The Jabberwocky (post 1)

Building a Lesson – The Jabberwocky (post 1)

This summer I’ve been teaching one-to-one pronunciation to a Vietnamese German student, Tung, and it’s been one of the most positive teaching experiences in my career so far.  Tung is a dedicated student, who learns quickly and isn’t shy about trying out and practising sounds, as some students can be.

As a student, Tung is always open to trying something new and responds positively to discovery approaches to language learning.  Consequently he makes great progress and it’s very rewarding to hear the improvements in his pronunciation as a result of our work together.  In our 4th (90 minute) session, Tung came into the classroom with a beaming smile on his face and told me that having studied and practised what we’d covered in our lessons, not only do his colleagues now understand him when he speaks English, but so does the voice recognition programme on his mobile phone.  That’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever had as a teacher!

Whilst writing my Passion for Pronunciation post and thinking about the rhymes Dad used to read me as a child, I had the idea of using Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky to build a lesson on pronunciation and vocabulary.  I’m particularly excited about it as it lends itself well to a number of different language areas and in terms of pronunciation the poem includes a range of different sounds.

The idea is still very much in the development stages but the main areas and teaching points that I want to explore are:

  • Relationships between spelling and pronunciation
  • Parts of speech and grammatical structure – understanding words from context
  • Portmanteau words (a term coined by Lewis Carroll when Humpty Dumpty explains the meaning of The Jabberwocky to Alice)
  • Using nonsense words to practise phonemes and their phonemic symbols

I only have one session remaining with Tung before I return to the UK for the winter, so, though I’ve not yet fully formulated the Jabberwocky lesson, I want to use the opportunity to try out some ideas and see what comes up, with a view to developing the lesson further later on.  Watch this space for a report on how it went!


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