Friday, December 30, 2011

ESL Trail Blog 2011: Year in Review

With the end of the 2011 upon us, I thought I would provide a snapshot of highlights and popular posts of 2011, along with other interesting facts.

Following are the top ten countries from where the most page views of ESL Trail have originated:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. China
4. United Kingdom
5. Philippines
6. Germany
7. Ukraine
8. Australia
9. Russia
10. France

Following are the most popular posts written in 2011:

Highlights of 2011 include the following:

I am optimistic that 2012 will prove to be an equally-exciting year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teaching the Homeless to Read

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the homeless...I'm not sure why. I see a homeless person on the street, and emotions of empathy surface...emotions of suffering (not just physical), emotions of lost opportunity, and emotions of unlocked potential. We all have a lot to offer, but some, due to misfortune, do not have the opportunity to convey that least for now.

I often see the homeless at the Salt Lake City public library (where it's warm during the winter months and cool during the summer months) standing next to bookshelves with open books in hands. I wonder if these individuals really know how to read...or if they are simply staring at the symbols on the pages trying to make meaning (or pretending to make meaning).

As this thought has passed through my mind on a number of occasions, I have felt a desire to teach the homeless how to read. In my search to determine how to make that goal a reality, I was pointed to the Food and Care Coalition in Provo, Utah. I was invited to work with a sixty-year-old gentleman who is not homeless, but who is unable to read and, therefore, unable to find employment. I have blogged about my experiences tutoring him before (see "On the Journey to Read" and "Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers"). The last time I went to tutor him at the Food and Care Coalition, I was given a tour of the building by Brent Crane, Executive Director of the Food and Care Coalition. I was very impressed with the facilities, the vision, and the services provided. Brent is the "brain child" behind the design of the building and vision of the organization, and his colleagues and volunteers have played (and continue to play) a huge role in implementing the programs offered.

Services offered include the following:
Barber shop
Dental clinic
Educational programs
Three meals a day
Access to computers
In the future: a residence hall

I am looking forward to continuing volunteer work with this organization to help others unlock, or rediscover, their potential. We all have much to offer...

(See also my post on Teaching Literacy to Homeless Children.)

Child Literacy: The Need to Read to Children Daily

I recently read an article about the great need to read to young children. Though the article is specific to my neck of the woods (Utah County), it is clear that the issues raised in the article are applicable to other contexts, and the plea to act can be generalized to most, if not all, locations within the U.S. and the world. 

The article is entitled, "Child Literacy: A Looming Crisis in Utah County." I recommend reading the article in full, but here is a brief excerpt:

"READING TO YOUR CHILD has never been more critical than it is now. It plays a key role, especially before third grade, in keeping that child in school, out of jail, and off welfare.

"It is so important, in fact, that if your next-door neighbor is a single mother who works two jobs and doesn't have time to read with her children, you should go over and read to them for her. It will pay huge dividends in the future--not just for those children but for society as a whole.
"That is the finding of a growing body of research that can no longer be ignored. Statistically, at least, you can make accurate predictions of a person's whole life by third grade based on reading ability."

Read more here.

I encourage us all to think about ways we can get involved in literacy efforts in our own communities, and then to act on these ideas, even if it's as simple an act as reading to children in your neighborhoods...or better yet, reading to your own children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.

For other ways to get involved in literacy efforts, see these blog posts:
Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers
Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2010

A Documentary on Humanitarian Efforts in India

If you followed my blog earlier this year about my efforts to promote English and literacy among the leprosy-affected in India, you may be interested in this documentary by Doug Jardine that was aired this past Sunday on Utah Business Matters. It will also be aired this next Sunday. Following is the link to the documentary on YouTube:

The documentary illustrates the three-fold mission of Rising Star Outreach: microfinance, education, and a mobile medical clinic. Much of the video on the documentary was shot while I was in India earlier this year. Other volunteers featured on this documentary include Shaun Parry (founder of Promethean Spark), Stacy Tookey, and David Archuleta, all of whom were also among the volunteer corps on my expedition earlier this year.

