Thursday, December 10, 2009

Can you link it?

Well today, after we finished the review test, we looked at the second installment of linking sounds, which focused on elongated articulation, and a nice sounding term coalescent assimilation. In case you don't know what this is - I had to look it up myself - it's a type of reciprocal assimilation. In a nutshell, two sounds make a third new sound. This type of assimilation often happens when you have a final alveolar consonant like /s/ or /z/ followed by initial palatal /y/. For example, 'Is that your book' sounds like 'Is tha chour book'. I really find this fascinating, and also consider it important for students, especially those who like watching movies or TV shows, or listening to music in English. Understanding these processes can help a student improve their listening comprehension. Of course, once a week is not enough, but at least being familiar with the subject is still better than not encountering at all, right?

For this activity, I first had them find the links in each sentence. I then went through the two separate groups, first the coalescent assimilation, then the elongated articulation. For the first group, I had them write the answers on the board, for example 'that your' and then I had them pronounce only the first word before pronouncing the entire phrase illustrating the change in sound. Once we went through all the phrases, I had them practice the sentences as a whole. I then did a very similar thing with the elongated articulation, but I realize now that I should have used a piece of paper - as I heard a student say towards the end of the activity - because for this group, I had them write the answers on the board, 'can't tell' for example, and then I had them pronounce can't, and I wanted them to notice the puff of air when they fully articulate the 't' sound before practicing the whole phrase to show them that the 't' in 'can't' is no longer pronounced strongly, but is connected to the initial alveolar stop /t/ of the juxtaposed word, hence the elongation, but many students could not feel the air on their hands, or perhaps they did not really understand what I wanted them to do, so it did not work as planned. Next time, I will try the paper, or perhaps I should avoid that part completely, and perhaps have them repeat after me, then using the board, show them how the final alveolar stop melts into the initial alveolar stop (I should mention here that there are different sounds that can be elongated, but for lack of time, I will use only this one). In any case, I think this task will need some further consideration.

After we did this, I dictated some true or false questions based on the dialogue, which in turn, we listened to. Once we corrected that, I had them do the exchange, whereby they had to practice and memorize a short conversation. I again gave them about 10 minutes and then called on several groups to present.

Overall I think today's class was OK, not great, but OK. I think the hand thing, which was sort of spontaneous, was not clear, but that can happen when you try to do something on the fly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, it's important not to let it get to you, and move on. I also think that I again took too long with the pronunciation, and perhaps it might be better to leave it at the end. However, I think doing the pronunciation is still better at the beginning; I just have to be careful to watch the time. For example, for the sentences, i should give them five minutes maximum because it is only reading and underlining parts of sentences. Then take five minutes to have them come up to write the answers, and then another five minutes to practice. I think perhaps it might not be so much a question of taking too much time, but maybe I am trying to do too much at once. I just realized that if you have two groups and each group of sentences takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete, there's your 30 minutes gone right there. Perhaps I need to consider fewer examples and spread out the concepts, so that I can have more time to work on the book, something that I feel that I am really not focusing on. Each chapter has about 8 pages, but I only ever get around to finishing the first two. Not a very good record is it? Next class, I will make less time for the pronunciation, and try to do more of the textbook. Perhaps, doing the listening comprehension (the questions I make for the dialogue), then asking them to find the linked sounds in the text might be a good start. Then I could try the listening task in the book before having them do the exchange. I will see how that goes next week. Something else I might want to consider though is going with a more listening/pronunciation focused textbook. Of course, the current textbook could just be too easy for them, as this is not impossible, so perhaps a harder level may be more appropriate. Maybe it's just not interesting for them; I think I have mentioned this before. Perhaps it might be worthwhile looking for something better, what I mean is, something that may be closer to their interests. I just got the idea that having them use movies or TV dramas for listening comprehension, especially ones with subtitles may be something to look into. The more I think about it, the more I think that it might be better to use a different textbook, or maybe no textbook at all. However, for the time being, considering I do have this textbook, and I should use it since they bought it, I will try the above plan next week and see if things improve.

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