One of my favourite songs of late is Somebody That I Used To Know by Belgian-born Australian artist Gotye, featuring New Zealand singer, Kimbra. It is no surprise that this song won an award at the 55th GRAMMY AWARDS.

Interestingly, when I decided to write this lesson I was surprised to find another lesson on the same topic at  I hope you find my ideas a good addition to the theme.

Start by showing the learners the pictures of the two artists and ask the learners to imagine they are ordinary people. Get the learners to give them names. if they wish.

In pairs, get the learners to brainstorm adjectives to describe the two characters’ appearance and personality.  Tell learners to suggest both positive and negative descriptions as in Figure 1.

Man and Woman

Figure 1

After that, get the learners to discuss whether these two people should or shouldn’t have a romantic relationship. Get them to present their opinions like this:

Opinion Bubbles

Listen to the ideas around the class. Write some of the learners’ opinions on the board. Then, tell the learners that you’re going to play music video entitled ‘Somebody that I used to know’. Before they watch video and listen to the song, tell the learners that the song tells the story of a romantic relationship between a man and woman. Put up the song title on the board and get the learners predict the content of the song. Get some feedback and then play the music video for them to confirm their guesses. You might have to play the song various times.

Give the learners a copy of the chorus and tell them to read it and discuss who they think might be speaking in it, the man or the woman, and why.


Conduct a discussion with the class about their ideas. Then, play the song again for them to listen to the lyrics and check who says these lines.  The answer is the man.

Now, divide the class into two teams, A and B.  Give team A. WORKSHEET 1.

Give team B, WORKSHEET 2.

Focus the learners on the VOCABULARY DEFINITIONS at the bottom of the worksheets.

Tell them to work together and match these definitions with the words in italics in the sentences in the table. Monitor and assist them here.

Sit with each group separately and get feedback on the answers, clarifying pronunciation and other relevant aspects of form and meaning as well.  Move on to the table and show the learners the examples given on each worksheet.

It is the learners’ task to interpret what the speakers are trying to say in each line, preferably in their own words. Repeat feedback with each group.

It is time now to work on pronunciation!!!

Give the learners the PRONUNCIATION WORKSHEET below:

Instruct them to find different pronunciation features in the sentences on their worksheets and place them in the boxes under the appropriate category.  Emphasise that one example of each category is done for them.  The learners should also use the chorus for this. Monitor and assist where necessary. Get feedback from around the class. Be prepared for a full-on discussion about the answers to the task.

Move on to the final stage of the lesson. Tell the learners that they are going to role-play a conversation between the man and the woman. Before they start, give them time to prepare within their own groups. For this, give them the following instructions:

  • make small notes about what you want to say
  • try and use some of the lines from the songs in the conversation
  • focus on the pronunciation of what you are saying

Wrap up the lesson by playing the music video for the learners to sing along and enjoy.

Have fun!

This second lesson about New Zealand is about the Māori and their language. Use this lesson as a preparation for the learners to give a small talk about their own culture and language.

Start the lesson by getting learners to read the text about the Māori language and traditions (see Figure 1) and to  answer the following questions:

  1. Why would visitors to New Zealand feel confused on their arrival?Maori man
  2. How similar is Māori to English?
  3. How many vowels are there in Māori? What about consonants?
  4. What’s the difference between Tena koe and Tena koutou?
  5. How many people speak Māori in New Zealand according to the article?
  6. Why do you think the Māori have many traditions?
  7. What does the word marae mean?
  8. What is the haka?
  9. What is the Maui legend about?

Figure 1

Give feedback on the answers and then get the learners to mingle and talk to each other about which aspects of Māori culture  they find the most interesting.

Then, focus the learners on the pronunciation of Māori vowels and consonants by using the video below.

Maori Language

After that, tell the learners that you going to give them the lyrics of a well-known New Zealand folk song, Pokarekare Ana. Get them to read the lyrics and their English translation.

Give the learners time to focus on the different words of the song. Encourage them to use the information from the video to pronounce the Māori words in the song. Go over the footnotes with the class and then, for a bit of fun, get the learners to sing along to the song.