See my other blog posts about India from January/February, 2011, here:
Post-India: Thoughts on Service
Ensuring Success with English in India
Back in India
A Day in My Life in India
More On a Day in My Life in India
Abolishing the Stigma of Leprosy by Teaching Children to Read in English

See my other blog posts about India from May, 2008, here:
English Language Instruction and Teaching in India
Why the English Language? Why Literacy? Why India?

Monday, November 28, 2011

"ELL Emerging Literacy": Free Webinar by Dr. Robin Schwarz

For those of you who missed the free webinar conducted by Dr. Robin Lovrien Schwarz on teaching ELL Emerging Literacy, the link to watch the recorded webinar and to download the power point slides is available here.

In this webinar, you will learn what research tells us:
  • About adults who have never been to school.
  • How acquiring literacy changes the brain.
  • What this all means in thinking about how to teach these learners to read.

The webinar was very well-received with an impressive number of attendees. Following is some feedback from one of the attendees:

Wow!  This was by far the BEST training I have ever seen on the topic of how to teach ESOL low literacy students.  Robin gave very useful information that is practical and easy to implement.  The tips were eye-opening and so clear.  I kept saying, “Well, of course!”  “That is so obvious!”

I have taught this level of student, and throughout the presentation I remembered individual students who fit descriptions she gave.  The beauty of the presentation was that it gave ideas on how to work with the students.

I really appreciate that Reading Horizons has done this.  It is extremely helpful to the field that is so bereft of solid professional development on this topic.

(For a list of other free webinars on literacy, click here.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Journey to Read

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I have the privilege of working with a gentleman in his sixties who has never learned how to read. As you can imagine, his illiteracy has affected his ability to find and keep a job, which has become quite a discouraging problem for him. There aren't a lot of jobs out there that don't require at least a minimal level of reading ability. And when you can't read AT ALL, which is this gentleman's case, your ability to compete for jobs that are available is definitely compromised.

Yesterday I worked with this gentleman for two hours on just five letters of the alphabet. I admit that I thought we would get through more content than we did. But that is where he's at right now, and he's comfortable with that. He was soaking it in. We practiced the names and sounds of the letters, practiced the concept of the slide, and began to sound out three-letter words. We would exchange high-fives to celebrate his successes, and we discussed vocabulary meaning and real-life application with each word as we went along. He is definitely motivated to learn, and he's already talking about what he will be able to do in another couple months after getting some more reading skills down. But I recognize that consistency and self-motivation will be a key to his success. He's committed himself to review and practice on his own at home (he offered to do that before I even had a chance to make that suggestion), and he will continue to do some independent work on the Reading Horizons software program to supplement our one-on-one instruction time.

As I think about the beginning of his journey to learn how to read--something he has never been able to do up to this point in his life--I think about some things I need to keep in mind as I continue to work with him that hopefully could be relevant to you in your particular educational and life-learning contexts. I'm sure you have your own list of ideas, as well, so feel free to share them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Do I Teach Literacy? (Part 2)

I just returned home from six back-to-back trips, most trips affording me just a couple days in between each trip to literally unpack and pack at the same time. As always, I am privileged to meet a variety of people in my travels. My work has provided me opportunities to interact with individuals who are passionate about improving the quality of life for those they serve. I am grateful to have opportunities to learn from so many dedicated individuals.

My most recent trip was to Southern California where I conducted a training for ESL teachers at a community college. I was impressed with their attentiveness and their teachable nature. At one point during the training, I saw an ESL student peering through the window into the classroom. She kept looking at me and at the board where I was writing. After this took place for several minutes, I finally opened the door and asked the student if there was something I could help her with. She replied in her broken English, "No, I just want to learn what you're teaching." She had seen what I was writing on the board and was intrigued by what she was learning.

