STRESSING OUT WITH THE BOMba’s

Last Spring, as I was sitting listening despondently to students mangling stress, I decided to give up on words, and create a sound pattern that was so visually simple, they’d be compelled to listen.

If you can’t hear a sound, it is very difficult to reproduce it. Our students hear stressed syllables, which would be okay, except in English over 60% of our syllables are unstressed, and we often forget to teach them how to listen for those unstressed syllables.

English spelling compounds the problem.  Spelling is inherently a visual activity that only visual learners excel at.  In pronunciation we are not teaching spelling, we are teaching students how to hear sounds and produce them.

So, here’s the way I now teach stress.  It takes about an hour.

The Lesson

First, I explain that every word, no matter how many syllables, has only one BOM (I say this BOOM)

A BOM is said LONG, HIGH and LOUD

Listen:   BOM, BOM, BOM –  you try

I draw the following empty grid on the board.

WORDS
1 Syllable 2 Syllables 3 Syllables 4 Syllables 5 Syllables
         

 

Then we talk about the number of BOMs in a one syllable word, how many BOMS, in a 2 syllable Word? 3, 4, 5, 10,   or 25, etc.  Which syllable has the BOM in Supercalafragalisticexial i DOsious?

I explain that all other syllables are pronounced ba

A ba is said fast, low and softly

Listen: ba, ba, ba.   You try. Maybe even whisper

Then I ask them how many BOMs are in a one syllable word.

I turn to my chart and under 1 syllable fill in BOM

 BOM ba Chart

1 Syllable 2 Syllables 3 Syllables 4 Syllables 5 Syllables
BOM        

 

 Everyone should listen: BOM, BOM, BOM.  Then, everyone can say BOM. Then give  examples: Red. Good.

I write the example on the chart.

 Word Chart

1 Syllable 2 Syllables 3 Syllables 4 Syllables 5 Syllables
BOM ( red, new, blue) BOMba

( PAper , BOTTle, REcord, FORty)

BOMbaba

(BEAUtiful, CAnada.

YESterday

   
baBOM ( beCAUSE, re CORD, fourTEEN baBOMba

cor RECtion,

reLIgion, baNAna

  babaBOM

( PORtuguese,

emploYEE

 

We move on to 2 syllable words. I ask, “Do you hear the BOM in a 2 syllable word, how many BOMs, where are the bas? Give me an example of BOMba, PAper.  Good.  How do you say it? Listen. BOMba, BOMba, BOMba.   Now try it.  PAper, PAper, PAper.”

We move to the second syllable stress in a 2 syllable word, I say, “Now give me an example of baBOM.  reCORD.  Good. How do you say it? Listen. baBOM, baBOM, baBOM. Now try it. reCORD, reCORD, reCORD.

You can continue with 3, 4 and 5 syllable words with the same explanation and practice as laid out in the chart.  For levels 3 and 4, I stop at 3 syllables, but give all 5 syllables for Levels 5-9.

Sample word chart

WORDS
1 Syllable 2 Syllables 3 Syllables 4 Syllables 5 Syllables
BOM

red

new

blue

BOMba

PAper , BOTTle, REcord, FORty)

BOMbaba

BEAUtiful, CAnada.

YESterday

BOMbababa

ACTivated

BOMbabababa

HABerdashery

ba

a

the

of

 

baBOM beCAUSE

reCORD fourTEEN

baBOMba

corRECtion

reLIgion baNAna

baBOMbaba

aNALasys

baBOMbababa

reFRIDGerator

  babaBOM

emploYEE

babaBOMba

aroMAtic

babaBOMba

unconTROLlable

    bababaBOM

entrepreNEUR

bababaBOMba

misunderSTANDing

    babababaBOM

 

 Tips for teaching good listening skills

Listening is key to this presentation.  Here are some tips to encourage good listening skills:

  • Insist that students not copy during the teaching part.
  • Insist that students listen to you repeat the sound, word or rhythm 3 times before attempting to reproduce sound.
  • All sound reproduction and correction is choral.
  • Assure students that if they can’t make the sound, the remedy is to listen until they hear it and that might take the whole term.
  • Give handouts as a reward for successfully duplicating the required sounds.
  • Be sure to remind students that BOMba is not a real word, it has no meaning. Students need to be reminded of this.

If you’d like to learn more, please join the webinar on Tutela that will be held this Wednesday, February 28th:

 TESL Ontario: Hearing Rhythm, the Key to Speaking English Fluently

 

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