Archive for the ‘Tribute to ELT Classics’ Category

This final post in the category Tribute to ELT is a PRONUNCIATION MAZE activity to give lower-level learners speaking practice and focus on words stress in country names using their smart phones.

Start by writing the following country names on the board:

Get the learners to identify the word stress in each word. Mark this with bubble diagrams as above. Then, drill the word stress until the learners are confident about it.

Note: there is not need to restrict the activity to the four stress patterns only.

After that, show the learners some images about this country from Google image. . For example, here are some images I have selected for this:

Encourage the learners to find images about these countries without being too obvious i.e.tell them not to select things like maps, flags etc.

At this stage, it is also a good idea to show the learners how to capture the image from the screen of their phone and save them to their phone camera or photo editor. Generally speaking, for most smart phones, all they need to do is to press the home button and the power button at the same time.

Then, organise the learners into two large groups and get them to brainstorm more country names for each of the stress patterns above. Conduct some feedback with the class and write their ideas up on the board. Allow learners to use a learner’s dictionaries  to look up the stress for the country names, if they wish.

In the groups, each learner goes to Google image and searches for an image for the different countries on their list and save them on their phones. Before they do that, explain to them the concept of the maze. Show them the following picture for this.

Also, tell the learners that they must ensure that they have enough words with the same stress as well as red herrings to build the maze.  Learners then put their desks together and create a maze  as well as a solution for it, like this:

Once the mazes are done, the groups swap desks and try to work out the way out of the mazes.

Exaplain to the learners what to do. Tell them that their task is to look at the images on the maze, identify the countries, justify their guesses and work out a route out of the maze. Highlight to the learners that they must pay close attention to the word stress in the country names.

Their discussion should occur like this:

The activity continues until all the groups get out of the maze.

Finally, conduct a whole-class feedback about what the learners have learnt about the different countries and double check if they can place the stress on the country names correctly.

I hope your learners enjoy this activity.

Thank you. .

Arizio Sweeting


My next post is an adaptation of the popular game HANGMAN.  I have called it THE BEETLE SLAYER, and the original idea comes from my friend Liz Howell, from the University of Waikato Pathways College in New Zealand. Like Liz, I find the picture of hanging a man of poor taste for the language classroom, so I have decided to use an imaginary bug instead, the BEETLE (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The activity can be used for focusing learners of any level on vowel and consonant sounds.In this post, however, I would like to show you how to use it for giving learners practice of CONSONANT SOUNDS.

When using the activity with your class for the first time; it a good idea to start with a presentation, or review, of the CONSONANT PHONEMIC SYMBOLS.  For this, use an online phonemic chart such as the one provided for free at the British Council Teaching English website.

British Council Phonemic Chart

By clicking the symbols on the chart, you can help the learners hear the consonant sounds as well as sample words.

Do a bit of drilling of the consonant sounds with the learners and highlight relevant aspects of pronunciation, such as which consonant sounds are voiced and which ones are voiceless..Also, use the chart for a sound dictation by combining consonant and vowel sounds. For example, click the following sounds on the chart in sequence (Figure 2) and check if the learners can guess which word is being said. In this case, SPEAK.

Figure 2

Then, give the learners a photocopy of the chart. Get them to select a few words they have learnt in class recently, check their pronunciation (maybe in a learner’s dictionary or dictionary app.) and dictate these words to a partner as demonstrated above.

After that, display the BEETLE (Figure 1) and write the following row of dashes on the board for the sounds in the word TEACHER:

 ___  /i:/ ___ /Ə/ ___

Once you have explained the instructions below to the learners, play the game once with the class for the word TEACHER as a demonstration.

NOTE: if using the word above as an example,  raise learners’ awareness of the rhotic sound /r/ by pointing out to them that this sound is not always pronounced by all speakers of English.

The game:

Now, tell the learners that they are going to play a competition in which they will take turns to be BEETLE SLAYERS and BEETLE SAVIOURS.

Tell them also that the competition works in the same way as the game HANGMAN. However, instead of using letters to guess words, they will use sounds

Some small logistics here: because you will want  the learners to play the game several times, give them some plastic sleeves and OHP pens to play the game. This way, they can easily erase the marks on the beetle using an eraser and restart the game.

Organise the class into pairs, A and B and give each pair the set of beetle cards below.

Tell the pairs to place the cards on the desk.

Get each learner to select 10 words they have learnt in class recently and make sure that they choose words which other learners are likely to know too.

Explain the rules of the game to the learners. Tell them that…

  • A’s  will think of a word and look its phonemic sounds up, or ask the teacher, and write a row of dashes for the sounds on a piece of paper. They will also write down the vowel sounds in their words in their correct place on the dashes (as example above). Also, tell them that they should be prepared to give  hints such as parts of speech, definitions , drawings.
  • B’s will suggest consonant sounds they think occur in the word.
  • If B’s suggestions are correct, A’s record the sounds in its correct position on the dashes.
  • If the sounds do not occur in the word, A’s will cross out a part of the beetle’s body i.e. its  antennae, legs, head and wings.
  • The game is over when either B’s guess the word correctly or A’s manage to cross out all parts of the beetle’s body. Either way, the winner takes one beetle card from the desk to mark their score at the end of each game.
  • Learners then swap roles and play the game one more time.

