My Top-10 Resources for Teaching Pronunciation Physically and Visually

I am a strong advocate of the physical approach to pronunciation teaching. I mean, how can you pronounce a sound if you have no idea about what’s involved in the process? Articulation comes first, and only then it is followed by imitation. So if you want to teach pronunciation physically and visually, here is the list of 10 invaluable resources for you to use:

  1. Introduction to Articulatory Phonetics: Vowels and Consonants.
    These are two short but informative videos aimed at teachers and linguistics students that give you insight into how vowels and consonants are articulated.
  2. Seeing Speech
    This is a product of collaboration between researchers at six Scottish universities, including my alma mater, Edinburgh University. The sounds on this website are visualised in three different ways: MRI, ultrasound, and animation. This is a great tool to use in class.
  3. SPAN: Speech Production and Articulation Knowledge Group
    This is a project similar to the one above. Some differences are: MRI only; separate words and sentences are recorded as well.
  4. Tools for Clear Speech and Sounds of Speech
    These are two different resources for animated versions of English IPA sounds. Both of them are using American English, which means that some vowel sounds are missing though.
  5. Interactive Pronunciation Animations
    This one is good for introducing the sounds of British English to young learners. Funny cartoons contextualise each sound and make it memorable.
  6. English Club’s Learn English Pronunciation
    This page offers a range of resources, from an interactive phonemic chart to various pronunciation games, that will keep your students engaged.
  7. The Sounds of English
    This is basically a ready-made British English pronunciation course on YouTube. Not a single sound is missing! What I like the most about these pronunciation videos is that they focus on contrasting sounds and minimal pairs as well. Can be used both in class and at home.
  8. Pronuncian.com
    Good for practising minimal pairs and getting ready-to-use lessons on American English pronunciation.
  9. Youglish.com
    This is an amazing website that lets you listen to the pronunciation of whole sentences, not just single words. You can search for any phrase, e.g. a famous movie quote or just some common everyday expression, and listen to all possible pronunciations. Other resources you can use for this purpose are TubeQuizard and Playphrase.me (the second one is limited to three phrases per search).
  10. Tongue Twister Database
    I personally think that tongue twisters are a great way of practising pronunciation, from single sounds to the features of connected speech to stress and rhythm. This is probably the biggest tongue twister database out there.
  11. BONUS! A 15-minute morning pronunciation practice with the amazing Hadar Shemesh. As someone who is taking singing classes and studied drama and acting (for a short while though), I know that your vocal apparatus needs to be warmed up before you can use it fully. This video introduces a range of exercises for the muscles involved in speech articulation. A tip from me: don’t resist yawning – it’s unavoidable!

Know any other useful resources? Give me a shout, and I’ll add them to the list 🙂
Have a question? Get in touch, and I’ll help you out 🙂

Inhomed: It’s Time to Teach Online

I love creating new words! If we can say ‘imprisoned’, why can’t we say ‘inhomed’?

Teachers around the globe are massively migrating to online classrooms. While Zoom still remains the number-one tool, it’s undoubtful that using it requires training. In other words, it’s too difficult to just jump on it and teach as you go. Therefore, I decided to go for Hangouts since I’ve used it before and found it extremely easy and user-friendly.

So what makes Hangouts a really good tool for teaching online?

  1. It’s linked to your Google Calendar. Yes, Zoom has this feature as well, but it’s much easier to schedule a meeting in Google Calendar using Hangouts.
  2. Breakout rooms. In Hangouts you can be present at all breakout rooms at the same time! So basically, you can monitor all your students. What I usually do is ask students to mute themselves in the common room and move to the private rooms. I join the private rooms as well but mute myself in there, as well as in the common room. When needed, I can unmute myself in one of the private rooms and help the students. Of course, you can’t set up random grouping like in Zoom, but you can just nominate students and give them the link to their room via chat. Only takes a couple of seconds! To get the link to the private room, click on its link with the right button and choose ‘Copy link address’.
  3. The interactive whiteboard is also there! Not in the app itself of course, but I am just using an empty deck of Google Slides. I share it with my students beforehand (don’t forget to set their status as Editors), and then all of them can type and draw in there. We had a lot of fun this Tuesday when drawing timelines for Past Perfect. For group written exercises, you can use a shared Google Doc.
  4. Sharing your screen is also super easy and only takes seconds. You can share either your browser tabs or the screen of some app you’re running on your computer (e.g. a video player).

