Weekly Teaching Tip

When teaching grammar and vocabulary it is important to remember that people, in general, have an easier time recalling information that was learned in a musical pattern. So, when teaching pieces of language consider focusing on the rhythm and melody with your students instead of just the individual sounds. This will also improve your students’ listening skills and their pronunciation.

For example, when I teach beginners “I don’t know”, I first teach them the sing songy way that teens will often say this to their parents (“ahhhhAHahhh”). If I am brushing my teeth and my boyfriend asks me where his socks are and I have no idea, I will use this sing songy intonation with no words and he will understand that I don’t know. There are many instances in English where we can use familiar intonation instead of words to communicate an idea. This is what I mean by the ‘melody’ of English. This will not only help your students remember the structure, but also allow them to imitate the cadence of natural speech and in so doing become easier to understand to a native speaker.

I also mention the rhythm of English. I usually see this as 2 things: the amount of beats it takes to say a phrase and the stressed and unstressed sounds in a word or phrase. I have often taught my students iambic pentameter (baBAbaBAbaBA) to help connect them to the rhythm, but I also focus on the amount of beats it takes to say a full phrase. For instance, “Birds eat worms.” “The birds are eating the worms.” and “The birds have been eating the worms.” all take 3 beats to say because the 3 stressed words are always “birds, eat,  worms”. Using clapping or another physical gesture when practicing these kinds of sentences will not only help your students remember the phrase, but also increase their ability to hear the parts that aren’t stressed in the sentence. Hearing the unstressed parts makes native speakers easier to understand and helps your students imitate the natural rhythm of native speech.

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