Number one for English language teachers

Pronunciation skills: destruction as creativity

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate Type: Reference material Print material

Focus on reading aloud and text chunking.

Activities
Task 1
Read the text silently and make sure you understand it.


People talk about ‘creative artists’, and we tend to think of art as a process of creation, even if we don’t always like the results of the process. But one artist decided to do the opposite – to make a process of destruction into a work of art. In a two-week ‘exhibition’ in London, he smashed all his possessions (all seven thousand and six of them) into tiny pieces with a hammer. One of the seven thousand and six items was a work of art - presumably of a more traditional kind – worth twenty thousand pounds. What I want to know is, how did he count his possessions and manage to arrive at such a precise total? That must have been a real work of art.

Task 2
Practise reading the text again, bit by bit, pausing between the chunks but not in the middle of them, and paying attention to the stress at the places highlighted.


People talk about ‘creative artists’,
and we tend to think of art
as a process of creation,
even if we don’t always like
the results of the process.
But one artist
decided to do the opposite
– to make a process of destruction
into a work of art.
In a two-week ‘exhibition
in London,
he smashed all his possessions
(all seven thousand and six of them)
into tiny pieces
with a hammer.
One of the seven thousand and six items
was a work of art
presumably of a more traditional kind
– worth twenty thousand pounds.
What I want to know is,
how did he count his possessions
and manage to arrive
at such a precise total?
That must have been a real work of art.

Teacher's notes
(This is a true story, by the way.) One of the benefits of reading aloud is that allows learners to concentrate on how they're speaking, without having to think, for the time being, about what to say. Reading a 'chunked' text like this aloud is particularly good practice for learners who tend to speak too fast, and to pause too little or in inappropriate places.

If they aren't used to this kind of practice, you'll probably need to give a model of each line, giving learners an opportunity to say it after you. Make sure that they're stressing the right syllable of the highlighted words, e.g. the second syllable of 'results', the first syllable of 'process'. They can then practise in pairs or small groups, reading the first line, then the first two, then the first three, and so on, gradually building up to the full text, trying not to pause in the middle of a line, but pausing for as long as they need in between lines. As they do this, they'll probably begin to learn it by heart to some extent, and to reproduce it with less and less reference to the text.

Of course there isn't just one correct way of reading a text like this. Here's one alternative version:

People talk about ‘creative artists’,
and we tend to think of art as a process of creation,
even if we don’t always like the results of the process.
But one artist decided to do the opposite
– to make a process of destruction into a work of art.
In a two-week ‘exhibition’ in London,
he smashed all his possessions
(all seven thousand and six of them)
into tiny pieces with a hammer.
One of the seven thousand and six items was a work of art
presumably of a more traditional kind
– worth twenty thousand pounds.
What I want to know is,
how did he count his possessions
and manage to arrive at such a precise total?
That must have been a real work of art.

Or you could produce your own version. With a more experienced class, you could hand out a plain version of the text and ask them to prepare it for reading aloud. Make sure they write each 'chunk' on a separate line – this really helps when it comes to pausing between chunks.

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