The skill I was teaching was the soft sounds of c and g. The basic principles are as follows:

• When c is followed by the vowels e (ce) or i (ci) , the sound of c changes from /k/ to /s/ (e.g., cent; cite). C will have the /s/ sound about 99 percent of the time in this construction.
• When g is followed by the vowels e (ge) or i (gi), the sound of g changes from /g/ to /j/ (e.g., gem; gin). This new sound occurs about 85 percent of the time in this construction.
• When a consonant plus c or g comes between the first vowel and the silent e, the two consonants
will cause the first vowel to be short (e.g., dance, prince, plunge).
• English words never end in the letter j. When the sound /j/ is heard at the end of a word, it will always
be spelled -ge. Words with a long vowel sound will end with just the -ge spelling (e.g., cage). Words with a
short vowel sound will end with a -dge spelling (e.g., judge; bridge).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Free Webinar on ELL Emerging Literacy

I wanted to announce a wonderful free resource for teachers of non-native English speakers with no prior literacy. Dr. Robin Schwarz will be presenting a webinar on best approaches for helping these students to acquire literacy. She will be conducting the webinar on Tuesday, November 15, 2011, from 1:00-2:00 PM MST.

Here is the abstract of the webinar:

One of the major challenges of ESL teachers is working with learners who have no prior literacy. How can you best teach these learners to read? Teaching non-literate or very low literate non-English speakers to read is NOT like teaching students who are literate in another language. Robin Lovrien Schwarz, PhD, will help you learn what research has discovered about the challenges these learners face and what the best approaches are for helping them begin to acquire literacy. Dr. Lovrien Schwarz will also direct you to sources that will support you in teaching reading to this population.

View the recorded webinar here.

For a list of other free webinars on literacy, click here.

(Read a follow-up post on the webinar here.)

Literacy Training in the Bronx...and in Your Own Backyard

This past weekend I conducted literacy training at the Bronx Library Center in New York City. Among those in attendance were literacy volunteers, library staff, and administrators. The purpose of the training was to provide an overview of the Reading Horizons method and to provide ideas for literacy application activities. I was impressed with the attendees' passion and interest to improve literacy for individuals who cannot read or write, as well as non-native English speakers who struggle to communicate in English. (See my post on a follow-up training in the Bronx here.)

I showed the attendees the following video, which was followed by a discussion about the reality of life for individuals who cannot read or write.

Our discussion caused me ponder more deeply about other individuals who struggle with literacy in my own community. Although I have had several opportunities to travel abroad to help fill English and literacy needs, I was reminded that you don't have to go very far to find individuals who struggle. This thought reminds me of my responsibility to contribute to promoting literacy in my own community.

I thought I'd share again a video series I mentioned in a previous post called "In Your Own Backyard." Who might be struggling with literacy in your backyard, and what can you do about it? (For ideas, visit my post here.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

ESL Listening Strategies for English Language Learners

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a country I had never visited before: Brazil. I have never studied Portuguese, the native language spoken there. I have studied Spanish, and I admit that I thought my Spanish would help. But in a country where most people speak neither English nor Spanish, I found my communication to be ineffective. This experience provided me an opportunity to recall first-hand what it’s like to be a non-native speaker of a target language.

My experience in Brazil struggling to communicate and to be understood in a language unfamiliar to me provided me an opportunity to think about language learning strategies and how I was implementing them (or how I was failing to implement them) to achieve the goal of communication and comprehension. Specifically, it provided me an opportunity to "think about my thinking" (metacognition) while listening to a language that was foreign to me and to consider the strategies I was using to try to understand what I heard. In this blog post, I thought I would provide a list of listening strategies that could be used in the ESL classroom to bring listening strategies to non-native English speakers' consciousness. I also thought I would include a simple guideline for how to develop a listening strategy lesson that I used in a teacher training when I worked at BYU's English Language Center as the Listening/Speaking skill coordinator. This guideline can be accessed on the page link to the right, or by clicking here.

