This is a new series of blog posts for teachers looking to become materials writers. It aims to help future writers explore topics and issues in writing, encourage deeper insight into the content of published materials, and promote a principled approach to materials development.
- What are your overall views on pronunciation activities in published materials such as coursebooks?
- How often do you write pronunciation activities for your own resources? How easy/difficult do you think these materials are to create?
- What staging principles do you follow when writing pronunciation activities?
- Are the stages you follow based on research, teacher experience and intuition, or both?
Conti and Smith (2019)
In my writing experience, phonological instruction is often the afterthought of writing process. It’s inclusion in coursebooks and other published resources can still seem incidental, unprincipled, misplaced… although equally it’s sometimes spot on!
The likes of Hancock, Celce-Murcia and others have outlined useful principles for staging pronunciation activities. However, Conti and Smith (2019) provide a very clear and concise starting point for anyone looking to try their hand at writing pronunciation materials…
Key points to mention here might be…
- The modelling of the target language, as always, should be in context. A good way to approach teaching pronunciation is to draw out salient features from authentic use, such as from a listening text or video.
- Narrowing in on the specific feature during modelling may be worthwhile. A teacher can do this – it may help prevent divided attention for the learners.
- Awareness raising could be guided discovery, although Conti and Smith argue that explicit teaching is most suitable.
- Extensive receptive practice (‘ear training’) is necessary before production.
Conti and Smith (as does Underhill) highlight the importance of inner speech, like self-rehearsal of certain phonological features, prior to production.
Find some pronunciation stages from an existing coursebook. Find the accompanying teacher notes if available. Analyse the following:
- The staging of the activity, and purpose of each step.
- The support provided for teachers in the guidance notes.
- The opportunities for extensive receptive practice.
- The expectations for learner production (e.g. are they expected to produce the feature in a controlled way, during a freer practice, etc)
- The rough timeframe from introducing the feature to expected production.
Do any of the activities align with Conti and Smith’s model?
Did any of the activities highlight the importance of phonology for listening rather than production?
In your opinion, was the level of support for teachers adequate? Was it too complex?
Devise a pronunciation activity following the stages outlined by Conti and Smith (2019). In addition to the stages, you may wish to research/consider aspects of learnability, and the relative importance of segmental and suprasegmental phonology.
Write a brief rationale outlining how you have addressed each core stage.
Any model of instruction can be critiqued – Conti and Smith’s is no exception. However, the principles are straightforward, underpinned by theory (such as the Noticing Hypothesis), and they highlight a flaw in many existing materials – lack of extensive exposure.