The competition continues until all the beetle cards have been used up, . In this case, the winner is the learner with the most cards.

One variation to activity would be to use phrases or sentences as the basis of the game too, but I would recommend you do this only once the learners have become more familiar with the phonemic chart.

Hope you enjoy this post.

Arizio Sweeting

This activity is a card game I have called PIFF PAFF and it focuses on homophones. The game is based on the tested and true SNAP, but with a few small differences.

As a warmer, pre-teach or revise the vocabulary on the PIFF PAFF CARDS (Figure 1) by getting the learners to separate them into VERBS, NOUNS, PRONOUNS and so on.

Figure 1

Then, organise the learners into groups of 3 to 4 and give them a set of cards. Tell the learners to shuffle them and distribute them evenly among themselves.

The Game:

Demonstrate to the learners what to do. Show the class that they should hold the cards in one hand facing downwards. One learner takes a card from the bottom of his or her hand of cards and places it on the desk, pronouncing the word on the card.

A second learner then takes a card from his or her hand of cards and places it on the desk on top of the card on the desk, pronouncing the word on it as well.

Tell the class that, if a learner places a card on the desk which has the same pronunciation as the one already on the desk, any one in the group can hit the cards and say PIFF PAFF. In this case, the first learner to hit the cards and say PIFF PAFFgets to collect all the cards on the desk to add to his or her hand of cards. Learners then play another round.Point out to the learners that among the cards there are some joker cards, which allow the learners to snap the cards at any time and say PIFF PAFF. But there is a catch!!! The learner can only collect the cards from the desk if he or she can produce a homophone to the previous card.

The game continues until all the learners get rid of their cards and the winner is then the learner  who has the most cards  in his or her hand.

As a follow-up activity, get the learners to write sentences to illustrate the meaning of the homophones e.g. you slam on this to stop the car when a cat suddenly runs in front of your car.

Learners then test each other by reading their sentences to others who should try and spell the word which goes with the description. For example:

L1 says: You slam on this to stop the car when a cat suddenly runs in front of your car.
L2: Brake.
L1: Spell ‘brake’, please.
L2: B-R-A-K-E.

Alternatively, learners could write sentences with gaps and swap them with a partner, who then tries to complete them with the appropriate words. For example:

I went on a __________ in the Mediterranean Sea.     crews / cruise
I slammed on the __________ to avoid hitting a deer on the road.       brake / break
It’s not polite to _______ at people like that.    stair / stare

Have fun.

Arizio sweeting

This next pronunciation activity is based on the ELT classic SPOT THE DIFFERENCES and aims at focusing learners on STRESS SHIFT.

Start by explaining to the learners that in certain circumstances stress patterns can change for contrastive purposes. On the board, write the following sentences adapted from Rhymes and Rhythm by Michael Vaughn-Rees (2010) Garnet Education:

So, a poLIceman came to see you, did he?

No, not a policeMAN; it was a policeWOMAN.

 Focus the learners on the rules of stress for compound nouns using the word policeman in first sentence as an example. Highlight to the learners that the main syllable in the first element of a compound noun is the one which has the stress.

Then, draw the learners’ attention to the words policeman and policewoman in the second sentence.  Get them to discuss what they think has happened to the stress patterns in these compounds.  In feedback, emphasise to the learners that compound nous lose their front stress to the main syllable in the second element. Point out that the reverse is also possible i.e. the back stress can take front position in certain circumstances.

Once the learners are clear about what STRESS SHIFT is and how it works, move on to pre-teaching some vocabulary.

Using an avatar maker app., create two pictures with different physical features, clothes and accessories and background (Figure 1).  I have used WeeMee® Avatar Creator, which can be downloaded from free for both apple and android platforms from GooglePlay.


Figure 1

TIP: I like to save those pictures on my smart phone and transter them to My Pictures and print them for my students. However, As learners usually have a smart phone or some form of technology to work with an alternative would be to let them create their own avatars of the boy and use it in this activity. It think they own it more this way.

Divide the class into two halves and give each half one of the pictures above. On the board, write the following table (Figure 2):

Figure 2

Get the learners to look at the pictures and find items for each of the categories in the table. Point out to the learners that physical features refer to hair style, hair colour, eye colour, facial hair etc. Allow the learners to use dictionaries and monitor and assist with language where necessary. Do some examples with the class to start.

Then, give the learners the following context:

An old lady was walking down the street when she had her bag snatched by a young boy. The police interviewed her about the incident and she described the boy like this (Figure 3):

Figure 3

Two days later, the cops made an arrest. However, the boy the police arrested looked very different from the old lady’s discription (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Tell the students that they are going to do a ROLE-PLAY in which some of them will be police officers and some of them will be the old lady.

Their task  is to use STRESS SHIFT to spot as many differences between the pictures as possible. Demonstrate what to do like this (Figure 5):

Figure 5

Highlight the stress shift in the example sentences on the words long and short.

Then, tell the learners to organise themselves into A and B. A’s are the cops and B’s are the old lady.