Listening Strategies Reference List
Adapted in part from Brown (1994), Chamot (1995), Goh (1997), Mendelsohn (2000), Murphy (1987), O’Malley, Chamot, and Kupper (1989), O’Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kupper, and Russo (1995), White (2007), and Willing (1987).

Monday, September 19, 2011

TESOL 2012 Presentation: Engaging Activities to Teach Sight Words for Improved Reading Fluency

I just found out my proposal "Engaging Activities to Teach Sight Words for Improved Reading Fluency" was accepted at the TESOL 2012 conference in Philadelphia next March. The acceptance rate this year was 24%, so I'm honored to have this opportunity. I submitted this presentation as a poster session format this year to provide some variety in my presentation repertoire. I will be sharing ideas for teaching sight words, specifically how to build on phonic clues, promote rapid recognition, and help students commit these sight words to long-term memory. I have addressed this topic before in a blog post entitled "Ideas for Teaching Sight Words for ELLs/ESL Students." (See a photo of my poster here.)

Here is a summary of my presentation:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers

This week, once again, commemorates Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. A year ago, I wrote a blog post sharing a few ideas about how to get involved in literacy efforts to commemorate this event.  As a recap, some of my ideas included the following:
  • Check out volunteer tutoring opportunities in your local community. 
  • Learn how to teach someone to read. A helpful, free resource is found at
  • Join a book club or an online book-sharing group, such as goodreads, which allows you to see what your friends have read, keep track of what you've read and what you'd like to read, and get ideas for additional books to read.
  • Read a little more for pleasure. We often take the fact that we can read for granted.
  • Write in a diary or journal.
  • Consider how your ability to read and write affects your life. Consider the privilege it is to be literate. I've documented some of my thoughts in the previous blog posts "Lessons Learned from Life" and "The Value of Literacy."
(For additional ideas about ways to promote literacy, visit my blog post "Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2010".)

Reviewing these lists of ways to get involved in literacy efforts again, one year after I wrote this blog post, I am prompted to recall my personal efforts to promote literacy. Something I recently engaged in (as recently as today, in fact) includes teaching someone how to read.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering 9/11 with Online Resources

Ten years ago marks the national (and international) tragedy of 9/11. It is one of those events that conjures up memories of where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. I was among my ESL students--their eyes glued to the television in the Self-Access Study Center at the English Language Center at BYU where I was teaching that morning. They watched the graphic scenes and listened to the non-stop chatter of reporters stammering in English as they reported on the escalating death toll as subsequent attacks ensued. My students were listening to vernacular that was way beyond their level of comprehension, but yet they watched with great attentiveness, concern, and empathy. And they feared for their safety. They understood the seriousness of the event; it was evident on their faces. They didn't understand that New York City was thousands of miles away from Provo, Utah, where they were currently residing. Neither did their families, who were trying to contact them from abroad to make sure they were okay, but to no avail as the increased traffic on phone lines and the internet prevented contact. It was definitely a memorable time of life...for them and for me.

September 11th is one of those moments in history that will always be remembered and will always be discussed. With it being the ten-year anniversary of this tragedy, there are several websites that provide readers with opportunities to reflect on 9/11. Some resources are specific to classroom application, while other resources are dedicated to providing a historical memoir. I've listed a few sites below that can be used to generate teaching moments. Or they can be used as a personal reminder of both the heroes who survived, and the heroes who did not.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Free Online Videos for the ESL and ELL Classrooms

Do you like to use online videos in your ESL classroom? Here are a few websites that showcase videos that can supplement your ESL instruction (some of which I've blogged about before): showcases "ideas worth spreading." The goal of TED is to "foster the spread of great ideas" on a variety of topics, including education. TED talks have teaching application in the classroom. (See Teaching with TED and click on a topic or talk on the right sidebar.) In addition, administrators have used applicable TED videos for in-service training meetings with teachers and staff to inspire, educate, and instill vision. (See my previous blog post on using TED videos in the classroom here.) shares short video clips of experts in a variety of fields sharing "ideas" by responding to a question posed to them. Some of the video clips have transcripts provided, as well. You can peruse by topics, or you can conduct a keyword search for a topic or person of interest. Also, viewers can post responses and reactions to the experts' views. (See my previous blog post on here.) 

