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Teaching Pronunciation

Individual Sounds: Phonemes

Here are a few ideas to try out in your classroom. Remember
that many of the activities are flexible and can be adapted for
other phonological areas. After initial introduction, try to focus
on the pronunciation of all subsequent language you teach, referring
back to the initial input as appropriate. If possible, when introducing new words, write up
the phonemic transcription, or just the problem area, such as the vowel sound. If you are
unsure, check in a dictionary.

Introducing the phonemic chart:

Give a sense of the physicality of pronunciation by exaggerating the shapes we

make with our mouths to produce individual sounds. Get your class moving all their
facial muscles and feeling the inside of their mouth with their tongue. This often
looks very silly but is great fun and very beneficial in the long run!

Show students pictures of the mouth shapes needed to produce certain sounds. Or
get them to look at your mouth or that of a student who can make the sound!

When introducing sounds using the phonemic chart, make sure your drilling is
clear. Use a pointer, so the students focus on the chart and not you!

Dont be afraid to do silent drills. This allows the students to analyse the muscles
needed to create the right sound. You can also see if they have formed the correct
facial shape.

Ensure the students are aware of the distinction between voiced and unvoiced
sounds; help them to feel the sounds by putting their hand on their voice box.

Elicit examples of words with the target sound.

Use silly rhymes as mnemonic aids: e.g. How now brown cow

Dont necessarily push for perfection remember there are many varieties of
English and any individual phoneme can be pronounced in different ways.

Use the chart for spelling practice and correction work.

Activities to practise individual sounds:

Meet and Greet
Aim of the activity
A fun way to introduce and practise using the single vowel sound phonemes
Write each of the 12 monothongs on a different piece of paper. Use different colours for
each column of phonemes and fill the page.
Split the class into groups of 12. Give each student a phoneme (give the schwa to one of
the stronger learners). Explain that this is their new name and that they must mingle with
their group, introducing themselves. Each student shows their monothong and says their
name. The dialogue should sound something like this:
Hi! My names /i:/! Whats your name?
Hi /i:/. Im /u:/.
Nice to meet you /u:/!
It sounds unusual but the students really enjoy this activity! When everyone has
introduced themselves, ask the students to recreate the phonemic chart by standing in
order. (Make sure you hide any charts on your classroom wall!). The colours that you
wrote each phoneme in should help them to stand in the correct position. This element of
the activity really helps students to consolidate the rules for creating each sound. They
also find it easier to identity and say each phoneme in the future. You could take a photo
at the end, which could become your class chart!

Label the Classroom

Aim of the activity
To enable the students to identify new phonemes.
Hand out a post-it to each student/pair of students with a phoneme on it.
Invite the students to look around their classroom and find an object that represents the
phoneme on their post-it. For example, /b/ could be stuck on the board, and /d/ could
go on a desk. Make sure you only hand out phonemes that you can find an object for!

A Pronunciation Journey
Aim of the activity
To practise minimal pair phonemes which your students find hard to distinguish.
Suitable minimal pairs (words with a single phoneme difference). For instance, for Italians
the pairs could be /i:/ and /I/:
Look in Ship or Sheep? By Ann Baker for inspiration.
Copy The Pronunciation Journey handout (given in the session) for each student.
Present the two phonemes to be identified. For the first phoneme the students must
move to the left and for the second phoneme they must move to the right. As you say
one word from a minimal pair, the students must move to the left or right of the journey
depending on the phoneme. There are 4 junctions. At each junction you say another
word and the students move their fingers accordingly. At the end, all of the students
should be on holiday in the same country as you. Students can also play this game in
pairs, one as the teacher and one as the student.
To quickly check that students can identify the different phonemes ask them to put their
thumbs up if it is the first phoneme or down if it is the second.
Students stand up and jump to the right if it is the first phoneme or to the left if it is the
second phoneme.

Phoneme poems
Aim of the activity
To practise difficult phonemes by chanting.
Pictures of the phonemes you would like to practise.
Hold up the picture. Identify everything in the picture and then say the rhyme asking the
students to repeat it as a whole group and then in smaller groups and then individually.
For instance:
Its a cat, sitting on a mat, looking at a rat, wearing a hat.
Ask the students to draw their own pictures and put them up on the wall.

