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четверг, 29 марта 2012 г.

TESOL Convention 2012: Using American Commercials to Boost Integrated Pronunciation Skills

This is a script (non-verbatim, of course) of the presentation I am going to do in just a few hours at TESOL International Convention 2012 in Philadelphia, PA. If you are an English teacher and find this material relevant and helpful, feel free to use it in your own classrooms and post it on your blogs, websites and social networks with a link to this blog. If you are a student of English I hope I won't bore you too much with some technical stuff. Feel free to ask questions or write comments!

If you're a TESOL participant who has attended my presentation, thank you very much for your precious time and interest! For further discussion please, sign in for a series of free webinars on Creating Your Own Virtual Classroom here (password: webinar). They will be conducted in May-June.
All the best,
E. Mutonono


Why commercials?

We teachers sometimes find it difficult to relax sometimes. It can be caused by various factors, but in my case the thoughts of how to improve my students' pronunciation skills haunt me sometimes even as I do something completely unrelated to teaching. So, a year ago, while watching an episode I saw this commercial, and I knew I would use it in my next TESOL workshop. And, my proposal got selected, which makes this my 4th workshop at TESOL!

In general, nobody would doubt that commercials are great for ESL practice. They're short, to the point, always have a theme and are spoken very clearly to cajole the viewers into buying. Finally, American commercials are like windows into a life in America, so they have a great cultural impact. Where else would you find all of the above in just 30 seconds? 

Sound concepts.

With pronunciation being consistently pushed out of the ESL curriculum, not many teachers feel adequate explaining and drilling their students to achieve better speech clarity. However, incorrect pronunciation can make communication more difficult as it will impede the process of comprehension and speaking. With that in mind, what are the most important sound concepts of which ESL teachers should be mindful? Here's a list suggested initially by Marnie Reed and Christina Michaud in their textbook Sound Concepts: An Integrated Pronunciation Course and further developed by the author of the presentation: 

  1. Sounds are linked: fast track, big goat, with them//Thin ice, ate an egg//Be of age, two apples, three apples//One cup, those shops, ten men, good bye
  2. Sounds are deleted: /h/: liked him, be with her, meet her; /th/: liked them, asked them. 
  3. Sounds are reduced: Can /kn/: I can swim, I can try (but can’t isn’t); And /n/: coffee and cream, milk and sugar; Of /əv/: part of work, state of the art; Or /ər/: big or small, right or wrong; Are /ər/: we’re losing, they’re arriving; Have /əv/: they have 5 minutes (not in short sentences)
  4. Sounds are altered: You /yə/: You gave me this address; /y/+t/d = tch/dj: Can’t you hear? Would you open the door?; To/do = /tə/, /də/: I want to help, Do they know?; T = /d/ between vowels: letter, better, gotta; You’re/your = /yər/: What’s your name?; Have to = /haftə/: I have to go now; Got to/want to/going to – gotta, wanna, gonna. 
  5. Sounds are contracted: Isn’t, aren’t, doesn’t, don’t, won’t, can’t, I’d, I’ll, they’d, they’ll, we’ve, we’d, etc.
  6. Not every word is stressed (stressed words are timed: note the syllables in bold): “Football, that’s soccer to Americans, is the biggest and best sport in the world. There are millions of reasons why it is the world sport.” (www.listenaminute.com)
  7. Intonation differs depending on the sentence (types of sentences: rising/falling): You're here. You're here? You're here, aren't you? Depending on the type of the sentence and the meaning we put into it our voice goes up or down. The rise and fall are not sudden and sharp, but gradual and curvy.
Main Strategies for ESL teachers

Now that you recognize the major speech concepts it is important to introduce those as you teach other aspects of the language: Grammar, Reading, Listening, and Writing. Here're some ideas:

  • Integration of Pronunciation and Grammar (Present Simple, Possessive relationship – preposition of, etc.)
  • Integration of Pronunciation and Listening (target one of the 7 concepts and use 1 or 2 concepts in practice: listening, reading and then speaking).
  • Integration of Pronunciation and Reading (practice reading out loud, in groups, or together to develop skills). 
  • Integration of Pronunciation and Writing: dictations. 



Commercial #1: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

  • Please, watch the commercial here.  
  • (playing the commercial, naming the concepts)
  • Play line by line: have the students decide what the line is or fill out the gaps.
  • Once you’re done decoding, let your students work in pairs to practice reading.
  • Play the commercial without the sound so they could do the “voice-over.”
  • I've already made a fill-in-the-gap assignment, and you can view it here.
Commercial #2: (another commercial for Chevrolet, I decided to keep the tradition)


  • Finding Concepts in the Text (can be prior to viewing):
  • Opportunities are too important to be missed.
  • Introducing the new generation of Chevrolets. 
  • Chevrolet… Make it Happen.
  • Watch here.


On the technical side of things...

Converting a You-tube video into a simple video to play on your computer may sound daunting, but it is possible! Once you do that you can play that from your computer (if you don't have Internet access). It is also a good skill because you can then teach your students who could download this video from youtube and using Windows Movie Maker re-create the same commercial with their own voice-over and music background. Here's how to do voice recordings on PCs.

To download the video on your computer you will need to download a program called Youtube Downloader. All you do is put in the internet address of the video, select which folder to put it in and click "download". It's very easy!



Finally, here are some books that I highly recommend you purchase for your future use:
All the links are amazon links, you're welcome to look at the same books on the publishers websites.
Below is the Powerpoint presentation of the workshop. If you would like to have an electronic copy of it, please email me using the email address in the presentation and at the end of this post:
Tesol annual convention (Philadelphia, PA, 2012)

View more presentations from onlinenglish.

Thank you for reading! I hope these ideas will encourage you to create even more "not-out-of-the-books" approaches. As always, I would love to interact with you: Twitter: @ ElenaMutonono; instructor @ eto-onlinenglish.com (please, remove spaces).