"6 Milliards d'Autres," or "6 Billion Others," documents 5,000 interviews filmed in 75 different countries in which individuals were asked the same questions about life. As the website states, this project is "a perspective on humanity" that reveals "what separates us and what unites us." (Click on the "6bO Testimonies" button at the bottom left of the screen, and then click "Portraits" from the drop-down menu. You can then click on any picture tile in the mosaic to view that individual's portrait. You can also search by topic, location, etc.) (See my previous blog post on ideas for using this website in the classroom here.)

One in 8 Million shares the stories of individuals in New York City through still shots and voice narration. As the website describes, this series showcases "ordinary people telling extraordinary stories -- of passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions."

Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that provides video-based education via the internet. Salman Khan has personally narrated over 2,400 lessons on topics ranging from algebra and computer science to biology and economics. His mission: to provide education that is free for all. (See my previous blog post on Khan Academy here.)

Documentary Heaven provides access to over 1,600 documentaries found on the Internet. Topics include education, history, and nature, to name a few.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ESL Teaching Tip: Syllable Division in Multi-Syllable Words

In a previous blog post, I shared the five phonetic skills--strategies for determining if a vowel is long or short in a single-syllable word. What about multi-syllabic words? Where do you split the syllable in multi-syllabic words? Here are two simple decoding skills that you can use to teach students where to break syllables. Then apply the five phonetic skills to determine if the vowel is long or short in each syllable. Using the two decoding skills and five phonetic skills in combination can help students with proper pronunciation of multi-syllabic words.

Decoding Skill 1: Look for how many consonants immediately follow a vowel. If there is one consonant following the vowel, that consonant will go on to the next syllable. (Note that blends, digraphs, etc. will stay together and move together within syllables.)

     mo-tel     pro-duce

Decoding Skill 2: If there are two consonants immediately following the vowel, divide between the two consonants. The first consonant will stay in the first syllable, and the second consonant will move on to the next syllable.

     cam-pus     sub-ject

Then apply the five phonetic skills to determine if a vowel is long or short on the syllable level: 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Using Video to Provide Free Education

Two of my passions in life are education and culture. When I say culture, I refer to a wide range of things: backgrounds, values, and interests; stories of good-fortune and misfortune; collective similarities that relate us as a human family; and unique patterns and distinct differences (evident on both an individual level and a group level) which cause the kind of introspection that promotes a metamorphosis in our behaviors, interests, etc. When I say education, I refer to connecting the new with the familiar, all forms of literacy, formal education (lessons learned in the classroom), and informal education (lessons learned from life experiences).

When the two are posited together--education and culture--a myriad of conditions can be conjured up in the mind: education for the poor and for the homeless, international education, higher education, drop-out rates, survival skills, etc.

As I reflect on what is being done in the world to promote education for all, I am encouraged to know that there are individuals out there striving to level the playing field by bringing education to all.
Recently I was introduced to Khan Academy, a non-profit that provides video-based education via the internet. Salman Khan has personally narrated over 2,400 lessons on topics ranging from algebra and computer science to biology and economics. His mission: to provide education that is free for all.

Watch Khan's TED talk on using video to "reinvent education" below:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Free Online Readability Tool to Acquire Lexile® Scores

I have been approached lately about the topic of Lexile® scores. I wrote a previous blog post about readability tools available on the web, including StoryToolz (a tool that averages several different Grade Level Equivalency [GLE] measures and provides an average GLE), and VocabProfiler (a tool that generates the percentage of high frequency vocabulary used in a text). I wanted to add one more web-based resource available to determine a Lexile® score. A Lexile® score takes into account the frequency of the vocabulary used within the text, as well as sentence length. This is an alternative to a Grade Level Equivalency measure. 

