Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

How to Teach Timing

How to teach Timing

Click here for some thoughts on what timing is and why it’s important.

Here are some ways to teach it in the classroom

Poetry Poems often have rhythm. Rhythm is the essence of timing. Limericks are especially good. Check out this lesson plan on limericks and some limericks you can use in the classroom.

Songs Songs are just poems with drums and a melody to help you use the right timing. Here’s a nice slow song you might enjoy using with your students. And here’s a lesson plan to go with that song.

And an extension… After reading a poem or listening to a song, ask the students to write another stanza/verse. Don’t worry about grammar and vocabulary. Focus on timing.

Sentence Pairs Create a list of short sentences. Read them to the students with different timing and then ask them for the differences in meaning. See this lesson plan on timing for some specific suggestions.

Special Timing Choose a paragraph for your students to read. Every time they get to a specific word (e.g. “so” or “very”), make them say it with extra special long timing. Alternatively, have them switch back and forth between long and short timing while they read. (The first time they read the word “so”, they should use long timing. The next time, they should use short timing. And so on.)

Use Your Bodies Ask your students to open and close their hands quickly for fast timing and slowly for slow timing. After they get good at that, try some other movements. They could wave, do knee bends, or spin.

Race! Have your students line up and get ready to race across the room (or go outside and do it in a yard or field). When you read something quickly, they can run. When you read it slowly, they should walk. The first person to go back and forth across the room ten times is the winner. The winner gets to read for the next race.

 

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timing Lesson Plan

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: I believe in Timing

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Prep Time: Just enough time to understand timing and print the worksheets.

Materials: This worksheet, and this worksheet too. (These are pdfs. If you want to change them, or you can’t download them for some reason, just copy and paste the text at the bottom of the post.)

Primary Objective: Improve Timing Skills

Other Benefits: Have fun singing a nice, slow song. Understand the different ways to use the word “believe”.

Plan:

5 Minutes Listen to “I Believe in You” by Don Williams.

10 Minutes Explain the concept of timing. Go here for more information on how to do this.

10 Minutes Complete this worksheet.  Students should choose which timing you’re using. You can read them out loud to the students. Or you can just play this track.

B didn’t like the movie.

It was…interesting.

Slowly, and slowly.

I waaaaant to go hoooooome.

Yes, No.

I loooove you.

I-love-you-too.

20 Minutes Pass out this worksheet. Students should read the song lyrics and answer the comprehension questions.

10 Minutes Read the song together. Students should listen and repeat each line. Note that the words are timed differently in order to create a steady rhythm. For instance, “mom and dad” and “you” should be said in the same amount of time.

20 Minutes Listen to the song four times. The first two times, just listen. The third time, students should quietly say the words while the song plays. The final time, everyone should sing along.

Extension: Have the students write an extra verse to the song.

Materials

Worksheet—Timing

Listen to these sentences. Answer the questions below.

 

–1–

A: How was the movie?

B: It was interesting.

Did B like the movie? YES NO

–2–

A: I want to go home.

Does A say “home” quickly or slowly?

Does A say “want” quickly or slowly?

–3–

A: I love you.

B: I love you too.

Does A love B?        YES     NO

Does B love A?        YES     NO

Read these sentences to your partner. Your partner should choose if you use short or long timing for the underlined words.

  1. I love football.
  2. Could you please call me on Saturday?
  3. She’s never worn those boots before.
  4. Tokyo was a…great city.
  5. Are we there yet?

Worksheet—Don Williams “I Believe”

Read the lyrics for the song “I Believe” by Don Williams

I don’t believe in superstars,
organic food and foreign cars.
I don’t believe the price of gold;
the certainty of growing old,
that right is right and left is wrong,
that north and south can’t get along,
that east is east and west is west,
and being first is always best. 

But I believe in love.
I believe in babies.
I believe in mom and dad.
And I believe in you.

Well, I don’t believe that heaven waits,
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love:
He’s down below, He’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere.
He knows who does and doesn’t care.
And I’m an ordinary man.
Sometimes I wonder who I am.

