Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Teaching and networking - why should we?

12:58 AM

As teachers, we know our job is mostly a solo gig and I think most of us chose it for that reason. It's nice to be in charge of what you do and how you do it. That being said, for all my teaching career, there have been all sorts of events, workshops, seminars, conferences, team building events; all meant to foster comradeship and present ample opportunities to network. Ah, that word, network, networking, networked. Why should we?

A quick search on Google will get you several million hits on the use of networking. Not all of them are about teaching, but the principle of bettering oneself though connecting with others is a valid point for all professions. Maybe not if you're an international, Bond-like spy. But for the rest of us, it's safe to say networking is not a bad idea.

So why should we? Here's my list of reasons:

1. Support
You will rarely feel as much part of a professional category or tribe as you do during an event, conference, workshop. There is something intrinsically good about getting like-minded people together so they can meet each other, be impressed with each other, like each other, and ultimately provide support to each other. That is if they are not hell bent on world domination. In that case, bad, very bad.
That feeling of belonging might get you through a bad day, might make you reach out for help, might make you help someone, might  mean a new friend and in a job where you’ll be flying solo most times, I sure do appreciate moments when I can cheer on fellow teachers and get cheered on.

2. Growth
This connects to support. When I started teaching, most of my growth came from teachers I worked with that graciously passed on their knowledge and patiently held my hand. But as your career grows, so do your needs for personal growth and if are a senior teacher, the chances you’ll be on the receiving end are slimmer. 
That doesn’t mean you don’t grow. You will learn about new technology, about new topics and trends, you’ll get a rush of energy from the new people. But you might want more.
Great. Go to a conference, event, workshop. Connect to people you don’t see everyday and you are bound to learn a trick or two. I credit my Delta classmates and the conferences I’ve gone to in the past two years with helping me grow as a teacher and as a person.

3. Change
Unless you live in a big city (or even if you do), you probably have a chartered course that you run though in a week. I’m a work, farmers market, dinner in a couple of places, shopping, walk the dog kind of person. My favourite thing about networking is that it’s usually somewhere I’ve never been. I get to change my course for a few days, see a new city, be around different people, try my hand at the local language (should I say try my tongue?) and enjoy the temporary change.

4. Fun
Most events have dinners, snacks, drinks preplanned. It’s in the schedule. It’s the epitome of networking. So have fun with it. Drink and eat, both until you can still entertain an adult, mumble-free conversation while managing to stay upright. Don't hog people, but rather mingle. If don't know anyone, chances are there are at least 5 other people with the same problem so now, go out there and find them. Most importantly, don't forget your business cards at home. 


So at the end of it all, should we network? Should we go that extra mile?
The answer is absolutely yes.



The Sound Eater


Friday, July 28, 2017

Why do we hear with our eyes?

2:41 AM


Do we really separate our senses? Do we really hear with our ears solely? I don't think that is true and this is why.

"Speech is multimodal and is produced with the mouth, the vocal tract, the hands and the entire body and perceived not only with our ears but also with our eyes"
Marion Dohen
Speech through the Ear, the Eye, the Mouth and the Hand
(Multimodal Signals: Cognitive and Algorithmic Issues, Springer, pp 24-39)

The auditory-visual (AV) speech integration has been steadily growing in importance and has most certainly benefited from recent advances in neurosciences and multisensory research. AV speech integration has started to raise questions regarding the computational rules we need in order to put together  information though one sense or across all senses. It has also made scientist wonder about the shape in which speech information is encoded in the brain (auditory vs. articulatory), or how AV speech interacts with the linguistic system as a whole.
After correcting the umpteenth student pronouncing words wrong because he was reading the word, Ihad a sort of a revelation. After spending a few months reading about AV speech integration and becoming fascinated with it I feel confident enough to say: we hear with our eyes, we listen with our eyes, we make our mouth produce sounds based on what our eyes see. Or at least on the quota our eyes share with our ears in AV speech integration. 

Think about it. Basically every single error correction I have provided regarding pronunciation in the last couple of years was, with very few exceptions, an error resulting from focusing on the visual cues. Learners were basing their expectations and performances of sound on the visual representation of the word. Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to use your eyes and prior knowledge to anticipate pronunciation, this is actually something you should be doing according to how our brains already function. But what did happen was not integration but rather superseding. What did happen was that the eyes and the expectations coupled with L1 interference and filtered through my learners mother tongue trained sound producing apparatus into English.

Any correction given to learners while they are still visually stimulated usually resulted in short-lived results, and sometimes not even those. 
Why? Because neurolinguistic research has shown that the brain learns to process different linguistic stimuli at different levels, depending on what your L1 is, how your senses developed as child, is you had any brain injury or not, etc. So what that means for learners is that something has to give sometimes. Their ears give out to their eyes and they listen with their eyes. This is why learners are so comfortable with listening with the transcript. Our job is to break that pattern and help them develop an (hopefully somewhat) equal AV speech integration that can help their brains decode and encode correctly the English language.

So what can we do about it? I've started experimenting with taking away the visual stimulation or introducing a positive visual stimulation. 
I alternate having learners say the words with their eyes closed, counting sounds and syllables, deciding stress, thinking about and focusing on sound production inside their mouths.

