Ania Paluch





My teaching approach

The Academy of  ARTiculation©  - The AA©

ARTiculation(AA©) is a company with one aim in mind: getting people to speak confidently & consciously.

The initiation of this foundation came from our founder’s observation of the unholistic approach that most language institutions were adopting when teaching a foreign language. Many institutions view students (SS) as revenue where a 'battery hen' type approach is utilised. Institutions may benefit from high turnover, but the end product- the egg or the language is of poor quality and the chickens or SS (or even teachers for that matter) have not been treated as they should have been-with respect, equality & dignity.

So it brings me absolute pleasure to introduce some of the key concepts that have helped  form  AA© from just a small seedling of an idea to a fully functioning foundation which is spreading its roots and branches further and deeper day by day.

At AA© we have based our teaching ethos on the communicative language teaching(CLT) approach.

This method uses the 'broad approach' where teachers act as 'guides' and SS are encouraged to  to take risks while communicating, and to use constructs other than rote memorized patterns.

Lessons are based on David Nunan’s (1991) five features of CLT. They comprise of various activities which involve:

- speaking   

- listening

- reading

- writing

All writing activities take place at home. Students are provided with short written tasks which serve to cement that which was covered in lessons. Students are expected to bring these tasks in for grading.

However at AA© we further recognise that the process of speaking itself comprises of many facets.

After much research we have subdivided SPEAKING into 4 further areas:

  1. Respiratory System
  2. Tongue
  3. Brain/Ears(hearing/listening)
  4. Eyes/Visual (Further research required)

The format of classes is based around the Oxbridge model except. However, an additional step called 'Activation' is utilised.

Activation

8mins

Vocabulary

10-15mins

Structure

10-15mins

Topic

15-20mins

Wrap-up

5mins

 

No translation takes place at AA©. Students are taught in-house or at their place of work, school etc.

 

                                          Activation

'The body needs the mind and the mind needs the body. When we align the body we also align the mind' Vanda Scaravelli (1991)

The respiratory system:

In order to speak it is necessary to breathe!

From personal experience whilst presenting orals and from my observations of students during lessons it is clear that breathing is very shallow & fast (thoracic breathing). This naturally occurs when a person is nervous, stressed or anxious. Thoracic breathing negatively affects:

- Audibility

- pronunciation

- vocal tone

- clear thought process

At AA© students are taught Diaphragmatic breathing (DB©). This breathing utilises the diaphragm, a very large muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity.

SS breathe diagrammatically for 3 minutes upon entering the class. This serves to relax the whole nervous system & the body. All teachers are trained in DB as it has been proven that listeners adapt their breathing to the speakers breathing 'in dialogue situation, listeners and speakers tend to synchronize their breathing at the time of turn-taking (Guaïtella, 1993; McFarland, 2001).

Moreover, perception studies found that when breathing noise (e.g. when speakers inhale) is added to speech synthesis, the listeners' recall performance increases (Whalen et al., 1995).

How we breathe also has a very big impact on the rhythm of the speech which varies from language to language.

Specific details on how to instruct on DB© provided in the supplementary pack.

Teachers are also provided with a DVD from 'Break-Through Breathing'.



The tongue:

At AA© we believe that just as you should not attempt to or are advised against running an hour long marathon without an efficient warm up, so too shouldn't you attempt to speak intensely for an hour without first warming up one of the most powerful and overworked muscles in the body-the tongue.

The tongue is the most important articulator of speech. This muscle is extremely strong, as it must move food around in our mouths as we chew which requires a lot of force and tension. However for speech the opposite of swallowing is required-you want to relax the tongue up and forward  or the sound to resonate effectively, the less tongue root tension the better.

                                                                                      The quick movements of the tongue, necessary for rapid delivery of tongue twisters for example, require very delicate control of the action of the tongue.

Even though the tongue is the most important articulator of speech one cannot ignore the role of the vocal chords and jaw muscles.

 As one would not attempt to play a guitar for an hour without first tuning all the guitar strings! The warm up therefore also serves to stretch, loosen and prepare the vocal chords, pharynx muscles, lips and jaw muscles for extended speech.


 The warm up is referred to as the ARTiculation Tongue Tune-Up or AATT© and lasts between 4-5mins. Specific guidance and individual step are in the supplementary pack provided.

