Week Seventeen: Phonology D

So you’ve done sounds & the chart, stress and connected speech. I guess that leaves..

Intonation, prepping for Unit 3, and ELF.

That seems like a lot?

It does, doesn’t it. Phonology is such a vast area that Oxford TEFL could dedicate another four weeks to it and you’d still feel like you were scratching the surface, although I do supect they could squeeze an extra week into the schedule to give teachers more time to assimilate everything. Even one week dedicated to the Part 3 phonology interview would make a difference, although it’s a testament to just how good OT are that in more than 6 months of study this is the first time I’ve felt the course lacking.

How was this week’s module structured?

The reading this week focused on intonation. We were directed first to Kelly, with Underhill strongly advised, and certainly comparing and combining the approaches of both is necessary to get the most basic of groundings in intonation. I’ve found Levis & Reed and John Wells especially insightful, but I must recognise that I’m coming to the course as someone who already has a strong grounding in Phonetics and Phonology.

The forum task and assignment this week was all focused on preparing the presentation for the Unit 3 Phonology interview. In the final assessment you need to present an activity cycle exploring a specific area of pronunciation which is relevant to your learners. You also complete a live transcription, and have a discussion with the examiner about pronunciation teaching. For the forum task we needed to propose a title and rationale for the presentation, which was then critiqued by our tutor. The assignment was to record a full presentation. More on that later.

Finally, the live lesson was… confused. In preparation we had to watch a sample Part 3 presentation and reflect on what makes a good one. The class itself was partly focus on this, but mainly focused on interview questions about intonation. The big takeaway for most people in the Zoom was that we didn’t know enough about intonation, and it was a shame that our tutor just skimmed through the answers rather than focusing more time on problem areas (especially as they had been closely monitoring the breakout rooms, but more of the sense to check we were on task than to assist).

What about ELF?

Ah yes… Apparently this used to be a module all on its own, but has now been relegated to self-study status. I read quite widely on it when I was preparing for Toolkit, so I’m quite happy I haven’t had to dedicate a whole module of the course to it. With everything else that’s been going on this week, I’ve barely had a chance to engage with any of it, but it would be good to revisit this in due course.

You mentioned the assignment. How did that go?

I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this journal how unpleasant I’ve found video tasks to be. You end up focusing more on the quality of the video than what you’re actually saying. On reflection I think the bigger problem is the way that you perceive the video task. The clear aim is to replicate as best as possible the situation from the assessment, where you have just five minutes to present your theory, rationale, activity, and evaluation. But beyond issues of timing, I think the difficulty I’ve faced with each video task is that paralinguistic features of communication are so central to successful communication that without them you feel somewhat lost.

When you speak to someone F2F (or on Zoom for that matter), a nod of the head or ‘hmm’ signals that the listener is following what you’re saying. Even if you’re doing a virtual conference workshop, you’ve got cues from the chat box that your audience are following you. But with a virtual assignment like this, the absent listener is marked. It’s incredibly easy to lose your train of thought or focus.

All this could be an excuse for submitting a bad assignment. The ideas, I believe, are good. A way of tacking connected speech training onto listening activities, based on Cauldwell. Seems pretty solid, but obviously I have no way of testing this out until I’m back in some form of classroom. The assignment was crap.

Seems like that was the lowlight!

Yep, for sure. Plus side: no more video assignments!

Were there any highlights?

Absolutely. OT arranged for Adrian Underhill to give a workshop on stress, unstress, and connected speech. It was a hugely practical workshop which fits in very nicely with the larger scheme of phonology for listening work which I’m starting to develop.

What’s next?

Two rest weeks now, which will give me time (I hope) to catch up with a few different projects. I hope to also be able to spend a few days dedicated to the Observation project, as I really hope to be able to have this one finished before the summer. This should give me time to get the IRP on students’ attitude to sustainability ready for the autumn term.