-PIP) you do a module in AH-EPS with workbook and DVDs or on, and then can connect up with an AH-EPS instructor to review what you have done and discuss what to do next. (Followed up by an email report on the consultation within 24 hours.)

We recommend doing an optional 30-minute SKYPE consultation after each module, at least at the beginning of the program.

Course package ($129 CAD, plus shipping) includes: 

(1)  A set of Teacher DVDs, plus one download of the Instructor's Guide.
(2)  A set of Student DVDs, plus one download of the Student Workbook. (You do need a hard copy of the workbook to do the course.) A hardcopy of the workbook is also available for $20 plus shipping:
(3)  One Initial, introductory 30-minute SKYPE consultation to evaluate your pronunciation work and explain the program.  
(4) The first, 30-minute SKYPE consultation (To be done after Module #1 work is completed.) 

One module takes about a week to complete, 1.5~2 hours. It is best to do one module per week, followed by an optional consultation, but do at least one module every two weeks.  SKYPE consultations are an additional $25 each. Total cost for the program, doing consultations after every module is $350, plus shipping. 

Also available is the AH-EPS Accent Reduction program for nonnative English speaking professionals and instructors.
For more information, email:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Anchoring with touch in haptic pronunciation teaching

Sometimes it becomes necessary to define what a method or system is NOT.(See Changing Minds list in that regard.)  In a recent discussion on a professional discussion board, EHIEP was characterized as involving excessive "interpersonal touching!" Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the blog or the website (which the contributor had obviously not had time to get to) would dismiss that idea. In a nutshell (no reference to the earlier comment, of course) touch dramatically increases the efficacy of gesture, among other things. Here is a list of all the touching that goes on in EHIEP:

Clip art: Clker

  • Hands touch each other, sometimes with one hand holding a baton or pencil.
  • Hands touch either the shoulder or fore arm.
  • Hands may occasionally touch the chin or voice box.
  • Holding a coffee stirrer or tongue depressor, hands may touch lips, teeth or tongue. 

Even self-touch is "touchy" in all cultures, with many different interpretations and constraints. As you can see, the EHIEP pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) set, where touch occurs on stressed syllables for the most part, is pretty safe stuff. We have spend years figuring out PMPs that are generally appropriate in the cultures we have worked in. So far so good.

If your find a PMP in the Demo list on the website that is potentially objectionable in some culture, PLEASE, let me know! (Will give you a free month's access as a reward!)

Keep in touch!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deep learning: Giving (haptic) pronunciation teaching a hand!

A little applause, please! In a 2014 University of Chicago study by Novak and colleagues, reported in UChicago News by Ingmire (Sorry that I can't afford to pay the 6-vente-latte-equivalent to get the original article!), kids who hand-gesture more (of a certain kind) gain a " a deep understanding of the {math} problems they are taught . . . " That did not happen if they, instead, did some kind of "acting" or mime while trying to solve a math problem, however. Furthermore, “Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction (italics, mine), action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between . . ."

The protocols of the study as described in the summary look like they were ripped off directly from our haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching pedagogical movement patterns: movements that had some symbolic meaning that connected to the problems at hand. (In HPT the connection is to sounds and sound patterns.)

One of the key issues in understanding how gesture works in supporting learning of any kind is unpacking in more "depth" just how/when the gesture is contributing or directing the process. In earlier posts I have looked at research in haptics that basically positions haptic as the "exploratory" sense. In this study we see how gesture itself--without explicit reference to whether touch--was involved: linking not just to abstract concepts but apparently facilitating later generalization from the event. Haptic anchoring--and I'm certain there was some of that involved--would further intensify the effect of the gestures.

As we get more field tests and research on the basics of haptic pronunciation teaching, we should also feel continually "freer" to generalize from research in several other fields as to the power and efficacy of haptic engagement.

Keep in touch!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Power Pronunciation: Posing as a confident English speaker!

Clip art: Clker
Power your way to better pronunciation? We have been aware for some time that one of the EHIEP protocols, what we often informally refer to as the "Rhythm Fight Club," is pretty potent stuff. Learners often report that using the technique, which requires one to play the role of something of a pugilist, not only helps them to speak more rhythmically, often within a day or so, but also increases confidence. A couple have even reported that they thought it was instrumental in helping them develop more assertive personas, in general. Now we know why . . .

You may have heard about the well known work of Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard School of Business. Here is a TED talk she gave earlier and a recent article on her by Business insider. In part because I am an avid weight lifter, I have been using power posing for some time, myself, especially when I am away from the gym.

Add haptic anchoring to Cuddy Power Posing and you have an unbeatable combination. Literally!

In fact, I just get better all the time . . .

Keep in touch.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting pronunciation off your chest . . .

