|Clker.com (the kitchen sink)|
For years, when asked how to get started exercising like I do, my standard response has been:
- Pick your grandparents well.
- Get a trainer or sign up for a class -- Don't do it on your own.
- Follow the method.
- Be disciplined and consistent.
- Run the long race: a life of better fitness.
I typically don't have time for classes, am genetically averse to following other people's methods and figured that I am smart enough to research my way to excellence. Not quite. I had fallen prey to a common version of the electronic post-modernist's "Decartes' Error" (I think, therefore I am) able to do this myself, with a little "Google shopping".
So, I present my "method," a full report on what I had done the preceding two weeks, to my new coach. In retrospect, it had everything but the kitchen sink in it. She was kind, to put it mildly. When I first explained my essentially ad hoc method her reaction was (in essence):
"Hmm . . . Nice collection of tools . . . but where is your method? Aren't you a teacher?"
Turns out that I had many near-appropriate techniques and procedures, but they were either in the wrong order, done without the correct form or amount of weights or repetitions. In other words, great ideas, but a weak or counterproductive system.
So, how’s your (pronunciation) method? Tried describing it lately? Could you? (Ask my grad students how easy that is!) When it comes to pronunciation, I think I know how to do that and help others in many different contexts construct their own, unique systems, but when it came to competitive running, turns out that I really didn’t have a clue, plan . . . or effective method.
I have one (plan+coach) now, one that applies as much (or more) to fast running as it does to effective pronunciation teaching or any instruction for that matter. Some features of "our" new method:
- Reasonable and really achievable goals that will reveal incremental progress.
- Progress is not always immediate and perceptible, but it becomes evident "on schedule" according to the method/ologist! (Good methods "future pace", spell out what should happen and when.)
- Near perfect form as a target is essential, if only in terms of simplicity of focus, but combined with the ongoing assessment and assistance of a "guide," gradual approximation is the gold standard.
- Having a model, in my case, Bill Rogers, Olympic marathoner perhaps, or a native speaker in teaching, is OK as long as the goal is the good form of the model, the process, not the ultimate outcome.
- Regular, proscribed practice, coupled with systematic feedback, probably from a person at this point in time, is the soul of method. "Overdoing" it is as counterproductive as "under-doing" it.
- Lessons and homework are rationally and explicitly scaffolded, building across time, for the most part at the direction of the method/ologist. That can't be "neo-behaviorist" in nature, but the framework has to be there in some cognitive-behavioral-neurophysiological form, where focus of attention is engineered in carefully.
- Unstructured, random meta-cognitive analysis of the method (not the data) undermines results, but near absolute concentration on movement and intensity, moment by moment, is the sine qua non of it all.
- Meta-communication (planning, monitoring) of the process, should be highly interactive, of course, but generally more controlled by the method/ologist than the learner, flexible enough to adjust to learners and contexts, of course, and but only when the brain/mind is allowed such "out of body" experience.
If not, if it is mostly just up to you, what do you do? Well, you pick some strategic targets, like stress, intonation and high functional load consonants for your students. In addition, you selectively use some of the features above, many of which apply to all instruction, not just pronunciation, and hope for the best.
Method rides again, but this time as a comprehensive body-mind system that is more and more feasible and achievable, e.g., Murphy's new book, but still potentially time consuming, expensive and maddening if you have to go it alone.
Of course, if you don't have the time or resources to do relatively minimal pronunciation work, you can still probably find an expert-book-website to send yourself and students to for basics. There are many. Of course, I'd suggest one in particular . . .