Four in a row
Aim of the activity
To practise regular past simple endings - /t/ /d/ /id/
Draw a five by five grid on the board and ask students to give you 25 regular verbs that
you then write in each square in the bare infinitive. You will also need some dice. (Or use
the handout from the session).
Split the class into two groups, X and 0. Give each group a dice. If they throw a 1 or a 2
they must identify a verb with a /t/ ending. If they throw a 3 or a 4 they must identify a
/d/ ending and if they throw a 5 or a 6 they must identify an /id/ ending. They then say
an appropriate verb and get either an X or 0 in that box. If they make a mistake they miss
a turn. The winner is the group that gets 4 Xs or 0s in a row. The row can be vertical,
horizontal or diagonal.
The same activity can be adapted to practise plural noun/3rd person s endings:
/s/,/z/, /z/.

Find the Differences

Aim of the activity
A fun way to practise vowel monothongs.
Make a copy of worksheet A for half the class, and worksheet B for the other half.
Divide the class into pairs and label them A and B. Ask the students to sit facing each
other, so they cannot see their partners paper. Explain that they have to find 11
differences between their pictures and that each difference identifies one of the vowel
monothongs. For example:
A: In my picture there is a shirt hanging on the wardrobe door.
B: In my picture there is a skirt hanging on the wardrobe door.
These students have identified the phoneme /3:/ and one of their 11 differences. They
should continue until they have found all the differences. Set a time limit and check the
answers with the whole class.
From Timesaver Speaking Activities

Word and Sentence Stress

Understanding stressed and weak sounds in English is essential for both speaking and
listening skills. By developing a strength in this area, students will become more confident
communicators and get a real feel for the stress-timed rhythm of this language.

Get used to marking the stressed syllable on all new vocabulary, or get students to
do it for you. Encourage them to mark stress in their vocabulary books.
Get them into the habit of checking where the stress lies by looking in their
Drill new words, exaggerating the stress at first.
Get the students to notice stress in reading and listening texts and develop an
understanding of stress rules within English. (Show them the rules handout we
used in the session).
Enable the students to notice which parts of speech tend to be stressed. This allows
them to be more independent with their correction and guessing in the future.

Activities to practise word and sentence stress:

Walking stress
Aim of the activity
To make students aware of the importance of word stress by using Total Physical
You need a variety of nouns with different word stress patterns.
Give each student a different noun. They then have to walk out the noun, taking small
steps for the unstressed syllables and a big step for the stressed syllable. The class can
practise together and then each person presents their noun walk and the others decide if
the stress is correct or not.

Acting stress
Aim of the activity
To make students aware of the importance of word stress by using Total Physical
Response. It is also a good team game.
You need a variety of nouns with different word stress patterns.

Put the class into groups of 4 or 5 and give them a word. The students then have to
stand in a suitable stress formation from left to right, which depicts this word. For
instance, for the word photography four of the students would have to stand up in a line
with the first, third and last person crouching down and the second person standing up
straight. The person standing up represents the main stress of the word.
The teacher puts one word on the board and the groups have to stand in the correct
formation and say the word with the correct stress. The first team to do so gets a point.
A variation on this game is to extend the activity into sentence stress where each student
is a word not a syllable. As an extension to this, students can link arms if they think their
words are linked to each other.

Stress maze
Aim of the activity
To practise identifying words with a similar stress pattern.
You will need the stress maze handout from the session.
The students have to find a pathway through the maze and find the correct place to exit,
only walking through squares that have words with the particular stress pattern. This
activity can be adapted by asking the students to create their own stress mazes.

Sentence analysis games

Aim of the activity
To highlight the importance of the schwa, linking and stress in fast connected speech.
You need suitable sentences from poems or rhymes or even just functional everyday
Counting schwas
Write the sentence on the board and ask the students to identify how many schwas there
would be in fast, connected speech. Ask them not to shout out but to hold up the correct
number of fingers or write the number in their notebooks. Then you can check the whole
Put students into groups and give them some A3 paper and a thick pen. The students
write down the sentence and then mark where the words link as a consonant to a vowel
and/or where there are intrusive sounds. When they are finished the students hold up
their pieces of paper and you give a point to the first team to finish correctly.