Photo: Vimeo via
This one is too good to pass up. (Hat tip to Brian Teaman!) Leave it to the MIT Media lab (and Heibeck, Hope and Legault) as reported by Kinder at the Telegraph to come up with a vest that will allow you to feel the emotional states of the characters in a book, what they call, "Sensory Fiction." Such "haptic vests" have been around for quite some time but this one is more closely tied to a narrative that can serve "pedagogical" purposes. With the vest on, you experience something of what the character is feeling through a combination of temperature and pressure changes.

All you need for our work is to plug in the audio track and stick on a few mini-speakers around the upper body to make it a great tool for getting the "felt sense" of a sound. Deliver that with a great voice with rich resonance (George Clooney?), especially in a text with a bit more emotional zip than your average pronunciation book. (No great challenge there, of course!) Finally, connect it up to the EHIEP pedagogical movement patterns (gestures + touch) and you have the perfect "Haptic Friction."

Got to get me one of those!

Keep in touch!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

You can't beat (?) Haptic pronunciation teaching!

A sometimes accurate predictor of a student's ability to catch on to haptic or kinaesthetic teaching is the "baton beat" test. In essence, all the learner needs to do is read aloud a printed dialogue with some words marked in boldface while (a) holding a baton in his or her left hand and (b) tapping the right palm with the baton on the boldfaced words as they are said. (It is not easy; try it!) Some do find it to be exceedingly easy; others couldn't do it well even if their life depended on it. 
Clip art: Clker
In a 2013 study by Tierney and Kraus of Northwestern University, summarized by Science Daily, it was demonstrated that, "People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm." The review goes on to suggest that rhythmic work may enhance the brain's response to language. Really?

What we do know is that the "baton test," when administered after a couple of months of haptic-integrated pronunciation training, goes much better for most students, demonstrating more fluid upper body motion and speech synchronized gesture. (One of the last techniques in the AH-EPS curriculum is the "Baton Integration Protocol," in fact.) 

You can't beat haptic pronunciation teaching. 

Keep in touch.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Great moments in pronunciation teaching - "Undercover" haptic burqa work!

Photo credit:
I'm sure that at least some of you have encountered this potential problem. You walk into a room to do some pronunciation work and discover that a significant number of the students are wearing a burqa. That happened to me recently doing 2-hour workshops on basics of haptic pronunciation teaching. The "students" were experienced or in-training teachers. I have often commented that Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) can be especially effective in large classes where you cannot see the lips or even the faces of students clearly. The gestures themselves, in essence, grab hold of the vocal apparatus and guide the learner's facial muscles, jaw, diaphragm and vocal cords in approximating the target sounds. This was a good field test of that idea.

In that 2-hour workshop format, I did a general orientation to a haptic (gesture + touch) approach to English pronunciation, including: (a) a warm up, (b) lax vowels, (c) tense vowels, (d) tense vowels w/off glides and diphthongs, (e) basic English rhythm, and (f) basic English intonation. For all 6 of those topics, the pedagogical movement patterns (PMP) related to sounds or sound patterns are done with arms and hands touching such that the contrast between any two sounds or sound patterns is both physically and visually very distinct.

All burqas involved snug wrist bands that kept the lower arms of the student covered, even when reaching above the head. The visual effect of several covered students following the PMPs during the session, the synchronized, flowing black burqas was stunning. The degree of abandon in moving with the exercises evidenced by some of them was very much unexpected.

In retrospect, it really shouldn't have been. From both inside and outside the burqa, the attention to motion and touch, not just rich, resonant articulation of the sounds, seemed to be greatly enhanced. For whatever reason, they seemed to readily and enthusiastically "get" or (to use our favourite haptic metaphor) "grasp" what the system was about and its potential application to modelling. anchoring vocabulary and correcting student pronunciation.

Obviously have do more research on what is behind the "haptic burqa" effect!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Seminar in Vancouver, British Columbia!

A Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Seminar is scheduled for August 4th through 8th, 2014. It is designed for instructors with little or no background in phonetics or pronunciation teaching. The basic Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) training program is applicable for and adaptable to instruction in almost any teaching context.

The 5-day training includes both the complete Instructor Certification course and a half-day Teacher Training in Haptic Pronunciation Teaching module. Seminar fees include all materials and limited rights to reproduce and distribute haptic-video-based Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System (AH-EPS).  Enrolment is limited to 20.

Participants should plan to arrive on August 3rd and depart on August 9th. It is also very highly recommended that you build in an additional, well-deserved and relaxing week off after the training in Vancouver or British Columbia, too!

Those experienced pronunciation instructors interested in participating in the training should contact me  directly at:

Complete details on seminar fees and accommodations will be available shortly. Keep in touch!