This is the first of a series of blog posts I plan to write on a little pronunciation project I’m going to run with a C1/C2 group of Catalan/Spanish speaking students. If you’d like to try to run the same experiment with your own groups, you can download the materials I’m going to use at the bottom of this post.
How much can high-level students’ spoken pronunciation be improved by explicit focus on connected speech during class time? The plan is to use both reactive teaching/error correction and explicit, mini-lessons on specific elements of connected speech to work on students’ spoken output. Their progress will then be tracked through the use of submitted voice recordings.
In order to gauge students current level of spoken pronunciation, I wrote a text, which you’ll find below, that contains many elements of connected speech:
I have always wanted to play in a rock and roll band but I can’t seem to find the time to practice enough. If you don’t put in the hours, you’re always going to put off fulfilling an ambition. I want to do it, but the harder I try to pick up the guitar, the busier I get, and at the weekends I tend to go out most nights and those dreams are left back in the corner gathering dust with my guitar.
In class today I collected their baseline recordings. They completed a simple comprehension task on the text, then each recorded themselves reading the text on their own mobile phones and sent me the resulting audio file.
I will also have them record themselves completing a Cambridge “long turn” task during the next class in order to gather a non-scripted sample of their spoken output.
The pronunciation work students will complete will take a number of forms:
- Explicit teaching of sentence stress, weak forms, and other elements of connected speech.
- Use of tubequizard.com in their free time as ear-training/decoding.
- Exposure to a “model” version of the target text, read by me, for students to compare/mimic.
- Activities and worksheets such as Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald’s mazes.
- Reactive hot and cold error correction.
The idea is to spend 15-20 mins a week explicitly focusing on pronunciation and then have students rerecord the original “Dusty Dreams” text in 6-8 weeks and compare the second recording to their original. I will also periodically collect long turn attempts to track the progress of more spontaneous/authentic speech. I also plan to use other texts or dialogue transcripts for later recordings as well as tracking students’ scores on C2 Proficiency reading comprehension tasks.
This is my first real attempt at action research, I’m probably doing a bunch of stuff wrong, but it’s exciting and my students seem to be up to the challenge! I’ll keep you posted.
If you’d like to follow along with your own students, you can download the first lesson plan, with the baseline text and a micro-lesson on weak forms of “to” and “for”, below:
Feel free to comment or give advice!