Finally, get the learners to prepare a small talk of approximately 3 minutes about their own culture. To do this, write up some ideas on the board for the learners to consider. For example:

  • history and geography
  • language and traditions
  • food and drink
  • indigenous people
  • fauna and flora
  • national symbols
  • legends

To add an element of challenge and to motive the learners to compare their own pronunciation to English, get them to include in their presentations some information about sounds in their own language which are similar and different to English. For example, Portuguese speakers would have no problem using the words banana and zebra in an English context, but would probably be misunderstood when saying radio, which they would probably pronounce with an ‘h’ rather than an ‘r’ consonant sound and with /a:/ vowel sound not a /ei/ diphthong.

Hopefully, this lesson  will trigger an interesting discussion about culture and  pronunciation with your class.

OnKiwi 6th February, New Zealanders commemorate a significant day in their national history, Waitangi Day. This public holiday celebrates the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 between representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs of the North Island of New Zealand recognising the Māori people of New Zealand the ownership of the land and the right to be British subjects.

In this small island country of the South Pacific, English and Maori are official languages.

New Zealand English, however, has its own dialectic idiosyncrasies, especially in its pronunciation and vocabulary. In this first lesson about New Zealand, you will have the opportunity to focus  learners on cultural aspects of Kiwi language and culture.

For this lesson, you will need the following resources:Kiwi

  • the New Zealand Quiz (see Figure 1)
  • and a desk bell

Figure 1

Answers to the quiz: 1 – c, 2 – c,3 – b, 4 – a, 5 – b, 6 – b, 7 – c, 8 – a, 9 – b, 10 – a, 11 – b, 12 – b, 13 – b, 14 – b, 15 – a, 16 – b, 17 – a, 18 – c, 19 – a

Start by explaining the activity to the learners. Tell them that you are going to have a competition.  For this, organise the learners into teams A, B, C etc. Give each team a copy of the New Zealand English quiz below and tell them that they have 5 minutes to answer the questions 1 to 19. Refrain from assisting them at this time.

After that, ask the learners to assign numbers to the people in their teams e.g. L1, L2, L3 etc. Place the desk bell in the middles of the classroom and explain to the teams the competition.

Tell them that you will read one question at a time. At your signal, all L1’s must run for the bell and try to hit it. The first learner to do so gets a chance to answer the question. If the answer is correct, this learner’s team gets a point. If the answer is wrong, the first learner, from the other teams to hit the bell, gets a go at the question. Repeat the procedure for questions 2, 3, 4 etc. with learners taking turns according to their assigned numbers. Tally the scores on the board. At the end of the competition, give the following badges to the players in the winning team. They will be honorary ‘Kiwis’ for the day.

Go over the answers to the questions with the whole class again, this time paying close attention to various aspects of language and culture. I’d recommend using different techniques for highlighting relevant features of pronunciation. For example, get the learners to mark the stress on the words with more than one syllable e.g. New Zealand, Australia, Kiwi, Maori and so on. Use phonemic symbols for one-syllable words such as bach, fern, hug, hongi, etc. Focus the learners on vowel length in words like judder bars, chilly bin, fizzy, etc. I like to use a rubber band for this.  Deal with cultural information about the vocabulary e.g. a jersey is normally referred to as a jumper in the UK and a pullover in the US, a chilly bin is an esky in Australia, a cool box in Britain and a cooler in the US.

Wrap-up the lesson by using Wikipedia to focus the learners on information about the Māori people of New Zealand and their language Te Reo Māori tɛ ˈɾɛɔ ˈmaːɔɾi/.

Happy 2013, everyone! lazy tiger

I thought I’d start the year with an activity which combines listening, pronunciation and vocabulary. This activity can be used with any level but works better with  higher level learners.

It uses ‘The Lazy Song’ by Bruno Mars, a song which talks about taking time out from the busy pace of life and spending the day doing nothing.


Start the activity by getting learners to talk about a day in their lives when they didn’t feel like doing anything. Get them to brainstorm what happened on that particular day by completing the following sentence with their own ideas:

I didn’t feel like doing anything so I….

