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Saturday
Jul022011

Teaching Spotlight (1)

Each unit in the Communication Spotlight series contains a number of 'spotlights' designed to focus student attention on a single, discrete language point. One spotlight I particularly enjoy teaching is the Spotlight on Listening. This looks at a single feature of connected or natural speech and draws out examples of this feature from the main listening—in the example on the left, sentence stress. Usually in this section, the phonological point is introduced and then students are asked to identify it. In the case of this example, you first draw student attention to the stress pattern in the sample sentence 'What do you do?' You might then point out that it's the words that give meaning that are by and large stressed, that indeed often you can make sense of a sentence just by hearing the stressed words. e.g. 'What...do?' Students are next asked to listen to four sentences drawn from the main listening, identify what the pattern is (I usually play through this twice - the second listening gives students a chance to confirm the patterns), and then given a chance to practice the patterns. 

But there are other ways to approach this section—particularly if it's the second time to look at the feature as is true with this particular example.  The activity can be done as a predict and check. After taking students through the example, students apply their understanding of stress to the four sample sentences. Playing the CD allows them to check their understanding. Or it can be done as a kind of deep-ending activity. For instance, with the text closed, the teacher could reproduce the four sentences with both the correct and the incorrect sentence stress patterns and have students identify which patterns seem 'right.' This can lead into a (brief!) discussion of why these patterns are 'right,' and students can the open their books and do a confirmation listening.

In practicing saying the sentences, you can do a group recitation before having the students practice together in pairs. Here one option is to practice saying sentences with the stressed words only before going into the full sentences so students can again notice the relationship between stress and meaning. So for instance, 'What...do?' 'What do you do?' What...teach?' 'What do you teach?' and so on...

Perhaps you can see other ways to 'springboard' off this activity?

Reader Comments (1)

Should add that this example comes from Unit 7 in the High Beginner book.

July 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Graham-Marr

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