But I believe in love.
I believe in music.
I believe in magic.
And I believe in you.

Well, I know with all my certainty,
what’s going on with you and me,
is a good thing.
It’s true, I believe in you. 

I don’t believe virginity
is as common as it used to be,
in working days and sleeping nights,
that black is black and white is white,
that Superman and Robin Hood
are still alive in Hollywood,
that gasoline’s in short supply,
the rising cost of getting by.

But I believe in love.
I believe in old folks.
I believe in children.
I believe in you.

I believe in love.
I believe in babies.
I believe in mom and dad.
And I believe in you.

Answer these questions about the song

“To believe” means to think it is true. In the song, Don Williams says “I don’t believe…” about many things. For example, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Can you find more examples of things Don Williams doesn’t think are true. 

“To believe in” is different from “to believe”. Let’s look at the difference. To believe in means to (1) trust it or (2) think it’s a good idea or (3) have hope for its future.

Find an example of (1), (2), and (3).

(1)

(2)

(3)

What is organic food?

What does “I don’t believe [in] the certainty of growing old” mean?

“Right is right and left is wrong” is about politicians. Do you know of any “right” politicians? How about a “left” politician?

What does “Heaven waits for only those who congregate mean”?

a)    Only people who believe in God go to heaven

b)   Only people that go to church go to heaven

c)    Only some people go to heaven

Does he think there are more or fewer virgins these days? a) more b) fewer

Do you know who Superman is? How about Robin Hood?

What does “folks” mean?

a)    People

b)   Dogs

c)    Cars

Answer Key

“To believe” means to think it is true. In the song, Don Williams says “I don’t believe…” about many things. For example, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Can you find more examples of things Don Williams doesn’t think are true. 

He doesn’t believe that we will certainly get old, that right is right, that left is wrong, that east is east and west is west and being first is always best, that heaven waits for only those who congregate, that virginity is as common as it used to be, that Superman and Robin Hood are still alive in Hollywood, or that gasoline’s in short supply.

“To believe in” is different from “to believe”. Let’s look at the difference. To believe in means to (1) trust it or (2) think it’s a good idea or (3) have hope for its future.

Find an example of (1), (2), and (3). Answers may be different, but for example.

(1) Mom and Dad

(2) Love

(3) Children

What is organic food? Food without chemicals added to it.

What does “I don’t believe [in] the certainty of growing old” mean? It means that we might die before we are old. (For example, maybe a bus will hit us.)

“Right is right and left is wrong” is about politicians. Do you know of any “right” politicians? How about a “left” politician? George Bush is “right”. Barack Obama is “left”.

What does “Heaven waits for only those who congregate mean”?

a)    Only people who believe in God go to heaven

b) Only people that go to church go to heaven

c)    Only some people go to heaven

Does he think there are more or fewer virgins these days? a) more b) fewer

Do you know who Superman is? How about Robin Hood? They are imaginary heroes.

What does “folks” mean?

a) People

b)   Dogs

c)    Cars

March 30, 2011 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to explain timing

How to Explain Timing

UPDATE: Here’s a lesson plan on timing that you’ll love.

UPDATE 2: Here are some ways to teach timing in the classroom.

Timing is how much time we give to a part of a speech in relation to the other parts of speech around it.

For example: I’m reeeeeealy tired.

And: I’m really tired.

In the first sentence “reeeeee” takes a lot longer to say than the other parts of the sentence. In the second, it takes about the same amount of time.

Timing can be long or short. In the above example, “reeeee” takes a long time. Here’s an example of a simple sentence with short, normal, and long timing.

I’m good.

I’m good.

I’m good.

Timing can also be used for pauses in a sentence. Compare:

That movie was interesting.


That movie was…interesting.


Finally, note how timing can affect the meaning of a sentence. I’m reeeeeealy tired is stronger. I’m good (said quickly) sounds like the speaker doesn’t want you to care about their goodness. That movie was…interesting means the movie wasn’t interesting.