 Write the learners ideas on the board e.g.

…stayed in bed the whole day

…ordered take-away food

…turned off my mobile phone

It is likely that the learners will suggest some everyday words such as bed, food, phone etc.  Circle these words and get the learners to suggest as many collocations as possible for these words e.g.


Deal with the meaning and grammar of these collocations. For example, in the language above, you may notice the different uses of the definite article ‘the’. Also, words like ‘scoff one’s food down’ are very idiomatic and should be used with caution.

After that, do some work on pronunciation with the learners. To do this, I have borrowed an idea from Reis and Hazan (2012) and their notation system called Speechant, in which vowel sounds are organised on a scale from high to lower timber sounds (p. 158).

Unlike, Reis and Hazan’s system, however, I suggest that you focus the learners on the direction of the voice from low to high sounds and vice-versa.  To demonstrate to the learners how this works, introduce them to the following  code:

͟   low sounds       ͞    high sounds

Then, write a couple of lexical chunks on the board such as ‘to get out of bed’ and ‘to order take-away food’. Tell the learners that grammar words should be said in a lower voice and content words in a high voice. For example, the lexical chunks above would be pronounced like this:

͟ to͞ get͞ out͟ of͞ bed         ͟  to͞ order͞ take-͞͞  away͞ food

Get the learners to use this system to pronounce the lexical chunks written on the board previously. Supervise this and assist where necessary.

It is now time to move on the listening part of the activity. Use the music video below for this.

Start with a listening for gist task. On the board, write these questions:

a)    What is the song about?

b)    Who do you think is telling the story behind the song?

c)    How does the person singing the song feel?

Some possible answers:

a)    The song is about taking time out from the hectic life.

b)    A young man, possibly a collage student.

c)    The person feels tired of their busy life and is happy to simply laze around.

Play the video once for the learners to complete the task. Get them to check their answers in pairs and then feedback on the answers with the class.

Now, tell the learners that they are going to listen to the song again. This time they are going to complete a listening for specific information.

Give the learners the worksheet below and tell them that their task is to listen and select the appropriate word.

Play the video as many times as possible for the learners to complete the task. Follow this with peer-checking and feedback.

Then, focus the learners on the lines of the song by getting them to annotate them using the system described above e.g.

͞   Today ͟  I ͟  don’t ͞  feel ͟ like ͞   doing ͞  anything etc.

Get the learners to read the lyrics aloud, focusing on the pronunciation of the phrases.

Once that is finished, and if you have technology available, direct the learners to Urban Dictionary online.

Get the learners to look up the following slang words: chilling, lounging, snuggie, dougie, P90X, hang loose and birthday suit.

Make sure the learners are clear about the pronunciation, meaning and register of these words.

Finally, get the learners to sing along to the song.

If you have time left, get the learners to mingle and talk about what they might do or not next time they don’t feel like doing anything.

I hope you enjoy this posting. Watch this space for more classroom ideas.


dos Reis, J., & Hazan, V. (2012). Speechant: a vowel notation system to teach English pronunciation. ELT journal, 66(2), 156-165.

When I was a boy, I used to enjoy playing children’s games such as Tag. They were great team spirit builders.

In this activity,I would like to share an idea for giving learners practice of phonemic symbols. The activity can be adapted for a class of any size and  level but works particularly well with large and lower-level classes.

First, prepare TAGS for the activity.  For these, use phonemic symbols (see sample in Figure 1)  downloaded free of charge from

Phonemic Symbols

Also, create a TAGGER’s card as in Figure 1.

To prepare the tags, I cut up the phonemic symbols, stick them onto a sheet of A4 paper, laminate them and tie some string to them so that the learners can hang them around their necks e.g.

Figure 1

One advantage of laminating the TAGS, is that they last a long time and you can re-use them for warmers any time during a course.

TIP: Please note that you may not be able to use all the sounds from the phonemic chart with your class, so be selective here. One suggestion would be to give the learners tags of sounds which they find problematic or require more practice of. Alternatively, you may swap tags during the activity. For instance, start with individual vowel sounds and then swap these for diphthongs half way through the activity.

