Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am so sentence stressed! Aren't you?

Tonight’s class was able to start right away thanks to my students helping me with the desk arrangement. After passing back their work, we did the review quiz, which I think this time turned out to be harder than usual. It was a reordering exercise, and perhaps I had too many sentences for them. However, if they had reviewed, I am sure that they would not have had any problems with the activity.

Once I collected the quizzes, I started the sentence stress. I wrote a sentence on the board and had one student come up and write in the stress. I then had them repeat the sentence after me. I then gave them a worksheet with 10 sentences and told them to write in the stress telling them to be careful of syllables. I also told them to use different size dots because although there can be several words in a sentence that are stressed, usually one will be a little more stressed than the other(s) because it will be the most important part of that sentence. I gave them about 10 minutes or so, and walked around observing, giving advice where necessary. I then wrote the sentences on the board and had students come up to write the answers. Actually, upon writing this and after careful consideration, I am not sure if having them use different size dots for the stress was the best idea. Furthermore, when I asked the student to come up and write in the stress at the beginning, I am thinking more and more now that I should have had him use the same size dots because in the end, I simply wanted to focus on those words which were stressed, and adding this extra element - although I did find it in Cambridge University Press’s Teaching Pronunciation, which probably lead me to trying it - may have unnecessarily complicated things. I think it may have been better therefore to have them understand first which words were stressed and perhaps at a later time introduce such extra information. That said, it seemed that overall, most students did not have much trouble with understanding where the stress went even though they may not have been able to explain exactly why. I did, however, explicitly mention afterward that certain words are unstressed, but I did not go into any deep explanation, which may have been for the best, for as they say - if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

The sentence stress activity took quite a bit of time, but I consider it important for students so I am not so worried about that. Once we finished, I told them that we would practice this again next week, and then moved on to the textbook. With books closed, I dictated the questions, this time we did a true or false exercise, and I played the CD twice. Next, I had them repeat after the CD with their books open. I also highlighted a couple of parts of the dialogue especially those showing confusion. I had the students repeat after me as a group and then individually; I mentioned that facial expression was also important for saying these expressions and I wanted to see if they could do it.

Finally, we did something a little different – we played a vocabulary game. I put them into groups of four, and asked them to choose a leader. I then asked them to do rock, paper, scissors to see who would go first, but actually, I know now that the English version of this game does not work well with such a task, although the Japanese version works very well – perhaps there is a way to do it in English, but I do not know the way. Once we had decided who would go first, I had them pick a number from 1 to 15, each number corresponding to a clue about a place, a store actually. I then told them the clue and they had to decide what the place was. If they got it right, I gave them the total points of the number they chose. I think this game worked well, but it may have been more exciting if I had one person stand up from each group and have them raise their hand or something to be able to answer first. What I actually did was give each group a chance to pick a number, so that was fair for all, but the other way may been more enjoyable for the class. By the time we finished the game, the class was over. Honestly, I would have liked to have had them do the exchange because we did do listening with the conversation and some conversation practice each week is important, but we did start the sentence stress and as last semester, the sentence stress tasks tend to take time especially at the beginning.

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