Timing doesn’t change the meaning of a word or a sentence by itself—tone, intonation, and stress are also important—but timing is a key element of speech and something students should understand.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Teach Intonation

How to teach Intonation

Click here for some thoughts on what intonation is and why it’s important.

Here are five ways to teach it in the classroom

Play a game The concept of intonation can be hard, but students are quick to know what’s wrong when they’re listening for it. So, create a dialogue and then and read it for the class. Read some lines of the dialogue with the wrong intonation. Have the students note which ones are wrong. The person/team that correctly identifies all the wrong intonation wins.

Dialogue Tree Lots of times, you can use rising or falling intonation, but the meaning changes. (For example: “I bought a car” –vs– “I bought a car?”.) Have the students write a dialogue on some theme. Every third line, they should write two possible replies—one with rising and one with falling intonation—and then continue on writing both dialogues. Make the dialogues short or they’ll run out of paper quickly.

I only go up Give the students a discussion topic, but tell them one partner can only use rising intonation. (So, one partner will need to ask lots of one word questions.) They should discuss the question for two minutes and then switch.

Identify the weakness and make it go away Do your students have trouble with some specific intonation pattern? If so, force them to practice it in creative ways. For starters, they should write dialogues that use the pattern. Then give them discussion questions that use the pattern or discussion questions that might elicit the pattern for the answer.

Just the intonation, please After students write a dialogue ask them to label it in a way that will let them know the intonation patterns. (For examples, they can put and “up” or “down” arrow on each word. Then, they should cross out all the words and read the dialogue without words. They can just make neutral sounds (e.g. grunts) or hum the sentences.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Intonation

Intonation

Click here for some thoughts on how to teach intonation.

What’s intonation? Why is it important?

Intonation is when your voice goes up or down in a sentence. Said another way, intonation is your voice going from high to low or low to high. Your voice can start high and go down (falling intonation). It can start low and go up (rising intonation). It can go up, down, up. It can go down, up, down.

It’s important because intonation affects meaning in different ways. Lets look at some examples.

Falling intonation

I eat apples.

Rising intonation

You like apples?

Rising and then falling

Where did he go?

Note that if you change the intonation pattern, the meaning changes.

Rising intonation changes a statement to a question.

I eat apples?

Falling intonation makes a question sound unimportant to you. (You don’t care about the answer.)

You like apples?

Double rising intonation on a wh- question makes it sound like you misunderstood the first time you heard the answer.

Where did he go?

Here are some more resources for you to check out to learn more about intonation and all the ways it can affect meaning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(linguistics)

http://rachelsenglish.com/

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~krussll/138/sec3/inton.htm

While learning all the rules for how intonation can affect meaning can be useful, just listening a lot and unconsciously imitating patterns is even better.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unstressed

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Unstressed

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: It depends on how much you already know about word stress. You may have to learn a little more before starting.

Materials: This Worksheet

Primary Objective: Improve Word Stress Skills

Other Benefits: Become familiar with some money expressions

Plan:

5 Minutes Review what word stress is. Explain that today, instead of focusing the stressed words, you’re going to work on noticing the unstressed words.

15 Minutes Pass out this sheet. Read the full sentences from the answer sheet. Make sure to say the missing words with minimal stress. The students should try to write the missing words. Review the answers.

20 Minutes Put the students in groups and ask them to add to the list of commonly unstressed words. Ask them to try to make groups of similar words. Demonstrate by making a list of helper verbs (e.g. have, do, etc.) on the board.

Then, each student should come to the front of the class and write one commonly unstressed word on the board. Demonstrate the groups of words by circling the prepositions, underlining the helper verbs, and putting a square around the pronouns.

Write an example sentence on the board with one word from each group.

5 Minutes Have the students practice reading the sentences on the sheets in pairs.

15 Minutes Have the students write their own sentences. They should leave out or erase the unstressed words. Finally, they should read the sentences for their partner. The partner should try to fill in the missing words.

Extension Practice reading the sentences a final time, but use physical movements to reinforce the stressed/unstressed words. For instance, have everyone stand up. When there is a stressed word, they should jump. When there is an unstressed word, they should duck.

