Table of contents
2. Planning of the lesson
2.1 Learning targets
2.2 Rationale behind the structure and contents
3. Summary of the lesson simulation
When it comes to teaching English Pronunciation in the classroom a lot of teachers feel reluctant. The reasons might be a lack of instruction during their own studies of English or even a personal struggle with the topic because of its complexity and the fact that they are non-native speakers of English. Finding a good introductory lesson that evolves around one of the topics of pronunciation seems to be rather challenging. That might be because although a lot of the textbooks for learners of English offer some small exercises on pronunciation they do provide teachers with enough material to add-on to the units or to create a whole lesson. So even nowadays to find an English learner’s classroom where pronunciation is taught in on a regular basis is a wishful thinking. Teachers have be aware of the fact that exercises on sounds, word and sentence stress, intonation and connected speech (elision and liaison) need to be part of the English lesson in order to prepare their students for the actual use of the target language in the real world without the protecting walls of the classroom.
The fact that pronunciation is a part of language acquisition has long been neglected. It was seen as the finishing touch of learning English and therefore stood at the far end of the line. If students were highly motivated they went abroad or looked for a tandem partner to learn how to speak good English. But as prospective teachers me know of the importance of pronunciation and that students of the English language need to be introduced to its rules right from the beginning of the learning process. To speak an understandable and fluent English is a great part of mastering the language and therefore must not be neglected.
Therefore, pronunciation is a highly important aspect of teaching English not just since it is part of the basic criteria needed to successfully communicate with native speakers of the but also to round off the skill of knowing English.
2. Planning of the lesson
2.1 Learning targets
The main focus of the lesson lies on giving the students a revision of what they have already learned and an overview of the main difficulties a German learner has in the main categories of English pronunciation.
For the first part of the lesson the learning targets focus on the use of the phonetic sounds of English. The learners shall understand why pronunciation is important in order to speak good English and in what way the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) helps in achieving this goal. The students will be able to differentiate between the similar sounds of the consonants /v-f-w/, /p-b/, /tʃ-dʒ/ and /ð-θ/ as well as the similar sounds /e-æ/ and /æ-ɑ-ʌ/ of the English vowels which helps them to work on a transcription exercise. Furthermore, the learners can explain the difference between a voiced and a voiceless consonant and the difference between a monophthong and a diphthong. The learners will get to know the three rules for transcribing and pronouncing the different sounds /ɪd/, /d/ and /t/ of the past form of the regular verbs that end in -ed as well as for the three sounds /ɪz/, /s/ and /t/ of the plural and the 3rd person -s.
For the second part of the lesson the learning targets focus on word stress. Therefore, the students will learn what makes a syllable and why it is necessary for word stress. Afterwards, the learners acquire a trick with which they can count the amount of syllables of a word. They will know how to find out about the stress pattern of words by looking at the word’s transcription. Moreover, the students will learn the five rules of word stress in English (stress on the first syllable, stress on the last syllable, stress on the penultimate syllable, stress on the ante-penultimate syllable and stress of compound words).
The third and last part of the session focuses on the students’ use of their entire knowledge on English pronunciation. The lesson target is to make the students familiar with creative authentic texts that help to improve their skills. The poem “The Chaos” by G. N. Trenité shows the learners that a similar orthography of words is no indication for them being pronounced similarly. In addition, the students increase their vocabulary.
2.2 Rationale behind the structure and the contents
The rationale behind the structure of the lesson was to create a coherent input of information where each part would be based on the information of the former segment. Since the lesson serves as a revision in order to broaden the students’ skill of English pronunciation our group decided to go into detail concerning difficulties that especially occur for German learners. Definitions of the most important terms of the involved topics are to be quickly answered by the students orally to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The teachers start off by explaining the importance of pronunciation and by tying it to the first topic the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). We decided on this topic because it is the basis of understanding how to pronounce English sounds. The learners will repeat some English sounds that are difficult for Germans that they can later on apply onto the next topic of word stress. This specific order of the chosen topics gives the students all the knowledge they need to go on to the third part of the lesson. Here they will learn how to pronounce tricky passages of words by reading out loud authentic English material. The tongue twisters we selected add fun to the challenge of acquiring a proper English pronunciation and are more suitable than otherwise tedious speech drills. Although, the poem “They Chaos” by G. N. Trenité will be difficult for the students it will be an enjoyable exercise through which they are being motivated to improve their pronunciation and increase their vocabulary.
