Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday was our day in the computer lab. Not many people showed up for our conversation class due to the Peace Week activities.
Today we finished our review of the front vowels, syllables and word stress. Then we played a game to review the phonetic symbols.
Monday we will start with a mid-central vowel!
Have a great weekend and remember: Peace - think it, say it, do it!
Monday, November 22, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I hope all our Muslim colleagues had a wonderful holiday yesterday. Eid Mubarak!
Today was conversation day. We played a game called "Three truths and a lie." I started us off by putting my example on the board:
- I used to have rats for pets.
- I don't have a television.
- My mother is a famous artist.
- I have visited 12 countries.
Three of these are true and one is a lie. Can you guess which is the lie? The idea is to think of true things that seem very unusual. You want to deceive your classmates!
I gave you ten minutes to think up your sentences and write them down. Then we got into groups of three to four students to play the game.
I had fun learning very interesting things about each of you! We learned that Ricardo was a famous dancer when he was a child. We learned that Lena's mother has chickens, goats, ducks and rabbits. We found out that our new colleague Svitlana is a geography teacher. She can help me when I don't know where a country is. People educated in America are not very good at geography, I'm afraid.
Oh, and I also got you all to guess which of my statements was a lie. The lie was about my mother. She is an artist, but not famous. I showed you pictures of my pet rat, Stella. She is dead now, but I loved her a lot when she was alive.
Tomorrow we will continue with the lowest front vowel. See you!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As I said in class today, we have to take a brief break from vowels to talk about word stress. We talked about words that carry meaning and words that are only necessary for grammar. Words that carry the meaning are called content words. They include nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, negatives, wh- question words, numbers, etc.
Then we have the other words, the little words that are not as crucial to meaning. These we call structure words or function words. They are words like a, the, for, but, I, him, etc. These are the prepositions, articles, conjunctions, pronouns and so on.
To illustrate this, we looked at a telegram or text that you are sending to your friend in Detroit to ask that person to meet your aunt at the airport and interpret for her. We pretended that to send the telegram or text will cost us $5 per word. We really need to save money, so what can we take out?
After we edited the text message, we put the words we kept and the words we took out into two columns. These were our content words and structure words.
Next we talked about the rhythm and timing of English. Unlike French, Spanish, Romanian and Japanese, English is a stress-timed language. What on earth does that mean?
To answer that, we looked at the sentence "Wolves eat sheep." Each content word gets stress. each stressed word is like a beat in music. How many beats are there in that sentence? Yes, three. We clapped it out to get the rhythm.
Then I put in a function word: The wolves eat sheep. Now how many stressed words? Still three. You said it with me and we clapped. What happened? We still only clapped three times. Why? Because "the" does not get any stress. It is very short and soft.
What about when I added another "the?" The wolves eat the sheep. How many stressed beats? Still three. And it takes a native speaker the same amount of time to say this sentence as it does to say the first one. Wow, eh?
Then I changed the sentence to: "The wolves are eating the sheep." Now how long does it take me to say it? How many stressed syllables? It's the same. Three.
This is the key to the rhythm of English!
So now we looked at our new dialogue (still using the /ey/ sound) and practiced saying it with the correct sentence stress. Everyone did a very good job. You are starting to sound more natural every day. Knowing the music of English really helps others to understand you.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Today we covered the other front mid vowel: the /ey/ sound. We started by talking about where in the mouth it is formed. We looked at a diagram of the mouth and compared it to the vowels we have already learned. It is lower than /iy/, but also has an off-glide, as does /iy/. We put our hands on our jaws and felt the jaw drop lower for /ey/ than for /iy/.
After some choral and individual repetition, we started our exercises with listening discrimination. Then we did some minimal pair and minimal sentence exercises. Everyone did great with the sounds in wait and wet, later and letter. I am noticing a lot of improvement in those of you who were with me the last time we covered vowels.
We listened to a dialogue and then practiced it in pairs. Finally we performed the dialogue for the whole class.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This week really flew by. Tuesday was our bi-weekly computer lab day. Then on Wednesday, I asked you all if you would be willing to spend our class learning how to fold an origami crane. I asked this because I will need a few helpers when we do this activity for Peace Week. You all said yes, you were willing to donate one of our classes to this cause, so that's what we did. Ina, Angela and Lena are good at folding the crane, so I hope they will help me that week.
Because you didn't get your conversation day on Wednesday, we did it on Thursday. So that was a short week!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Today we continued working with the dialogue from Thursday, but we took a look at more than just the vowel sounds. We looked at the intonation of the yes/no questions and the wh- questions. I asked you to tell me what intonation is. We agreed that this is when the voice goes up and down like in music. To learn the music of English, we have to learn the rhythm (syllables, word stress, sentence stress), but also the tones of the language. These are somewhat like the high notes and low notes in music, aren't they?
We listened to an audio recording of the dialogue and I asked you to pay close attention to the intonation of the questions. You asked me to play it a second time, as well.
Next we practiced rising and falling intonation by isolating just the questions from the dialogue. Then it was time to practice the dialogue again. Pairs of you performed it for the class. Great job!
We continued practicing the /ɛ/ sound in place names. Then we practiced a scripted dialogue in pairs and a freer discussion in small groups.
Tomorrow is computer lab day. Don't forget that there are dialogues in Ellis Intro for practicing rising and falling intonation. See you then!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
- take turns; everyone gets a chance to talk
- speak English
- stay on topic