Welcome to Pronunciation Central!
For many years, pronunciation has been described as ‘the Cinderella area of foreign language teaching’ (Kelly, 1969). It seems, however, that ‘the pendulum has swung back again, and most ESL teachers now agree that explicit pronunciation teaching is an essential part of language courses’ (Fraser, 1999). As teachers, we should all celebrate this moment and begin to incorporate pronunciation more often into our classroom activities.
Pronunciation Central is a blog dedicated but not limited to pronunciation instruction. On the blog, you will find ready-to-use classroom activities and downloads on pronunciation, speaking skills, listening skills and much more.
Here is an example of the kind of practical activity you willl find on the blog.
This activity is my tribute to the field of English Language Teaching and is based on the classic ELT activity SNAKES and LADDERS and it aims to introduce and give learners practice of HOMOGRAPHS.
Start by writing the following headings on the board:
Write the word a record under the heading NOUN and check its meaning with the learners. Point out the use of the indefinite article, mark the stress (e.g. a REcord) and drill the pronunciation.
After that, elicit the verb that derives from the noun i.e. to record and write it on the board under the heading VERB. Check the meaning, mark the stress (e.g. to reCORD) and drill the pronunciation.
Then, write the word use under both headings on the board . Check meaning of each word and focus the learners on the difference of pronunciation between the noun and the verb using phonemic symbols e.g. the use /jʊ:s/ and to use /jʊ:z/.
Highlight to the learners that, in English, a change of WORD CLASS usually requires a change of pronunciation too.
Now, introduce the learners to the concept of HOMOGRAPHS by getting them to complete the following paragraph:
Words with the same (1)___________, but different (2)_____________ and (3)____________ are called HOMOGRAPHS.
Answers: (1) spelling, (2) meaning, (3) pronunciation
Then, organise the learners into pairs or small groups and give them the vocabulary card below:
The learners’ task is to work together and work out the different pronunciations for the nouns and verbs on the card. Encourage the learners to use indefinite articles with the nouns and the to-infinitive form for the verbs.
TIP: If your learners have access to iPhones, iPads or Android devices, get them to check the meaning of the words using a dictionary application. Otherwise, you may want to bring some paperback learner’s dictionaries to the classroom.
Organise the learners into small groups of 3 or 4. Give each group the following material:
- a snakes and ladders board (see Figure 1)
- a set of homograph cards (see Figure 2)
- and dice and counters
Explain the rules of the game to the learners.
Tell them to separate the homograph cards into ODD and EVEN cards, shuffle them and place them face-down onto the appropriate squares on the snakes and ladders board.
The learners then put their counters on the START field and then throw the dice to decide who starts the game.
Each learner then has a turn at throwing the dice and moving his or her counter on the board following the number indicated by the dice. If a learner’s counter lands on an even number e.g. 2, 4, 6 etc., the learner picks up a card from the EVEN pile and makes a sentence with the word on the card with the correct pronunciation. If the learner’s card falls on an ODD number e.g. 1, 3, 5 etc., the learner takes a card from the ODD pile and repeats the process for the EVEN cards.
Tell the learners that if they give the wrong pronunciation for the words on the card, they must return their counter to its previous field and miss a turn. Also, draw the learners’ attention to the snakes and the ladders on the game board. Tell them that if their counter falls onto a field with a snake’s mouth on it, they must move their counter to the field at the snake’s tail and miss a turn, but if their counter lands on a field at the bottom of a ladder, their counter gets bumped up to the field at the top of the ladder and they get another turn.
TIP: I find it useful to write up the rules of the game up on the board or on a card for the learners to refer to as they play it.
The learner who gets to FINISH first wins the game.
TIP: To acknowledge the learners’ efforts, it is a good idea to give them a small reward. I like to make colourful origami medals (something I have learnt from one of my teacher trainees from Japan) for the winners and the first and second runners-up in each group. It may be a simple token, but my learners seem to love the idea.
Here is a Youtube video showing you how to made these medals:
Please keep checking this space for more ideas.
And if you have a pronunciation activity you would like to see here on Pronunciation Central, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KELLY, L. G. (1969) Twenty-five centuries of language teaching. Rowley. MA: Newbury House.
FRASER, H. (2001) Teaching Pronunciation: A handbook for teachers and trainers. Sydney: TAFE Access Division (funded by the Adult Literacy Project through the Commonwealth of Australia Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs).