Songs for Learning English Grammar

I’m keen on the idea of songs helping students internalise, through repetition, the rhythm, sentence stress and grammatical structures or English. I don’t have much opportunity to use songs in most of my classes (mostly business, academic and exam classes at the moment) but am interested in the idea of encouraging students to use songs independently to practice shadowing, as one way of reviewing grammar structures. One advantage of using songs this way, with the lyrics available, is that the words of the songs don’t need to be quite as clear as they would if they were to be used to present structures and vocabulary. Read more

Poems for Business Classes

One common question asked throughout Adrian Underhill’s course was how could we adapt the activities for our more serious courses, the ones whose students tend to have very particular and definite aims in mind, such as Business English courses?

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Poetry Festival

Today we finished Adrian Underhill’s two-week course, ‘Pronunciation, Performance and Poetry‘. Everyone had a poem they’d chosen and had been working on over the last week, crafting the stress, pauses and intonation. One student, Lauretta, made a poster, found a performance background image and compered the event. Everyone performed. It was a beautiful way to finish the course. Read more

De-mystifying the Phonemic Chart

When I started teaching the chart seemed practically incomprehensible to me. Even as I grew to understand it (and Adrian Underhill’s layout is the only one that seems to make sense) it felt like a great cognitive load to place on students (‘Think English spelling is hard? Now learn all these symbols!’). The DELTA, if anything, made it seem less accessible (unvoiced bilabial plosive, anyone?).

Adrian Underhill, though, strips all that away through use of gesture and mime, by focusing on the chart as a ‘geographical map’ of the mouth which helps locate the physical movements we make in production, using simple prepositions of place to describe movement. Read more


The Inner Voice

This phrase has come up a few times recently in different contexts and it’s one I’m interested in: a language teacher, you’d be forgiven for presuming, would tend to concentrate on the ‘outer’ voice. Read more

This is just to say… William Carlos Williams


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

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Performance: Humanizing the Classroom

On this course with Adrian Underhill we are preparing a poetry festival for the last class. Each day we start each session with a poem read by Adrian or another student.

I confess when I first read this on the course description I was a little wary. I love poetry but was unsure about its place in the classroom. It appeared to me perhaps as a bit of a throwback to those 70s EFL texts I was so obsessed with when I started out as an idealistic 19 year old – Mario Rinvolucri, Pilgrim’s, NLP in the classroom etc. All these years on I guess I’ve become more cynical and jaded.

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Knowing and knowing

Two kinds of knowing:

‘Knowing’ as in a cognitive, intellectual knowledge.


‘Knowing’ as in ‘knowing in your bones’, ‘lived experience’ perhaps, or realization.

Adrian Underhill offers a neurological term: ‘proprioception’ to contrast with cognitive knowing in pronunciation. Proprioception is a perception and awareness of the position and movement of the body. This kind of knowing we can only learn from physical practice. And it is this kind of knowing which will release a learner from the habits of the L1. Read more

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. Read more

Teaching Pron: Where to start?

Start with the chart. Lesson One. From the beginning. That is Adrian Underhill’s answer, for very good reasons. Read more