This is the second post on my blog about pronunciation. My initial post about pronunciation, “Stress in the Classroom”, looked at intonation, rhythm and stress as I had to lead a seminar with a presentation. This post is more about implementing and raising awareness of pronunciation as well as including suplementary areas such as intonation, rhythm and stress in the classroom. I was lucky to attend Adrian Underhill’s workshop on injecting pronunciation in a fun and interesting way in the classroom. The key principle that Underhill aimed when introducing the Phonemic Chart or particular sounds included the Silent Way.
The Silent Way is a discovery learning approach, invented by Caleb Gattegno in the 1950s. The teacher is usually silent, leaving room for the students to explore the language. They are responsible for their own learning and are encouraged to interact. The role of the teacher is to give clues, not to model the language. (Wikipedia)
Thornbury (2006) suggests that the Silent Way “has contributed to more mainstream teaching in a number of ways, including the widespread use of Cuisenaire rods and the phonemic chart” (A-Z of ELT). During Underhill’s workshop at the BELTE, he suggested that teachers should try to refrain from deploying an Audiolinguistic method when introducing the Phonemic Chart (for example, the teacher says a sound, the students try to repeat the same sound and the teacher then shows that sound on the chart). The following YouTube videos should illustrate this:
After illustrating the sounds via miming, relying upon the students for sound recreation and modelling he attempts students to come up to the front of the class and point to sounds that the teacher says or vice versa.
It is interesting that there is some form of TPR in the classroom when introducing and raising students’ awareness of phonetics. TPR (Total Physical Response) is defined by Wikigogy as “a method for teaching language by involving students in physical activity.” It is interesting to note that the TPR method is much like the natural which is “based upon the belief that learners need only understand input, and should not be required to speak until they are ready to” (Thornbury, 2006) which lends itself well to the Silent Way.
Nevertheless, on a personal note, the Phonemic Chart should be used lightly in the classroom and not be the focus of the lesson. Perhaps when introducing new vocabulary in the classroom, the students should be introduced to pronunciation including other complementary areas (stress, intonation, rhythm, etc). However, there is an increase of resources to assist in the introduction of phonetics in the classroom such as Phonetics Focus, The IPA Chart, as well as Phonetics: The Sound of English.