- Keywords: Speech, pronunciation, assessment
- Learner English level: Lower intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: Varies
- Activity time: Speech writing (varies) plus three 30-minute assessments
- Materials: Mobile devices and three copies of students’ speeches
Katakana pronunciation is deeply entrenched in most Japanese students’ interlanguage, and eliminating or even reducing it is a challenge. The aim of this activity is to improve students’ speech presentation by reducing katakana pronunciation. Self-assessment and peer-assessment of oral production can be used to encourage students to be more engaged in improving their pronunciation. This can be a less threatening way of making them focus on and repair their mistakes.
Enlarged copy of a section (one to three paragraphs) of the teacher’s speech
Part 1: Speech Writing
Step 1: The students write their speech. Teacher corrects the speeches, makes three copies, and returns the originals to the students.
Step 2: As homework, students practice and record their speeches on their mobile devices.
Part 2: Assessment
Step 1: Present your speech to the class and record it. The presentation should have katakana-sounding pronunciations (e.g., which-whichi, and-ando, at-atto, is-izu). Exaggerate some pronunciation to make it easier for the students to distinguish the non-katakana pronunciation from the katakana-sounding pronunciation.
Step 2: Post a copy of your speech on the board. Replay the recording of your speech sentence by sentence and elicit from the students the location of mispronounced words and underline them. Then the whole class practices the non-katakana pronunciation.
Assessment 1: Self-Assessment
Step 1: Students listen to their recorded speeches at least twice and underline the words pronounced with katakana sounds (Copy 1).
Step 2: As homework, students record their speech, giving particular attention to avoiding katakana pronunciation.
Assessment 2: Peer-Assessment
Step 1: Divide the students into pairs. Have the students exchange speech copies (Copy 2) and speech recordings (via email, Line, etc.) with their partner.
Step 2: Students listen to their partner’s speech at least twice and underline the words with katakana sounds.
Step 3: Students return speech copies to their partner. The students listen to their speech and check it against the peer-assessment copy.
Step 4: Students talk about the peer-assessment exercise. They can agree or disagree with the assessment and give additional feedback (i.e., intonation, grammar, etc.). Finally, pairs practice pronouncing the underlined words.
Step 5: As homework, students practice for the final presentation.
Assessment 3: Final Self-Assessment
Step 1: The students record their final presentation in front of the whole class or in groups.
Step 2: Students assess their pronunciation on their final presentation (Copy 3).
Step 3: Students compare their final self-assessment to the peer-assessment and the first self-assessment. Ask the students to rate themselves in terms of reducing or eliminating inappropriate katakana sounds (A: reduced katakana pronunciation, B: No change, C: more katakana pronunciation).
The iterative nature of this activity is very important in reinforcing katakana reduction. The students become more aware of their pronunciation and thus self-correct more. You can remove steps or add iterations depending on the needs of your class. This activity can be used for any type of oral production such as poem recitations, jazz chants, and dialogs. At first, the students tend to be very hesitant in pointing out mispronunciations. I have found that it helps when I tell them that they are not criticizing their partners but actually helping them in improving their English and getting better grades.