We record words with their IPA transcription, I teach them how to read a dictionary entry, we analyze graphic differences between letter and sound transcriptions, we look at how letters combine to create predictable patterns of sounds.
All small steps that could go a very long way.

What suggestions do you have about improving your students AV speech integration capacity?

The Sound Eater

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgame

12:00 AM


Do you ever feel you could so much more with pronunciation in class but you're missing the right tools? Ever thought of a game to teach some basic aspects regarding pronunciation? You haven't?

Well, I have. Here is a simple boardgame to help your students become more aware of pronunciation. Of course Mia couldn't have missed this and so you'll probably want to download this set of flashcards first.

Th rules are simple. You need some coins. Heads is 1 space, tails is 2 spaces. If the students can answer the question, yay! If he or she can't, they can pass it to someone else. If that person can't answer either, the original player misses the next turn. 

The aim of the game is to get the students thinking about several tricky aspects of pronunciation such as stress patterns and syllable count, silent consonants, cognates and how their pronunciation might differ, sound production mechanics. I did design the board thinking of my own Italian students, but tried to make it as internationally relevant as possible. Undeniably, it will work better with Latin-based languages.

You can download the Mia Sound Pronunciation Boardgames HERE.

If you have any suggestions or special requests feel free to drop me a tweet, insta message (@thesoundeater) or a message/comment on my Facebook page The Sound Eater (while you're there, don't forget to hit that like button)
Hope you enjoy it!

Let me know how it goes!


The Sound Eater


Monday, May 29, 2017

How to rock you next pronunciation lesson Part 2

1:10 AM


Here I am with round two of Miss Mia Sound printables. Simple, easy to print and use worksheets that use simple visuals to explore sound production, educate your learners and raise their awareness of the importance of sound when learning a new language.

This time we'll be focusing on the two types of u sounds and two types of o sounds.
You get three flashcards, one presentation handout and one worksheet.
The presentation handout can be used as a visual (pinned to a whiteboard with a magnetic pin) and all  of the work can be finished with a game of Sounds Bingo (click on the link too visit the page where you can download it).






You can get them here.
For any suggestions, leave a comment!

Hope you enjoy it

The Sound Eater

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Why teaching feels like Instagram yoga sometimes

1:29 AM

©Pinterest

Scrolling through my Instagram feed and watching all of my fav yoga idols effortlessly pull off insane standing poses, midair splits and perfect crows, my (not as flat or tight) stomach twisted. I'll be practicing yoga well into my 50s before I ever get into an aero-twist. 

But teaching isn't really all that different from Instagram yoga nowadays. 

Everywhere I go and everyone I meet has a new kickass method/approach/idea/activity/prop that they use in class that makes my classes feel like a yoga newbie trying up-dog for the first time all over again. We, teachers, talk about what we do and how we do it with ease because, hey, teaching is a personal thing.

So what happens when we make it look darn easy? Easy as standing on your arms and doing a split looks on Instagram or going into a class and rocking it Dogme style, with class selfies to show.
But when you (and me) try it you fall flat on your face 4 times, your face turns purple midway, and probably by the end of it you'd have pulled a muscle. And I'm not talking about yoga.
This is where the fun part comes in. While for yoga we accept that it's going to take practice, consistency and a whole lot of ouch, when it comes to teaching, I feel we tend to give up way too soon. We want to rock it on our first go and most often than not, we can't. For a whole lot of reasons that probably have nothing to do with our teaching capacity as of today, but rather with our teaching flexibility that needs to be gently stretched and transformed into something awesome tomorrow. 

But what do we do with peer-pressure? Watching pics on Instagram with star yogis effortlessly posing in painfully difficult poses is both inspiring and deeply intimidating. We know all about peer-pressure as teachers and we use it day in day out to talk about our students. 
I say we stop for a second and use that word to talk about ourselves. I've been in situations where peer-pressure has made me do things that felt deeply unnatural to me. It was as if I was trying Tuladandasana (standing stick pose - great for balance) wearing high-heels and a cocktail dress. It just won't work. What I need to do was either change into something more comfortable    (i.e. take the time to find out about it, try it out, adjust myself to it, put on a little knowledge, get to where I want one step at a time) or find a pose that suited the way I was dressed (i.e. see what I can do here and now, choose the best that I can for myself and my students, work on bettering myself starting from where I am, invent something new to fit me and possibly others like me). A pose like Utkatasana (awkward pose) would do the trick in high heels and a cocktail dress if you were wondering. 

It would do the trick with teaching as well. We should start being a bit more awkward, less intimidated. And we might just find a way to post a great Instagram standing yoga pic after all.



The Sound Eater

Friday, May 19, 2017

How to rock your next pronunciation lesson Part 1

8:06 AM

Hey guys!

Here is my first bundle for teaching pronunciation with Miss Mia Sound. We will be dealing with the /ɪ/ /iː/ /e/ /æ/  and it contains one presentation handout, one worksheet, three flashcards.




 


You can download everything here!


The Sound Eater

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three ways to hand over pronunciation to your learners - Innovate ELT 2017 Conference

6:43 AM