Friday, 23 October 2009


In the first year Language Foundation seminars I am currently teaching phonemic transcription. I write a few sentences on the white board, and then the students transcribe them in group work (if they want) into phonemic symbols. At the end of the session we discuss their transcriptions.

One issue that was always rather unsatisfactory is how to involve everybody (and not just the vocal and confident students) and how to get round the issue that it's a continuous stream (and not words in isolation).

Yesterday I suddenly had a flash of inspiration: instead of waiting for the students to volunteer solutions, and to ask somebody else when a word had been completed, I start with a random student. This students says how they transcribed the first sound (phoneme). Then I go clockwise through the room, each student contributing the next phoneme. If there are differences (there always are, due to the nature of the task), we briefly stop and discuss alternatives, before resuming the round robin.

Simple idea (pretty trivial, really), but it solves the problems. It also keeps all students on their toes, as they need to keep track where they are and which sound they have to do. And even the quiet ones have to participate. As it's low stakes (only a single sound each time), getting it wrong is not a drama.

Win-win situation!

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