Monday, May 25, 2015

Are you out of your brain? More evidence why warm ups work in (pronunciation) teaching

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Always good to get a bit more empirical confirmation of our common sense and practice in teaching. As any experienced pronunciation or speech instructor will tell you, kicking off a lesson with a brief warm up that shifts attention to the resonance or awareness of the voice--or the body in general--is essential for effective and efficient intervention.

In a study by Hajo and Obodaru of Rice University, summarized by Science Daily (See full citation below), subjects were first given training that focused their sense of self as "residing" more in either their "brains" or their "hearts." (One interesting finding in the study was that those "American" subjects tended to see themselves as more "brain-centred", as opposed to those from what is vaguely described as an "Indian" culture, who tended to be more "heart-centered.") The observation was made that the former also tended to be more self-centred or independent; the latter, more relationally-dependent.

They then worked through a second task that asked them to indicate how much they would, in principle, contribute to a charity focused on Alzheimer's disease, as opposed to one aimed at helping to prevent heart attacks. You guessed it. The "brain" group went more with the former; the "heart" group, with the latter.

In the summary it was not clear exactly how the researchers guided the attention of the subjects in either direction, toward mind, as opposed to body, awareness. That can be done in any number of ways. (For example, the popular Mindfulness training, ironically, uses extensive body awareness to help clear the mind. Perhaps, "Mind-less-ness" training would be a more accurate label!)

So what does that suggest to those of us in many disciplines who work with changing speech? Simple, in some sense. Haptic pronunciation teaching was inspired early on by Lessac's dictum of Train the body first! Here we see more evidence as to why that point of departure, a body-based warm up of some kind, is often critical in getting learners to then attend long enough and intensely enough to anchor (establish) new movements, sounds and sensations.

If that doesn't immediately "make sense" to you, it is obviously time you "took it to heart!"

Full citation:
Rice University. "Do you see 'the self' in your brain or your heart? Decision-making differs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2015. .

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