If you have the availability of a playground in your school, take the learners there for this activity.

Give the learners the tags with the phonemic symbols on but make sure one learner gets the TAGGER one.

Explain the activity to the class.  Tell them that the object of the game is to tag, or touch, other people in order to form the sounds of one syllable words. For example, the tagger chases and tags other people and when he or she touches them, they become ‘living statues’. The tagger then says a word which contains the sound the person is carrying, as in Figure 2:

Figure 2

If the pronunciation of the word is correct, the tag is passed on the person who has been touched and the activity continues.

Once the learners have had enough practice, or are feeling tired of chasing and tagging, get them back into the classroom. Ask them to recall some of the words they have formed or heard during the game and put these onto the board. Get the learners to teach these to one another by putting them into example sentences.

This is a short post and I hope you enjoy it. If so, tag it please.


Arizio Sweeting

This speaking activity focuses on asking questions and making comments to people based on the content of a movie clip. The clips in question are from the movie Love Actually (2003).

These clips features the characters Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) in a quasi-love triangle relationship.

Clip 1: from the start of the scene at the Nile art gallery, more precisely when the poster which reads ‘Christmas Uncovered: Yoshio Mahoto’ comes up on the screen up to the point in which Mark dismisses Juliet on the phone by saying ‘I must go’.

Clip 2: from the part where Mark is at home eating his breakfast while watching TV up to the part where he is walking by the Thames feeling down in the dumps.

First, tell the learners that you are going to play two short clips from the movie above and their task is to discuss the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between the people?
  • How do they feel about each other?
  • What is the matter?
  • What would you do if you were them?

Then, play the clips and get the learners to discuss the above questions together. Follow this up with feedback from around the classroom.

After that, give the learners the LISTENING WORKSHEET below.

Tell the learners that their task is look at the SENTENCE STEMS on it and predict their endings.

As an example, write the following sentence stem on the board and elicit from the class possible endings for it e.g.  Peter: ‘I’ve got Juliet on the other line. Mark, be kind / nice / friendly etc.

After that, play the clips for the learners to check their answers. Please note that you may have to play the clips more than once. Then, conduct feedback from around the class.


Tell the learners that they are going to simulate being part of a chat show in which they interview the people from clips. The chat show works in the same way as a HOT SEAT activity.

Before they start, give the learners time (approx. 10 min.) to prepare questions and comments for Peter, Juliet and Mark based on the content of the clips.

Set up the classroom in the following seating arrangement:

Invite three learners to the front of the classroom or draw their names out of a paper bag. These learners will play the role of Peter, Juliet and Mark. Tell the learner that you will be the presenter and anyone else will be the audience.

Give the audience a microphone (possibly made of paper) and tell them that their task is to ask questions or make comments to the people on the hot seats.

Tell the learners on the hot seats that they should try and answer the questions and/or respond to the comments made to them using the information from the clips or their own ideas. Improvisation is always a good thing.

The chat show should take about 5 min. after which the learners on the hot seat swap place with other three people from the audience and the chat show resumes.

As a presenter, you ensure the smooth run of the show and help out with language, especially with pronunciation problems, when these occur. Also, you may like to prepare some prompt cards for the audience.

You will find more activities using Love Actually (2003) in Language Through Film available at

Have fun.

Arizio Sweeting

Run Run Run, Ya Mug!!!

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Aussie English

Australian English has its own peculiarities. For example, its vocabulary has a unique set of diminutives formed by adding -o or -ie (-y) to the ends of words. This post focuses on some common AUSSIE SLANG.

The material needed for this lesson is a desk bell, the YouTube video below and the worksheets provided.

Before the lesson, cut up the AUSSIE SLANG CARDS below and place them randomly on the wall around the room.


Then, divide the class into two teams: A and B. Then, organise each team into pairs and give  each a copy of the worksheets below.



After that, tell the learners that they are going to have a competition.

Tell them that they are going to work in pairs and run to the walls and find slang words for the  pictures on their worksheets.