Again, the students work in teams and write the sentence down changing the stressed
parts of the sentence into CApital LEtters. Points can be awarded to the first team to

Stress pattern racing game

Aim of the activity
To practise identifying the different stress patterns in words.
You need clear diagrams of different stress patterns put up on the wall. One effective
way to represent stress is by using circles: a big circle for the main stress and little circles
for the weak stresses.
Split the class into two teams and ask a member of each team to stand up. Write a word
on the board and the students have to run and touch the correct stress pattern diagram.
The first student to touch the correct pattern wins a point for their team.
This game can be adapted to include word stress patterns.

Stress pattern pelmanism

Aim of the activity
To practise identifying the different stress patterns in words.
Make your own set of stress pattern pelmanism cards. You will need 10 words and 10
matching stress patterns written on card. Cut these up so that each pack contains 20
cards. Alternatively, students can make a set for another group in the class.
The students lay the cards out face down. Students take it in turns to turn over two cards.
If the word and the stress pattern match, the student keeps the pair and has another go.
If not, they turn them both face down again and the next student has a turn. The idea is
to remember where the cards are and the winner is the person who collects the most

Stress pattern consequences

Aim of the activity
To practise identifying the different stress patterns in words.

You need a piece of paper for each student in the class with a stress pattern written on
the top of the page. Ask the students to sit in a circle.
Hand out the papers and ask the student to write one word with the same stress pattern
as written at the top of the page. Once they have done this they fold the paper over so
the pattern is hidden and only the word is visible. They then pass the paper to the
student on their left. The student looks at the word and writes another word underneath
with a similar pattern. Again, the paper is folded over so only this second word is visible
and the papers are passed to the left again. The procedure is repeated about 10 times or
until the paper is folded up completely. Then the paper is unfolded and students can
check to see what the original stress pattern was and whether each word has this correct
pattern. Some stress patterns are more difficult than others, so to keep the game moving,
dont give a piece of paper to every student in the circle (maybe just 5 out of 7, for
example). This helps avoid gridlock!

A notoriously difficult area of phonology to teach, intonation is often ignored in course
books. However, it is crucial to try to strengthen our students understanding of this area.
Even if they struggle to reproduce the appropriate tone at first, it is their listening skills
that will benefit initially.
It often makes sense to teach intonation with sentence stress. English has a falling
tone, generally, but we also raise and snake our tone too.

Get students to mimic your tone, or that of a recording. Repetition will help.

Get students to identify the rise and fall, or snake of a tone, by drawing the
appropriate arrow on the key tone in a sentence.

Get students to record themselves. This is a really effective way of helping them
improve their tone. They could write or copy dialogues before identifying stressed
syllables, weak sounds, link and tone. You could use the Night at the Park End
Club dialogue that we used in the session, or write your own.

Some language areas to introduce intonation:

Question tags
Short answers
Showing interest
Sarcastic remarks

Activities to practise intonation:

The Bank Robbery
Aim of the activity
To introduce intonation and practise sentence stress
Copy the dramatic dialogue below for each student:
The Bank Robbery
Robber: Put all the money you have into the bag!
Cashier: Put all the what into the bag?
Robber: Put all the MONEY into the bag!
Cashier: Put all of my money in to the back?
Robber: No, put all the money into the BAG!
Cashier: Where should I put it?
Robber: Into the BAG!
Cashier: Now, where should I put the bag?
Robber: Give it to me!
Cashier: Im sorry, I dont think I can do that!
Ask the students to read the dialogue in pairs and get a sense of the meaning. Ask them
how the robber feels (increasingly frustrated!) and what is the attitude of the cashier
(playing stupid!). In pairs, ask them to identify which words will be stressed and whether
the tone will rise, fall or snake. Check their answers on the board, then ask them to
practise before inviting a few pairs to perform in front of the class.

