It’s Alive! Visual Representations of Speech

A response to the It’s Alive! Activity
created by Sarah Darling (@SDarling)

Number of views: 204

I’ve decided to try using to give my students instant feedback on some aspects of their speech. In a face-to-face classroom with 20 students or more, it is often difficult to give individualized feedback to students for each aspect of pronunciation that we focus on. In our current online environment, it’s proving impossible.

There are new challenges with online teaching – such as increased absenteeism, lower/nonexistent student engagement, and the difficulty of discerning speech characteristics over Zoom. These new difficulties have rendered effective, continuous, individualized feedback next to impossible.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that our learners are facing escalating challenges: it’s not only harder for me to accurately hear them, but my students also may not perceive what I am saying clearly. They may try to communicate online, but face technological or practical difficulties. In addition to technological barriers, many students are also under increased social and financial pressures. I am looking at ways of empowering my students to seek accurate feedback independently to help them improve their pronunciation, whether or not they are comfortable participating in an online classroom. It should also be convenient for my students to use because it is a free, web-based technology that is simple to use.

My learner challenge was originally to give students individualized feedback on syllable stress and thought groups. Actually, I wasn’t able to find a solution that was as effective as I had hoped for syllable stress, but I did find a (hopefully) effective one for thought groups: It shows instant feedback on where their thought groups are in their speech, as well as give feedback on their focus words and linking.

My plan is to include this technology in future renditions of this or other pronunciation courses when we work on thought groups, focus words, and pausing. It can be used for the presentation stage to give a visual to the audio samples, and also I plan to have my students make use of it in two situations: for the less-focused and applied stages of practice, and in preparing for presentations.

If you’d like to see an example: The photo attached to this response is an example recording. I recorded that second part of that last sentence, and you can see the three thought groups separated in the photo. This is the sentence I read, with the thought groups marked with slashes /

I plan to have my students make use of it in two situations / for the less-focused and applied stages of practice, / and in preparing for presentations.

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