The learners spot the differences for about 5 minutes using STRESS SHIFT patterns then swap roles. Monitor and make notes of language problems for delayed feedback.


Arizio Sweeting


Time for another post on classics of ELT.

This pronunciation activity is based on the famous game of NOUGHTS and CROSSES or, as they call it in the USA, TIC TAC TOE.

The aim of the activity is to focus learners on the pronunciation of the individual sounds of –ough words.

 For this activity, you will need:

  • the NOUGHTS and CROSSES CHART (Figure 1)
  • a set of PHONEMC CARDS (Figure 2), cut up and stuck together before class
  • and a class set of learner’s dictionary  or a dictionary app. on a smart phone.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Start the activity by dictating the words on the chart to the learners. In feedback, get the learners to write the words up on the board, check spelling and drill the words until learners are confident about their pronunciation.

Make sure you focus the learners on meaning of the words too.

After that, organise the learners into teams of 4 to 6 and give them the chart and the cards.

Tell the groups to divide themselves into two teams: the noughts O and the crosses X. Each team also assigns a letter A, B, C, D etc. to each player in them.

The teams place the phonemic cards face-up in sequence from 1 to 16  on the desk next to the chart.

The teams now decide who starts the game.

The Game:

To start the game, one player chooses a box in the chart and pronounces the word in it.

For example, let’s imagine the first player chooses box 1 and says ‘dough’.  This player then picks up the phonemic card with the corresponding number (in this case, card 1), turns it over and checks if his or her pronunciation was correct e.g. /dəʊ/.

If the case, the player writes the symbol of his or her team (i.e. either O or X)  in the box and has another turn. If the player’s pronunciation is wrong, however, his or her turn passes on to a player from the opposing team.

The game continues until someone manages to trace a vertical or horizontal line across the chart.

TIP: it might be an idea to avoid diagonal lines, as these would bring the activity to a sudden death. 

As a follow-up activity, get the learners to study the pronunciation of the words on the phonemic cards from 1 to 16 again.

Using learner’s dictionaries, they write gapped-sentences for each of the –ough words e.g. To make bread, knead the __________ and leave it to rise (dough).

After that, regroup the learners and tell them that their task is to read their sentences to test if they can complete them with the correct –ough words, using the appropriate pronunciation.

I hope you like this activity. Looking forward to your comments.

Arizio Sweeting

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

In this second post, I would like to describe a  pronunciation activity based on the ELT classic BINGO, which I have adapted to a game of soccer.

The aim of the activity is to give lower-level learners practice of vowel sounds using vocabulary about animals.

The first step is to pre-teach the animals on the SOCCER CRITTER BOARD (Figure 1).

Drill each word, focusing on the short and long vowel sounds and diphthongs until the learners become confident  about recognising and producing these sounds.

Highlight to the learners the double dots next to certain sounds and explain that these are used for indicating vowel lengthening e.g. /ɑ:/ as in CAR. If possible, use a rubberband to do this when drilling these sounds.

Figure 1

As I needed to have one animal for each vowel sound or diphthong, I used words from American, British and Australian English. For example, in picture 5, I used the word gecko, an Australian lizard, to focus the learners on the sound /e/.

I also used the word OPOSSUM from US English rather than POSSUM from UK and AUS English to focus the learners on the schwa /ə/.

For the animal in picture 15, I used the UK  pronunciation  of JAGUAR /ˈdʒægjʊ.əʳ/ rather than the US /ˈdʒæ.gju:a:/, as it contained the diphthong /ʊə/.  Besides, I couldn’t think of an animal with this sound at the time. So if you have a critter to suggest… please!!!

The second step is to get the learners to work in pairs and test each other using the board. For example, one learner says the sound e.g. /ɑ:/ to another learner, who then tries to find the animal for this sound on the board i.e.  shark. If the learner is correct, he or she gets another turn. If not, he or she misses a turn.

After that, organise the learners into small groups of 3 or 4. Give each group a CRITTER CARD (Figure 2) and tell them to  name each of the animals on the cards. Make sure that the groups do not show their cards to other groups. Explain that the cards are all different from one another, like bingo cards.

Figure 2

Next, give the groups  a SOCCER BALL (Figure 3) and a strip of cardboard for them to prepare a prop for their group.

Figure 3

The Game:

Explain the rules of the game to the class.

Tell them that they are going to play a game of soccer in which goals are scored by correctly recognising vowel sounds and diphthongs and matching these to the animals on the critter cards. Emphasise that the game works in the same way as a BINGO game.

Tell the class that you are going to say vowel sounds at random. If they have an animal on their cards with the sound, they are to raise their props and shout ‘Freeze’. The  learner who says ‘Freeze’ first gets the chance to name the animal. If his or her answer is correct, the group scores a goal and crosses this animal out on their card. If not, they lose the goal.

NOTE: it is important that you repeat the same vowel sounds several times during the game, as some animals appear on more than one card.

When a group manages to cross out all the animals on their critter card, they must shout ‘BINGO’ to win the game.

Well, that’s all for today. Keep visiting this space for more pronunciation activities on tradional ELT activities.

Arizio Sweeting