Thursday, June 19, 2014

1 to 1

To ease into my new role at IH Philadelphia, I've taken on a tutoring assignment.  I'll be meeting with this adult learner for the next four weeks.  Wow, I haven't tutored in four years!  We had our first meeting on Monday morning.We chatted for a little while, sharing something about ourselves.  I began to ask her what she needed from me and she very straightforwardly told me that she wanted help with speaking.  She said she wanted to improve her vocabulary and pronunciation. As I was listening, I had noted one language need and one pronunciation need so we started with those.

International House Philadelphia
1) When she told me the ages of the kids she works with, she used the Spanish construction: "He has 13 years."  I noted the correct form in English and she self-corrected nicely later in the lesson.  When we met again on Wednesday, we looked at family pictures and asked each other about them, including the ages of the people.  That was good reinforcement.  We also watched video 8c from, in which the hosts ask lots of people on the street what their age is. We watched the caption-free video first, then we watched the one with captions.  The video raised other language questions, too.  Awesome!

This dry-erase marker box makes a good phone stand!
2) I had to ask her to repeat a statement when she was talking about her job.  I didn't understand "job" because of her pronunciation of /j/.  Actually, the /b/ sound was also sketchy, but one thing at a time!  I briefly reviewed some pronunciation vocabulary (syllable, stress, voiced, unvoiced) and then we set about practicing the mechanics of the /j/ sound.  In the future, I will bring a mirror and a picture of the mouth to help with this.  I also elicited some example words from her.  She immediately offered "change", which has given her problems in the past.  It was very difficult for her to put /j/ at the end of a word, so we started with "changes" and then progressed to "change".  I elicited some more words with this sound at the beginning (jelly, juice, gym), the middle (vegetable), and the end (orange, fridge, age) and then she made a sentence from each.  We then made flash cards for her to study with (one sentence per card with the /j/ sound highlighted).  She doesn't have a lot of time to study, so I suggested that she carry the cards with her and review them for 5 minutes at least twice a day.  This will promote awareness of that sound that I hope will carry over into her "real" language use.   Finally, I suggested that she listen to the English speakers she lives and works with, paying attention to how they make the /j/ sound. As we were finishing up, she commented that the words we chose were all words that she uses often, so she will get lots of practice.  Great!

 I sense a 'good student' in this young woman. She has already been noticing the points where her current level isn't serving her well.  That is key!

Back when I was volunteer tutoring a small group, I also worked independently with a high level learner who wanted to fine-tune her pronunciation skills. That was the first time I taught pronunciation explicitly and I was scrambling to learn more about how to teach pronunciation before each session with her!  I hope she learned something -- I know I learned a lot.

A book that helped me tremendously was Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages by Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin.

I also like Pronunciation Pairs by Baker and Goldstein.  Good minimal pairs with simple instructions for how to form the target sound for each unit.

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