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Listening to Stories While You Read Them: Supporting ELL’s

17 Mar

Supporting English Language Learners through their comprehension and engagement in a text is vital if they are to come to a love of reading in English.betty white

In preparing for a presentation on Supporting the ELL’s in our Ontario Classrooms, I was looking for current Canadian resources teachers can easily incorporate into their language arts curriculum for ESL students.  One such resource I wanted to share right away was StorylineOnline.   Storyline Online is a fabulous website that has popular English children’s picture books being read aloud by celebrities!  How interesting.  Not only can children experience a range of pronunciations by listening to books read aloud, they can increase their engagement in a text either in the class on the computer or at home.

I recommend choosing a text with a student and doing a “picture walk” with them through the book.  Discussing the pictures helps students to make predictions, and it activates the schema they already have for the topic making learning more meaningful.  You may want to ask them to share any experiences they have with the topic either orally or in writing.  Go over any challenging or new vocabulary, idioms, slang, and cultural references in the book.  Next, read it along with the student and let them have some time alone to read through it at their own pace if they’re able to do this.  You can then pull up this resource Storyline Online and have them listen to the book alongside reading it.  They may wish to do this a few times.  Finally, choose a consolidation activity you feel will best match their learning goals and needs.  This could be drawing pictures and describing their favourite part.  Identifying parts of the story such as the main characters, plot, setting, etc.  And one of my favourites is to have them change one of these parts and re-tell the story aloud.

Definitely check out this free online resource and let me know your thoughts! 🙂

One of my favourites?  Harry the Dirty Dog ready by Betty White

So, How Many English Phonemes Are There?

2 Apr

Open a book on English phonics based on the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and you will learn there are 40 phonemes (sounds) in the English language produced from either a solitary letter or combination of the 26 letters in the alphabet.  However, there is some debating this number of phonemes, 40, and the discussion can be quite “phonemenal.”

English phonology is the study of the sounds that make up the English language.   Very important stuff to ELL’s and ESL teachers concentrating on helping eager students improve their speaking and pronunciation.

Masha Bell mentioned there being 44 phonemes in an article written two years ago (March, 2011) by Masha Bell for The English Spelling Society.

And in a discussion prompted by the suggestion of strictly 40 phonemes, a participant wrote,

“One hears numbers ranging from 36 to 46 for the number of phonemes in English. In teaching or learning English, one can disregard the exact number and simply teach the potential phonemes that participate in the greatest number of minimal pairs or sets first, and then work down from there.”Mxmanic

I hope you’re not reading this post to once and for all find the definitive answer – how many phenomes are there, anyway?!  Because, I am not giving an answer.

Personally, I believe an answer of how many phonemes there are may vary depending on which Nation’s English in reference.   Australian English varies in pronunciation from Canadian, and then there’s Britain to consider.   I’m sure there’s a phoneme count difference based on culture.

Despite there not being a general consensus across the globe on phonemes, I agree with “Mxmanic” when he suggested forget about the exact number and teach the ELL’s what they need to know!

Great advice, anyway you pronounce it.

Pronouncing Contractions of Will: “It’ll be easier with this!”

22 Feb

After a recent private tutoring session with a student, I confirmed just how difficult pronouncing contractions of will (‘ll) and will not (won’t) can be for English language learners (ELLs), and more specifically perhaps for Korean learners of English.

I thought about giving a quick resource here for pronouncing the pronoun + will contractions.  This is by no way an official guide to pronunciation, but can prove helpful for those who are having some troubles as my student was.  If you’re looking for a quick go to pronunciation reference that includes an auditory sample, check out

Contractions of Will with Pronunciation Key:

I + will                   —> I’ll                        [ahyl]

She + will             —> She’ll                    [sheel; unstressed shil]

He + will               —> He’ll                     [heel/heal; unstressed eel, hil]

We + will              —> We’ll                     [weel; unstressed wil]

They + will          —> They’ll                 [theyl]

It + will                —> It’ll                        [ittle]

Jennifer + will   —>  Jennifer’ll         [-ul]

Contractions of Will Not with Pronunciation Key:

I + will not             —>   I won’t                     [wohnt, wuhnt]

She + will not       —>   She won’t

He + will not         —>   He won’t

We + will not        —>   We won’t

They + will not    —>   They won’t

It + will not           —>   I won’t

SungBae + will not   —> SungBae won’t

Using Contractions in Conversation:  I also like to remind all of my students that when speaking  in conversation, using contractions makes for more natural English.  For example, “I’ll see you later” rather than “I will see you later.”   Conversely, you shouldn’t use contractions when writing English unless you’re writing an informal communication to a close friend.

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