Some other online resources I’m using:
1. https://www.random.org/ – this is a random number generator; I use it when I need to assign some task cards to students; they seem to like when the cards are assigned in a truly random way 🙂
2. https://www.timer-tab.com/ – this is a very stylish timer/stopwatch/alarm clock; when the time is up, the chime bell tolls. You can set any other sound or song instead.
3. https://wheeldecide.com/ – this is another randomizer that looks like a wheel with coloured sectors.
4. https://www.random.org/dice/?num=1 – an online dice for playing board games in an online classroom 🙂
Alternatively, just type ‘dice roller’ in Google and enjoy a nice animated dice (you can choose how many sides there should be):
https://www.google.com/search?q=dice+roller&rlz=1CANPDX_enJP893JP893&oq=dice+roller&aqs=chrome.0.0l3j69i60l3j69i65l2.1027j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
5. https://padlet.com/ – in case you’re not satisfied with Google Slides / Docs, you can use Padlet to be your interactive whiteboard.
6. https://www.hangmanwords.com/create – and finally, a classic hangman, but online. Create and play!

Going Tech-y

Contexts are demanding. They push changes on us. After spending several years working in a not that tech-friendly environment, I moved on to teaching Business English in an IT-company, which is all about technologies.

My students are not good at writing by hand. Typing is what they do every day all day long. Smartphones, apps, iPads, screens in each room, unlimited Wi-Fi access… After resisting this change I came to the conclusion that the more you resist, the more painful the process is. After all, I was just trying to put off the inevitable.

Changes do not come easily, but they do come. Here I am, writing a post about tech tools I am using in my classroom right now.

1. Flipgrid: So much more than just a video-recording platform

So yes, this is a platform where you create your virtual classroom (aka grid). Each grid can have an unlimited number of tasks (aka topics). Students then record and upload a video of how they do the task. They can respond to each other’s videos by leaving video-comments.

Teachers can do the same, but on top of it, there is an opportunity to leave customised feedback: just set the criteria and type in a personal message to a student. One click, and your feedback is sent directly to their email.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s hidden below the surface is a chance to remove the physical limitations of your classroom and extend it much further than the room you usually meet in. Involve students from other classes, invite interesting speakers to your grid, open your classroom to the world!

Another thing you could do with Flipgrid is to create student portfolios. The function called MixTapes helps you create a sequence of any videos you have recorded, a video-portfolio.
You could also use it for sharing semester highlights (having a tangible result never harms, right?). Why not have a look and recalling all those sweet memories we had on the way?

2. Speech Recognition Technology (SRT) & Co

This is a must-have for anyone who teaches pronunciation or at least focuses on it from time to time.
I usually leave it up to my students to decide which SRT app they want to use. So far, we have tested:

– Google Translate app/webpage;
– various inbuilt note-taking apps (e.g. Evernote, Notes, etc.);
– a keyboard with a voice input function + any typing space (e.g. Google Search, online dictionary, etc.)
– Google Docs (PC / tablet);
otter.ai

The awesome thing about SRT is that it is extremely sensitive to the sounds you pronounce, especially vowels. As a result, I can easily identify my students’ weak points by just looking at what appears on their screens. This allows for on-spot pronunciation correction. It has already helped us deal with /e/-/æ/, final /n/-/m/ (a big problem for Chinese learners), /n/-/ŋ/, long vowels vs short vowels, /w/-/r/ (again, an issue for Korean and Chinese students) and many other things.

I also encourage students to practise by themselves. Some of them liked using ELSA, an app for working on American pronunciation. It creates a customised learning plan based on the diagnostic test you take at the beginning. After each word/sentence you pronounce, you get a score saying how close it was to a standard American pronunciation.

Finally, an excellent app to learn and practise IPA is Sounds by Macmillan.

3. Pear Deck: An add-on to your slides

This website allows you to make your presentations way more interactive and engaging, so it is perfect for online courses, webinars, etc.

Link your Pear Deck account to your Google or Microsoft account, and it will automatically upload your slides. For each slide, you can choose what type of question you want to ask, e.g. an open question, a multiple-choice question, etc.

To answer your questions, students have to go to joinpd.com and enter an access code you gave them.

Apart from interactive presentations, Pear Deck has a vocab list feature. You can create your own lists by typing in words and their definitions. You can then play Flashcard Factory where students get words from the list and have to either write a definition or come up with examples for each word. This is an engaging and meaningful way to revise vocabulary before the test.
Also recommended for Delta M1 tutors – imagine playing with your trainees before they sit their M1 exam!

 

I hope you found this useful.
I am going to post more about various tech tools I am using in the future so stay tuned!