In the first two parts of the lesson every topic is provided with examples and short exercises that are especially suited for applying the new gained knowledge. Also, the students get extra material that includes sets of rules, mnemonic sentences and of course additional examples.
3. Summary of the lesson simulation
As prospective teachers we are dedicated to provide our students with the most important aspects of English pronunciation as well as to train and guide them throughout their learning process. Students need to be encouraged right from the beginning to practice their speaking in order to have good command of the foreign language. Therefore, we chose to plan this lesson simulation for students who are in their fourth year of learning English of the secondary school level. We require that the 8th graders have already learned about pronunciation techniques from the beginning of their language acquisition. The lesson simulation serves as a revision of the main aspects that are in general causing problems for German learners as well as gives the students useful material to improve and further develop their English pronunciation.
As I have already mentioned before, the session is divided into three parts of which the first two parts shall give the students theoretical information (rules, mnemonic sentences, study charts) on the major difficulties for German learners conjoined with short examples and exercises. The first part dealt with the issue on how the IPA can help the students to improve their speaking by giving examples of sounds that are not common in German. We chose the sibilants like /s/ and /z/ of the plural and 3rd person -s and sounds for the regular verbs of past tense ending on -ed. In addition we planned a third more creative part where the students had to show that they could not only apply these rules to an add-on exercise but to face authentic English material that requires the students to apply all of their knowledge and to be openminded for the exceptions and tricky parts of the English language.
In retrospect although the structure of the lesson was nicely planned, its actual realization partly failed and did not provide the students with all the information we intended to. The reason is that our group miscalculated the given time of 30-40 minutes for the lesson simulation. Because of that mistake on our part we unfortunately have not even been able to fully finish the 2nd segment of our planned lesson. Clearly we have prepared too much input that was impossible to be taught in the given time. Our lesson would have suited best into a double period of 90 minutes, where every part of the lesson could have fitted into easily. The whole last part, which was very important and supposed to liven up the topic as well as get the students to practice and interact in groups, was cut off and so was half of the second topic on word stress. In addition regarding the choice of class level I guess the lesson would be more suitable for more advanced learners of the 10th grade or higher. This is because of it’s complexity and the simple fact that it is still not common to find an English classroom where pronunciation is taught on such a regular basis that gives 8th graders the background knowledge that our lesson plan requires them to have. In addition, it was unfortunate that most of the students have not brought a printed copy of the exercises and the handouts which made it harder for them to participate and for us to stay inside the already short time frame.
Nevertheless, I think despite of these miscalculations in our planning there were still some aspects on pronunciation the group was able to convey. Especially the small exercises in between the theoretical segments helped the students to remember what they already know and to combine that knowledge with the new information. The rhyming pairs and the maze of /s/ and /z/ sounds were a fun and welcome change for the students and motivated them to participate. Although the students did not get to work with the authentic material they were reminded that the worksheets of the poem and the tongue twisters could be studied at home an in order to improve their pronunciation.
The lesson definitely leaves room for improvement regarding its realization. The planning and structure of the lesson could also be reconsidered concerning the amount of input and the given time frame. Again, I do not think that this lesson will be taught in the way we simulated it but it’s structure has potential and with some changes can find access to a real English classroom. The input of the topic can easily be reduced and each topic can be expanded if one not only wants to plan one lesson but rather a whole teaching module. Therefore the teacher would have to go more into detail and prepare additional exercises for the different sub- categories.