For today’s activity I would like to acknowledge the work of Gianfranco Conti on devising ways of providing drilling and repetition in various ways through games, dictations and translation exercises and, most notably, Richard Cauldwell’s groundbreaking work on phonology and on trying to make the incomprehensible comprehensible. Richard Cauldwell has done outstanding work on sound decoding and he is particularly well known in ELT for his visually appealing analogy of jungle speech to refer to fast and messy speech. Richard Cauldwell envisions three realms in pronunciation: greenhouse, garden and jungle.
The Greenhouse from is the citation of a word, where we give an isolated pronunciation preceded and followed by a pause. Words are like isolated plants in pots in a greenhouse, separated from other plants.
The Garden is the domain of rules of connected speech: still predictable and rule-governed. Words here come into gentle contact with each other, and are grouped together into phrases and sentences.
The Jungle, however, is the domain of normal speech: words are crushed together into unfamiliar shapes, or may be crushed entirely out of existence. The Jungle is messy and unruly.
Here’s Richard Cauldwell’s site: a must if you are interested in becoming a better English listening teacher: https://www.speechinaction.org/
Helping learners to understand by dissecting -to put it in Cauldwell’s words- “the sound substance”, as if we were looking at an insect under a microscope is an essential part of the job of an English language teacher: training; not just testing. Adrian Underhill refers to this neglected area as the Cinderella of language teaching.
Now going back to Conti’s innovative ideas on drilling, I particularly liked his idea of “sentence stealer card game”. Basically the teacher writes examples of grammar patterns in sentences on the board for the students to drill. They are given four cards each and they choose any four sentences and copy them on the cards. The students walk around and try to guess what’s written on other students’ cards in order to steal them if they are righ. Find the idea here.
I thought this idea would work wonders for drilling pronunciation. Here are the greenhouse, garden and jungle versions of “I should have known better. I shouldn’t have bought it. Too expensive”.
So we could write or display ten to fifteen examples of “should have/could have/would have/shouldn’t have/etc…” on the board. We could drill and elicit pronunciation of some of the items in plenary mode. Then ask the students to choose any four and write them on their cards and have a go with the three versions by drilling them in pairs with the stealing card game devised by Conti. Circulate, eavesdrop and help the students out with their “messy speech” versions.