Notes: Just because a group of words is commonly unstressed, doesn’t mean they are always unstressed. Of course, lots of prepositions, pronouns, and helper verbs are stressed sometimes. This is all just a guideline.

Ideas for Homework: Students might watch a short clip of something and rewrite the transcript. They should underline the stressed words. (For example, they might watch a video like this, open the interactive transcript on the right and choose one paragraph for them to do).

Worksheet—Unstressed Words

These words are not usually stressed

Have Are Do Is
The A Lot Not
That It This In
For Of On At

Listen to your teacher read these sentences. Use the words above and other words to complete them.

 

1.  I __________ never saved __________  __________  __________  money.

2.  Don’t __________  think that __________  too expensive?

3.  How __________ __________ usually spend __________  money?

4.  This __________ __________  good price. You should think __________  getting __________.

5.  __________ __________ usually find __________  good deal?

6.  How much __________ __________ pay __________ __________ dress?

7.  Who handles __________  money __________ __________ family?

8.  He asked __________ __________  new loan, but they denied __________.

  1. A: __________ __________ want __________ go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford __________  buy __________  more clothes.

Answers

 

1.  I have never saved a lot of money.

2.  Don’t you think that is too expensive?

3.  How do you usually spend your money?

4.  This is a good price. You should think about getting it.

5.  Do you usually find a good deal?

6.  How much did you pay for that dress?

7.  Who handles the money in your family?

8.  He asked for a new loan, but they denied him.

  1. A: Do you want to go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford to buy any more clothes.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Word Bubbles

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Word Bubbles

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: None

Materials: These Worksheets

Primary Objective: Improve word stress skills

Other Benefits: Discuss sports

Plan:

Introduce the concept (5 minutes) On the board, write three sentences with circles above each word. Bigger circles mean more stress. Read them with the students.

(Note: It’s difficult to change the font in this blog, so in place of circles, you’ll see letters here. S=Small, M=Medium, B=Big. On the worksheets, you’ll see circles (bubbles) instead.)

S     B    M   S

I   love football.

S       B  M  S

She’s so stupid.

M  S       S      M      M

I don’t think that’s true.

Practice as a class (25 minutes) Pass out the first page of these worksheets. Students should listen to you read the sentences and make circles above the syllables depending on how much stress the syllable needs. More stress means a bigger circle.

Then, pass out another worksheet with suggested answers and practice reading the sentences together.

Practice in Pairs (20 minutes) Pass out the third worksheet to half the class with similar but slightly different sentences.

Pass out the fourth worksheet to the other half of the class.

Students should complete the worksheet in pairs, with one student reading and the other making circles above their words.

Then they should practice reading them in pairs.

Finally, practice reading them as a class.

On their own (10 Minutes) Now, ask students to write a couple sentences on their own and make their own circles above the words. They should practice reading these in pairs as well.

Extension: Instead of just writing a few sentences, students might write whole dialogues and note the word stress throughout.

Ideas for Homework: Tell the students to choose a song they enjoy, find the lyrics, and create stress markings for them.

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Ways to Practice Stress

Five ways to practice stress

Two weeks ago, we discussed word stress. Here are five ways to teach it.

First off Start by giving them a handout of, say, ten sentences. Write the first one on the board and underline the stressed words as you read it out loud.  Then, move towards having them do it on their own. Ask the class to discuss which words are stressed. Then, they can do it in groups. Finally, they can try it alone or even take a quiz.

Quizzes Nothing like a quiz to get students motivated. Ask students to listen to something and then underline the stressed words on a transcript.

Just the Stress Read something and only say the words you would stress when saying it. For diminished words, ask the students to fill in the blanks. (See this lesson plan.)

Music Listen to songs that have the same lines again and again. In a song, stressed words are often even more obvious. They’re louder, longer, and the pitch changes to boot. Here’s a song you might use. Here’s another.

Throw Your Hands in the Air Use physical gestures. Read sentences with the students. The more stressed a word is, the higher everyone’s hands go while reading.

