Teaching Pron: How to start?

Pron is a physical activity, it makes sense to start by locating it physically. Adrian Underhill does this by taking the class on a ‘jungle walk’ – visualising the tongue as a leaf tumbling through a jungle in which the lips, teeth and palate represent trees etc.

It takes confidence, I think, to induce learners to exercise their tongues in such a way on first meeting. I have tried something similar (though less poetic) in the past, with mixed results.

I wonder whether it might help to start with a visual image which underscores the physicality of speech. Something like Sivu’s ‘Better Man Than He’. Perhaps seeing the lingual gymnastics inherent in English might encourage learners to try such an exercise. A screenshot of the MRI could then be used for students to identify the articulators before exercising their own. It could be done as follows:

  1. Play video of ‘Better Man Than He’.
  2. Show screenshot of head – which parts of the head move to make sounds? (Sts identify lips, jaw, tongue, throat).
  3. Take a tour of the mouth (visualise the jungle, perhaps).
  4. Watch the first part of the video again – make this sound ‘lo’, ‘lo’, ‘lo’. Can you do it in time with the song?
  5. Show the chart and locate the sounds /l/ + /əʊ/ (just to demonstrate sound-symbol relationship).
  6. Start with the chart (pure vowels first).
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