Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do Canadians really say 'aboot' for 'about'? And other general stuff.

Thursday General English

Today's lesson followed the same format I've been using recently, namely review of last week, followed by comprehension questions on a dialogue, a pair work conversation task and finally pronunciation practice.

The unit's theme was Life Stories, ie learning how to talk about one's life, however, I think if I were a teacher trainer, I would have failed myself because I did not get the students to talk about themselves and despite the other chapters being somewhat distant from the students, eg restaurant talk and shopping, talking about one's life up to now could have been interesting, and at the same time easy for them to do because they would have known most of the vocabulary necessary considering it's about their hometowns, schools etc. Obviously, they would not have been able to practice all the vocabulary considering the book looks at one's life from birth to death, with things such as marriage and children, but they could have talked about where they were born, what their hometown was like, what they think of the place they live now etc. I am not sure why I only thought of it now, perhaps I was too focused on the usual lesson plan to think of including something like that. Although I haven’t decided on whether or not to change books next year, if I do continue using this one, I will definitely include that activity, although I will probably have them ask each other questions and perhaps present their partner at the end because if not, the students may revert to Japanese thus rendering such an opportunity less effective for speaking practice.

Contrastive Stress

The pronunciation today was contrastive stress. I think everyone knows what this is, but just in case, and hey, it gives me a chance to try to explain it in my own words, simply put, it’s the stress we use to signal the contrast between elements in an utterance or a dialogue, so for example,

A: Is this my pen?
B: No, it’s MY pen.

The extra stress, or prominence as it is called falls on MY in order to highlight the fact that it is not your pen but mine, the two items in opposition.

The task was quite straightforward – students had to underline the word that received the most stress in the responses to various statements and questions. After having them write the answers on the board, I had different pairs practice aloud the short dialogue, and then we practiced together. I also had them use hand gestures to help them understand the ‘extra’ stress that the contrasting word gets.

I have a question ‘aboot’ the listening

Since the pronunciation did not take so long, we had time to do the listening in the book before the class ended. However, I was surprised by what a heard – Canadian English, but it felt forced, especially on the word ‘about’, which sounded like ‘aboot’. Now, I am Canadian, but I really have to ask you all, and especially the Canadians out there, do we really say, ‘aboot’? Is it common because personally I have only heard it in comedy and never when talking with other Canadians. Of course, I have never been to British Columbia, and I haven’t spent much time in Quebec or Ontario or the other provinces for that matter, mainly stayed on the East Coast of Canada, something I hope to remedy in the future, but are there Canadians who say ‘Let’s talk aboot your life’?

One final note

I decided to add this here because I only thought of it now. It’s interesting that students don’t ask questions although I ask them to especially when they don’t know something. I’m referring to the comprehension questions. I made up nine questions and I dictated them quite quickly to illustrate the disappearing sounds and linking sounds that I have been teaching. I also did this in the hope that students would ask for clarification, which some do, but for some reason, for the following question, no one asked,

Who is Pedro?

The answer was George’s best friend, but when I asked the student whom I had asked for the answer to spell it, she couldn’t. I then asked the whole class, but no one seemed to know, so I had them as a class to work it out, which in itself was a great activity, but why didn’t they ask me to spell Pedro, when they asked me to spell George? It really makes me wonder, but I can’t for the life of me think as to why they didn’t.


  1. Here's a question. If the other units about shopping and travel were somewhat distant from the students, why do them?

    That's dogme!

  2. Hey Darren,

    First of all, Happy Birthday! I hope you have a good one.

    As for your comment, good question! You know, I don’t think I have ever considered skipping a chapter completely, unless there were more chapters in the book than classes, thus allowing me to omit those units irrelevant to the students’ goals/interests. Also, I don’t think I have ever thought to replace a chapter in a book with my own materials either, although I have modified a chapter, but I usually kept the theme the same. Maybe I do this because I have the students buy the book, so I feel obliged in some way to use it in class, and if I don’t, I tend to feel that I am unfair to the students for making them buy something that they don’t use completely. I am very happy you brought this up because it definitely makes me wonder why I actually do this, and I probably wouldn’t have thought about it otherwise. Thanks!


  3. The tyranny of coursebooks! This is the first step on the path to dogme-ism, young Jedi...

    Seriously though, I've done the same thing. We have to think very seriously about that. Is "Because it's in the coursebook" a suitable answer to the question "Why are we doing this, teacher?"?

    Of course not. But all too often we plug away at boring, inappropriate and / or silly activities just because the students have paid for a book. It turns English into a chore for everyone.

    If getting rid of the textbook entirely is a bit daunting, choose a very thin one, made for the local market. That's if you are allowed to choose....