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Tips for Teaching

Tips for Teaching - Pronunciation

Suggestions from ESLgold:

Vowel and Consonant Sounds

    Focus on hearing, producing and using sounds in context


    Focus on understanding and generating stress, intonation and reductions

    Types of Materials: Texts providing explanation and contextualized practice of sounds

Pronunciation activities
Practical activities to help students with English pronunciation.


Remembering the phonemes
Paul Kaye, British Council, Syria

Learning and remembering the phonemic symbols can be quite a challenge. Here are some ideas and activities which can help even lower levels with this.

This activity focuses on some of the easier symbols and works towards the more difficult vowel sounds. It then helps students to record and remember them.

  • Cut up the words and symbols in worksheet A
    Download worksheet A >> 10k pdf
  • Ask learners to match the individual sounds in the first column to the words in the second column.
  • Next ask them to match the words to the complete phonemic script of each word in the third column.
  • Give learners worksheet B, their record sheets, and explain that this is a record of the symbols they learn in class.
    Download worksheet B >> 7k pdf
  • Discuss the first example given, and emphasise how important it is to underline the correct letters in the words.


  • Ask them to find at least three more from the exercise.

This is a fun, non-threatening way to finish the class. It relies on you to produce the symbols and the learners to produce the sounds. It helps learners understand that phonetic script is made up of sounds, not letters. It also gives them instant transcription of sounds into symbols.

  • Think of a word and the phonetic script for it, for example fish
  • Like normal Hangman, write up on the board a series of spaces, but each one representing a sound, i.e. for fish: ____ ____ ____
  • Ask learners to give you sounds that they think may be in the word. As they say them, write up the corresponding symbol on the board so they can see it.
  • When they give you a sound that is already on the board, point to the corresponding symbol as you correct them.
  • Learners continue until they guess the word.


Young learners and the phonemic chart - activities
Nicola Meldrum
These activities are linked to the Think article - Young learners and the phonemic chart

Phonemic beep dictation

This is a version of beep dictation. In this activity there are some missing words which are replaced by a beeping sound. The key to this activty is that the sound indicates a particular phoneme.

  • Write some symbols and words from the dictation you are going to do under the symbols.

    /i/............................................................ /I/................................................... /aI/
    leave..................................................... live.................................................arrive
    sleep..................................................... sit ..................................................find

  • Then read the dictation saying the appropriate sound for each gap. Students must select the correct word from that sound to fill the gap.

    "I...........the house at eight o'clock. work at about nine. Then I my desk and emails..."

Using songs

  • Choose a song that has lots of rhyming words in it at the ends of its lines.
  • Take the rhyming words out of the song and put them on a worksheet or on the board.
  • Ask the students to match them to the symbols they include.
  • Give them a hint of how many words for each symbol.
  • Then talk about how songs often have rhyming words at the ends of lines.
  • The students listen and attempt to put the words back into the song.
  • This can be attempted before they listen with more advance learners.


Introducing the Phonemic Alphabet
Anne Willicombe-Dow, Italy

I start with the seven vowel phonemes that the letters of the alphabet can be divided into. I encourage students to try and guess the sounds first (some of them are similar to sounds in Italian so these ones are fairly easy for my students).

I elicit a word that has the sound in it and write this above each phoneme to help students remember the sound.

Then I get the students to work out which sounds are short and which are long. For the long sounds I ask them what the symbols have in common (to teach them as early as possible that symbols/sounds with two dots and two symbols/sounds together - diphthongs - are long sounds).

We start putting the letters of the alphabet in columns underneath the phonemes as a class and then students work alone or in pairs to complete. Check together by reading down each column (also helps you to spot which letters of the alphabet cause your students problems).

A    B    F     I     O    Q    R
H   C    L    Y           U
J    D    M                 W
K   E     N
     G     S
     P      X
     T      Z

The following lesson I often revise the seven phonemes by preparing a song gap-fill; the gaps are words that have the same sounds. We quickly revise the phonemes, writing an example word for each. Then I dictate the words needed to complete the song and students individually write them under the corresponding sound. They check together and we go over any problem words. Then we listen to the song and they complete the worksheet. For Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate students I've used Stand By Me (Ben E. King) and for Intermediate/Upper Intermediate students New York (U2) and I'm With You (Avril Lavigne).


Shadow reading
Lucy Baylis, UK

This activity uses a text from the course book, and involves listening and pronunciation practice. This task is challenging and motivating and can be used at any level.


    1. Teacher reads the text aloud and students follow, marking the text for stress
    2. Teacher reads the text a second time and the students mark for linking
    3. Individual chunks that show good examples of linking or problematic pronunciation can then be drilled
    4. Students practice these aspects of pronunciation by reading the text to themselves before the teacher reads the text aloud again and they listen
    5. Then the students read the text with the teacher and they have to start and finish at the same time as the teacher, who reads the text at normal speed

This works well after some exposure to the rules of pronunciation - connected speech, stress and intonation.


Broken Telephone
Daphne Tan, Singapore

This is a little game I have used to help students with their listening practice and it develops pronunciation awareness. The name of this game is 'broken telephone'.