Focus on Reductions Rather than focusing on the words that are stressed, point out all the unstressed words. Often, these words get said like one word. For example “Jawanna” = “Do you want to” and “I’m going to go” = “I’m gunna go”. Teach common ones so the students know which words usually aren’t stressed.

Beaker Method Beaker was a character on The Muppet Show (popular in the U.S. in the 1970s). He could only speak making “Meep!” sounds. He communicated entirely with word stress, timing, and intonation. Have your students try the same. Here’s a lesson plan to help.

 

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stressed Words

Stressed Words

Beaker can communicate with just stressed sounds, intonation, and timing. Can you?

Teachers, when you teach word stress, how do you explain it? What is a stressed word in a sentence? How can you tell which word it is? What’s more, why is it important? Here are answers to all of those questions. Here’s to hoping they’ll help you build and enhance lessons.

First, listen to this sentence.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

Now, listen again.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

Hopefully, you instantly see that the first time, the sentence is about eggs and the second is about the size of the bowls of cereal. We can tell because of the stressed words in the sentence (“eggs” in the first and “big” in the second).

How do we know which words are stressed? They’re louder and we stretch them out. For example “big” becomes “BIIIIIG”.

Why is word stress important? Well, it tells us which words are important in the sentence.

In the first sentence, the stress on “eggs” means the speaker really wants the listener to understand that word. Maybe the listener didn’t understand the first time they heard the sentence.

In the second sentence, the speaker wants to emphasize that they didn’t eat small bowls of cereal. Perhaps they were supposed to finish the cereal and are feeling defensive.

Finally, listen to a more regular reading of our sentence.

I ate three eggs and two big bowls of cereal.

The stressed words are: three, eggs, two, big, bowls, cereal.

Even if you only heard these six words, you would understand the sentence perfectly. (Assuming some context tells you that the sentence was in the past.) The words “I, ate, and, of” are less essential, so we don’t stress them.

When speaking naturally, we rarely stress each word in a sentence. In fact, some words are so diminished, you couldn’t possibly know what they are unless you know the language well enough to guess.

In lessons, if you can get the students used to listening for word stress and not worrying so much about catching every word, but rather knowing the kinds of words that are likely to be unstressed, listening will become that much easier.

Next week, you’ll see some suggestions for how to do just that.

September 24, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , | 1 Comment

Limericks

Limericks

Using Limericks to help students improve intonation, timing, and word stress.

A limerick is a humorous, five line poem where the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme. The third and fourth lines rhyme too (i.e. AABBA rhyming). Often, the lines that rhyme also have the same number of syllables.

After the bear caught the fish 7

A genie gave him a wish 7

The bear didn’t know what to say 8

So, he sent the genie away 8

“I already have the fish!” 7

Note: This site is helpful learning how to count syllables.

Limericks (and other poems) can be great for helping students improve speaking skills. They give English a little bit more structure and repetition makes it easier to feel intonation, timing, and word stress patterns.

When students write enough of their own poems, they’ll begin to instinctively write lines with the same number of syllables. This is when you know they’re really getting English patterns down.

Moreover, if students are paying attention to the syllable counts, they’ll begin to see how we can play with English to create new effects. Exceptions to rules drive students crazy, but not native speakers. We use and create exceptions to make English work for us. To wit: subjects don’t have to come at the beginning and words like “everyone” can be pronounced with three or four syllables.

The only problem is that limericks often have so much new vocabulary and strange grammar that teaching them can be tricky. So, with apologies to actual poets, we wrote four limericks that you might use in the classroom. Can you add anymore? Post in the comments!

There once was a sad man with a beer 9

From the side of his face fell a tear 9

Yes he was so sad, 5

His heart felt so bad, 5

When he saw his face in the mirror! 9

The rain fell upon the once dry ground 9

And sent everyone running around 9

They didn’t want to be wet 7

So they were filled with regret 7

For warm summer sunshine they moaned 9

Tim rode his blue bike to school 7

Brad took his time like a fool 7

Judy wandered alone 6

Bobby talked on the phone 6

Tim was all alone at school 7

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment