Intonation Success!

As I have mentioned previously, my second ESL practicum was on Wednesday and I had the pleasure of teaching pronunciation, but more specifically intonation! Last time was a full class of twelve students but this time I only had nine. The smaller the class size the better, I always say! My students range from their early twenties to sixties. I’ve never had to teach a class with such a wide range in age before, so it was pretty cool!  I had written on the board this question: Is it possible to change the meaning of what you say without changing the words? Then, I started off the lesson by showing a clip of Whose Line is it Anyway? (Ahh! Seriously, one of my favourite shows ever!) to get students thinking about the use of intonation.

Much to my delight, they were able to get most of the jokes (despite Colin Farrell’s half screaming). I then had students try to say “hello” and “good-bye” in different situations, which produced some funny results. When I had first decided on the topic of intonation, I felt pretty confident that students already had this skill, because surely they use it in their first language. But surprisingly, I found that it was a new concept for almost all of them. After walking them through the rules of rising and falling pitch, I had them get into groups of 3 to create a simple dialogue. When they had finished, I gave each group an emotion and they had to act out their dialogue emoting either anger, impatience or excitement. It was hilarious to see them grappling and getting the hang of intonation in English. I found it so natural and comfortable joking with the students that I didn’t once feel nervous or frazzled (phew!) – it must be from all those years working with International Student Ministry at university. There is a lot of work put into creating a meaningful and student centred lesson plan, as I had learned at university, and I was glad that the TESL program takes their lessons just as seriously. It was satisfying to finish the lesson and to see students grinning from ear to ear. Now to prepare for next week’s lesson on Listening and Speaking! Hmm… thoughts and suggestions?




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