  • First the class is divided into a few groups, with about 10 in each group. I hand one person in the group a sentence, which he or she must then memorise and pass on to the next person, by whispering.

  • The next person will pass the sentence down the line to the next and so on until it finally gets to the last person in the group. That person in the group will then have to stand up and say what the sentence is.

I find this exercise fun and a break from the normal learning routine. Teachers can construct sentences with words that may sound similar to others, like working (walking), lazy (lady), grass (glass) and so on. It's really funny hearing the sentence at the end because it is often a mad distortion of the original. The students often have a good time laughing at how ludicrous it all became in the end, and more importantly, realise the value of proper pronunciation.


C for consonant, V for vowel
Alan Stanton, teacher trainer and materials writer

This is an activity to be carried out before introducing phonemic symbols. It is designed to teach students:

  • The difference between sounds and letters
  • The difference between vowel sounds and consonant sounds
  • The difference between one sound and two sounds


  1. Choose ten words that students already know. It is important that they are familiar words.
  2. Choose four or five other familiar words as examples.
  3. Demonstrate on the board that the word 'cat', for example, can be written CVC, Consonant sound, Vowel sound, Consonant sound. This is a very easy example but there are more difficult ones. 'Caught' is CVC, 'through' is CCV, 'breakfast' is CCVCCVCC, 'brother' is CCVCV, 'hour' is VV, 'carrot' is CVCVC.
  4. Ask students to do the same with the ten words you have chosen. You can ask them to do this by looking and writing, by looking, listening (to you) and writing, by listening, saying (to each other) and writing - whichever combination seems valuable and necessary.
  5. If you are not sure about a word, check the phonemic symbols in a dictionary.
  6. Check students' answers and explain any difficulties.

This activity will clarify many points for students. For example, that 'br' is two sounds but 'th' is one, final 'er' is one and 'rr' is one. It will show that 'h' is sometimes silent and sometimes not and that final 'r' is silent. Note that diphthongs count as one vowel sound. This activity is good preparation for learning phonemes because it focuses on sounds and not letters.


Same sound, different sound
Alan Stanton, teacher trainer and materials writer

This is an activity for more advanced students. It is diagnostic because it reveals the mental picture of English sounds that students have. When you do this, you will feel as if you are looking inside students' brains. You will gain valuable information about their knowledge.


  1. Begin by explaining what a homophone is. You can give examples in the students' own language and in English, emphasising that the words have the same sound, but not the same spelling or meaning. Obviously, homophones are written with exactly the same phonemic symbols.
  2. Show students a list of pairs of words, some homophones, some not and ask them to identify the homophones. Choose the words according to the level of the students. 'See' and 'sea' are a lot easier that 'sword' and 'soared'. If students think that 'caught' and 'court' are not homophones (they are) or that 'pull' and 'pool' are homophones (they are not), this will give you valuable information about how students are thinking about English phonology.
  3. This activity is best done in pairs and groups because students do not necessarily agree and the discussion can be useful.
  4. When you check the answers, you can practise minimal pairs with the words that are not homophones. Write up the phonemic symbols to show that they really are different. If the words are in columns headed 1 and 2, you can ask students to say 'One' or Two' when you say each word. If they make mistakes, you need to repeat until they improve.
  5. If students are doing well, you can reverse the minimal pair exercise and ask individual students to say one word of the pair that you then identify as 1 or 2. Do not proceed to this stage unless students are performing well.
  6. An extension to this activity is to ask students, in pairs or groups, to produce pairs of homophones of their own. Ask them to say the pairs. They will also need to spell them or show what they have written (they can write in large letters on cards). If they have produced genuine homophones, write them up in one colour. If they are not homophones write them up in another colour - these are the sounds they need to practise. This activity will give you valuable insights into students' pronunciation problem areas.

The Silent Sounds Game
Liz Oldham

This game is a good way to practice the vowel and diphthong sounds, and it is particularly enjoyed by young learners.

In 'Silent Sounds' you mouth a sound silently and the children guess the sound from the shape of your mouth. Use the game to contrast sounds that are often confused such as /ae/ and /e/ - found in words like 'mat' and 'met'.

Before you start, divide the board into two halves - left and right. On one side write the phonemic symbol for one of the two sounds - for example /ae/, or a word containing the sound - such as cat. On the other side of the board, write the other sound - so for example /e/ or the word 'bed'. Now mouth one of the two sounds, the children should watch your mouth closely and then identify the sound by shouting the correct sound, or - with a small class, by jumping left or right! You can then get the children to work in pairs and test each other in the same way.

Sound pictures
Liz Oldham

Sound Pictures exploit young learners' love of drawing, associating pictures with sounds and spelling. This also helps students who have a visual learning style.

With sounds which are more difficult for your class - for example phoneme , ask the children to make a sound picture. The children draw an object that has this sound such as 'chair'. Inside the picture of the chair they can write other words with the same sound such as hair, wear, scared.

This can be an ongoing activity with posters on the walls which they can add to. It's a useful way of familiarising children with some of the sound / spelling rules.

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