The Lexile® Analyzer is a tool developed by MetaMetrics that you can use to determine a Lexile® score for text that you write or select to ensure that the text is at an appropriate reading level for your students. After submitting your text on the Lexile® Analyzer, the tool will generate a Lexile® measure. To do this, you first have to register on the Lexile® website with your email address and password. Then you prepare your text by saving your text as a plain text file (using a ".txt" extension). Then you upload the file, and the analyzer tool will generate the Lexile® score.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

ESL Teaching Tip: Common Prefixes

A prefix is a letter or group of letters that you add to the beginning of a word. It gives a different meaning to the word. If you see a word that you don’t know, but you do know the prefix and the base word, you can guess the meaning.

Just 20 prefixes account for 97 percent of all words with prefixes, and nine of those 20 account for 75
percent. Students may come across other prefixes while reading, but knowing at least these most common prefixes will be helpful.

Following are the 20 most common prefixes.

Rank                Prefix                          % of All Prefixed Words
1                      un- (opposite)                         26
2                      re- (again)                              14
3                      in-, im-, il-, ir- (not)               11
4                      dis- (not)                                 7
5                      en-, em- (put into)                   4
6                      non- (not)                                4
7                      in-, im- (in)                              3
8                      over- (excessive)                      3
9                      mis- (bad or incorrect)             3
10                    sub- (below)                             3
11                    pre- (before)                            3
12                    inter- (between)                       3
13                    fore- (earlier)                          3
14                    de- (reverse)                            2
15                    trans- (across)                          2
16                    super- (above)                          1
17                    semi- (half)                              1
18                    anti- (opposite)                        1
19                    mid- (middle)                           1
20                    under- (too little)                     1
All Others                                                        4

ESL Teaching Tip: Common Suffixes

The previous blog post discussed spelling with the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est. There are other common suffixes that would be helpful for students to learn. Learning common suffixes helps students determine the meanings of unknown words. Students can use their knowledge of word parts with Latin and Greek roots, specifically prefixes and suffixes, to pull an unknown word apart and determine its meaning. Following is a list of commonly used suffixes.

Suffix   Example Words
-able    capable, notable, desirable
-al        central, coastal, general, hospital
-ant      pleasant, important, distant, constant
-ance   continuance, allowance, abundance, balance
-ee       employee, trustee
-en       harden, sweeten, golden, driven
-ence   excellence, evidence, difference, reference
-ent      innocent, confident, ardent, eloquent
-ful       cheerful, careful, wonderful, shameful
-hood   manhood, statehood, womanhood
-ible     possible
-ice      justice, service, notice, practice
-id        timid, solid, valid, frigid
-ish      finish, vanish, punish, abolish, perish
-ine      engine, famine, genuine
-it         limit, deposit
-ite       definite, infinite, opposite
-ive      relative, possessive, active, effective
-ize      realize, fertilize, specialize, apologize
-less     shameless, careless, restless, blameless
-ment   assignment, department, apartment, agreement
-ness    happiness, sickness, brightness, darkness
-ward   awkward, downward, upward
-cian    Grecian, politician, musician
-ciate   appreciate, emaciate
-cient   proficient, efficient, sufficient
-cial     racial, social, facial, crucial
-tial      partial, initial, essential
-sial     controversial
-cious   gracious, delicious, vicious
-tious   facetious, pretentious, ostentatious
-xious   anxious, obnoxious, noxious

For additional ESL teaching tips:
Click here to read about the pronunciation of -ed.
Click here to read about pronouncing plurals.
Click here to read about voiced and voiceless sounds.
Click here to read about rising and falling intonation in questions.
Click here to read about syllable stress and the schwa.
Click here to read about adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est.
Click here to read about teaching common prefixes. 
Click here to read about decoding multi-syllabic words. 
Click here to read about spelling words that end in S, F, and Z.
Click here to read about other sounds for c and g.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ESL Spelling Tip: Adding Suffixes

Sometimes, an ending can be added to the end of a word to make a new word. We call this ending a suffix. A suffix contains one or more letters. Sometimes, adding a suffix will change the word’s part of speech. 

