I’m a new teacher having only recently completed my CELTA in November 2011. Since then I’ve been working with adults and young learners (mostly Thai), for AUA Pattaya, in the Chonburi area.
I’ve found the IPA chart extremely useful for myself, if no-one else! As a child I never understood English spelling, it was inconsistent and confusing. I was introduced to the IPA chart on the CELTA, and absolutely loved it. It taught me the difference between letters and real sound – I was amazed (and so are my students now) to find that there were 20-22 vowel sounds in English, not just 5.
Like it or not, if you are a visual learner, or just a logical one, you need some way to map out the different sounds – at some point you need to isolate and identify them clearly – and for that the chart is number one.
You need some way to show the students that you are saying ‘th’, as in ‘thing’, and not ‘th’ as in ‘that’. Just saying ‘that’ or ‘thing’ is not enough, if they are Chinese or Thai, they will be picking up on the -at and -ing sounds – cheating!
Introduce it gently, to yourself and the students, use it to isolate sounds, don’t be too ambitious, and wait for them to draw it out from you – don’t shove it down their throats. I find it most useful when introducing new vocabulary with general students – but I’ve had over 1 hour long sessions with students that have drawn it out of me – and they loved it.
Remember though, you are NOT teaching the IPA – you are teaching sound – phonetics – and only those that are problematic. Experiment, it’s a learning process for you as well as them. Do you like it? If you do then use it!
Teachers need some way to show the students how a sound it reproduced in the vocal tract, it is clearly not enough to only model the sound – th,th,th,th you need to show how the sounds are being made, and to draw comparisons between these new sounds and those the student can already produce. For this I find visual aids, be they charts, symbols, videos or audio absolutely indispensable.
You can find some material I added to my site for students to consolidate and follow-up classroom topics – they loved the video!
See saying IT on this site