Friday, December 15, 2017

Object fusion in (pronunciation) teaching for better uptake and recall!

Your students sometimes can't remember what you so ingeniously tried to teach them? New study by D’Angelo, Noly-Gandon, Kacollja, Barense, and Ryan at the Rotman Research Institute in Ontario, Breaking down unitization: Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?” (reported by suggests an "ingenious" template for helping at least some things "click and stick" better. What you need for starters:
  • 2 objects (real or imagined) (to be fused together)
  • an action linking or involving them, which fuses them
  • a potentially tangible, desirable consequence of that fusion
The example from the research of the "fusing" protocol was to visualize sticking an umbrella in the key hole of your front door to remind yourself to take your umbrella so you won't get soaking wet on the way to work tomorrow. Subjects who used that protocol, rather than just motion or action/consequence, were better at recalling the future task. Full disclosure here: the subjects were adults, age 61 to 88. Being near dead center in the middle of that distribution, myself, it certainly caught my attention! I have been using that strategy for the last two weeks or so with amazing results . . . or at least memories!

So, how might that work in pronunciation teaching? Here's an example

Consonant: th - (voiceless)
Objects: upper teeth, lower teeth, tongue
Fusion: tongue tip positioned between teeth as air blows out (action)
Consequence - better pronunciation of the th sound

Haptic pronunciation adds to the con-fusion

Vowel (low, central 'a'), done haptically (gesture + touch)
Objects: hands touch at waist level, as vowel is articulated, with jaw and tongue lowered in mouth, with strong, focused awareness of vocal resonance in the larynx and bones of the face.
Fusion: tongue and hand movement, sound, vocal resonance and touch
Consequence: better pronunciation of the 'a' sound

Key concept: It is not much of a stretch to say that our sense of touch is really our "fusion" sense, in that it serves as a nexus-agent for the others  (Fredembach, et al, 2009; Legarde and Kelso 2006). Much like the created image of the umbrella in the key hole evokes a memorable "embodied" event, probably even engaged with our tactile processing center(s), the haptic pedagogical movement pattern (PMP) should work in similar manner, either in actual physical practice or visualized.

One very effective technique, in fact, is to have learners visualize the PMP (gesture+sound+touch) without activating the voice. (Actually, when you visualize a PMP it is virtually impossible to NOT experience it, centered in your larynx or voice box.)

If this is all difficult for you to visualize or remember, try first imagining yourself whacking your forehead with your iPhone and shouting "Eureka!"

Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care (2017, August 11). Imagining an Action-Consequence Relationship Can Boost Memory. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved August 11, 2017 from an Action-Consequence Relationship Can Boost Memory/

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