Well hello, hello there!
This is a surprising blog post for me, I must admit. The reason it is unexpected is because I do not usually make a point of creating specific pronunciation lessons (I know. I can just see some of you cringing as you read it!) but I did promise myself that 2020 was for pushing myself as far out of my comfort zone as I possibly can.
What better way to do that than to teach a B2/C1 pronunciation and grammar lesson in one?
The problem that I had was that none of my English language coursebooks had any decent pronunciation activities. EnglishFile, Ready For and Face2Face had some phoneme exercises but nothing more than ‘listen and repeat’. I wasn’t a fan.
But I do remember taking a course on pronunciation, with Susie at ITTC, over the summer and I really enjoyed it. However, I had still shied away from the topic until last week. I went back through my notes and her PowerPoint slides to rake through some of the resources she had given us, and Mark Hancock‘s name resurfaced. I remember being interested in his version of the phoneme chart and decided to check him out a bit more in-depth.
This led me to his website and his materials. I was instantly impressed!
He has recently published PronPack 5, which is a collection of pronunciation exercises dedicated to Spanish speakers of English. This was perfect for me as I currently have 5 students from Spain. Although it took me a while to find a copy online, I managed to find one on Amazon and ordered it as soon as I did.
My students, like many others have before, were struggling with the pronunciation of -ed endings. This pronunciation wasn’t in any of my textbooks but I had taught it before (I know, I said I didn’t like pronunciation!) and I kept the lesson plan and materials. I set up some time in one of my face to face classes to teach them the rules and practise through some worksheets and listening exercises.
Although the lesson had certainly helped them improve their awareness of the -ed endings, they knew they needed more work. To my delight, once it arrived, Mark’s PronPack included a perfect activity. I knew it was now or never for this lesson! I was able to download the audio file and pdf worksheet from his website* and began setting up my lesson. His book also includes teacher notes and ‘alternate endings’ for the lesson (which I decided to use and turn into a board game.)
*Sample material of other lessons are available here
- The first part is a rap full of past simple verbs. I chose to play this without the students looking at the words, to see what words they could identify and write down.
- The second time I played it was after giving them the worksheet and lyrics. The students were able to see what words they had heard (correctly or incorrectly) and listen to the pronunciation of the words they were reading. Note: heads were bobbing along to the catchy tune!
- Next up it was their turn! I recited the rap line by line, and after each line I asked them to repeat me (the rap also repeats each line). This gave them to opportunity to listen to me and repeat the words in their own time instead of ‘rushing’ to keep up with the music.
Let’s just say this part wasn’t easy!
On the words with the /t/ and /d/ pronunciations we seemed to lose the past simple form all together, and on the /Id/ pronunciation we gained two /Id/ sounds. At first they found it funny, but quickly became frustrated and I really felt for them.
- I decided to ignore the music for a bit and just focussed on repeating each line. The way this activity has been laid out is just so brilliant. I would never have thought to highlight moving the sound onto the ‘it’ and it did, eventually, make a big difference. (See the image)
I asked each of my students to recite one line each and then I swapped their lines over so that they were able to practise all of the words.
- After about 7 minutes we were able to put the music back on. I let them listen to it once before I asked them to repeat each line again.
In total, I think we recited the rap about 10 times before we were all happy with their progress. By the end of it, they were only stuck on one phrase each (protected it and picked it up) but I’d say that’s not bad.
- For one final round we went over it all together, with the music and as quickly as possible. It ended up with the three of us in fits of giggles with the promise of reviewing it again the following lesson.
After the rap, I moved onto the second part of the worksheet which is a speaking exercise. Now this really is a super idea and we all enjoyed this, despite a few hiccups. I recommend you buy the book for this activity alone!
I chose to adapt Mark’s alternative ending of turning it into a board game by adding circular shapes onto the slide and including a link to a virtual (Google) dice. The dice alone made us laugh as it constantly rolled 4s!
Once they had rolled the dice and landed on their square they had to figure out what the phrase was and use it in a sentence. Then they had to ask the other if they could also think of a sentence. We worked on pronouncing each word correctly and checking if the sentence was grammatically correct.
I think this worked well for my students because it encouraged them to think about pronunciation in sentences that would be natural (or more common) for them.
As I said in the beginning of this post: I am not at all confident when it comes to teaching pronunciation, but I’m also aware that many teachers shy away from it and this year I told myself I would not be that teacher anymore. With the help of resources such as Pron Pack, teaching pronunciation becomes so much easier and I’m very glad I bought the book and taught this extra lesson.
And finally, I would like to say that I wrote this blog off of my own back. It is not endorsed, sponsored by or affiliated with Hancock McDonald ELT, I simply wanted to review this brilliant activity. (Hopefully many reviews to come as well!)
Have you used the Pron Pack series before?
If you have, let me know if you have a favourite book or activity as I’d love to know and share ideas.