Point out to the learners that each pair in their team will have a SCRIBE and a RUNNER. The scribes are in charge of the worksheets, and the runners, in charge of looking for the vocabulary on the wall.

Inform the learners that you are going to give them a signal, i.e. you are going to ring the bell when it is time for ROLE SWAPPING.

Say that you are going to start the race on the count of 3 .

Reinforce that the bell means ‘SWAP ROLES’.

Tell the learners that the team who completes their worksheets first are the winners. However, all the pairs in the team must have the answers  on their worksheets for this.

Once the competition is finished, tell the learners that you are going to play the YouTube video for them to check their answers.

TIP: This YouTube video has a song in the background, so it might be an idea to mute it for viewing. Also, tell the learners that the video contains some vocabulary which is not on their worksheet and they should ignore it for now.

Then, get the learners from Team A to get together with the learners from Team B and teach each other their slang words. Now, conduct some feedback with the class to ensure they have the correct answers on their worksheets.

It is time now to focus the learners on the pronunciation of the words. Model and drill the words and get the learners to mark word stress and focus on individual sounds. Also, focus the learners on word partnerships as well e.g. ‘to chuck a yewy.’

Finally, tell the learners to choose 3 slang words each without revealing their choice to their partners. Then, give the learners 5 minutes to make small talk with their partners. Tell them that their task is to try and use their 3 words in their conversations without being very obvious about it.

This post focuses on an activity to give learners practice of language for expressing opinions. It is particularly useful for higher level learners. All you need is the clip (accessed via YouTube) of Part 1 of the British movie, Hot Fuzz, a learner’s dictionary and the worksheets provided.

Start by showing the learners the pictures of the male and female cops below.

Get the learners to discuss the following questions:

Would you like to be a police officer? Why (not)?

Elicit some ideas from around the class onto the board. Then, give the learners a learner’s dictionary to work with and the VOCABULARY WORKSHEET below.

Tell the learners that their task is to look up the words in bold, making notes of their definitions on their worksheet as per example provided. Monitor and assist where possible.

Encourage the learners to make notes about the pronunciation of the vocabualry i.e. individual sounds and word stress. Drill words which you think the learners may need help with.

After that, tell the learners that they are going to watch a clip from a movie about a Bristish police officer. Play the clip below up to the part where Police Constable Nicholas Angel shows his ID to the camera (time: 1.03 min.). Learners watch the clip and answer the following questions:

What is the police officer’s name? (Answer: Nicholas Angel)

What is his rank in the police force e.g. constable, sargent, captain, etc.? (Answer: constable)

Play the clip for the learners to answer the questions. Get the learners their answers with a partner and then conduct feedback with the class.

Now, tell the learners that Counstable Angel has been nominated for a TOP COP award, and their task is to decide on the criteria for this award.

Elicit from the class phrases for asking and giving opinions e.g.

Asking for an opinion

  • What about…? (informal)
  • How do you feel about …? (informal)
  • What do you think of…? (slightly formal)
  • What’s your opinion about…? (slightly formal)

Giving an opinion

  • I think… / I don’t think… (informal)
  • I reckon… (informal)
  • In my opinion,…(slightly formal)
  • From my point of view, ..(slightly formal)

Get the learners to decide on the level of formality of the phrases on the board (see above).

Then, learners work with a partner and discuss which items on the VOCABULARY WORKSHEET above would be good reasons for PC Angel to be awarded the title of TOP COP.

For that, learners should use the functional phrases on the board, like this:

Now, tell the learners that you are going to play the next part of the clip for them to confirm their predictions. Play the clip up to the part where PC Angel is stabbed in the hand with a knife (time: 2.20 min.). Clarify any vocabulary, if necessary. For example, Angle says that his hand is a bit ‘stiff’ from the knife attack.

TIP: It is also a good idea to give the learners some information about the British police force here. For this, I like to use the information about Law Enforcement in the United Kingdom from wikipedia:

British Police

As a follow-up stage, tell the learners that PC Angel has been transferred to a police department in a small country village in Gloucestershire, Sandford. Angel didn’t know anything about the transfer and was taken by surprise when his Sargeant broke the news to him.

