When Word Stress Has a Domino Effect

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Tribute to ELT Classics

This next post is an activity based on the classic DOMINOES. It aims at giving learners practice of  WORD STRESS on ADJECTIVES. Although the activity can be used with most levels, it targets primarily intermediate-level learners.

Start the activity by writing the following adjectives on the board:


Ask the learners to separate the words into two categories: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.

In feedback, clarify the meaning of the adjectives by putting them into a context e.g. I’ve bought a new bed. It’s really comfortable.

Then, get the learners to work together and mark the primary stress on each word. I tend to use CAPITAL letters to do this e.g. COMfortable.

Drill the words several times until the learners feel confident about placing the stress on the adjectives.

The Game:

Tell the learners they are going to play a game of domino. Explain the rules of the game to the learners. Tell them that their task is to match words with the same stress.

Organise the learners into groups of 4 to 6 and give them a set of STRESS DOMINO cards (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Tell the learners that they should shuffle the dominoes and share them evenly.

The learners then decide who starts the game.

After that, instruct the learners to  play the game in an anti-clockwise direction.

The first player then places his or her domino card on the desk, pronouncing the word written on the left-hand side of the domino and beating the stress on the right-hand side using their fingers. For example, one learner places the card on the desk containing the word  COMFORTABLE and says ‘COM-for-ta-ble’ and then beats the stress for the stress pattern on the right-hand side of the card with his or her fingers e.g. TA-ta-ta.

The next learners has his or her turn. If he or she has a domino card which matches either side of the domino n terms of stress, he or she  places it on the desk. If the learner does not have a matching card, he or she says ‘Pass’ and another learner has a turn.

The game continues until one learner gets rid of all his or her cards. At this point, get learners to collect the dominoes from the desk, reshuffle them and have another go at the game for further practice.

Here are some possible answers for the domino game:


As a follow-up activity, I like to get the learners to  prepare questions using the adjectives and then mill around asking each other questions. If they have also learnt comparatives and superlatives of adjectives, encourage them to incorporate these into their questions, as per examples below.

  • What’s the most comfortable furniture in your home?
  • Tell me about the most beautiful place you have visited in your life.
  • What’s the most dangerous experience you’ve had in your life?

I hope you and your learners like this activity.

Arizio Sweeting


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