Following are some skills that could be taught to non-native English speaking students to help them properly spell words with suffixes.

1)  In a short vowel word ending in a single consonant, that same consonant must be doubled before adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, or -est.

           r   u  n         r u n n e r                        h  o  p           h o p p i n g

Note: If a word ends in an x, simply add the suffix since x has two sounds: /ks/.

           w a x         w a x i n g                         f i x               f i x e d

2)  If a short vowel word already has two consonants at the end of the word, simply add the suffix.

          j  u  m  p       j u m p i n g                      h  u  n  t        h u n t e d

Friday, July 1, 2011

ESL Pronunciation Tip: Syllable Stress and the Schwa

The following is an activity that can be used to teach students about syllable stress and the schwa. (More comprehensive information on word stress predictability can be accessed from a previous blog post here.)

• Stress is the volume and pitch a speaker gives to a sound, syllable, or word while speaking.
• Every multi-syllabic word (a word with more than one syllable) has one syllable that is emphasized more than the others.
• All English vowels in unstressed syllables can take the schwa sound. The schwa has the sound of short u (example: pencil) or short i (example: leverage). We show that a vowel has a schwa sound with an upside down e.
• Learning syllable stress will help you improve your pronunciation.

• Following is a list of general rules for syllable stress. Even though there are many exceptions in English, it is helpful to use these general rules as guidelines when you come across a word you don’t know. Try to predict what the syllable stress will be for the new words you learn. If you need to, you can use a dictionary to check the syllable stress.
• There are no rules to help you decide if a vowel says the schwa sound. One helpful thing to remember is that the schwa sound is usually in an unstressed syllable (examples: open; human; pencil). Also, usually the vowel a at the beginning or end of a word says the schwa sound (examples: sofa; agenda; America; away).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ESL Pronunciation Tip: Rising and Falling Intonation in WH- and Yes/No Questions

A question mark is placed at the end of a sentence that asks a question. Questions end in both rising and falling intonation. If the sentence ends in falling intonation, the voice tone goes down at the end of the sentence, much like musical notes on a piano. If a sentence ends in rising intonation, the voice tone goes up at the end of the sentence.
Falling Intonation 
Questions that begin with who, what, when, where, why, which, and how (often referred to as “wh-questions”) usually end in falling intonation.

What time is it?
Who is she?
When is he coming?
Also, commands and statements end in falling intonation. Commands and statements end in a period.
Shut the door. 
Write your name.

The color is blue.
It is raining.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ESL Pronunciation Tip: Recognizing and Pronouncing Voiced and Voiceless Sounds

The last two teaching tips I posted referred to recognizing voiced and voiceless sounds to predict ending sounds (plurals and the suffix -ed). If your student needs help learning to recognize voiced and voiceless sounds, you may find the following lesson helpful.

Recognize Voiced and Voiceless Sounds

• Knowing if a sound is voiced or voiceless will help you pronounce certain sounds better, such as plurals, possessive s, and -ed endings.

• Put your fingers on your throat. Say these vowel sounds: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/. Do you feel your throat vibrate when you say these sounds? That is voicing. All vowels are voiced.
• Put your fingers on your throat. Say these consonant sounds: /p/, /f/, /t/, /s/. You do not feel your throat vibrate when you say these sounds. These consonants are voiceless.
• Put your fingers on your throat. Say these consonant sounds: /b/, /v/, /d/, /z/. You feel your throat vibrate when you say these sounds. These consonants are voiced.
• Put your fingers on your throat. Say these consonant sounds: /p/, /b/, /f/, /v/, /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/. Compare the voiceless sounds and voiced sounds.