Sound bites
Aim of the activity
To practise producing the appropriate tone
Copy the following table of prompts for each student.


mildly interested
very happy




please continue
thinking aloud
creating suspense
what happened next?



Say each exclamation to the class in one of the tones and ask them to identify which one
you were using. N.B. This is not easy, so try it out with your colleagues first! Get the
students to write the exclamation next to the tone they think you used. For further
practice, invite a student to say one of the exclamations in a chosen tone and see if the
rest of the class agree. Continue this process in pairs, whilst monitoring.
There are some really good intonation activities in some of the books in the bibliography
at the end of this section. Look in Mark Hancocks books: Pronunciation Games
(particularly exercises C7, C8, C9 & C10) and English Pronunciation in Use (especially Unit

Understanding and recreating links between words in English, improves fluency and
listening skills. As with the other areas of phonology above, get in the habit of indicating
the links on new chunks of language.

Activities to practise linking:

Pair Formation
Aim of the activity
To get the class into pairs by identifying common two-word phrases that are linked
Copy and enlarge the two-word phrases on the attached worksheet, together with the
phonemic transcription.
Cut each part up and hand out one part to each student. Check that everyone can read
their part. Invite the class to mingle whilst saying their part, until they find their other

half. Get each newly formed pair to say their phrase and ask the rest of the class to say
what it is.

Intrusive Sounds
Aim of the activity
To enable the students to identify different intrusive sounds
Prepare a list of short phrases with the 3 different intrusive sounds: /r/, /w/ and /j/.
Cut out each phrase and make a poster for each of the intrusive sounds.
Hand out a phrase to each student and invite them to stick it on the appropriate poster,
according to the linking sound. For example, Where is it? should be stuck on the /r/
poster, and Did you see it? should go on the /j/ poster. When everyone has finished,
check and adjust as necessary and then get the students to copy the posters. Add new
phrases to the posters in future lessons.

Link Maze
Aim of the activity
To practise identifying intrusive sounds
Copy the Link Maze handout from the session for each student (taken from
Pronunciation Games by Mark Hancock, CUP; exercise C1). You may like to make an extra
copy to show on an OHP or scan it, so you can project it from your computer. This helps
with the set-up of the activity and when checking the answers.
Elicit the meaning of a maze and explain that the students have to escape from this
link maze using the correct exit (exit O). Explain that the students have to identify the
intrusive sound that links the words in each grid square. This will determine the direction
they take next. For example, /j/ (or /y/ as the book writes confusingly) = turn left, /w/ =
go straight on and /r/ = turn right. It is very important to note that these directions are
relative to the side that you enter the square from! So, for example, if you are heading
east and turn right, then you will be heading south. Hand out a maze to each student;
however, they might like to work in pairs as this activity is quite challenging. Monitor
closely and check that theyve understood the direction rules. Set a time limit of 20
minutes. Check the final solution with the whole class. For further practice, you could
create your own maze with phrases from your course in a blank version of the handout.


Once again, there are some useful linking activities in some of the books in the
bibliography at the end of this section. Look in English Pronunciation in Use (especially
Units 38 and 39).

More activities can be found in the following books:

English Pronunciation Illustrated, John Trim, CUP
English Pronunciation in Use, Mark Hancock, CUP
Headway Pronunciation (Series to complement the course books: Pre Upper Int), Bill Bowler & Sarah
Cunningham, OUP
*Learner English: A Teachers Guide to Interference and Other Problems, Michael Swan, &
Bernard Smith, Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers
Making Sense of Spelling and Pronunciation, Christine Digby & John Myers, Prentice Hall
Pronunciation Games, Mark Hancock, CUP
Ship or Sheep?, Ann Baker, CUP
Sounds English, J.D. OConnor & Clare Fletcher, Longman
*Sound Foundations, Adrian Underhill, Heinemann
The Pronunciation Book, Tim Bowen & Jonathan Marks, Longman
Timesaver Pronunciation Activities, Bill Bowler, Scholastic Publishers
* Reference book

Some useful websites:

Keyboard for writing phonemes: http://phonemicchart.com/
Interactive phonemic chart:
British Council pronunciation lesson ideas: