[ELA 8096] Re: pronunciation issues -- using JazzChants

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Mary Brunelle mbrunelle at yvcc.edu
Wed Mar 28 19:07:13 EDT 2012

Hello Everyone,
I have enjoyed everyone’s input to the ESL list for several years, although I seldom put in my “two cents”. However, we all know how difficult it is to deal with pronunciation in a practical way, and here are my ideas, for what they are worth!!
Our students here in community college on the east side of Washington state come from all educational levels from non-literate to folks with degrees in their respective countries. Around 80% or so are Spanish-speaking, but we have had 35 different languages represented through the years I have been here (27 years). We always have a couple of Asian students (for example, Vietnamese, Chinese or Thai) as well as the occasional Russians, and so on.
I have never had much luck teaching discrete sounds. Personally, I use a “take off” ( scaled down version) of the work of Carolyn Graham (Jazz Chants). This teacher made stuff, if you will, really works well, actually better than anything else I have tried. In addition, they are easy to come up with, catchy, and the students seem to really enjoy them. (When it is break time, someone will begin chanting one I came up with, “Look at the clock, look at the clock…” ) I enjoy their reminder as much as they do!
I believe the chants work, even the corny ones I have come up with over the years, work because of the points Miriam addresses in her post, the suprasegmentals—the stress, rhythm and intonation. This is in addition to the (immediately understandable) context and “real time” speaking that will fit into many situations.
After everyone has the chant pretty well mastered, I hand out a copy, usually with clip art (in this case a stick figure walking to the door, and a clock showing the time.)
The students can easily “read” the new chant in English which is very gratifying and motivating as well.


From: englishlanguage-bounces at lincs.ed.gov [mailto:englishlanguage-bounces at lincs.ed.gov] On Behalf Of Miriam Burt
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012 8:01 AM
To: The Adult English Language Acquisition Discussion List
Subject: [ELA 8095] pronunciation issues -- research and strategies (and charts!)

Hello, all.

Pronunciation is, of course, a very important factor in language learning both on the level of being able to be understood when speaking and on a more affective level – we make judgments about someone’s language ability and, unfortunately, at times, I think, their intellectual ability, with regards to their accent.

Although teachers and students may focus on discrete sounds (Is it a /s/or a /sh/?), often the unintelligibility comes from a lack of understanding and facility with the so-called suprasegmentals of English – stress, intonation, rhythm, pausing.

There is a resource in the LINCS workforce competitiveness collection that discusses both the discrete sounds and the suprasegmental. It is Teaching Pronunciation to Adult English Language Learners, by Kirsten Schaetzel and E.L. Low. (2009). The review of the brief is at http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/resourcecollections/abstracts/workforce/RC_work_abs57.html. It links to the full-length text at http://www.cal.org/caelanetwork/resources/pronunciation.html

The brief includes the following information:


· Introduction – covers the ESL population and a rationale for teaching pronunciation

· Features of Languages – explains key features that one needs to know to be able to teach pronunciation such as stress, accent, intonation, and motivation and why they need to be taught

· Instructional Strategies – features four instructional strategies, a rationale for their use in teaching pronunciation, and examples of classroom activities that can be used to teach particular features of pronunciation. This section also includes charts and checklists to guide teachers or students through pronunciation awareness activities.

The reviewers say the following about the brief:

“ Practitioners of adult ESL at all levels will find thought-provoking information in this resource as to why and how to teach certain pronunciation features – and why others are not essential. In lieu of espousing one method or technique for teaching pronunciation, this valuable resource reviews what the research says about the reasons for pronunciation difficulties among English language learners (ELLs) and suggests a variety of practical strategies to address their differing needs”

What is your experience in teaching the suprasegmentals of the language? What have you found about motivation?


Miriam Burt
Moderator, Adult English Language Acquisition (ELA) Discussion List
Center for Applied Linguistics
mburt at cal.org<mailto:mburt at cal.org>

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