• Below is the alphabet. Say each sound. Which sounds are voiceless? Which sounds are voiced? Write the sounds that are voiceless in the left column. Write the sounds that are voiced in the right column.

          a     b     c     d      e     f     g      h     i     j     k     l     m
          n     o     p     q     r      s     t    u      v      w      x     y      z

                                  Voiceless                                            Voiced 


• Can you hear the difference between voiced and voiceless sounds? Which ones are difficult for you to distinguish between?

For additional ESL teaching tips:
Click here to read about the pronunciation of -ed.
Click here to read about pronouncing plurals.
Click here to read about rising and falling intonation in questions.
Click here to read about syllable stress and the schwa.
Click here to read about adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est.
Click here to read about teaching common suffixes. 
Click here to read about teaching common prefixes. 
Click here to read about decoding multi-syllabic words. 
Click here to read about spelling words that end in S, F, and Z.
Click here to read about other sounds for c and g.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ESL Pronunciation Tip: Pronouncing Plurals

Similar to my last post on the pronunciation of the suffix -ed, the following is another pronunciation rule that ESL students appreciate. This rule teaches how to properly pronounce plurals. Pronouncing plural endings correctly is important for non-native English speakers to develop comprehensible, natural sounding speech.

What is a Plural?
One object (e.g., one hat, one pen) is referred to as singular because it is one single object. If we want to refer to more than one (e.g., three hats, five pens), an s is added to the word (hats, pens), and we call it plural.
Pronouncing Plural Endings
The sound of a plural s changes from /s/ to /z/ depending on whether it follows a voiced or voiceless consonant.

Plural S says /s/:
All the final consonants in the singular form of the following words are voiceless; therefore, the sound for s is /s/. 
           Examples: rats, cuffs, cups, kits

When s is added to words ending in the voiceless consonant sounds f, k, p, t, and ck, the plural s will have the sound of voiceless /s/. 
          Examples: cuffs, parks, pups, cats, stacks, etc.

Plural S says /z/:
The final consonant in the singular form of the following words are voiced; therefore, the sound of the plural s is /z/.
           Examples: flags, jobs, fans, pads

When an s is added to words ending in the voiced consonant sounds b, d, g, l, m, n, r, and v, the plural s will have the sound of voiced /z/. 
          Examples: cubs, hands, dogs, calls, clams, bins, cars, gloves

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ESL Pronunciation Tip: The Three Sounds of the Suffix -ED

I decided it was time to post a series of ESL teaching tips. My next several blog posts will contain teaching tips for reading, spelling, and pronunciation. The following tip is a pronunciation tip for the three sounds of the suffix -ed. This rule may be familiar to the experienced ESL teacher, but it's an interesting rule nonetheless that never fails to turn on a light bulb in the heads of ESL students.

The suffix -ed has three sounds: /t/, /d/, /id/. The sound of the consonant that immediately precedes -ed determines the correct pronunciation of the suffix -ed.

-ed = /t/
• Following the voiceless sounds f, k, p, s, x, ch, th, and sh, the suffix -ed has the sound of voiceless t, /t/. 
     (Examples: huffed, kicked, mapped, dressed, mixed, matched, birthed, wished)

-ed = /d/
• Following the voiced sounds b, g, l, m, n, r, v, z, and th, the suffix -ed has the sound of voiced d, /d/.
(Examples: sobbed, hugged, pulled, filmed, fanned, starred, loved, buzzed, bathed)

-ed = /id/ 
• The suffix -ed cannot use the sound of t and d when it follows a word ending in t or d, so when it does, the sound of -ed is /id/.
(Examples: tested, landed, trusted, tended, lifted, handed)

(Click here to see also my post on the pronunciation of plurals.)

(For more information about how to teach students to recognize voiced and voiceless sounds, click here.) 

For additional ESL teaching tips:
Click here to read about rising and falling intonation in questions.
Click here to read about syllable stress and the schwa.
Click here to read about adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est.
Click here to read about teaching common suffixes. 
Click here to read about teaching common prefixes. 
Click here to read about decoding multi-syllabic words. 
Click here to read about spelling words that end in s, f, and z.
Click here to read about other sounds for c and g.