Monday, April 29, 2013

Stretching content words with a rubber band

In the previous post, I showed spectrograms of words in connected speech to demonstrate that stressed syllables, content words and especially focus words are longer and stronger than function words. In this post, I demonstrate the vowel length with a very simple tool: a rubber band.

As I demonstrate to students in the first video below, I exaggerate the lengthening of vowels while stretching the rubber band. The objectives include the following.

  • To absorb the concept that content words are stressed and function words are compressed (theory)
  • To learn to perceive vowel length with auditory, visual, and kinesthetic inputs (receptive skill)
  • To match the physical stretching of the rubber band with the vocal lengthening of vowels (productive skill)

In the second video, I demonstrate at a more normal story pace.

In the third video, students practice the technique in pairs.

Stretching a rubber band while pronouncing the sounds of longer duration is much more than a trick. According to Olle Kjellin, MD, PhD, research scientist, language teacher and Swedish Speech Doctor, this action "co-activates the non-linguistic hemisphere and thereby increases the brain's interhemispheric communication, which in turn increases the robustness of the newly formed skill."

Stretching content words with a rubber band (modeling with exaggeration)
Phrase by Phrase Ch4 John Thornton's Love for Buck
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 Phrase by Phrase Ch5 SIC1 Lengthening content words with a rubber band
Lengthening content words with a rubber band (model)
Phrase by Phrase Ch5 Cleaning Up the Backyard 
Sounds in Context
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Students stretch content words with a rubber bandPhrase by Phrase Ch5 Sounds in Context
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Additional videos can be found on Pronunciation Doctor Channel on Youtube.



Thanks to Judy B. Gilbert, an an internationally respected authority on teaching English pronunciation, for promulgating the rubber band technique.


2 comments:

  1. Marsha thank you SO much for sharing this with the 34th ELT Blog Carnival http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2013/09/elt-blog-carnival-pronunciation.html

    I had often heard of using rubber bands in pronunciation classes, but I never understood it until your videos!

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  2. Hi Marsha! Rubber bands are great props for pronunciation classes. This will help my students pronounce the content words and emphasize them clearly. I'm definitely going to use rubber bands in my next class.

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