Journal: AmTrak… right?

Just a quick anecdote from Monday:

We were studying different options of public transportation.  The students brainstormed everything from cars to planes to walking to taking the bus to riding a horse.

short train by Bright Meadow on Flickr.com
Train, photo by Bright Meadow on Flickr.com

We all live between Baltimore and DC, so we have an alarming number of train options: the light rail, the metro, the MARC train, and AmTrak. 

They’re all trains, but they’re all different.  The light rail serves Baltimore and its suburbs.  The metro serves DC and its suburbs.  The MARC train serves the corrodior between DC and Baltimore… but only on weekdays.  AmTrak serves major cities nationally, but it’s much more expensive than the other options.

They seemed really interested in AmTrak and asked a lot of questions. 

Where does it go?  Does it go to Canada?  Is it the terrorists?

What?

After September 11th.  Terrorists.  AmTrak.  Envelope.

I was slow to catch on.  I was wondering if there was some sort of train attack I didn’t remember.  Can you tell what they meant, readers?

One of the students finally looked it up on his iPod.  No, is antracks.

Ah.  Anthrax.  Got it.  No, AmTrak is different.

Journal: Tangents

So, today we went on a pronunciation tangent.  I did not instigate it!

We’ve been focusing on the sound that “th” makes, which is usually written as /th/, and today we finally addressed the problem that if they don’t pronounce “third” properly, they are likely to say “turd.” 

This was aligned with our ongoing lessons on ordinal numbers and with today’s lesson on pronunciation and identification of numbers 20-100.

But then the other questions started.  “Teacher, what about keys and kiss?”  “Ice and eyes?”  “Hat and hot?”  “Wish and which/witch?”  It was kind of amazing how many different subtle differences they touched upon in the question fest. 

This is normally a very quiet class, so I let the questions continue maybe past the point of being more confusing than helpful.  I really wanted to encourage them to be active in class, and I had the sense that everyone was interested.  Although maybe today’s lesson didn’t quite give them the answers they were looking for, now I know a lot about what they’re interested in and what confuses them regarding listening and pronunciation, I can put it more methodically into other lessons.

Also, even though students tend to get obsessed with trying to each sound correctly, stress often has much more of an impact on understanding and being understood.  I love to tell the story about getting lost in Russia.  I actually had a pretty good accent in Russian, but when I told the driver the name of my stop, I put the stress on the fourth syllable instead of the third (out of six syllables, mind you.  You’d think that enough else would’ve been enough with the word, but the stress overshadowed it all).  Not one person in that marshrutka could understand where I needed to go.  Lesson: stress matters.

I was kind of thrilled that later in the lesson (during a chain drill, which I’ll post about soon), we ran into an issue where it sounded like one of our students said his mom was 14.  He did say the “teen” part, but his stress was backwards, making it sound like 40.  It really helped us focus on word-level stress, and it was kind of hilarious as well.