The Melody Line of English Sentences: Sample Activities 

Sayoko Kato

The arrangement of the following activities progresses from sentences level activites in the first set, to short dialogue level in the second set, to discourse level in the third set. These are practice exercises. They assume that the learners have already received explicit instruction on the suprasegmental aspects that they will be practicing.

First Activity Set

Task: Creating a melody line out of a sentence and listening various intonation patterns, learners can increase their awareness of the characteristics of the stress-timed language rhythm.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Materials: blackboard, sentence cards, and tape recorder

Procedure: two activities: one for production, the other for perception

Activity 1: You Are the Composer

Prepare various sample sentences (simple declarative sentences, complex sentences, yes-no questions...). Write them on cards, one sentence for one card. Hand out them to learners.

Explain the activity. Learners pretend to be composers creating the melody out of the "lyrics"; that is the sentence on the card. Tell them first to determine the intonation contour, second to put different sized dots that represent stresses on the appropriate words, third to draw a line according to the stress impulses.

Make a recital. Repeat the task until learners get used to English melody line.

Activity 2: Guessing Game

Hand out learners' answer sheets.

Explain the activity. Learners listen to utterances that sometimes are complete sentences and sometimes incomplete. Tell them to put either C or I in the corresponding answer column. Inform them that the clue to the right answer is in the intonation.

If learners can do a more challenging task, encourage them to anticipate what kind of utterance will be most likely to follow the incomplete utterances: Main sentences? Subordinates? Other items?

Second Activity Set

Task: By taking advantage of what has been learned from the first two activities, learners utter short dialogue as closely as do natives.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Materials: script, videotape

Procedure: one activity

Activity 3: Making a Movie

Make groups of three or four students. The size of a group will vary with the number of the casts in a script. Let them decide their role: the director (observer), actor or actress (speaker). Hand out a "script"(short dialogue).

Explain the activity. Tell them to pretend that they are shooting a scene. While actors make conversations, the director observes the scene and makes necessary corrections. It would be better to use an excerpt from an actual movie to start with. Encourage them to mimic the scene in the movie using a videotape.

Let them make a presentation in front of other learners who will be judges (listeners). The judges decide to which group the best performance award will go.

Third Activity Set

Task: To consolidate the exercises on suprasegmentals, learners have to recite a story.
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Materials: articles

Procedure: two activities

Activity 4: You Are the Storyteller.

Prepare suitable articles of 200-300 words or make learners write a 200-300 word journal.

Ask them to arrange themselves in double circles, one inside the other, each with an equal number of learners.

Explain the activity. The learners in the inner circle will be listeners and the learners in the outer circle will be storytellers. Hand out materials to storytellers. Give an appropriate time to prepare for the exercise. Storytellers have three chances to recite the same story to three different listeners but with each round, they have less time to recite. Therefore, storytellers have to produce more fluent melody lines for the coming round. While listening to the recitation, listeners ask for clarification if they can't follow.

Activity 5: You Are the Spokesperson.

This task is the most challenging. It would be a good idea to use this exercise for a competition.

The learner who is designated as a spokesperson is to read aloud in front of the other learners an article of news without preparation.

The audience decide the best spokesperson.