I believe that the first step to foster Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) and independency in our students is to use critical thinking and inquiry. I teach English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to students who very often come from countries where neither SRL nor inquiry are particularly encouraged. I have been experimenting with critical thinking and inquiry and SRL skills in the classroom during my Master’s degree and I haven’t stopped. It is quite fascinating and rewarding. I would like to share a lesson in pronunciation I have recently adopted with one of my advanced EAP classes.
Pronunciation? No, thanks, teacher!
I was quite frustrated with the lack of interest the students display on “pronunciation day” (as my students call it rolling their eyes!). I wanted to spark curiosity and wonder about pronunciation, but how? I decided to take some risks. The lesson I am recounting went quite well although I cannot say that everyone participated 100%!
The topic is rising and falling intonation in statements and questions. The idea is to involve the students as much as possible and let them find patterns and answers by asking questions and making inferences. By doing so, I am hoping to appeal to students’ SRL needs; i.e. a sense of “I am in charge of my own learning.”
Here is a brief description of the lesson and its implementation.
Self-Regulated Pronunciation Learners
First, I wrote on the board the following statements and questions:
- He went out last night.
- I am late for class.
- Are you tired?
- Would you like some coffee?
- Who is coming for dinner?
- How did you solve the problem?
I asked the students to read the sentences to each other.
Next, I read the sentences using rising or falling intonation accordingly; I asked the students to tell me what they heard: Is my voice going up? Down? Do you notice a difference? I marked the statements and the wh- questions on the board by drawing a falling pitch and the yes/no questions by drawing a rising one based on students’ understanding. For the most part, the students successfully identified the rising and falling intonation. I then asked them to find a pattern. They were able to draw a conclusion about statements having falling intonation and yes/no questions having rising intonation, but they were still confused about wh- questions.
Don’t give students the answers… just ask more questions!
At this point of the lesson, I wrote on the board Who is coming for dinner? twice. One question I marked with rising intonation and one with falling intonation. I then asked the question with a falling pitch and the students answered shouting each others’ names and giggling, “Mark is coming for dinner!” “Anna, too!” I made a puzzled face, leaned forward and asked again, Who is coming for dinner? This time with rising intonation. It took a couple of tries before some of the students started saying, “Ahhh! Teacher, teacher! I got it!!!”
Wrap it up.
I helped the students to put into words their understanding: Wh- questions have falling intonation when they elicit information, but a rising pitch when they ask for clarification. I then went on using the same strategy for tag questions: It’s cold, isn’t it? This time, it was easier to get the message across (rising pitch if I am actually waiting for the listener to answer and falling when just asking for agreement- I already know the answer).
The students did not roll their eyes on this particular pronunciation day and they actually had fun and participated with enthusiasm. The challenge of having to figure it out kept them engaged and motivated creating a sense of achievement when they discovered answers and patterns.
How do you ‘spark interest’ for topics and tasks your students find boring? How do you nurture their SRL skills? Do you think it is an educator’s responsibility to help students become self-regulated learners?