In pairs or small groups, the learners try to guess what the Sargeant said to Angel during their conversation, using the LISTENING WORKSHEET below.

Point out to the learners that some of the Sargeant‘s line are given to them. Monitor and assist where possible.

Then, play the clip up to the part where the Sargeant picks up the phone and rings the  Inspector (time: 3.30 min.). Learners check answers with a partner. Play the clip one more time and then get feedback by checking how similar or different their predictions were to the original text.

After that, get the learners to practise the dialogue between Angel and the Sargeant, focusing on intonation, body language and facial expressions. It might be a good idea to go over the sentences in the dialogue with the class to help them with these.

To wrap-up the activity, organise the learners in groups, and get them to discuss the following:

  • whether they think PC Angel should be sent to the country
  • and whether they think the cops in their countries are as good as PC Nicholas Angel.

Here, encourage the learners to use the language for giving opinion they have learnt in the lesson.

If time, play the rest of the clip for the learners to find out how PC Angel‘s first day in Sandford was like. Alternatively, you could get the learners to predict this with one another instead.

Have fun!

Arizio Sweeting

What If…?

Posted: October 5, 2012 in Video Lessons

This post is the first in a series of video-based activities you will find in Pronunciation Central over the next few months for giving learners speaking practice.

This activity uses a clip from the Walt Disney cartoon – Sleeping Beauty– to give learners practice of language of speculation.  Although it can be used with learners at all levels of proficiency, it works better with higher level learners. In terms of materials, all you need for it is the clip below, some dice, strips of paper and the board.

On the board, write the following question stem: What would have happened if…?

Give the learners slips of paper and tell them that they are going to watch the clip and write questions to speculate about the content of the clip, using the question stem above.

Do one example with the class. One possible question could be: What would have happened if Sleeping Beauty hadn’t woken up from her spell?

After that, tell the learners to work in small groups of 3 or 4 and compare their questions. If there are multiple questions that are similar or the same, the learners should choose one of them to keep. Get the groups to put their questions together into a pile and place it face-down on their desk (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

On the board, write the following:

1,3,5,7 … = a negative turn of events

2,4,6,8 … = a positive turn of events

Give each group some dice. Tell the students in each group to sort themselves into A, B, C and D (see Figure 1).

TIP: I usually give each group of learners two sets of dice. I find that if I have tactile learners in my class that they really enjoy manipulating multiple dice in their hands.

Then, give the students the following instructions:

  1. Learner A turns over the first question on the pile and then throws the dice.
  2. If the number displayed on the face of the dice is even e.g. 2, this learner then suggests a possible positive turn of events in answer to the question. For example, imagine the question was What would have happened if the hero had lost his sword during the battle with the dragon?  A possible positive scenario could be It wouldn’t have been a problem. The hero would have made a spear out of a thick tree branch to stab the dragon on the neck.
  3. Learner B has a turn by throwing the dice and continuing with the speculations. In this case, however, if the number on the dice is odd, this learner needs to suggest a negative scenario such as Without his sword, the hero would have probably got burnt on the arm.
  4. The steps above continue until learner D has had a turn and the cycle is repeated.
  5. At the end, the learners discuss which scenarios were the most and the least creative.

As a follow-up, get the learners to think of a particular event in their lives which they would be happy to share with other people in class. This event could be a simple daily event such as missing the bus to school or winning some money on a scratch card.

In pairs or groups, the learners talk about their personal events and say what they think would have happened if the events had taken a different turn, either for better or worse.

For instance:

S1: I missed my bus to school this morning and was really late for class. If I had got out of bed earlier, I would have been earlier for my bus and would have got to school on time for the revision of the third conditinal I had been looking forward to for a while. I would certainly have been much happier.

S2:  Last week, I won $250 on a scratch card. If I hadn’t bought the card, I wouldn’t have won this money and wouldn’t have been able to go on a trip to Noosa for the weekend. I had a great time there.

Alternatively, you could get the learners to write a different version of the scene, using some of the ideas suggested in the activity above.

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