Example exercise for reader’s interest:

·      Step 7. SS repeat each keyword 3 times – stressing and exaggerating each syllable. The full word is then repeated ('whole word mimicry').

Most SS problems are caused by the interferrence of mother tongue.This may be grammatic, syntactic or phonetic interference.

 The motivation behind step 7 serves not only to warm the tongue up but also serves to minimise physical/phonetic interference by introducing new & unfamiliar tongue movements. Students come from different areas that have different sound systems with the second language learning and so natutrally encounter  difficulties in their learning process because since childhood they have been speaking their mother tongue and so their speech organs have been set to produce the speech sounds of their own language.  Katamba (1989)

All muscles in the body have something called 'muscle memory'. Muscles 'remember' past movements. Unfortunately, if the students tongue has never moved in the  specific way required for correct pronunciation, the tongue will automatically try to apply past 'memory' or movement to the second language.

Excercise 7 serves to do is to build on and expand the  muscle memory of the tongue. With practice, each time a student attempts to speak their second language, the tongue will be able to manage these movements more easily.

Although it is well known that muscle strength reduces with age,it is also claimed that, regardless of age, muscle has the capacity to improve. (Galley & Forster,1996).

The new vocabulary is referred to as 'key' words(KW), as these new words serve to 'unlock' the objective of each lesson.

Students are sent a maximum of 8  new keywords prior to their lesson with an attached audio file.

This is based on the Oxbridge model, whereby students take a certain level of responsibility for their progress.

It is during step 7 that KW´s are made visible to aid visual learners. KW´s are normally seen from no more than 2m away and are therefore printed in text no smaller than 36 point. Text is Comic Sans(Most easily read by most students specifically those with dyslexia) and in black and white.

http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_display_board_fonts.shtml

I would like to say that this warm up is similar to the Callan method in terms of repetition but unlike the Callan method, AATT© is not heavily reliant on any mental process. In this phase of the class the focus is purely on tuning in physically to unfamiliar modes of pronunciation.

Brain:

The mental state i.e. mood of the student is an important factor in the learning process and greatly affects the speed and quality of assimilation. Many of our SS arrive to class stressed, tired, distracted or anxious.

It is essential for the teacher to ground and relax the student as this will help them focus and therefore naturally produce better results in class and out of class!

The National Brain Tumour Society has identified that there are specific parts of the brain dedicated to language synthesis:

ñ


Wernicke's Area is part of the temporal lobe that surrounds the auditory cortex and is thought to be essential for understanding and formulating speech. Interestingly, this area is in close proximity to the ears!

 

 At AA© we recognise that when students enter the lesson, they are not automatically responding from the Wernickes area. They may just have been in a 'problem solving' meeting or just had a mathematics test, which all utilise different parts of the brain which do not specifically support language learning.

The most effective priming frequency for stimulating this area has found to be 1-20Hz.High-frequency repetitive 20 Hz over the Wernicke's area has been reported to facilitate picture naming (Mottaghy et al. 1999), whereas high-frequency over Broca's area facilitated phonologic processing. (Nixon et al. 2004)

All AA© teachers are supplied with a 'mini-rig' in order to play AA© audio files throughout lessons. AA© are expected to have their own portable device (such as an iPod) from which to play the audio file.


 

 

It is very clear-speaking is not simply a mental process, but relies heavily on our state of physicality. In fact, both physical and mental processes work in complete conjunction with one another when speaking-neither process can or should be ignored or thought of as more or less important as the other.

 AA© teaching slots have a duration of 1hr. From our observations longer classes are not much more productive as students are not able to concentrate efficiently for much longer. The same goes for shorter lessons as it does take time for students to 'switch' their thinking and speaking into the second language 'mode'.

At AA© we believe that quite simply-you get what you pay for. All teachers hold a university degree and are all carefully selected for their genuine passion for teaching linguistics.

 We may not be the cheapest language academy out there but we can guarantee that we treat all students with sincerity, respect and dignity. We believe that speaking is a very personal & creative process that should be honoured, explored and most importantly-enjoyed!


http://www.speechmag.com/content/files/Microsoft_Word__Muscle_specificity.pdf

http://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/journey/facial.html

 

 

 



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