Posts Tagged ‘WORD STRESS’

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!


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.

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

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