Three levels of pronunciation: an example activity

In the previous post on Comfortable Intelligibility – I suggested using the three levels of pronunciation (Level 1: Sounds: Level 2: Words: Level 3: Connected Speech) as a kind of practical ladder for moving up and down between a connected up whole piece of text and the parts it is made up of. The aim is to give proper attention to the bits (sounds, clusters, wordstress, unstress, linking, reduction etc)  while never losing sight of the greater goal of connected up speech. This movement can be moment by moment throughout a lesson. In this post – Three levels of pronunciation: an example activity – I illustrate this with a practical classroom example.

Here is an illustration of a 3 or 4 minute sequence of classwork, moving elegantly between Levels 1, 2 and 3 (ie between the detail and the connected up speech). Use of the pronunciation chart makes makes for easier and more elegant movement between the three levels.

Three levels of pronunciation: an example activity

Here’s the first sentence from a 120 word course book text (New Straightforward Intermediate, Kerr & Jones, Macmillan Education) which is both recorded and printed in the student book.

I once saw a magician who did an incredible trick.

Assume you have introduced the recording (connected speech, so that’s Level 3) and listened to the whole text in respect of general meaning etc. Now it’s time for a more detailed study of the language. And you decide to enter through pronunciation. The student books are closed at this point:

1.. T plays the first sentence one only: I once saw a magician who did an incredible trick.

2..Teacher: “How many words?” (Sts have to re-listen again internally in their mind’s ear in order to count. This requires them to break Levels 3, connected speech, down to Level 2, words. oin order to count them)

3.. T: “So tell me the words”. Sts call them out (Level 2)

4.. T: “What’s the 5th word?” (Level 2, Sts replay in mind’s ear, and say magician)

5.. Perhaps T says magician aloud once, without repeating this aloud the Sts listen internally to the model just given by the teacher. (Level 2)

6.. Sts say magician  aloud. Class listen to each other (Sts notice difference between their inner hearing and their speaking aloud. Level 2)

7.. T asks “How many sounds in that word?” (Sts count internally by discriminating sounds in their mind’s ear. This also prepares them to use the pron chart. This is now Level 1,)

8.. Sts call out number/s of the sounds (there are 7 in magician but there is no need to be accurate at this point, it is the fact of counting that initially triggers their internal discrimination, Level 1)

9.. T: “So what’s the first sound … and the next … ? etc..” Perhaps T counts the sounds onto her fingers as they are called, and helps with wrong sounds. Level 1, sounds and feedback and assistance)

10.. Teacher invites a St (prepared by point 9) to come to the chart to point out the sounds /m ǝ ʤ ɪ ʃ ǝ n/ Class say aloud what the St points at, correct or not, so the St at the chart gets feedback and can adjust what she points at. Level 2, going down to Level 1)

11.. T and others assist, sufficient accuracy of individual sounds is established. Others come to the chart to have a go at the word. All the class is involved by saying aloud the sounds that are pointed at by the person at the front, and then negotiating them if not right. (Level 1)

12.. Once the sequence /m ǝ ʤ ɪ ʃ ǝ n/ is established on the chart T says “Now in English!” A kind of joke but Sts know exactly what they have to do, ie connect it all up so it sounds like the original model, with word stress.Level 2)

13.. Perhaps now the T invites people to the board to spell the word by handwriting the alphabetic spelling, (Level 2, developing insight into English sound-spelling)

14.. And finally of course they put the word back into the original sentence with some speed, embedding the new word in the connected steam of speech, and then comparing it with the original recording (Level 3)

Three levels of pronunciation: an example activity
This activity starts with connected speech (Level 3) and ends with connected speech, and in  between it attends to the segments at word level (Level 2) and at sound level (Level 1) preparing the learners with mastery of the detail that will enable them to produce and receive the connected up speech with comfortable intelligibility.