Introducing Pronunciation in a Continuous Enrolment Class

By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

'perpetuate' in phonemic scriptIf you are a teacher who is concerned about improving your students’ pronunciation, you may decide to do a series of lessons where you introduce the phonemic script over a few classes. However, when you teach in a school that has continuous enrolment, focusing on a particular teaching point over a period of time can be difficult, especially if students only stay for two weeks or so.  Students are also often working in cafés, bars, and pubs and do irregular shifts, which in turn affects their attendance.  An easy way for teachers to deal with this lack of continuity and raise students’ awareness of the phonemic script (without burdening them with the ‘weird symbols’), is to take advantage of the spare minutes in a lesson that may arise -after a natural lull in a classroom discussion or task- and use the new lexis learnt in the lesson as an entrée into the script.

Start by writing any new words students have learnt so far in the lesson, or even the last couple of days, in the phonemic script and see if they can recognise them. You might want to focus on the vowel sounds or the diphthongs, and always make sure there is a phonemic chart on a wall somewhere to which they can refer.  Make sure there are also good class dictionaries around, and ask each student to find two new words, and then copy them into the phonemic script, also highlighting the stress of the word.  Next, they should write their words on the board and be prepared to give an example sentence, explain the meaning and give the spelling.  If possible, ensure the phonemic script and stress marks are written in different colours.  You as the teacher should also take part in this task to show the students that a dictionary is a great resource for not only understanding pronunciation, but also for learning in general, even for the teacher!

'belligerent ' in phonemic scriptOnce the words are up on the board, you can highlight recurring sounds that you may notice, and ask if the students can think of any other words that have similar sounds. The good thing about this task is that even if the word is very obscure, the idea is to focus on the pronunciation and the stress.  The goals of this task are to raise their consciousness about the sounds of English; and help them to stop being intimidated by the chart and move towards being more autonomous as learners. You will find that once you have repeated the task over a few weeks the students will become familiar with the chart. The simplicity of the task also makes it easy to include those who have joined the class recently or may not be attending regularly.

Useful Links

Phonemic Chart

BBC English Pronounciation Tips

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