Saturday, March 30, 2019

Under (or between) cover pronunciation teaching: CHIP
Here is an instructive tale, describing a situation that may actually be becoming even more common, ironically, as textbooks "improve" and demands on teachers to do more and more "book keeping"--as opposed to teaching--increase.

Heard recently from a reliable source at a well-paying language school where there is (a) an unbelievably detailed curriculum, right down to near minute-by-minute classroom instructions and draconian oversight, (b) all books provided, no teacher-choice or adaptation allowed, and (c) at least three core, nonnegotiable methodological principles: No grammar, No vocabulary and No pronunciation. (There are virtually none of those in the lesson plans.) The curriculum, although basically English for Academic purposes is essentially extensive reading, free conversation and writing-centered. And when they say "no pronunciation" . . .  they mean it!

Now, granted that is a little extreme, even for a profitable North American sweat shop, but around the rest of the world, it isn't at all. The root cause may be different, of course, but the result is the same: Teach the book or you are gone!

So . . .  if you were teaching there and you believed that pronunciation work is essential (to both
intelligibility and. well . . . encoding and memory recall) what would you do and not lose you job in the process? Seriously, if you have an effective workaround where you teach (anonymously, of course), comment on this post and tell us. I have my grad students working on it, too, and will report back after they finish their  research papers.

Not surprisingly, we have one answer: Covert Haptic-Integrated Pronunciation or CHIP. It works like this: systematically, map onto any language used in the classroom some kind of gesture or body-synchronized movement. In the covert version, you can't talk about pronunciation or explain too much without giving away the game, but if it is apparently spontaneous and done consistently, there are ways.

In the "regular" version Haptic Pronunciation Teaching (HaPT-Eng), v5.0:

(a) We begin with  some kind of very brief mini-lesson (~5 minutes) where learners are introduced to sound(s) or sound process and then briefly embody/practice it accompanied by specifically designed pedagogical gestures. That is just to introduce mind and body to the "embodied pronunciation schema" (EPS).

(b) Next, either by design or when an obvious opportunity or need comes up in the lesson plan, the gestural set is mapped on to language being learned or practiced. That may or may not involve a little explicit, verbal explanation or reminder, pointing back to the EPS mini-module. The "learning" in a very real sense, happens here, with embodied practice, in what we call "initial interdictions" or IIDs, pronounced: I-Ds.

(c) From then on, anytime pronunciation feedback, modelling or correction will be advantageous, the gestural mapping is used, without accompanying explanation or focus, in "subsequent interdictions" or SIDs, pronounced: sids.

(d) Ideally, best case, pronunciation that is "body-lighted" in class is then automatically or routinely  assigned to homework practice, using the same gestural complex in practice. In other words, speaking out loud with accompanying gesture.

In one way or another, however, the key is still EPS, the initial, embodied understanding of how (and with what) to change pronunciation, consistently, over time. The general model is termed: EPS*AIC (embodied pronunciation schema, applied in the integrated classroom).

The covert version, not recorded in lesson plans or done when hostile observers are in the room, begins with a basic IID, done with as little verbal rationale as possible, and is followed up with SIDs, whenever. For most learners, just mapping on gesture, either modeling it with no comment or having them do it with the instructor is good, especially with kids. That relationship is, of course, something of the core of empathetic communication in all cultures and face to face interaction. (See forthcoming blogpost on that!)

Good, I-D, eh? Tell us how you teach pronunciation successfully, covertly. 

And . . . remember to sign up for next Haptic Webinar, May 17th and 18th (email:

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