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Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESOL 2023 Report by Brandon Kurtz

16 Jun 2023 7:42 AM | ORTESOL Communications (Administrator)

TESOL 2023 Report

by Brandon Kurtz

Academic Manager, Pacific International Academy, Portland, Oregon

I was pleased to be able to attend the 2023 TESOL Convention in Portland recently thanks to the location and ORTESOL’s James Nattinger Travel Grant. Knowing that teachers are always looking for practical tips and tricks, I would like to share some of what I learned regarding pronunciation approaches. In Laura Holland’s well-attended “Embrace Teaching Pronunciation: Practical Daily Tips that Work” workshop, Ms. Holland tackled the importance of teaching pronunciation and some of the challenges instructors face in doing so. Pronunciation may be pushed aside by an overcrowded curriculum, and a lot of teachers are not confident in their ability to instruct students on pronunciation. Regarding the latter point, many ESL instructors are nonnative speakers of English, and a lot of educational resources are designed with native speakers in mind. Ms. Holland cautioned the audience against taking a colonial view of pronunciation and acknowledged that there are a variety of regionally and culturally appropriate World Englishes in use around the globe. That being said, she pointed out that any language user needs to be comprehensible to be effective, so explicitly practicing pronunciation is a valuable use of classroom time. One technique for practicing pronunciation and intonation with multisyllabic words and sentences is called “backchaining.” This approach involves leading students in enunciating words or sentences by syllable or word, respectively, starting with the end of the utterance. For example, for the word “multiplication,” the teacher would have students repeat after her, with special attention on which syllables are stressed and unstressed:






One of the main benefits of this practice is that students stop focusing on the meaning of the word/sentence and are able to focus on the sounds. Materials for this technique can be found in the textbook, in authentic materials, or whatever students need help with at the moment. Backchaining can be used effectively to draw students’ attention to important pronunciation features in sentences, such as rising intonation at the end of a tag question: “They’re both doctors, aren’t they?” Working backward, and making sure to maintain the correct intonation throughout, the teacher can help students focus on making sure that they are communicating accurately.

Similarly, backchaining can be used to practice yes/no questions, listing, final -ed sounds, and more. I used the approach for the first time with some students recently, and I found it to be a fun and effective way to practice intonation. Thank you, Ms. Holland, for sharing your expertise!


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